“Are you dying to show off your knowledge of death, diseases and afflictions?”
Despite the invite, no one who attended Morbid Anatomy‘s Singles Night was completely ghastly. “I swear, I’m actually nice,” Ava Forte Vitali, the resident Egyptologist, told us last night.
But clearly norm garb is nothing more than a layer coating the flesh, as the conversation proved to be heavy on the macabre, the weird, and what might perhaps be considered “distasteful” in other social circles.
“We really have a nice little community here,” said Morbid Anatomy’s founder, Joanna Ebenstein. The massive new space located on Fourth Avenue in Gowanus opened to the public at the end of June, thanks to a generous donor and Kickstarter campaign, and of course Morbid Anatomy’s committed followers and volunteers.
What first started out as a blog, and grew into an extensive library and collection of antiques, specimens, and art focused on the afterlife, has become something of a death-centric salon. Both curious dabblers and saturnine people who have dedicated their lives to horror and the otherwordly can meet, discuss, and learn about a variety of subjects that all share a sort of deathly, dark core: taxidermy, necrophilia, the occult, mourning practices, Ancient Egypt, and even demonically possessed cats.
Before we started schmoozing with singles, B+B took advantage of the opportunity to poke around the place. We found some interesting objects, indeed. Covering the tables were photography books depicting the preserved dead, Civil War-era amputees, and Victorian mourning garb; a massive skull sat atop a large wooden cabinet; jewel-toned butterflies were pinned to delicate branches under glass orbs. We spotted our favorite taxidermist Divya Anantharaman‘s antlers alongside stuffed squirrels and mice. Ebenstein also gave B+B a brief tour upstairs to peek at the permanent collection and temporary exhibition on display, The Art of Mourning.
The singles evening began slowly, but as the sun went down, more people began to file into the store and cafe. Guests poked around and washed back gin and tonics. Finally, the conversation began to flow.
One singlette with long black hair explained it was her first time at the museum. She had driven all the way from New Jersey to volunteer for the day and decided to stay on for the mixer. A few people in attendance were definitely acquainted, but as host Daisy Tainton explained, “It’s nice seeing some new faces here.”
Tainton has a deep, raspy voice and hot pink hair. She teaches insect preservation classes at Morbid Anatomy and serves as a social coordinator of sorts. However Tainton spends most of her day delicately setting bugs at the Museum of Natural History’s Entomology Department. “I started out in jewelry making,” she explained.
“You should really come back– the lectures are fantastic. If you don’t like Monday, you’ll love Tuesday,” advised Ted Enik, a regular attendee of Morbid Anatomy lectures, and an author and illustrator of children’s books who wore a giant flower on his suit jacket lapel. Enik explained he’s currently working on a book inspired by Edgar Allan Poe.
Other attendees included a bachelor who had recently completed his MFA in horror fiction and several others who prodded the pathetic Operation patient perhaps a bit too vigorously. Throughout the night, mingling singles discussed ghosts, taxidermy, cos-play, and H.P. Lovecraft. Tainton kept potential awkward pauses at bay by rallying the group for a variety of activities including a disease-riddled game of Pictionary. Gangrene and syphilis were some of the more memorable draws.
Despite all this, the night was way more diet than we anticipated: Even the Steam Punk content was positively minuscule, although there were a few dudes with suspenders. One guest excitedly proclaimed that Anderson Cooper mentioned the museum at the top of his summer to-do list. Gasp– a Vanderbilt!
This reporter failed to score some pallid Goreyesque hottie’s number, but here’s to trying. Next time I’ll cool it on the Granny Spritzers. For a closer look at the Morbid Anatomy collection and to soak up the scene, ride the F train due south and stop by Morbid Anatomy any day (except Tuesday) from noon to 6 p.m.