RCL Exclusive

Inside the Curious Collections of Brooklyn’s Oddities Flea Market

It’s a place where the bizzare and the historical converge.

History By

Ryan Matthew Cohn has graduated from the bugs and rare mushrooms he used to stockpile near his home in Woodstock, New York. Now a professional curator in possession of a refined collection of natural history objects, the New York City-based artist assembles everything from film sets and private collections to hosting the Oddities Flea Market that took place over the weekend in Brooklyn.

Ryan Matthew Cohn and Regina Cohn, curators of the Oddities Festival (Diana Crandall)

Overtaking the three floors of the Brooklyn Bazaar, vendors from around the country included the famed teacup creator Miss Havisham, whose insulting dishware you may have spotted Stephen Colbert drinking from on his late-night talk show. Others included Oddball Oddity, a compilation of prosthetic eyes, including vintage sets acutely detailed by the hands of skilled artisans who used blown glass to create them a century ago. A disturbingly accurate palm reader with a no-nonsense attitude and a flashlight peered into pasts and futures in the basement. Just a few steps away were offerings of Acmella oleracea, an herb known as the electric daisy for the vibration and tingles it shoots throughout any taster’s mouth. Appropriately, the plant is used to treat toothaches when the dentist’s chair is still days away.

Miss Havisham’s famed teacups (Diana Crandall)

Each of these vendors was carefully vetted and chosen by Cohn and his wife, Regina, the executive producer of the show.

“I think people have an interest in the unknown. I think people are really fascinated by death, also,” Cohn said. “We’re all going to die at some point and I think people become fixated in different ways — religion, collecting — you can come up with your own conclusions about how something died when you’re looking at it in a jar. I also think people are really interested in the historical aspect of a given piece.”

Oddball Oddity by collector Amanda Maer (Diana Crandall)

There are a select few people in the world who have a true “cabinet of curiosities” — a collection of extraordinary objects that push the boundaries of the categorical organization and tell a story about the wonders of the natural world. To find them, Regina told RealClearLife that the two are always searching for “purveyors of unusual items.” Those looking to start or grow their own cabinet have the option of hiring Ryan and Regina for a private and one-of-a-kind touch.

“We’re very, very selective about the work we do,” Cohn said.

Take a look at some of the most eye-catching items from the Bazaar below.

From Ryan Cohn’s collection (Diana Crandall)
A taxidermy “Jackalope,” a mythical and fearsome jackrabbit with antelope horns that lives on in North American folklore. Presented by Amber Maykut or Brooklyn Taxidermy, Maykut has also done taxidermy for the legendary film director John Waters. The jackalope is surrounded by other taxidermy animals, including squirrels and carnivorous fish.  (Diana Crandall)
Various pickled reptiles (Diana Crandall)
An alligator skull sits in front of a pickled piglet at the Dark and Deviant Oddities table (Diana Crandall)
Catacomb Culture’s handmade “Lamp of the Baron.” Handcrafted and treated, this item goes for $500. (Diana Crandall)
Scorpion macaroons from the Awkward Scones (Diana Crandall)