Stuff it! Bell House hosts wacky taxidermy night

Andrew Templar and Margaret Mittelbach are gearing up for a dead animal menagerie at the annual taxidermy contest at the Bell House in Gowanus on Dec. 9.
Coney Island artist Takeshi Yamada spent a year collecting his own skin and molded it into a two-headed baby for all to enjoy. (Hold your letters — this is not a real baby!)
Brooklyn Daily

This ain’t your grandfather’s taxidermy!

Carnivorous Nights — the annual contest for Pope squirrels, deer butts turned into faces, and two-headed cows — is back for its sixth show-and-tell at the Bell House on Dec. 9.

Rogue taxidermists, stuffed-animal enthusiasts and people who just inherited odd stuff will vie for a grand prize and the glory of winning “Best in Panache” or “Best in Bones.”

“It’s sort of like the field of dreams, but it’s a field of taxidermy,” said Margaret Mittelbach, a creator of the event. “If you build it, they will come.”

Alongside traditional mounted pieces are oddball creations and animal hybrids, including a massive chandelier made of goat skulls, a rabbit with mermaid fins, and the ubiquitous jackalopes.

Storytelling is just as important as the craftsmanship. Contestants have two minutes to get on stage before a panel of judges and describe their piece.

“I’m a big stickler for panache,” said Robert Marbury, an elite judge and founder of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists. “There’s always something sublimely beautiful that’s a surprise.”

One such surprise was artist Takeshi Yamada, who showed up two years ago holding a clumpy two-headed baby in a diaper.

“Everyone was kind of like, ‘Huh?’ ” Marbury said. “Then he explained that he had been collecting his sunburned skin until he had a full-sized baby.”

Carnivorous Nights started in 2005 as a shameless publicity stunt for “Carnivorous Nights: On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger,” Mittelbach’s book about the elusive marsupial that’s shaped like a wolf, striped like a tiger, and has a pouch like a kangaroo.

The competition quickly turned into a hot-ticket event that sells out every year and, organizers admit, goes on too long because there are so many contenders.

“Not everybody has such a tiny apartment because apparently some people are living with entire menageries of animals,” Mittelbach said. “We’ve discovered that New Yorkers and taxidermy go together extremely well.”

Carnivorous Nights at the Bell House [149 Seventh St. between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus, (718) 643-6510], Dec. 9, 8 pm. Tickets, $7. For info, visit www.thebellhouseny.com. To preregister, e-mail secretscienceclub@gmail.com.

Reach Kate Briquelet at kbriquelet@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.

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