KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- An octopus in a jar, a brain in a snow globe and a real human skeleton are all things you can find at Noir Arts and Oddities in Kansas City's West Bottoms.
The shop's owner, Pamela Smith, grew the business from a small stand, where she was selling her collection part-time, into a full fledged, 3,000 square foot store. She said business is booming.
"There’s a lot more weird people out there than I ever imagined," she said.
When you walk in, one of the first things you notice is an actual human skeleton standing in a coffin, adorned with beautiful dead flowers.
"This is Vincent, and he is our resident Odd Fellows skeleton," Pamela said.
The Independent Order of the Odd Fellows dates back to 17th Century England. It was a charity that helped families in need bury their dead, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"Vincent is a piece that I picked up for a customer, who then got vetoed by his wife. She said ‘No, we’re not bringing that in the house,’ so he has just kind of stuck with us. He has become our mascot," Smith said.
Vincent is not for sale, but most things in the store can be purchased. They range from T-shirts and specialty Gothic-style dresses to more macabre items, like medical specimens and embalming fluids.
Some customer favorites include framed butterflies and artwork made out of hair.
"We have framed butterflies, and we work with an entomologist who does this work. He’s out of San Francisco, and we get all of our specimens for him because he’s an ethically sourcing artist," she said.
Smith's curiosity for unique antiques began at a young age.
"I had been collecting weird, strange and unusual antiques off and on throughout my entire life. It really started as a child with my grandfather," she said. "He would take me to like every garage sale and flea market auction down at the Lake of the Ozarks. We did that a lot and loved that and I collected a lot of old pictures."
But being the black sheep of the family wasn't always easy.
"When you are the odd duck in your family, you feel like you’re the only odd duck, because everybody else likes ‘Sex in the City’ and purses and handbag shopping. My idea of shopping was not the same as everybody else’s."
Through the store, Smith says she's found a sense of community.
"Over the five years as we’ve expanded, we’ve really grown into a community," she said. "This is a safe space for people like me, who maybe at their Thanksgiving dinner, they can’t talk about the newest cool thing that they got which is a human skull or a funeral wreath made of hair."
Because of an intense amount of interest, Noir has become a gathering place for people with similar interests.
Tickets are on sale for an Edgar Allen Poe themed coloring night as well as a beginner's mouse taxidermy workshop (all of the specimens in the store are ethically sourced).
Smith said, overall, the store just piques the curiosity of most people.
"When I opened the spot and I just was selling all of this stuff, I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe people would actually be interested in it."
You can learn more about Noir Arts and Oddities by visiting their website here.