Mystic Museum – Ambassador for the Macabre
By Jeff Alexander
California’s Mystic Museum contributed to transforming the local neighborhood into a gathering for antique and oddities fans thanks to its versatile selection of oddities coupled with their passion for horror films. The Magnolia Park district is home to a growing list of shops and Mystic Museum founders Erick Wessel and Kiko Bailey have relentlessly worked to unite horror fans and oddity collectors.
“At first this area was a little conservative, or so I thought. My partner Kiko and I were passionate about antiques and began The Bearded Lady Vintage & Oddities in 2013, which had antiques and some oddities. Eventually, we evolved to more oddities and opened Mystic Museum. We feel we can offer people the chance to learn and acquire some really unique pieces they otherwise cannot see elsewhere,” said Mystic Museum co-founder Erick Wessel.
“We work to gain knowledge about the history of every piece we get, its place in history, and if it can invoke some kind of spirit."
Invoking the true DIY spirit, Mystic Museum opened its doors in 2015, working to acquire oddities and create engaging exhibits for the burgeoning niche market. Many pieces are centered on dark themes but a variety of medical devices and ephemera demand attention from even the most casual visitor. Wessel feels any reservation from visitors is an opportunity to educate and offer a unique experience.
“We work to gain knowledge about the history of every piece we get, its place in history, and if it can invoke some kind of spirit. I see that as a positive, educational moment for people to learn about things such as anthropology. We do get a lot of young kids visiting and this offers them a chance to see and learn about a subject a lot of people still don’t feel comfortable speaking about; death,” stated Wessel.
The market for oddities has grown considerably and Wessel was quick to state that the interest in oddities has always been strong as the subculture overlaps with horror fans, history buffs, and those passionate about science.
“Acquiring quality oddities pieces is costly but we don’t want to cater to just high-end buyers. Prices obviously vary because there isn’t always a list of sold prices available because certain pieces can be very rare. Spirit boards have always been big sellers. I’m really interested in them because they’re very versatile as they employ folk art, DIY craft, and many contain ancient encryption symbols,” said Wessel.
California continues to remain best known for its film industry, something Wessel quickly notes as beneficial to Mystic Museum.
“Of course we can get a buyer seeking a very specific piece for a film set. Burbank has a big horror community and there are also a lot of local, effect studios. Horror movies are still going strong and those passionate about these films are very interested in oddities.”
Continuing to embrace horror fans, Mystic Museum’s recent exhibit pays homage to the genre they all love and grew up with. The nostalgic Slashback Video installation was designed to mirror the classic VHS stores and features rare promo posters, videos, and memorabilia. Created in collaboration with Ryan and Ciara Turek, the exhibit continues earning praise from visitors.
“Horror fans are very loyal and we appreciate the support. Ryan and Ciara first approached us about an exhibit and we felt creating Slashback Video was important for the community to bring horror fans of all generations together. The idea behind the exhibit was to create a video store reminiscent of the ones we all supported growing up. I think a lot of the movies we promote in the exhibit gives them new life and allows a new generation to discover them. It was a great collaborative effort,” reflected Wessel.
Mystic Museum’s efforts did not go unnoticed within the industry and their recent partnership with the apparel company Fright Rags is further proof that the business is making positive impacts.
“We’re both fans of one another and it only made sense to have Fright Rags involved in sponsoring special exhibits that we do, including our current Slashback Video exhibit. We love their apparel and it was great to work together to produce exclusive exhibit merch for Slashback Video as well as The Evil Dead Experience that we did with Renaissance Pictures LTD and Sam Raimi,” said Wessel.
Wessel strongly believes the horror genre has a bright future, even if critics stated films have become formulaic.
“We don’t feel horror is in a pitfall. We feel any repeating of the past is honoring the genre, whether it’s good or bad. It’s important to remember that some movies that were considered bad in the past are now cult classics. We also have great respect for new, independent filmmakers creating original content. There are also dedicated merch companies giving love to a lot of films that were overlooked, allowing the people involved to get recognition.”
Mystic Museum serves as ambassador to all-things odd and unique. For Wessel, he believes the shop’s versatility can continue uniting passionate horror fans with oddity collectors while offering every new visitor a glimpse into the macabre.
“I feel all these subcultures are connected. Within oddities, you have science, world of the occult, and spiritual aspects that are certainly themes in a lot of horror films. In our exhibit, I feel we preserve once overlooked films and prevent them from getting lost in history. With displaying and selling oddities, many rare pieces would otherwise be lost without careful preservation and nobody would be able to see and celebrate them,” concluded Wessel.
Photos by Jeff Alexander and