Morbidly Beautiful

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Bloody Blog

A devastating fire as a result of arson destroyed a beloved Texas shop, which was dedicated to celebrating everything morbidly beautiful. Help them recover.

As horror fans, we willingly embrace unimaginable horrors on a regular basis, and we do so in the name of entertainment. But, for many of us, those onscreen terrors serve as an escape from real world nightmares — the kind that chill us in a way that no tale of fiction ever could. No matter how many gruesome, bloodthirsty, and terrifying the monsters we conjure in our imagination are, the genre is rife with reminders that the greatest evil often lives in the hearts and minds of men. It’s a reminder we unfortunately can’t escape in our daily lives.

The day after Halloween, a celebration of all things wonderfully dark and creepy, real horror descended upon a small oddities shop in Houston, Texas. On November 1st, a man walked into The Wilde Collection with a can of gasoline and set the little shop on fire, sending the staff and customers inside running.

Leading up to the incident, the man reportedly publicly posted several menacing messages including the warning, “This is John. I will kill you,” on the Collection’s Google business page, as well as threatening tweets that read, “The Wilde Collection is dead. By my own hand and wrath I say this,” 14 hours before the fire.

The shop, which had become a unique and beloved local attraction, was opened just four years ago by Lawyer Douglas and Tyler Zottarelle.

It housed oddities, curiosities, taxidermy, and stunning Gothic decor curated by the owners. Housing a treasure trove of mysterious and creepy collectibles, the store attracted a diverse clientele. They came to explore four rooms packed with Gothic Victorian jewelry, hissing cockroaches, animals in specimen jars, white peahens in an atrium, and a taxidermy lion wearing a crown — just to name a few of the many uncommon attractions.

Owner Lawyer Douglas is a self-taught rogue taxidermist who takes damaged taxidermy specimens and re-imagines them into new forms. He showcased his morbidly beautiful work at the store. His pieces included a unicorn created using an altered wildebeest head and a rat and spider encased in a diorama called “Some Pig,” inspired by Charlotte’s Web. An entire back room was filled with Zottarelle’s curated selection of rare taxidermy animals, from a black wolf to a zebra to a lion.

However, the items that drew the most interest were those with an alleged haunted history. This included the Nkisi, a demon vessel enclosed in a glass case to keep people breaking the salt circle and touching shards from a broken metal statue.

In an interview with Chron.com, Douglas described his passion for his store and for the unusual objects housed within it. 

“I wanted a store that, when people see it, they react with both fear and interest. I want them to see the beauty in things most people think are scary.”

In addition to losing their treasured items, many of which are irreplaceable, owners Douglas and Zottarelle lost the three-bedroom home they lived in at the back of the store and several pets, including a three-legged black cat, a hognose snake and a quail.

The owners told the Houston Chronicle they plan to rebuild. A Go Fund Me campaign created by fans has collected nearly $60,000 in the campaign’s first week.

The owners left the following message on their Go Fund Me page:

“Having this shop has always been a dream of ours. It was an incredible feeling seeing so many of you come and appreciate what we tried to do. You inspired so much of our shop and even inspired much of my art itself. We are completely devastated and at a loss for words. Some of you may not know but we also live in the building behind the doors you saw were locked when you visited the shop. That adds a layer to this tragedy Your outpouring words of support and encouragement have given us the will to rise from our ashes.”

“We have never done  anything like this and there is a part in us that feels uncomfortable asking for your help. All we ever wanted was to help provide beautiful and unique items for your home and offer you the immersive experience that was The Wilde Collection. With your encouragement, we have started this crowd funding campaign. Thank you all so much for your messages. We don’t know how much we will need or how long it will take but one thing we are certain is that we MUST rebuild.”

The shop in its former glory, before the tragic fire.

The aftermath of the devastating fire

Sadly, I’ve never had the chance to visit this amazing shop, even though it’s not terribly far from my hometown of Austin, Texas.

I had not even heard of this tragic event until one of my incredible writers brought it to my attention. As soon as I saw the story, I knew I wanted to do whatever I could to help. I love seeing the outpouring of support from the community, and I’m extremely hopeful the shop is able to rebuild and reopen soon. When it does, I’ve committed to making a trip to visit it in person and show my support.

If you want to help, you can visit the shop’s Go Fund Me campaign page.

Every little bit helps. It’s our chance to make sure the monster doesn’t win in this story. 

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