Oddities and Curiosities Expo exhumes Toronto’s ghoulish spirit

On June 15, a mentalist stood on the stage at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the Oddities and Curiosities Expo holding a small cloche bell jar with what appeared to be the charred remains of a monkey’s paw.

Seated to Mysterion’s left was an old doll named Walt. And yes, it was allegedly possessed.

A shock of white spilled back through his bangs, slicked back as he scoffed at his foolish victim for touching the paw and doll. With plenty of gallows humour, he played on the W.W. Jacobs short story, using his PhD in ESP. He told the young lady that she would get her wish of Harley Davidson boots, but it would be because bikers had trampled her.

The young lady giggled slightly as she was applauded and she left the stage with a sheepish grin.

After his performance, the Toronto-based mentalist spoke with the Superstitious Times about how there aren’t many shows that touch on the penchant for the macabre in Canada.

“They’re all different subject matters that are still considered taboo,” he admitted. “I look at what I do as something that is an extension of what I used to like when was (younger). Shows like ‘In Search Of …’ or ‘That’s Incredible’; those types of programs were rampant on TV.   

“The acceptance of it is definitely opening up, as you can tell,” he adds, motioning to the crowd in the convention centre.

Artists, Tarot readers and seekers of the macabre gathered at the Metro Convention Centre to wallow in their curiosity, as expo co-owner Michelle Cozzaglio brought the show to Toronto, the only Canadian stop for the exhibition.

Canadian vendors travelled far and wide to make it to Toronto. Making the longest trek was Kellie Anderson, who teaches kids at her curio and maker lab Stray Dog Art House in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. The trip, by car, was 17 and a half hours, with a stopover in Ottawa.

Anderson parlayed her puppetry and props work into a career as a special effects artist in Hollywood, doing work on “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Anderson and her daughter Maggie Kat were looking forward to connecting with the community.

“Hopefully we’ll get our name out there because we love doing this stuff,” she said. “If we get on that train it would be cool to do other shows.”

Artist Danielle of Heartbreak House travelled from North Bay to sell her wares which feature the remains of ethically sourced fauna arranged in glass cases. Her art is also a chance to channel her Indigenous background and pay respect to Mother Earth.

“If I find anything, I lay something down to say thank you for the gift and honour it,” she said while showing a piece with a turtle, representing Turtle Island, the land we live on. “Having her here as well is just a fantastic thing that I could to honour her.”

For Danielle, the show is about connecting with people.

“Honestly, it’s so nice to be meeting people, saying hello and hearing their backstories and connecting over the things that we share and love,” she said. “I’ve been following the show for a little while … I met a couple of people who had gone to the events and it went well, so I was like, ‘Why would I not want to be a part of something so special?’

“I figured, dive head-first into the biggest show possible and go from there.”

Author and Tarot reader Monica Bodirsky was also excited to hear that the Oddities and Curiosities Expo was going to travel through Toronto.

“I was really thrilled when the show crossed the border and came to Canada,” the former OCAD faculty member said. “I jumped on the application immediately. I don’t have bones or dead things, but I do have tarot cards and I’m definitely in the spooky realm. So, it’s been going great so far.”

Spread out before her on the table was a 300-page guidebook The Awakening Tarot, and naturally, some of her favourite topics are ghosts, cryptids and UFOs.

Speaking of cryptids, Mysterion offered one last gobsmacking trick as he read to a young Mothman fan from his book,

“It says, ‘Many of the cryptids found these pages of origins that are as old as time historical stories, tell of bipeds — that means two feet, like big foot all over the world. Having these common beasts in every culture makes one think about how human they really are, and really a common theme to help us to navigate the need to answer the unknown,” he read to the 8-year-old while folding the page to reveal the first letter of each line. “Now, let me show you something. When I move this, look what it says: M-O-T-H-M-A-N.

The boy looked up with wide eyes, amazed. Hopefully, the Oddities and Curiosities, which ran June 15 and 16 this year, will return in 2025.

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