Ten-year-old Asa Raimes Bry stared intently at a two-headed duckling before he began to pet it.
It was Bry's first visit to the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn with his father. The bicephalous bird was a gift to Joanna Ebenstein by her own dad, an early addition to her still-growing collection of curiosities.
"There's a gorilla foot over there you can touch, too," Ebenstein suggested.
"Really?" Bry said before he scuttled to the other side of the small, sunlit room full off rare books, jarred creatures and preserved insects.
"I started like him," Ebenstein told Metro. "All kids start like him."
A graphic artist by trade, Ebenstein is no stranger to collecting the weirder things in life. She began with a simple blog that gathered her research. It achieved international popularity by the time she turned the operation into a small by-appointment library for a few years, eventually incorporating a small gallery space.
That again changed in 2014 when Ebenstein and friend Tracy Hurley Martin worked together to open the full-fledged three-story museum — which prominently features Ebenstein's library and personal collection — on the corner of Third Avenue and 7th Street. They celebrated their first year this past July.
Large biological displays and any number of religiously themed items can be seen by passersby through the building's large windows. Sunlight pours into the space, which has both a coffee and gift shop, proving itself to be anything other than a kitschy sideshow or haunted house.
But that doesn't mean the museum has no fun. Bookcases are filled with whimsical items given the subject matter: a full diorama featuring a carefully positioned beetle, a "squirtle" taxidermy featuring equal parts turtle and squirrel, and a spinning Ferris wheel complete with stuffed chipmunks.
"It's not Ripley's Believe It or Not," Ebenstein said. "We think it's beautiful and fascinating, and that visitors walk away at least questioning whether that might be the case."
And they get plenty of visitors. Aside from the library and rotating exhibits, the museum also offers regular taxidermy classes, film screenings, holiday parties and an ongoing number of talks about a range of morbidly fascinating topics.