Bell Museum’s exhibit features nature’s freaks

Nikki Wee

Looking bewildered and amazed, first-year students Kaisa Kerrigan and Carl Sarkissian stared at a trophy head hanging on the wall of the Bell Museum, curious of what the odd creature was.

A quick glance at the sign hanging near it answered their question: It was a jackalope.

The animal is a naturally occurring phenomenon, and is one of many others on exhibit at the University’s Bell Museum of Natural History every weekend until the end of October. Just in time for Halloween, the museum is hosting “Oddities and Curiosities of Nature,” a display of bizarre specimens gathered from its scientific collections.

The jackalope, once thought to be strictly a creation of taxidermists, is a rabbit with a virus similar to one that causes warts in humans.

After asking for permission, Kerrigan started snapping away at the peculiar animal that caught her attention with her camera.

“It’s like an evil-looking bunny,” said Sarkissian, a biomedical engineering student. “I’ve never seen rabbits with horns before.”

The Bell Museum is “one of those places that makes you gasp,” said wildlife biology junior Ahndree Conn, an education staff member for the museum.

“It’s weird. People like weird,” she said. “But some of it’s just gross.”

Some of the exhibits at the museum include a 500-pound giant clam, the cast of a two-headed turtle and a hellbender, the largest salamander in North America.

Brightly painted banners, similar to those of circus shows, hang around the exhibit featuring the “mystical unicorn horn,” the “marvelous mermaid” and “killer vampire bats.”

“One guy came in here earlier and he couldn’t believe any of it. He just kept on saying ‘wow,’ ” Conn said. “It was fun.”

An advertisement and having nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon lured Kerrigan and Sarkissian to the museum, they said.

“I like animals, and I wanted to see the giant hairball,” Kerrigan said, pointing to the jackalope on the wall. “They have a lot of interesting trivia and facts. There are a lot of things here that you wouldn’t expect to see.”

Along with the display of odd specimens, the museum will be hosting a series of events every weekend.

This weekend, kids and adults will be able to create their own odd creature out of mismatched paper animal parts. There will be a bug cook-off Oct. 22 and 23 while the last week of the month and will feature giant millipedes, snakes and tarantulas.

“My favorite thing is the eat-a-bug competition. We’ll be having chefs come in for a competition, ‘Iron Chef’ style,” said Crystal Boyd, a biology and English junior and a part of the education staff for the museum.

Samplings of the dishes that the chefs create will then be available for courageous museum visitors to try.

“It’s a freak show of nature,” Boyd said. “You don’t get to see those a lot anymore.”