Friday 18th November 2016 – £5 (includes booklet)
Joined by Ed Davis
Ed: Did you see the mermaid skeleton above the bar?
Joe: Was there one?
Ladies, gentlemen, and everyone in between, welcome to the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History.
Amid the Chicken Cottages and artisan delis of East London’s Mile End, sits a curioso, an enclave devoted to the peculiar, odd, aberrant, and strange.
“This is not a brothel, there are no prostitutes here”, claims a sign on the door. I wasn’t sure whether it was exhibit or admonition, but all things considered, it didn’t rank in even the top fifty of weird shit within.
Through the door is the bar area, if you can call it that. Somewhere beyond the mounted geegaws, dangling gimcracks, and encased bibelot you may find what resembles a traditional bar, but happy hunting. The animal rights advocate in me had been in more happy company, but my inner eight year old was agog at the whale skeletons, stuffed lions, and snake skins festooning said “bar”.
The drinks were posh and expensive, but delicious (and expensive) and served with a “would you like to see the museum downstairs for a fiver?” The answers to which were an unequivocal “Yes” or “Yes. Now!”
It’s an East London bar but more so, and that “more so” is magnificent. From an impressive fish tank (meaning it contained fish worth looking at), to cabinets bursting with unsettling tat (we’ll get to that), it was not your typical pub decor. Although, I’m not sure a bottle of Hendrick’s gin behind glass counts as “curious”, perhaps more “product placement”.
I’d’ve prefered them not to have played middle-of-the-road-but-not-exactly-mainstream indie. Stuff that would be on my Spotify recommendations only ranks as bizarre to every girlfriend I’ve ever had.
Descend the stairs to the museum proper, and so descends your standards of decency, respectability, and logic. A persistent mantra was, “what the fuck is that?” It is no place for the prudish. So, so much filth. You can’t move for cocks, fannies, tits, bums, bollocks, full-sex, fellatio, homo-erotica, orgies. Even pubes…
You’ll have something uniquely unhinged like a pickled foetus next to something you can buy on Amazon like Charles Bronson’s autobiography, and this format just keeps coming and coming. There’s no rhyme and definitely no reason to what you see. It’s a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a mental illness.
It’s like Sir John Soane’s museum after Donald Trump conquers London.
But is it a reliable author? Is that work really by Jeff Koons? Is that urine really by Amy Winehouse? I dunno. The grandiose claims add to the warped atmosphere, but can we trust them? And do we need to? It’s like the kid at school who was adamant about the veracity of urban legends. “Nah man, I swear down, my uncle shagged Melinda Messenger. No fibby lies. Ask my Dad. Why would I lie?”
I loved this place like I love Captain Beefheart, the dream sequence from Twin Peaks, and the /r/creepy subreddit. It doesn’t exist to educate, inform, or entertain but to scratch a macabre itch in an undiscovered hinterland of your mind. It titillates and boggles, bewilders and intrigues.
However, they also perform seances, so they can go hang for five stars!