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Topic: Mermaids
Message: Posted by: Moderncelt (Mar 16, 2005 07:49PM)
Got a question for the gaffers out there. I remember years ago seeing mermaids or sea-fairies in a sideshow. Not the Fiji mermaid type, these were made from stingrays or skates that had been cut and dried. Has anyone seen any recently. I haven't seen any in years. I can't even find a picture of one on the net. I'd like to try and find one for my own collection.
Message: Posted by: Slim Price (Mar 16, 2005 08:16PM)
Check in with Doug Higley (Xmosis) He sets the standards!
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Mar 16, 2005 08:20PM)
They are all over the net. Look for 'devil fish' among other names. Some even try to pass 'em off as a Chupacabra (last month in New mexico).

They are cut from a Guitar Fish and there is a lady that makes some nice ones...I'll have to find her emails and the links to her site.

Be advised, these things stink to high heaven and need to be kept in a sealed glass case, frame or box.

Sometimes there is an old mexican lady who sells them at the San Diego Flea market.

Moderncelt: eMail me or PM me to remind me...I'll find you the source.


(and why thank you Slim! gawrsh.)
Message: Posted by: Moderncelt (Mar 16, 2005 10:01PM)
Thanks for the tip. I had planned on keeping it in a shadow box. I've got a couple gaffs and pictures up on my wall, I was just hoping to add to my collection. My wife on the otherhand, would be overjoyed if my collection "disappeared" ;)
Message: Posted by: drwilson (Mar 17, 2005 06:25AM)
The lady to whom Doug refers is Sarina Brewer of [url=http://www.customcreaturetaxidermy.com/fantasy/fantasy_3ff.html]Custom Creature Taxidermy[/url]. She has preserved Sea Devils that don't have to be kept under glass to protect the living. See also "Something Strange" by Doc Shiels.

Sarina is a pleasure to deal with. You get a very different look from the creatures that Doug captures and preserves. I assume that they are drawing their stock from different ecosystems.


Message: Posted by: Moderncelt (Mar 17, 2005 08:22AM)
Oh hell, I know Sereena! *slaps palm on forhead* She's right here in Mpls. I went and saw her show of Rogue Taxidermists. First heard about her on NPR. A real cutie too. I don't remeber seeing a sea devil in her show though. I'll have to ask her the next time I see her.
Message: Posted by: Todd Robbins (Mar 17, 2005 08:39AM)
They are also known a Jenny Havers.
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Mar 17, 2005 09:46AM)
Yeah...that's her. Considering the level of her work, I don't think you need worry about the smell :) as Doc Wilson said. Many are just cut, dried and salted and PU.

Jenny Hannivers...Jenny Hanovers...an old world term for the critters of Mer.
Message: Posted by: oscarquella (Mar 17, 2005 06:46PM)
Moderncelt, maybe you saw my goat at Creative electric Studios when you were there? These guys beat me to suggesting Sarina. I also saw one at Dick Horne's place in Baltimore I think. They're really cheap.
Message: Posted by: Moderncelt (Mar 17, 2005 07:21PM)
Very likely, which one was it? Does he have a web site? Dick Horne, not your goat.
Message: Posted by: Todd Robbins (Mar 17, 2005 08:07PM)
Dick Horne was James Taylor's partner on the Dime Museum in Baltimore. They parted company recently.

I had a two headed chick from Sarina. We had it on display in the theater where I did Carnival Knowledge. It was not in a bell jar. One morning, I came in and found just one head off to the side, two chick feet and a pile of small feathers. I'm guessing is what done by a Chupacabra. At least that how I displayed the remains.
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Mar 17, 2005 08:26PM)
Dick Horn has an item on display he named 'The Higley Wiggley'...but it's not one of mine...some one sent me a picture...it's not even close.
Some body told him it was one of mine though when they sold it to him I guess.

I emailed him but never heard back. Maybe Dick made it himself and just named it in 'honor of'...hahaha.

Counterfeit Higley's...what's the world comin' to!
Message: Posted by: oscarquella (Mar 18, 2005 10:21AM)
http://www.dimemuseum.net will take you to the American Dime Museum. I don't know if there's a picture of his Jenny Havir. I'm not even 100% sure that his place is where I saw it- I visited so many places when I was out east last summer.
Message: Posted by: handa (May 29, 2005 03:49PM)
I got my first of hopefully several(!) Higley originals yesterday (A Mer) in the mail and I'm not disappointed!

Doug put a lot of time into making sure that I was comfortable with the piece. My wife is also pleased with it. We will be taking it to a weekend-long show in late June.

Doing business with Doug is and has been great. He takes a lot of pride in his work and will not send anything out that does not meet his own, personal standards. I'm basing a new show around the mer, and planning on using a couple of other Higley originals to fill other gaps. The agency I work with is both curious and interested. We definitely feel that we have a unique product to offer to our market.

Thanks again, Doug. I look forward to seeing the other pieces!


P.S.--If anybody has any specific questions, please feel free to PM me as well. However, there's nothing that I would say privately about doug that can't be posted on this forum.
Message: Posted by: drwilson (May 30, 2005 06:39AM)
Doug is a prince among men, as you can read [url=http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=102295&forum=109]here[/url].


Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (May 31, 2005 01:30PM)
Thanks fellers...always good to hear nice feedback!

There's some new 'critter' photos and stuff on site at http://lionpointstudio.com
and a display tip or two. :)

Message: Posted by: Harry Murphy (May 31, 2005 02:26PM)
Doug, I see that Ms. Murphy is up and looking good on your site! So far she has made her cost back plus a very, very tidy profit. She is a little moneymaker for me! I follow your plan/advice pretty closely. Folks, I can’t recommend the Higley wonders high enough.

My “What is it?” ‘Zibit is about all I am doing lately as I make the slow comeback from my deer hunting adventure! She made it to DC this weekend for the Memorial Day Rolling Thunder; Ride to the Wall (motor cycles to the Viet Nam memorial). There were over 200,000 motorcyclists converging on the Mall. That is tons and tons of people just wanting to see and do something.

I was set up in the trunk of my car (for ease in breaking down in case the law wanted to move me on!), with a simple “What is it?” banner sign down the side of the car and across the top of the trunk. I got to the area at Oh-dark-thirty so managed a pretty good spot near the monument and near a food vendor and a T-shirt vendor. At a dollar a pop, I had lines all day. Suffice to say, it was a very good day! I let people look as long as they wanted (but the subtle pressure from those who waited keep the line moving). I had one kid come back maybe five or six times (I only charged him once! He’s the future!). The law left me alone. The other vendors got some spill over from my lines (and me from theirs!).
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (May 31, 2005 06:00PM)
A word of caution to all those reading Harry's testimonial...Harry is equipped with exceptional talent thus is able to handle 200,000 motorcyclists with aplomb.

*** Harry! Way to go! I love to hear that stuff. Your the only other one I ever heard do the 'trunk of the car' bit besides me. Ain't we got fun! (and Major Nads!)

Glad to see that ONE kid is still showing up. 'He' was always my motivation. That kid was me and you and yes, the future. I loved it when maybe a week later at a Flea Market or Fair a Mother would approach the booth and say.."This is ALL my Son has talked about all week! I guess I'd better see the darn thing!" And then we'd have a little talk about nurturing that kids curiosity and making sure she got him to as many Museums as possible etc etc

Life IS grande sometimes.

Nice going Harry!
Message: Posted by: Harry Murphy (Jun 1, 2005 07:52AM)
Thanks Doug! I actually went to Rolling Thunder to do a little busking. I planned to do my magic show and pitch the ‘Zibit as an extra to give me time for a break. I never broke out the table! As soon as I had the banner up the lines formed! I spent the day doing crowd control by bantering and playing with the folks in the line (especially the ladies!).

At the end of the day, I was whipped! No voice (am I out of practice!), slightly dehydrated (I ended up giving away some of my water!), hungry, and happy.

After I broke down, took a walk around the Wall just to check out the scene. 8 PM and still more people than I could count. I ran into a Balloon Busker I knew from the past. She was totally out of inventory and was, like me, whipped! She allowed as how she had the best day she’s had in over a year. That from a crowd that had very few kids!

By the way, I rewarded the kid that kept coming back with a photo of him with Ms. Murphy! He and his parents were amongst the last in line at the end of the day (of course!). His mom had a disposable camera, so I made the kid sit in the trunk by the display and I snapped the photo. Man the kid had a grin that could have split his head in half. If he’s not hooked then I don’t know what it’ll take!
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 1, 2005 12:05PM)
Ah...the true essence of the game...there is passing the hat and there is passing the 'torch'...both give a great feeling and go well together.

Glad you had fun and made a sheckle. Someday you're just gonna have to visit California.

BTW: I'd like for you to put the reactions and 'give and take' with the crowd regarding the Mer in an email or a PM for me.

That kind of success out of the trunk of a car is a bit startling, I'd love to have the details.

Message: Posted by: Dr_Stephen_Midnight (Jun 1, 2005 05:38PM)

How do you arrange your display to avoid "over-the-shoulder or crowd-thru peekers?" I'm having a little trouble visualizing the setup.

I am getting more and more interested in doing one of these 'grind shows' myself. I've always loved this sort of thing and it sounds like a great opportunity for those who have the mindset.

And Doug, I love your site and exhibits.

Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 1, 2005 06:10PM)
Thanks Doc!

There are numerous ways to sheild the 'zibit...not a challange really but I'm still waiting for Harry to tell me how he does it from his trunk! :)

The key is in HOW it's presented and what is said...Harry did well it seems...but there are special words to use and ways to go that probably could have overwhelmed him in the crowd crush if he had used them. Maybe he did and he's just keeping my 'secrets'.

The exhibit itself is important in that there must be 'something' to see that they won't turn around and smack you on the head for charging them to see it...but the real secrets are in the words or the text and signage used to get them to spring for the admission. It's all very psychological and well thought out over the years with decided sucesses measured and reported and way off the well beaten path of the old time sideshow methods. It's the understanding of WHY this works (and the old methods don't) that'll get your juices flowing.

Message: Posted by: Harry Murphy (Jun 1, 2005 06:16PM)
The setup I used was fairly simple. My trunk was propped open and a PVC pipe frame popped into place. Simple drapes (heavy unbleached muslin) were hung cover the sides (openings between the trunk lid and car body) and across the back bumper of the car.

A simple frame reached above the trunk lid and I had a small banner (width of the car by about 2. 5 ish feet tall) with a big “?” mark and arrow pointing into the display hung on it. I used a couple of lengths of rope from the top of the banner frame to the back windows of the car (a knot in the rope and the window rolled up acted as an anchor) held everything in place.

Yes I know that my descriptive skills suck here!

It is a modification of an idea that Doug gives in his instruction booklet. You actually have to step on a small platform to see over the rear drape. Two or three people can stand side by side to view the ‘Zibit (that depending on the size of the people. I had a milk crate with a board wired to the bottom for kids to stand on.

Ms. Murphy herself was towards the back of the trunk area. I had a battery operated florescence camp lamp to light up the area. You are looking at ‘Zibit side on and kind of downward. You get maybe a three-quarter view of the sweet thang! You see full front and top. You pretty much had to be up on the platform and straight on to see the little beauty. I am sure that some people could sneak a peek but the line kept moving and I didn’t worry about it.

I got a number of people who went to get their friends in the spirit of “I’ve been had now you get had too!” Lots of mild curses of confusion and “what the **** is it?!” exclamations.

It is not the best of displays but I used what I had on hand and it seemed to work OK.

Honestly Doug gives all the details for a couple of types of displays in his booklet “The Last Museum” that accompanies his critters (or did mine). I simply modified the “pick-up truck display” he gives by simplifying it (making it way smaller and not using banners on either side of the viewing area). Another big plus is that Doug simply gave me the idea in one of my discussions with him! He told me that he had used his car trunk for a display once. The man is totally giving and free with his advice and ideas for using his creations.
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 1, 2005 07:12PM)
Harry...I no longer have the booklet available at this time. I've been trying to get one done online for customers but just haven't had the time or energy to complete it yet...but I do have a Toll Free number! What I DO offer is personal telephone consulting, no charge of course...(or not of course) and can better get an idea of what the 'showman/woman' wants to accomplish or their particular situation and aim them.

As always..it is up to the person whether they do well or not as it is almost 99% in need of friendliness and and a good spirit of fun. Even the reactions you get will depend on your demeanor and how you interact with the 'folks'. Put a big PERIOD on that.

Interesting that you had potentially 'tough' crowd...proud of you Harry!
Message: Posted by: drwilson (Jun 2, 2005 01:56AM)
Harry and Doug,

This is all pure gold! Thanks for sharing.

Harry, have you thought of pitching anything besides a peek? You know, postcards, greeting cards, plastic sea critters, that sort of thing? Now that you've seen the marvel, buy the souvenir...


Message: Posted by: Harry Murphy (Jun 2, 2005 07:59AM)

I haven’t pitched anything with the ‘Zibit yet. I like the idea of pitching plastic sea creatures. I don’t know if I will ever do a post card unless I can make/fake one to look like a reproduction from a Tintype. You know show a Burnside sporting, pith helmet wearing, turn of the last century, explorer/adventurer holding something that sort of vaguely resembles the Mermaid. You know, from the time she was captured/found. I would not want to have it too clear as I don’t want to give her likeness away (why pay when your buddy can show you a photo?!).

When I do the ‘Zibit under the E-Z UP top I may just do an additional pitch.

This past Memorial Day weekend, I had actually gone to do a little magic busking and passing the hat. I haven’t done that in almost two years since my little forced hiatus from performing. The ‘Zibit was just going to be and extra. I didn’t expect the volume of people looking for something to do! Frankly, I spent my day keeping a line moving (and taking money).

It’s a good idea!

Doug, I had a built in “IN” with the crowd. That is "Rolling Thunder" is a tribute to the military, it’s veterans, it’s Missing In Action, and it’s fallen. I simply wore my ribbons and part of my old uniform (I’m one of the guys they are supposed to be honoring!). I told a ton of war stories with the motorcycle riding vets (more lawyers, accountants, and Doctors than “real” bikers! Who else can afford Harley’s these days?).

I had a MIA flag and US flag flying from my banner poles. The guy selling T-shirts was a Viet Nam refugee. He and I swapped some good yarns.
Message: Posted by: Eric Starkey (Jun 2, 2005 08:27AM)
Harry Murphy wrote:
I had one kid come back maybe five or six times (I only charged him once! He’s the future!).

You're the man!

Thanks for remembering that we were all that kid at one point.

Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 2, 2005 09:28AM)
You my friend are priceless! Wearing the medals and flying the flags and showing a decrepit creature brought back from the dark swamps 'over there'...how could you lose. Very happy to know you Harry. :) That made my day.
Message: Posted by: drwilson (Jun 2, 2005 09:42AM)

That's a really great story, and should remind all of us that if they like you, they'll like your show.

It's pretty easy to degrade a photo down to a beat-up tintype in PhotoShop. Another option is to pay an artist to come up with the image. Along the lines of what you suggest, it ought to look like an engraving or wood engraving from 1880. I was thinking of checking Bloomington's [i]Lives of the Explorers of the Golden Age[/i], but then I remembered what happened to it.

Of course, a great option is to pay Doug to create a suitable image!

If you want to know where to get cards, postcards, stickers, or temporary tattoos printed cheap, or where to find good slum, drop me a PM.


Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 2, 2005 11:01AM)
I'd do Harry's 'image' just for fun (like I have time for fun!)
Nautical and adventurous BUT Harry is correct in not showing the 'Zibit so there would be less impetus for the 'guest' to buy one. However...all harry has to do is bring his Ms. Murphey to one of those Antique photo places (at fairs and touristy towns etc....get in an OLD TIME seaman's outfit and hold the 'critter' in front of him like he was holding a little model ship...it will be small enough not to be noticably detailed. Or and much easier and cheaper...get me that photo taken with any camera and I'll add the Dock side background and antique it etc. Can be done. For Harry, I'll make the time.
Message: Posted by: Harry Murphy (Jun 3, 2005 08:22AM)
Thanks Doug!

Back when I was a teen there were ads running in a number of magazines for a blowgun. They were very busy ads (and difficult to read) with a lot of copy (small print), several photos and looked way cool to a teenager!

The photos included one taken in the jungles of Brazil. It showed a guy wearing a pith helmet, wore kaki shorts with cargo pockets (50 years before they became popular), a kaki shirt with long sleeves rolled up past the elbows, holding a blowgun in one hand and a huge furry creature (anteater?) in the other. I have often thought I would like to make a photo similar to it but with a mermaid being held by its tail, back out (to obscure features), and arms dangling. The adventurer/scientist/explorer would be holding a large fishing net, or maybe a frog-gig (trident), or fishing pole.

It would give the ‘Zibit a bit of a back-story.

Now if I can get the props and costume together…
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 3, 2005 10:57AM)
You won't need the props...just the outfit...send the photo as IF you are holding a critter and I'll take it from there. :)

Message: Posted by: Harry Murphy (Jun 4, 2005 06:41AM)
Hey Doug, as soon as I can find the things I need (I’ve moved and almost everything is in an unlabeled box!) I’ve got a couple of ideas. I think I can put an old Bush-pilot costume together; it will be a 1930’s-40’s look. Still for today that’s OLD!!!

I may be able to get a more turn of the last century explorer look thing taken too. It depends on when the borrowed Pith Helmet arrives.

I may even put on the Kilt, Kaki shirt, and Pith helmet and give you a British army look photo too.

It’ll take some time to get this together, but get it together I will! Heck, I even have to find a photographer to take the snapshots. I do know a lady with a digital camera…
Message: Posted by: Kondini (Jun 6, 2005 11:42AM)
Bob Lunn(Spelling) Had a wonderful act with a performing flea set up. He was dressed in khaki shorts or leotard,pith helmet,monocle,carried a bullwhip and spoke with his false teeth removed.
Remember him at an IBM do,he lived in Leominster and I am sure remembered with great affection by all who saw him.Wish I had more info on the guy,his approach would go down big today.
Also did the lighting a match with a pingpong ball (Dont ask!) So complicated it had to be seen to be believed.
This would go over huge as a come on to a zibbit,,,brains gone rusty.
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jun 7, 2005 05:44PM)
To those who are wondering HOW to show this stuff...I put info on my site...the secret stuff that Todd and Harry and Kondini talk about on occasion.

I need to know all about Ping Pong Balls Ken...please?
Message: Posted by: Kondini (Jun 8, 2005 03:24AM)
Doug, if anyone has any info on Bob and his acts then please,please share with us here, it would be pots of gold.
I was young then and took too much of what I saw for granted,,, oh for insight.
Message: Posted by: drwilson (Jun 15, 2005 02:55PM)
If you are reading this thread, you need to read Doug's notes, which I have reviewed [url=http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=120788&forum=159&0]here[/url].


Message: Posted by: drwilson (Aug 16, 2005 09:25PM)
Another thing that seemed to work OK for a traditional sideshow presentation was to silkscreen a bunch of posters and put them up all over. People walk past slick posters printed using the four-color process all the time, but a handmade original stops them cold. See a scan at:



Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Aug 16, 2005 10:00PM)
Dead on Paul! That's why those signs you made (Really NICE job too!!!) from my How-To worked for you...not something that say's 'more of the same' and is easily ignored...too bad we can't show them here...hahaha...but that's the big secret of the 'Plan' aint it! :)