Appleton Man Runs An Oddities Store

by Trevor Keller
| August 4, 2017

In the lobby of an Appleton tattoo parlor, there’s an inkling of something strange. Step inside “The Body Shop” on Wisconsin Avenue and you’ll be immersed in Scott Watzlawick’s world of the bizarre, a store called “Forty Three Skulls.”

“Just about anything from human skulls to antique vaporizers,” Scott Watzlawick said. “If it looks cool to me, I put it in the store.”             

Scott Watzlawick says he’s always repurposed things other people threw away, much to the dismay of his father Ron Watzlawick.

“Somebody would have a broken doll and he'd bring the little parts and pieces home and make a design out of them,” Ron Watzlawick recalled. “I'm like ‘There's a reason they're throwing this stuff away.’”

Scott Watzlawick eventually began introducing taxidermy animals into his recycled art. For instance, a few of his pieces feature taxidermy bats hanging inside wooden frames or decorative mirrors.

“I would rather see an animal go into an art piece that could educate a child as opposed to go into a landfill and rot with garbage,” Scott Watzlawick said.

The result may look creepy, but Scott Watzlawick says there’s a lot of interest in his artwork. He began searching for other art like his, and amassed a large collection of oddities. He decided to turn his eclectic hobby into “Forty Three Skulls.” The oddities store includes everything from recycled art to animal skulls to a full size lion skeleton. He also has several small jars featuring diaphonized animal specimens.

Diaphonization is a process where an animal’s skin is made transparent using a special dye, revealing the organs and skeleton underneath. It’s often seen in museums or science labs. While some of these items are available for purchase, Scott Watzlawick has worked with area teachers to use these pieces for educational purposes too.

“To me that’s the most fun of it,” Scott Watzlawick said.  “It’s teaching kids and keeping them focused and interested so they want to go home and hit up Google and go ‘Where did this bat come from?’ or ‘What’s a flying fox bat?’”

Scott Watzlawick is quick to point out all the animals in his artwork are ethically sourced.

“Nothing has been killed for the art or killed to be put into a jar,” Scott Watzlawick said.

For instance, he’s working on a piece with a shark he obtained from a dissection lab. He realizes people find his hobby strange, including his father. Ron Watzlawick used to scoff at most of his son’s ideas.

“Then he’ll put it in the store and it’s gone,” Ron Watzlawick said. “The more time goes by, the more I learn there’s a collector for everything.”

Once a skeptic, Ron Watzlawick is now a believer. Today the Watzlawicks often work together to come up with recycled art for “Forty Three Skulls.” They both agree the oddities store brought them closer together, and that’s not so odd after all.

“I burst at the seams telling people about it,” Ron Watzlawick said.

Tags: oddities / skull / appleton / animals / strange / bizarre / taxidermy

Trevor Keller is a reporter for the “Wisconsin Life” project who loves photography and is always looking for a new Wisconsin park, trail or scenic overlook to explore.