The Louisville Stigmatorium Oddities & Strange Collectibles: Keeping Louisville Weird One Piece At A Time

It’s Halloween Everyday at the Weirdest Curiosity Shop in the Ville!

Hey kids, it’s The Phantom of the Ville checking
in with a story about a truly singular new curiosity shop/oddities museum/ punk
rock venue/ cult movie showcase at 1722 Maple Street in the industrial area of
downtown Louisville. After getting a tip from a friend at the Culbertson Haunted
Mansion, I decided to see the Louisville Stigmatorium for myself.

My hearse driver drove past the creepy warehouses
and construction sites that litter this part of northwest downtown with only an
address and instructions to, “Look for a building with a boat on the roof.” We
pulled into a sketchy looking alley in front of a large industrial building, and
sure enough we found an entrance with a large outboard motorboat perched atop
the roof. A skull covered sign let us know we were in the right place. Prepare
for a bit of a climb up to the front door as the front stairs are comprised of a
huge pile of timber logs with shipping pallets on top of them to make for flat
surfaces. If that already seems weird to you, then get ready to have your mind
blown by what you’re going to see inside.

As soon as I walked in the front door, my senses
were bombarded with an incredible variety of visual stimuli.The collection on
display isn’t easy to define. You’ll find skeletons in coffins, antique medical
equipment, cultural artifacts, life masks of Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price, cool
toys of our collective childhoods past like the Shogun Warriors Godzilla figure,
animal bones, various creatures in liquid filled mason jars, monster masks,
creepy dolls and many things I couldn’t identify but was too afraid to ask
about. Their motto is, “Nothing is too weird for us.”

Upon entry I was greeted by owner, Andy Harpole,
and his co-conspirator, Johny Walker. Harpole is the owner of both the space and
the majority of the objects on display and Walker is in charge of all related
programming of punk rock shows and B-movie nights, as well as being a low budget
horror film director himself. The Stigmatorium’s current museum room, which they
have plans to expand, is the front room in a large building that makes up
Harpole’s boat repair and storage business.

“At first we thought about opening a shop on
Bardstown Road,” Harpole says. “But someone brought to my attention that I not
only already have this space, but that this end of town already has the perfect
atmosphere for what we wanted to do.” Harpole says the Louisville Stigmatorium
is currently in “soft opening,” and he’s hoping for an official opening sometime
this Summer. Right now, the doors at the museum are open from 11AM until 3PM
Monday through Wednesday, but extended hours or a private showing can be
scheduled at your convenience by calling 502-544-9348.

“Not everything you see is for sale,” Harpole
says. “But we’re open to buying, selling and trading anything unusual.” Harpole
grew up in Oldham County and had an admittedly normal, comfortable childhood
before moving to the Crescent Hill area during his more troubled teenage years.

“There was this old guy who had an auction shop on
Frankfort Avenue,” Harpole remembers, “and one day I stopped in to see what he
was selling. He had all kinds of weird, old stuff and little by little I
starting collecting things. I’m fascinated by the history of Western medicine
and antique medical equipment. I think that’s where this collection started.”

While Harpole runs the museum, Johny Walker is the
event programmer who is busy generating a local following by presenting all ages
punk rock shows and triple feature B-movie nights twice a month. A low budget
horror filmmaker himself, Walker knows his cult horror stuff and sites “Plan 9
From Outer Space” as a major influence. On the week of my visit, he was planning
a show with films as obscure and insane as “Mystics in Bali” and “The Killing of
Satan.” He also regularly brings in touring punk bands from across the country,
and he’s in charge of a small gift shop that sells indie punk CDs, vinyl,
fanzines, horror magazines and other curiosities.

The Stigmatorium is the labor of love of these two
very unique individuals, and their interests & passions extend far beyond the
doors of their spooky operation. “One of the projects I’m very passionate about
is the restoration of Eastern Cemetery in the Highlands,” says Harpole, who
schedules regular volunteer days to help clean up the infamous decaying cemetery
which sits right next door to the immaculately kept, Cave Hill Cemetery.

“I’ve had meetings with the local government about
this problem,” he says. “It’s the saddest thing to me that we’re just letting
the place turn into ruins when so many people’s families and loved ones are
buried there.” The Eastern Cemetery and Crematory closed in the late 1980’s
after a scandal was exposed dating back as far as the 1920’s involving as many
as 48,000 people buried in only 16,000 graves. Vaults were filled to the top
with boxes of ashes, many containing multiple names. Since it closed, it has
been a victim of grave desecration and vandalism.

Andy and Johny welcome anyone to bring in their
weirdest stuff to show, trade or donate to the ever changing museum. New stuff
comes in all the time, and the quicker the museum overflows with weirdness, the
quicker they plan to add rooms to the tour.

Upcoming events include an all ages punk rock show
on Memorial Day, Monday, March 27th, featuring the California
rockabilly sounds of Reverend Red and local punks, EXPO. The show starts at 8PM.
The next B-Movie night takes place on Saturday, June 8th at 8PM. It
will showcase a triple feature of “Driller Killer,” “Basket Case” and “Beyond
the Door.” Food, popcorn and soft drinks will be available at the show. Check
out their Facebook page for more information.

The Phantom of The Ville

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