Curious Curator Jesse Van Deinse



Jesse Van Deinse is a collector and dealer of curious objects, and his passion dwells in the dark and bizarre — things that can often trigger nightmares. His shop in Dover called Memento Mori Eclectic Antiques is where many of his artifacts are displayed, but the vast majority of his collection fills every inch of his apartment’s walls and floorspace. One might think his personality would be brooding and mysterious. It’s not.

Photo by David Mendelsohn

In his own words:

  • I’ve always found innovators like P.T. Barnum interesting. He brought the bizarre and odd to the mainstream and tapped into their darker side.
  • Memento Mori is a Latin phrase meaning an object that serves as a warning of death, and to remind you that you will die. It also means to remember the dead and the people you have lost.
  • To me, antiques are a reminder of the past and a reminder of death.
  • Though I collect a lot of things, the majority of my collection consists of oddities, perhaps things that might be strange to most people.
  • Lately, I am attracted to things like embalming bottles and equipment, funeral home signs, procession flags, mourning photos and vintage memorial cards.
  • I even have an old embalming table.
  • I have a lot of things that I cherish, but I have a few pieces that stand out.
  • One of my favorites is a magneto-electric home shock therapy machine from 1870. Another is a piece of framed Victorian hair art that was woven into a mourning wreath. They would remove the hair from the deceased.
  • I like the old traditions that were practiced to honor the dead and to remember loved ones.
  • As a kid, I was very interested in the art of stage
  • magic. When my dad was growing up in New York, his grandfather would take him to an old magic store in the city. My dad passed the love of it on to me.
  • TV networks like the History Channel have spawned reality programs focusing on collecting. Now it seems that everyone thinks just because they follow a particular program, they are qualified experts.
  • I grew up in a White Mountains town with a bit of bizarre history — a famous UFO story. I’ll always remember when Betty and Barney Hill came to our school to discuss their abduction.

Don’t be shocked, but this Davis & Kidder’s Magneto-Electric Machine from Jesse Van Deinse’s personal collection seems to be in working condition and comes with directions on how to cure a variety of “nervous diseases.” Sounds perfect for the Trump Era. Step right up.

Thanks to Emily Brackett of Live Free Photography for her introduction to Jesse, and to Justin Cross of Cross Photography for his expert digital surgery skills in transposing our subject’s head.

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