BY HENRI ROBBINS
Loveland Local News
LOVELAND, Ohio — “It was used in a double murder in West Virginia,” said Greg Johns, the owner of Memento Mori, to a customer as he explains the story behind a knife in a glass case.
“It is a butcher’s knife,” Johns said. “You could use it. But it was already used for murder.”
Memento Mori is an oddities shop behind Express Deli Market on the corner of N. Elm and Main streets. In business for more than eight years at their physical location, Johns originally started as a collector of funeral equipment before branching out to his broad collection of “oddities, collectibles, and antiques,” as the sign on the front door reads.
“It’s all real,” Johns says, in reference to a taxidermy two-headed calf, and later in regards to all of the store’s contents.
Entering through the convenience store’s side door, a vast array of items fills the main room: A six-foot-tall taxidermy giraffe head, a collection of animal skulls, and a rescued fighting dog named Bunsen, are immediately visible. For Johns, opening Memento Mori allows him to pursue his passion — collecting any and all types of oddities – while still living on his own schedule.
“A lot of places won’t get into certain stranger things, and I get into the strangest things you can find for sale; the stranger the better,” Johns said.
In one of the back rooms, a small crowd of dolls, a mix of toys and ventriloquist’s dolls, sit on a table.
“We had a piece here one time, it was a handmade dummy used in an old vaudeville act, and this dummy would move,” Johns said. “It was in a case, so no one could touch it, but every couple days we would come in and the legs would be in different positions, and there’s no way that could happen.”
While Johns does believe the dummy had a certain energy to it, he wouldn’t call it “haunted.”
“I think whoever had that doll and used it in the vaudeville act became attached to that doll,” Johns said. “It was their livelihood, so there was a piece of them attached to it.”
“The person who owns it now still sees things happening, still has conversations with the doll, even to this day,” Johns said. “They actually live right here in Loveland. A local collector bought it and she has no kids, so she sits it next to her bed and talks to it every night.”
Overall, Johns doesn’t give much credence to the idea of “haunted” items, instead saying the doll — like many other things — just had “some mojo attached to it.”
“I don’t think everything is haunted, you know, it’s creepy, but not everything. I’d say about 99.9 percent of the stuff they say is haunted isn’t, but that point-one percent is.”
Across from them, a collection of biological specimens — mostly animals, all dead from natural causes — preserved in jars of embalming fluid, called “wet specimens,” fills a set of bookshelves.
“I’ve got human hearts in there. I’ve had full human faces and heads from old medical schools, used for medical teaching. People donate their bodies. They’d sell their bodies back then to medical schools. [To find them] I talk to the people in the medical schools.”
In a side room, a human-sized figure of a goat’s head on a human body sits, cross-legged. Sitting next to a stuffed hamster and a cabinet of World War II memorabilia, Johns said the story behind it is relatively benign.
“A friend of mine made that for me,” Johns said. “She had a [stuffed] goat that came with a messed-up shoulder, So she cut [its head] off and made it into a full goat person.”
Tracking all of this down, Johns works with collectors and travels across the continent.
“[I’ve been] all over Canada, Salem, I’ve been all over the United States – only one or two places I’ve never been. I’ve never been to Iowa, there’s just not much going on there.”
“Someone told me two days ago that they couldn’t be in here, they said they got ‘weird vibes,’ but they , so you know. [The ‘weird vibes’] don’t bother me. I got a protector,” Johns said as he motioned towards Bunsen, who was sleeping next to the giraffe head.