As we inch closer to the haunting season, Halloween Express, Spirit Halloween and assorted seasonal pop-ups have begun invading the abandoned storefronts of Cleveland like a zombie retail invasion. And though poorly manufactured skeletons and cheap Bride of Frankenstein wigs will soon invade your neighborhood, you should know that Cleveland is a damn fine place to celebrate year 'round all things odd, occult and otherworldly.
Pagan Pride Fest took place the last week of August, and the Cleveland Witches Ball is set for Sachsenheim Hall on October 20. The city's growing reputation as an arts epicenter and beacon for DIYers fosters an environment that celebrates unconventional and unusual creators.
For the longest time, Mystic Imports and Distributors on East 55th Street, owned by, of all things, some Catholic folks, was the only place in town where Clevelanders could get their fix on alternative supplies, but a recent surge of shops showcase a little more slickness with the sinister. As astrology and the occult have gained popularity in recent years, Cleveland has been quick to offer brick and mortar shops to accommodate the growing need for all things creepy.
REAL LIFE HORRORS
Americans have been fascinated by Old World mysticism for centuries, but the prominence of biblical religions as well as scientific discovery has decidedly grown a generation of skeptics who doubt anything to do with the occult world. However, real-life unexplainable events and odd artifacts continue to tantalize and pique curiosities spanning generations. Luckily, Cleveland is home to a number of shops specializing in the real life horrors and strange artifacts that have kept people questioning and creeped out.
78th Street Studios, 1300 West 78th St.
A journey through the winding stairways and corridors of 78th Street Studios' industrial building is one exploding with artistic expression, thanks to more than 50 art galleries, shops, businesses and performance spaces. Behind gallery walls on the second floor, nestled between the bathrooms and the Blank Canvas Theatre, sits Pugsley's Room.
Named for the littlest member of the Addams Family, the "little oddity shop that could" is run by owners and operators Jaime and Robin Gonzalez. Taxidermy animals, vintage books, unique jewelry, one-of-a-kind art, horror memorabilia, creepy dolls and religious artifacts are just some of the items adorning the bright orange walls of the shop.
Their space may be small, but during the popular Third Friday events at 78th Street Studios, Puglsey's Room is typically packed shoulder-to-shoulder with eager art fans dying to get a glimpse of the petrified bats on the wall, or seeking out a vintage ventriloquist dummy to hold up and scare a loved one.
Cabinet of Curiosities
4069 Erie St., Willoughby
Inspired by the Victorian penchant for collecting curiosities and oddities, Cabinet of Curiosities in historic downtown Willoughby feels like taking a step into another world. Specializing in haunted artifacts and macabre antiques, this shop has been keeping Cleveland creepy since 2011.
The Cabinet of Curiosities is part-owned by Gary Michael Callahan, as part of Life's Simple Treasures antique shop. Callahan also rents space at Antiques and Uniques in Wickliffe, offering even more opportunities for people to explore his collection of kooky and quirky items.
As is common with most oddities shops, taxidermy and creepy dolls are not in short supply, but uncommon items like vintage mannequins and metal embossed fireplace mantels and surrounds are also available. However, it's the personalized charm of the owners and their wealth of knowledge about their items that are sure to guarantee a sale.
13375 Madison Ave., Lakewood
Clement Kunkle and Hallie Wallace are easily the youngest shop owners on this list, but Cleveland Curiosities is arguably the best oddities shop in the city, if not the entire region. Kunkle has been dabbling in the world of oddities for nearly eight years, and his taxidermy and supplies have been used in both My Friend Dahmer and American Horror Story. After years of being one of the premier sources for all things weird and unique, the couple finally opened up their own shop in August.
The shop is home to exotic and rare items including those of the human persuasion, but the authentic pieces come to the shop from all over the world, including tribal pieces that even the Cleveland Museum of Natural History doesn't possess. The walls are adorned with taxidermic animal heads, skeletons, antique medical equipment, handmade dental phantoms and eye-catching artwork. The animal heads' eyes seem to follow you no matter where you walk.
Skulls (both human and animal), etymology boxes, antique books, post-mortem photography, vintage advertising sheets and other ephemera, daguerreotypes, vintage freak show/circus banners, antique religious iconography, Victorian caskets, embalming bottles and antique medical supplies merely scratch the surface of the weird and wild items available for purchase.
In addition, Kunkle and Wallace will also be offering custom workshops, including a two-day bat pinning class and a two-day etymology class where customers can properly pin and showcase their own bat/insect in a frame and take it home as a forever keepsake.
For many people, an interest in the weird or wacky is more than just a hobby; it's a lifestyle. One of the easiest ways for creeps to find one another is by looking for similar markings, not unlike animals looking for their pack. Alternative clothing is extremely popular and easy to find thanks to online shopping, but trying to find the perfect fit with an in-person try-on is growing more and more difficult. Fortunately, there are a variety of brick and mortar stores offering seasonal spooky threads (like the plus-size shop ReDress at 17140 Madison Ave. in Lakewood), but there are a handful that provide the ability to dress to express year round.
16880 Lorain Rd.
The absolutely out-of-this-world Starship Earth proudly serves as the year-round Halloween headquarters for costumes and novelties for Northeast Ohio. Fully realized costumes, props, wigs, makeup, masks, jewelry and anything else your heart desires can all be found within the black brick building in West Park.
Smacked between a Gyro World and Future Kids Daycare and Activity Center, Starship Earth's windows are packed with mannequin heads displaying masks both hilarious and horrifying and wigs of every size, length and color imaginable.
The Mission Boutique
16604 Lorain Rd.
After nearly 30 years in Lakewood, the Mission Boutique has picked up their extensive selection of corsets, exotic dancewear, dancer shoes, alternative clothing, purses, accessories, fetish wear and Goth apparel to the West Park neighborhood, just a few blocks down from Starship Earth.
Handbags adorned with the face of Vampira, spiderweb blouses, dresses covered in vintage jack-o'-lanterns, zombie housewife aprons, Lucky 13 men's work shirts and inverted cross fishnet tights are just some of the spooky items one can garner from the racks of the Mission. Accessories like jewelry, wigs, false eyelashes and petticoats are also available, and they're one of the only places in town that carries brands like Sourpuss, Hell Bunny, Tripp NYC and Kreepsville 666 clothing.
Most dancer/fetish wear shops tend to cater to standard sizes, but the Mission Boutique has a surprisingly extensive collection of plus-size clothing.
and Vintage Clothing
1412 West 116th St.
Boasting over 100,000 costumes and likely over a million individual pieces, Chelsea's Costume Shop and Vintage Clothing has long been a staple of Cleveland's creepy and creative community. Run by Nancy Wilson, it offers costume pieces for just about every theme and every situation.
Differing from a more traditional costume shop that may be lined with walls of cheap replica costumes in plastic bags, Chelsea's includes authentic and vintage pieces. For years, Wilson would scour thrift stores and garage sales for new pieces, but at this point, people tend to just bring pieces to her personally.
Not just a shop for individual costumes, Chelsea's is also a source for many theaters and performing arts groups. Having the supply to turn an entire group into different people for a night is quite appealing. Chelsea's also offers rentals, so those looking to have a killer new look for a night don't have to invest in a permanent purchase.
Sharing a similar interest or aesthetic is one way to bring like-minded individuals together, but without any sort of social gatherings, having a community of creeps with nowhere to go relegates hangouts to independent and unofficial planning. Every social group deserves to have their Cheers or their Empire Records and Cleveland is home to plenty of haunts where creeps can safely gather without fear of mockery or judgement.
The Mummy and
the Monkey's Thrift Crypt
13349 Madison Ave., Lakewood
Horror hosts, entertainers and shop owners, Janet Decay the Mummy and Grimm Gorri the Monkey (played by real life husband and wife Janet Jay and James Harmon) recently opened up a little horror shop in Lakewood specializing in creepy consignment, spooky collectables, unique art, Cleveland-based independent films, vintage wares and the timeless glory of VHS tapes.
With a little over a year under its belt, the Mummy and the Monkey's Thrift Crypt resale shop has played home to some events unlike anything ever offered to the community. Last April, the Thrift Crypt featured the work of Cleveland artists and toy makers Rick Sans and Serganddestroy, who create original resin sculptures and upcycled action figures as creepy custom creations. The duo also creates skateboard deck and vinyl record art, which Thrift Crypt proudly displayed and sold.
The Mummy and the Monkey have been staples at the biannual Cinema Wasteland convention for years, so the expansion to a brick and mortar location for their fanbase to congregate year-round was the next logical step. T-shirt trades, live music on the sidewalk, art showcases, and an endless loop of The Mummy and the Monkey's horror hosting streaming channel have created a tight-knit community of fans and developed shop "regulars" who attend all of the Thrift Crypt events.
11508 Lorain Ave.
Just under 2 years old, Weird Realms serves as Cleveland's central haven for nerds. On the surface, it would be easy to dismiss the shop as nothing more than a record/book store or a board-game locale, but the community composed of Weird Realms' patrons is otherwordly, and a major part of the shop's charm.
With a wall adorned by an 8-foot-by-16-foot mural of post-apocalyptic artwork from Cleveland illustrator Jake Kelly, Weird Realms is like a fantasy land of Lovecraftian fascinations, with deep roots in Dungeons and Dragons. The shop utilizes a private Facebook group for patrons to schedule and arrange game-play nights, and frequently hosts role-playing nights for adventure, sci-fi, and horror games.
Outside of the game-playing offerings, Weird Realms' collection of books is certifiably creepy. Fantasy, horror, science-fiction and other alternative genres line the bookcases of the shop, providing the creeps of Cleveland a chance to open a page and step into a new world.
The Black Market
5407 Detroit Ave.
Since 2015, the Black Market has solidified itself as Cleveland's go-to stop for all things alternative. While the spot is a haven for weirdos looking to purchase items outside of the norm, the popularity of the Black Market's alternative yoga classes has also turned the location into one of the most enticing spots in Gordon Square.
With offerings like Doomyasa (Doom Metal Yoga), Doom and Drone Guided Meditation, Yin Yoga, Wild Freedom Punk Yoga and Goth Yoga, there are plenty of opportunities for Clevelanders to align their chakras to hard rockin' tunes. Past offerings include Heavy Metal Yoga, Prog-metal Yoga, Hardcore and astrologically themed classes.
The Black Market is also home to a number of pop-up shops featuring everything from VHS tapes to vintage clothing. The brick and mortar store's roots stretch to the annual Heavy Metal Flea Market, an event the Black Market still hosts, in addition to the yearly Halloween Flea Market. Throw in some live music, tarot card readings and the chance to take a holiday photo with Krampus himself, and the Black Market truly proves itself the best place in town for Cleveland's creepy culture.
ALL THEM WITCHES
It's pretty neat that, thanks to things like Sephora's (temporary) decision to sell a "starter witch kit," people are now more openly discussing witchcraft and removing the stigma attached to the practice. But the unfortunate reality is that witchcraft has also become victim to trendy commodification. Being a "witch" might be a fun and fashionable aesthetic for some, but it's also a legitimate religion that has been suffering from negative stereotypes for centuries.
Practicing witchcraft/Wicca/paganism/magick demands a sincere level of dedication, and rather than purchasing something that pop culture has decided is the new hotness, you can visit an emporium like Mystic Imports Distributors (1872 East 55th St.) for authentic materials, or visit one of these brick and mortar stores with witches on-site to offer a safe and educational way into the world of witchcraft.
The New Moon
15729 Madison Ave., Lakewood
Witches and familiars welcome! This week marks the continuation of the "magickal" takeover of Lakewood, as the New Moon metaphysical shop celebrated its grand opening this past Saturday. After a soft summer opening, New Moon has been serving as a neutral space to learn, grow and find one's unique practice. Readers and healers are on hand, as well as beautiful creations from local artists. Anyone looking for guidance, in need of some magick, or seeking a new way to find enlightenment will be sure to find something suitable.
The New Moon is also the new hub of Chaos Paranormal, a paranormal investigation team that conducts classes and investigations out of the shop. The crew recently did an investigation inside Hillview Manor in Pennsylvania, and even streamed the entire investigation on Facebook Live.
With a sign advertising "broom parking" and a black cat named Aleister as the unofficial shop greeter, New Moon leans heavily into its witchy roots, ones that people may not realize have little to do with eye of newt and toe of frog. Contemporary witchcraft is a religion for those looking to positively connect to the world around them through nature and being in tune with the universe as a whole. Mystical offerings like tarot cards and cosmic dust are staples at the shop, but herbs, oils, candles and stones are far more populous for purchase.
Buckland Museum of
Witchcraft & Magick
2676 West 14th St.
Raymond Buckland started the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick in 1966. After visiting the late Gerald Gardner and his collection on the Isle of Man, Buckland was inspired to start a collection of his own. Across the course of fifty years, the museum moved from New York City to New Hampshire to New Orleans before settling here in Ohio. The museum, currently under restoration, features over 500 artifacts, ranging from ancient Egyptian ushabtis to documented artifacts from the Salem witch trials.
Not just a museum, the Buckland is also home to events throughout the year including seances and tea-leaf readings, continuing to cater to those who wish to worship or speak differently than the norm.
The museum does include plenty of merchandise for patrons to remember their visit by, including T-shirts, buttons, mugs, posters and even Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. Visiting the museum is a fascinating way to educate oneself on the history of witches, and realize just how important the current wave of positive representation of the religion truly is for the witching community.
1384 Bonnieview Ave., Lakewood
A beautiful shop that provides magical provisions for the modern feminist witch, Coven is a place where someone can come to dip their toe into the world of witchcraft, as well as to see if it's a path they would like to explore. Witchy supplies like herbs, candles, sage, anointing oils and healing crystals adorn the shelves of the shop, but if legitimate witchcraft isn't your thing, aesthetically witchy items are also available, such as a Beyoncé worship candle or a T-shirt with a phrase like "Cunty Vibes."
Coven also offers artisan skincare, teas, bath salts, room sprays and jewelry handcrafted by women, in addition to the fabulous Lake Witch's Spellkits, authentic witch kits made by an actual witch, not something mass produced and sold next to lip plumper in the middle of a JC Penny. More than just a store, Coven can also supply visitors with a supernatural experience. Candle carving, anointing and blessing are available in-store, along with the chance to make your own mojo bag with the help of Coven's staff.
The store opened its doors in July, and opening weekend boasted shoulder-to-shoulder patrons vying for a look inside the witch's sanctuary. Local artists like BiasedArt have created custom witchy notebooks and tarot decks for believers looking for something with contemporary flair, and the stock is constantly changing, inspiring visitors to come back again and again.