Saturday, April 2, 2016

Believe: Macabre Horror Genius - Homer Tate!

Today, I want to honor one of hundreds of amazing geniuses in the macabre who filled a niche that was innovative, creative, terrifying, and brilliant! 

Home Tate was known as the creator of many props for sideshows and attractions. He opened shop in 1945 in the Phoenix area to have a curiosity museum and create displays.

He is probably best known for "The Thing" attraction outside of Tucson along the I-10 east-west highway. From far West Texas through New Mexico, you can see the billboards warning you about "The Thing." It was a great road trip attraction.  For $1, you can follow the footprints through out buildings off the gift shop to find unusual displays, leading to the building with The Thing. 

(SOURCE LINK) "Phoenix is still a town where free enterprise can, as a Western saying goes, scratch its own itch. Rugged individual­ism expresses itself in strange and sometimes awesome ways along East Van Buren Street, one of the principal thorough­fares, where alligator farms, cactus curio shops, junk yards and reptile gardens crowd each other. None has more fascina­tion than Tate's Curio Shop where in a single room, Homer Tate, a pink-faced Irishman, manufactures oddities for side shows, carnivals, and "people who like to scare other people out of their wits." On the sides of his four walls are cases of arrowheads, two-headed calves, deer with curly horns, skulls, pictures of freaks, and his own handiwork represented by an appalling assortment of shrunken heads, mummies, Devil Boys, Fish Girls, necklaces of hands, fingers and ears (they'll last a lifetime and only cost twelve dollars). Curled around the room's ceiling are forty-five feet of vertebrae ending in a dragonlike skull. This is, according to an at­tached sign, A GENUINE PSEUDO SNAKE. "Over there," he says, pointing to a molting creature in one corner, "is a bamboozle bat a bird that flies back­wards to keep the dust out of his eyes. And them," he adds, indicat­ing some dark crouched figures, "is my mummies. They're liked as much as the real ones. It's all baloney, of course," he concludes, "but this stuff would have scared my father to death."

Homer's heydays were in the 40s and 50s when America was taken to the open highways and staying in the stylish modern space-age looking motels and stopping at every roadside attraction. 

Carnival sideshows were a big market for his items and some of them are retired now and can be found from time to time on ebay and other sources for collectibles. 

His curiosity shop in Phoenix was a popular place to find bizarre and creepy items, from shrunken heads to little mummy-looking bodies for props.

I seriously suggest you watch the movies "Gargoyles" and "Tourist Trap" if you want to know precisely how this place feels. I am so glad I've been there (twice) and I know I will go back again and again. It's hard to explain, but it wraps up the dusty forgotten baby boomers 1950s road trips era with a bit of sinister creepiness that makes you gaze at "The Thing" and wonder.... could it be real? 

I readily admit, I would like any items of his I could find for my retired sideshow collection!

Some movies to put you into a Homer Tate kind of mood (descriptions from IMDB):

Trilogy of Terror
Three bizarre horror stories all of which star Karen Black in four different roles playing tormented women.Tourist Trap
A group of young friends stranded at a secluded roadside museum are stalked by the owner of the place, who has the power to control his collection of mannequins.
House of Wax 
A group of unwitting teens are stranded near a strange wax museum and soon must fight to survive and keep from becoming the next exhibit.
An anthropologist/paleontologist and his daughter, while travelling through the southwestern US, stumble upon a colony of living, breathing gargoyles who in the end only want to be left alone.
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