5 Creepy But Impressive Hobbies People Devoted Themselves To
Some people’s hobbies are wholesome and endearing, like knitting winter mittens for arthritic dogs. Other hobbies, like the ones to follow, are not so wholesome. We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with them—they’re actually pretty impressive. Still, if you saw your neighbors doing these things, you’d probably lodge an anonymous complaint with your local Bureau of Armed Exorcists.
Veijo Rönkkönen’s Creepy Statues
The Veijo Rönkkönen Sculpture Garden sits in Parikalla, a small Finnish municipality near the Russian border. It's the perfect place for Jason, Freddy, or Michael to ambush and slaughter a young couple enjoying a clandestine midnight-makeout session.
It features more than 500 concrete figures sculpted by, you guessed it, Veijo Rönkkönen. He started in his teens while working at a paper factory, maybe due to a mild wood pulp fume-induced delirium. His army of unsettling, moss-covered figures is busy with various activities, including dancing, playing traditional Finnish instruments, and doing yoga.
Actually, about half of them, more than 250, are doing yoga. They’re eternally locked in various, sometimes otherworldly poses, as if they’re doing the Vinyasa Flow … from hell. And they’re sculpted to look like Viejo himself, because the former yogi said the figures and garden are a monument to his younger body.
Some of the sculptures emit eerie utterances via speakers embedded in their bodies. Or sport beaming smiles replete with real human teeth, like these terrifyingly toothed ladies who are either doing laundry or tenderizing human organs to serve at tea-time.
Veijo had no formal art training and was delightfully eccentric and endearingly shy. He lived a reclusive life and rarely left his house; even when he received an award in 2007, he sent his brother to accept it in his stead. Vejio also loved learning about disparate cultures, as is apparent by the multi-ethnic mix of his concrete companions.
He welcomed visitors to his sculpture-peopled garden and answered their questions. But he never officially exhibited his figures. When museums came calling, he said he had to ask the statues first—possibly jokingly, possibly with darting crazy-eyes. But after Veijo died in 2010, a Finnish businessman bought the property and, in collaboration with the Union for Rural Culture and Education, opened the garden to tens of thousands of annual visitors.
Ray Bandar’s “Bone Palace”
Our next collector had nicknames like Ray “Bones” Bandar and “Dr. Bones.” He lived in a place known as the Bone Palace. He license plate read "B0N3 M4N" (we imagine). One assumes that he was either an orthopedist or a porn star. But he was actually a bone collector—not just any bone collector, he was the bone collector. He owned more than 7,000 of them, mostly skulls.
Like James Bond’s infamous license to kill, Bandar had an equally rare license: a license to collect dead things, issued by the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. And as a longtime associate for the academy, he spent 60 years collecting bones on international field trips, beach outings, roadside forays for squashed critters, and on constant visits to museums and taxidermists. Also, on visits to zoos, whenever an unattended child wandered into an enclosure and keepers had to take rifle-based action (on the animal, not the child).
The uninitiated sometimes thought Bandar a nomad, seeing him roaming the beaches in his adventure-worn expedition clothes, sawing at dead marine mammals to get their skulls. He then used chemicals, maggots, or beetles to strip the flesh away. But thanks to his diligence, the academy accrued what’s possibly the largest museum skull collection ever.
His personal, meanwhile, collection threatened to overflow his San Francisco home. The bathtub held moose antlers, the bone-festooned washer and dryer became an impalement risk, the freezer was full of dolphin and porpoise skulls.
In the dining room, a mummified monkey centerpiece (recognized as “grossest dead thing” by the Academy of Sciences) welcomed visitors among a smattering of hundreds of pelvises. His basement museum, the Bone Palace, was the pièce de résistance, packed floor-to-ceiling with skulls.
Bandar died in 2017. He's well on his way now to becoming just a skeleton, which is surely a dream come true.
Graham Barker’s Collection Of Belly Button Fluff
Beginning in 1984, Perth man Graham Barker, a health research library tech, spent nearly three decades collecting his belly button lint. Actually, he remembers the very date, the way one remembers meeting their true love. It was January 17, a sweltering summer night spent in a Brisbane youth hostel while on a backpacking holiday. Some people use these hot, languorous nights for sweaty sexual experimentation, but a bored Barker picked his belly button lint and wondered at it.
How much could a person produce, he mused, and he spent the next 26 years finding out—so technically, he’s been doing science. His collection filled up three jars, which he sold to a museum for an undisclosed fee. They probably just accepted ownership for the sake of burying them for a thousand years, alongside drums of depleted uranium.
Barker’s pastime earned him a place in Guinness record books for collecting more than 22 grams of “navel fluff.” That either seems like too much or too little, depending on whether or not you smoke weed. He realizes that some find this practice bizarre and rarely brings up his uh, hobby. Normies are mostly amused. A few people make predictably rude and snobby time-management comments, even though Barker spent less than a minute per day at his afición and cultivated the daily harvest while waiting for the shower to warm.
But, despite an earlier pledge to collect until he’s physically incapable, Barker is apparently no longer dedicated to the practice. His collecting site is no longer maintained, and he now runs a Twitter travel account (good move) and spends his days exploring Australia’s inhospitable expanses. Barker also mentions his Christian faith, as if there were something inherently ungodly about collecting belly button lint (debatable). Indeed, the biblical God was known to smite entire bloodlines for less.
Mike Martin’s Sexy Mannequins
Marriage is a game of compromise that involves tolerating your loved one’s hobbies, no matter how annoying. Like your husband the auto-fixer-upper who leaves oily black fingerprints on your immaculate white finery. Or, if you're Maxine Martin, your husband the mannequin-restorer, who fills your house with comically large-bosomed recreations of yesteryear’s silver screen maidens.
Yes, her husband Mike Martin was a boob man, according to the nearly 60 mannequins he meticulously and sexily restored. Some he fashioned in the likenesses of iconic mid-century mistresses, including Elvira and Sophia Loren. Others are unknown ladies, famous only in the mind of Mike Martin. And no, mannequins don’t typically come in HH bra sizes. Martin used Bondo, an automotive body filler, to perform literal plastic surgery and augment his dead-eyed vixens. He also scoured thrift stores and fashion shops, sometimes hopping state lines, to find proper era-specific clothing. He adorned his ladies with wigs, makeup, and jewelry and even gave them stripperific names, like Taffy and Amber.
Each restoration took about five days of loving labor for Martin, a former electrician and general handyman. And being able to work on his mannequins kept him young: Martin lived to the ripe old age of 88 before leaving us in 2016. The buxom mannequins? Maxine kept and loyally maintained them.
Psyche! She sent them to auction damn quick, and they were gone before autumn fell.
The mannequins went for a decent but surprisingly low amount, considering the sexual depravity of the internet age: each sold for around $100, with a mermaid fetching the highest bid at $500. Fourteen of them were bought by a bar owner, who probably needed sexual harassment decoys for her drunk Wisconsonite patrons whenever the Packers win.
Vincent Castiglia’s Blood Paintings
Vincent Castiglia is an “existential visionary artist” and “figurative surrealist.” Normally, such artists spend more time on self-descriptions than actual art, but Castigilia backs it up with his blood and soul:
Castiglia’s large, near-human-sized works are painted in his own blood. They feature scenes of death, rebirth, and living death that are probably no more gruesome than what the Brooklyn-born artist witnessed in front of corner bodegas every Friday night.
So, why blood? Because it defines humanity and is imbued with “life’s instructions,” “our genes,” as well as our “psychic energy.” It’s also cathartic. He calls his art a savior that helped him transcend years of childhood abuse and subsequent pain. So each ounce of drawn blood and each project is a therapy session. Tip: If you yourself are thinking of shedding blood to deal with pain, you can actually get a similar rush by just riding a bike or something.
The first times he blood-painted, more than twenty years ago, Castigilia opened himself with diabetic lancets, collected the blood in a spoon, and quickly painted before it clotted. Now he harvests it intravenously, 15-18 small vials at a time. He mixes it with an anticoagulant and stores it in the fridge to maintain its liquidity and scare off midnight-snack-seeking houseguests that might pilfer his lasagna leftovers.
Castiglia has been invited to exhibit his art worldwide, including at the H.R. Giger Museum in Gruyères, Switzerland, where he became the first-ever solo exhibitionist. He’s also created album art for Triptykon and Slayer, and mixed his blood with that of Slayer guitarist Gary Holt’s to make the custom-blood-painted Lucifer ax.
Considering the iron content, this is literally as metal as it gets.
Castiglia also wants to remind us how fleeting our lives are. We spend innumerable eons in the void of non-existence only to enjoy an infinitesimal cosmic moment of consciousness. And most of us waste it playing Candy Crush. Thus, as per Castiglia’s themes, we are simultaneously the living and the dead:
Either that or Pampers is really stepping up its Halloween advertising.
Castiglia hopes his art will imbue us viewers with an “existential emergency” that motivates us to seize the moment and achieve grand and meaningful things before we’re stolen back into the infinite blackness—carpe diem but with blood and guts. Because there's nothing more inspiring than a couple's vivisection painted in blood to convince you to tell that special someone how you feel about them.
Top image: Ilkka Jukarainen