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Watch now: Need a skull or taxidermal insect? This downtown Bloomington business will sell you both.

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A shop of oddities graces downtown Bloomington's past and present.

BLOOMINGTON — Taxidermal beetles and butterflies hang on the wall. Coffins for infants stand in the corner. Various animal skulls line a showcase.  

That's the scene inside downtown Bloomington's newest storefront — and very first oddities shop — The Painted Wraith Curiosity Shoppe. 

"I've always loved the paranormal, the strange and unusual, all those kinds of things," said Stephanie Stoltz, who owns and manages the store with her husband, Mike. "We've always embraced the weird and unusual." 


Stephanie Stoltz, co-owner of the The Painted Wraith Curiosity Shoppe, 106 W. Monroe St., in downtown Bloomington, talks about the skeleton that welcomes guests to her store of oddities on Friday. 

Months in the making, the shop is set to open Aug. 7 from 106 W. Monroe St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. 

The Stoltzes last week guided me through an early look at the unusual, bizarre and macabre products offered from inside their store. 

From the log book kept by a local mortician and a light designed specifically for funeral viewing, to miniature dioramas of eerie settings hand-painted by Stephanie and countless taxidermy pieces, their stock is — admittedly — real neat.

It's also real weird.

But the Stoltzes are aware of that duality, and it's exactly what they are banking on as they introduce a new business and a niche retail concept to a crowded downtown shopping corridor.

"We realize there are people who will walk through the door and go 'Nope, not for me,'" Mike said. "But there are also people who will come in and just look around ... and maybe think this stuff is weird and kind of cool." 


Mike Stoltz, co-owner of the Painted Wraith, cares for one of the miniatures that are on display at the store.

The store also features Gothic-inspired home décor, vintage furniture, jewelry and pieces created by local artists. 

An impetus to open the shop grew from the couple's shared passion for its products, cultivated through years of collecting and appreciating strange and odd items. 

And stationing the shop in downtown is an ode to Stephanie's grandfather, who owned and operated a grocery store here before it was demolished. 

"So, in a way, this is kind of my way of coming back to downtown since he had to leave the downtown," Stephanie said. "This is definitely something I wanted for a very long time. I didn't know necessarily what form it was going to be in, but I've always wanted to have a shop of my own." 

After attending various oddity and curiosity expositions across the country, connecting with artists in the community and learning to "love it even more," the couple decided to open the store. 

Thrift store heaven is located in downtown Bloomington.

Doing so largely brings an online trend to a brick and mortar location as millennials gain interest in decorating their living spaces with weird and strange items.

There are even social media accounts and television shows dedicated to showcasing similar products. 

The Stoltzes said they acquire their items through expos, estate sales, auctions and advertisements posted online. They're also open to buying something from someone who might walk through the door. 


A large collection of animal skulls are on display at the Painted Wraith.

In any case, Stephanie said she tracks the path an item took to get into her hands. 

All of the products in the store are legal to own and sell, and there aren't many regulations surrounding taxidermal animals and insects.

But there are some rules. Certain migratory bird species and endangered animals cannot be killed for or preserved through taxidermy methods.

"That is something I'm very conscientious of — making sure that everything we have, to the best of my knowledge, is ethically sourced," Stephanie said. "I don't want to be feeding into anything that's bad." 


Some of the items at the Painted Wraith fit the description of being a bit "odd."

Even still, the story behind an object can be unknown. That's the case for a stuffed and mounted "pheasalope" — a fictitious animal created by adding the antlers of a deer and the tail of a pheasant to the body of a jack rabbit — the Stoltzes currently have for sale in the shop. 

"It just kind of pulled at me, and I was like, 'I gotta have it,'" Stephanie said. 

The Stoltzes said they intend to cater items available in the store to what their customers are looking for. If someone wants a mounted deer head or a set of old surgery tools, for instance, they'll find one. 

"Obviously there are things in here that I love and that I would put in my home," Stephanie said. "But I'm always open to ... people giving me a direction to go in as far as my searching goes." 


The Painted Wraith in downtown Bloomington specializes in the odd and unusual.

They also hope to eventually serve as a hub for other strange ventures, like a meeting place for local ghost tours or group seances.

Ultimately, the Stoltzes said they want to continue the life cycle of certain objects and help people find the beauty in abnormal things. 

"Even in death things still have a purpose," Mike said.

Contact Timothy Eggert at (309) 820-3276. Follow him on Twitter: @TimothyMEggert


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