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Taxidermy Terror

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"Fur, feathers, scales, every manner and type of dead skin surrounded me, each frozen in uncanny stillness as though they were trapped in a world where time had simply stopped. Everything except their eyes of course. Their eyes had never been alive and they all seemed to stare in my direction so that to look too close at any of them was to gaze into that unseeing glass."
Alexander Scaplehorn, The Magnus Archives

In media, every villain base, haunted castle, or scary old house seems to have a scary stuffed animal tucked away in a dark corner somewhere. Crocodiles, bears, gorillas, wolves, lions, owls (the huge unblinking owl eyes that seemingly follow you around the room, admit it, that's freaky)... or worst of all, it could be a Human Head on the Wall.

These are typically encountered by a child or teenager exploring the house, creepy background music optional. Sometimes the character gets up in the middle of the night to find a bathroom and/or a drink of water and encounters the stuffed monstrosity that way. Sometimes, the character walked right past it when the beast was brightly illuminated during the daytime, but now that it is night, and the house is dark, running into the animal freaks them the hell out. Bonus points if the person stumbles into it in the dark, shines their chosen source of light on it, screams, and runs away. Double bonus points if, instead, a lightning strike outside the window lights up the room so it can be seen.

This rarely happens to any character past their mid-twenties.

Also rarely, the animal will occasionally come alive, due to some kind of Applied Phlebotinum, and when it does come alive, expect it to attack.

Not to be confused with Taxidermy Is Creepy, which is more about taxidermists themselves, rather than the products of their profession. See also Sinister Deer Skull, which is used to similar effect.


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  • In one Maynards commercial, a moose head mounted on a wall in an elevator comes to life and hypnotizes a man into chewing the advertised wine gums, constantly chanting "chew" all the while.

  • Dolmanstein, the Big Bad of Doraemon: Nobita's Dinosaur and a dinosaur enthusiast, have his mansion home decorated with decapitated, stuffed dinosaur heads from his various hunting safari during Prehistoric times.

    Audio Plays 
  • The non-Big Finish Doctor Who audio series Hornet's Nest opens with "The Stuff of Nightmares", in which the Doctor battles taxidermy animals that come to life at night, possessed by the Big Bad of the series.

    Comic Books 
  • In one of the earliest Cattivik stories, the eponymous thief ends up in the mansion of a senile British hunter, decorated with the preserved heads of fellow thieves. The old hunter promptly tries to add him to the collection.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): Back when Knuckles the Echidna had his own solo series, one of his foes was a human named Hunter. The first time they meet, Hunter showed off his collection of stuffed Mobians that he had hunted down. Since this series focuses on anthropomorphic animals, Knuckles reacts the way most people would when seeing a wall full of stuffed human heads.
  • The Shadow Society in Seekers of the Weird utilizes an army of taxidermied Mix-and-Match Critters.
  • The Far Side has two bears looking at a stuffed bear saying "That's Vinnie all right, but his eyes... There's something not quite right about his eyes..."
  • Jonah Hex was preserved and put in a Wild West museum after his death. Even his stuffed remains still had an itchy trigger finger.

    Films — Animation 
  • Gru's home in Despicable Me is full of furniture made from stuffed animals. As the girls walk down the hall, they see a stuffed lion's head. In its mouth is a stuffed dog, with a stuffed cat in its mouth, which has a stuffed mouse in its mouth.
  • Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted: Captain DuBois, the head of France's Animal Control, has her walls decked out with all kinds of animals. All she's missing is a lion's head, which is why she specifically targets Alex.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Captain James Hook in the movie Hook, meets his end when the Crocodile he "had stuffed and turned into a village clock" (paraphrased) comes back to life at the end of the movie, and swallows him alive.
  • In the film version of The Neverending Story, Bastian is scared by the taxidermied head of a wolf, which foreshadows the eventual appearance of Gmork.
  • The house in Evil Dead 2 is full of creepy stuffed trophy heads. Who laugh at Ash.
  • In Night of the Living Dead (1968), Barbra wanders into the house's trophy room, where the stuffed heads seriously freak her out. Although not as much as the corpse. Or the zombie. Or Ben.
  • In The Lost Boys, Sam wakes up to discover that his grandfather has left a stuffed woodchuck in his room to "brighten up the place". It freaks him out to the point that he tossed a shirt over it. The shirt is still covering the woodchuck at the end of the movie, indicating that Sam found it more disturbing than the vampires he just had to fight.
  • In Road House (1989), Tinker, the only survivor among the Big Bad's Mooks, is so freaked out by the various stuffed animals surrounding him that he can't testify to the Sheriff about what happened in the climax.
    Tinker: "A polar bear fell on me..."
  • Alfred Hitchcock filled Norman Bates' house with taxidermied birds to add to the creepiness in the film version of Psycho. It also alludes to the final fate of Mrs. Bates.
  • In the Friday the 13th (2009) remake, Lawrence tries to masturbate in the living room, but finds himself too creeped out by a big stuffed moose head staring right at him to go through with it.
  • The 1994 live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book has Mowgli in a room filled with stuffed animals, and he imagines hearing them screaming, with each scream punctuated by a gunshot.
    • Another Jungle Book-related example, Mowgli has the titular character, now accepted in a human village, wandering into a room full of taxidermized animals. It was here he found out his albino wolf friend, Bhut, was Killed Offscreen - via discovering Bhut's stuffed taxidermized head.
  • Done to terrifying effect in Livid in which stuffed animal heads are put on dolls at a tea party.
  • Ace Ventura has a truly epic Freak Out in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls when his new employer becomes a little sick of his antics and shows him his trophy room, as "one animal lover to another". When asked if there was something wrong, his response is "Of course not, this is a charming room of death!" Gets a Call-Back later when the Big Bad and his cronies are in said room and are looking around at the various stuffed animals/heads as numerous roars are heard, right around the time a stampede of various jungle animals comes crashing through the wall. With Ace riding in on an ostrich in the middle of it.
  • In Roxanne, one minor character tries to impress the titular female lead with his taxidermy and hunting store, named "All Things Dead". She's not impressed.
  • Beautifully played with in The Cabin in the Woods. The titular cabin that the college kids go to has a stuffed wolf's head mounted on one of the walls, which creeps them out. In the evening, when they're playing "truth or dare", Jules is dared to make out with it. She does so, and then nothing happens. Despite the cabin being an Eldritch Location situated above a whole lot of Sealed Evil in a Can where college kids are ritualistically slaughtered every year, this wolf's head turned out to be a harmless decoration.
  • In The Frozen Ground the serial killer Robert Hansen is first shown in his home, adorned with various pelts and mounts, which you can see in nearly every shot. Later in the movie, it is revealed that there are so many mounts because he has an addiction to hunting, and human beings are a harder kill.
  • Frank's castle has several stuffed animals in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The commentary says that because Frank's an alien posing as a human, he has no idea what else to do with animals.
  • Even Lambs Have Teeth: Katie squeals when she enters the farmhouse and comes face to face with a stuffed fox head mounted on the wall.
  • Laurel and Hardy: In The Devil's Brother, it looks like our heroes will meet their end at the hands of the titular villain. At one point, Stan asks Ollie whether he'd like to be buried or stuffed, and an indignant Ollie reacts in horror at the idea of it.
  • In Gunless, Doc's hobby is taxidermy, and his office is filled with stuffed animals. When Sean wakes up after passing out from blood loss, he finds a creepy stuffed beaver staring him in the face and reacts appropriately.
  • Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome: In the darkened taxidermist's shop, Pat backs into a stuffed gorilla and immediately puts his hands up. when nothing happens, he turns around and comes face-to-face with the gorilla and yelps in panic.

  • The Neverending Story. Bastian sees the taxidermied heads of a fox, an eagle, and an owl, and later in the land of Fantastica he meets three sages with the heads of said animals.
  • In The Hotel New Hampshire, the family dog dies and the protagonist's older brother decides to take it on as a taxidermy project. It comes out looking far more terrifying than it's supposed to and keeps getting found in various unexpected and startling places. At one point it keeps the protagonist from getting laid by frightening the girl; at another, it literally scares his grandfather to death.
  • In the Fablehaven series, Seth has to sneak into a mortuary that had stuffed animals standing around. Turns out the guy who owned the place wasn't actually evil, but it still scared the crap out of Seth.
  • A stuffed SS Standartenfuhrer is a prized possession of Cristobal Junta, the Magitek scientist from Monday Begins on Saturday. Played for Laughs.
  • "The Mutation" in Animorphs had the group going into an undersea cave and stumbling into a whole museum of stuffed humans on ships(with a few just-added Hork-Bajir in the mix as well.)
  • In Wings of Fire, self-proclaimed "queen" Burn has a deep fascination with the strange and macabre. That includes taxidermied specimens with odd traits and deformities, ranging from wild animals all the way up to humans and other dragons. Most other characters who see her collection are extremely creeped out by it.
  • In Varjak Paw, stray cats are being killed and stuffed. People buy them thinking they're just dolls when they're actually taxidermy. To cats, they're creepy and uncanny.
  • Combined with Raising the Steaks in That is All, where the Zombie Apocalypse only affects taxidermied animals, but they can't do much because they're nailed down. A bearskin rug managed to wiggle its way out of a store and into the street, but it only succeeds in making someone cozy.
  • The Fifth Elephant:
    • The Ankh-Morporkian Embassy in Ubervald has a room filled with taxidermied heads of several native animals. Vimes finds the troll head most unsettling due to the fact that Officer Detritus (a troll) is part of his entourage and orders it removed and buried. Detritus himself doesn't think much of it, pointedly showing off his grandpa's favorite cup... made from a human skull.
    • The castle of the Baron Von Ubervald also has a trophy room displaying mounted heads, as befitting a family of werewolves that love to hunt. Vimes notices several empty spots when he comes to visit, as though some longstanding trophies had been hastily removed prior. It's strongly implied these were human heads, the losers of The Game the Baron often plays with locals.
  • Zig-zagged in The Hollow Places. The protagonist Kara views the taxidermy animals of her uncle's Wonder Museum as her old friends since she grew up around them. When the Eldritch Abomination starts possessing them, then they become creepy, particularly the giant river otter, but only the directly possessed ones. The ones that are just animated but are not being controlled fight for her.
  • The titular villain of The Riddling Reaver have his own taxidermized collection of both animals, humans, and clones of himself, and thanks to an enchantment, can come to life and attack anyone inspecting them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: The Snodgrass brothers' not only live behind a pet shop, but their father's a both former veterinarian and taxidermist, Depending on the Writer. Miss Brooks briefly (and squeamishly) forays into the business of taxidermy herself on the radio, in the episode "Taxidermists" - accompanied by Harriet Conklin, Walter Denotn and Stretch Snodgrass. However, where Taxidermy Terror really comes into play is in the episode "Stuffed Gopher". Stretch Snodgrass wrecks Mr. Conklin's office, Mr. Boynton's lab, and the school Cafeteria in his attempt to catch the rodent. Snodgrass then has the rodent stuffed and brings it to school in a large suitcase to show Miss Brooks, Walter and Mr. Conklin. All three are suitably, and comically repulsed.
  • Monk: In "Mr. Monk and the Three Julies", Monk walks into a suspect's house and is disgusted by all the taxidermy animals on display. And that's before he runs into the murder suspect's dead mother preserved in her rocker.
  • Ned from Pushing Daisies is afraid of taxidermy animals, as related in the episode "Frescorts", but that's more because he can bring them back to life with a misplaced touch than anything to do with taxidermy being inherently terrifying. He mentions an incident of a polar bear rug coming to life and totally killing the mood.
  • On Heroes, Danko comes home to see a taxidermied rabbit sitting on his table. He's understandably confused and creeped out, not knowing that Sylar is hiding in the shadows the next room over.
  • Doctor Who example: Ace gets trapped in a room full of this, and freaks out, during "Ghost Light."
  • The Janitor on Scrubs has an extensive collection of stuffed animals, and likes to make additions whenever some small and furry creature crosses his path. They all have names as well, and he likes to play with them.
  • The Ghost Busters had a mounted deer-head that occasionally came to life and razzed them.
  • On Haven, the Troubled person of the week is a taxidermist whose Trouble involves bringing taxidermied animals back to life. The animals she stuffed are coming back to seek their revenge against those who hunted them. Near the end, it's revealed her Trouble was triggered by the death of her son...who has been helping with the investigation. She taxidermied her son and brought him back to life. This is found out when he's cut and he starts bleeding sand.

    Music Videos 
  • In the video for the Genesis song "No Son of Mine," there's only one animal head, but it's still pretty freaky.
  • The video for Metallica's "Here Comes Revenge" centers around a serial killer in a world of animals being tormented by the stuffed heads of his victims after they come alive.


    Video Games 
  • TimeSplitters:
    • TimeSplitters Future Perfect has a taxidermied moose head in one room of a creepy old mansion that comes out of the wall with a zombie body as a mini-boss.
    • The first game also has a moose head, also in a haunted mansion, although here it is simply a disguised turret that shoots you when you're in the same room.
  • In World of Warcraft, there is a boss fight with one of these. It begins with two random trophy monsters unfreezing, attacking you. Then Gortok Palehoof unfreezes from the other side of the room and charges your group, starting the actual boss fight.
  • In Rama, the stuffed alien may not raise your eyebrow. The stuffed astronaut, however...
  • The Safari Room in Luigi's Mansion is filled with various stuffed creatures, which nod kind of creepily when the Poltergust 3000 is used on them.
  • In Myst, Achenar's throne room in the Mechanical Age has the head of a monkey-like creature mounted on one wall. It most likely came from one of the Tree-Dwellers in another Age, which contains a mechanical altar he built that eats its sacrifices.
  • In 101 Dalmatians: Escape from DeVil Manor, several rooms in the titular mansion are crammed with taxidermied animals used as decor, from a game room filled with multiple mounted heads, an enormous full-size bear in the foyer, and a white tiger pelt used as a throw rug in Cruella DeVil's childhood room.
  • In the Ambridge Mansion series, in your nightmare you see what seems to be the skin of a shadow monster stuck on the ceiling and dripping blood.
  • In the flash game Haunt The House, two of the objects the player can possess to scare people are a stuffed bear and a moose head.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, a revamp to Spookyraven Manor in May 2014 added spooky taxidermy animal heads to the Haunted Billiards Room (part of a side-quest involves investigating them more thoroughly) and the stuffed moose head monster.
  • In Red Dead Redemption II, there is an abandoned house that features a "Manmade Mutant": an abomination made from a man, a bear, a vulture, a cougar, a boar and a ram. Fortunately, its unnamed creator failed in their attempts to bring it to life. In his journal, Arthur writes that it's the strangest "hobby" he has ever seen.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Module EX2 The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror. When the PCs first arrive in Murlynd's house they're in a room with stuffed animals. The description makes them sound scary.
      Several small animals and birds are sitting on shelves and tables. They are regarding you with unwinking stares!
    • Module A2 Secret of the Slavers' Stockade. When the PCs open a door they get a shock from a stuffed bear.
      When the door is opened there comes a low, rumbling growling noise, and a grizzly bear, on his hind legs, comes lurching out of the shadows. He rushes right at the head of the party.
  • The card Stuffed Bear from Magic: The Gathering is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. You can pay mana to animate it.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Being very fond of exceedingly non-standard monsters, the game has the "Taxidermic Creature" template in its 5th bestiary, which is a sort of necromantic animated object applied to stuffed or otherwise preserved animals so they can come to life and attack the party.
    • Arguably predated by the even creepier Pickled Punks of 4th bestiary, which are deformed fetuses/babies preserved in alcohol that have been animated as blood-sucking undead monsters.
    • The Carrion Crown adventure path, in the module "Shadows of Gallowspire", has the Asphyxiating Taxidermy haunt; a room or corridor full of taxidermied heads that spontaneously start gasping for air, which can mystically suffocate the players.

    Web Animation 
  • Camp Camp: The foyer of Cameron Campbell's mansion in Spooky Island has two taxidermized bears next to the door, scaring Nikki, Neil, and Japser but not Max. A later episode shows how Campbell obtained them: by fighting and killing the bears with nothing but a knife.
  • Helluva Boss: Martha's family has stuffed and mounted trophies of humans on the walls of their home. And that's just a few of the other decorations in her home.

    Web Comics 
  • A running gag in Homestuck is to have one of the characters (Usually the Author Avatar) come across a creepy wolf's head mounted on a hunting plaque (based on the one in the film of Neverending Story, see above), and react as though it is the single scariest thing in all of existence.

    Web Original 
  • The Creepypasta Ta'xet is about the protagonist's encounter with a menacing deer trophy with human eyes.

    Western Animation 
  • The Ducktators: Kind of. The heads of Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo are stuffed and hung on the wall, but here it is played as a victory upon evil. The actual terror has been turned into taxidermy.
  • Gravity Falls features a load of this in "Northwest Mansion Mystery". When the Lumberjack Ghost first manifests itself to Dipper and Pacifica, it makes a room full of mounted animal heads speak in unison and ooze blood-red ichor. Later, the Lumberjack Ghost animates some more stuffed animals to attack the guests at the Northwests' party.
  • Mr. Burns of The Simpsons has a huge stuffed polar bear in his office.
    Mr. Burns: Oh, Lenny, why would you steal my bear?
    Lenny: I just wanted something to cuddle at night.
    Mr. Burns: That's my cuddle bear! I loved him! I shot him! He's mine!


Video Example(s):


Northwest Mansion Mystery

When the Lumberjack Ghost first manifests itself to Dipper and Pacifica, it makes a room full of mounted animal heads speak in unison and ooze blood-red ichor.

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