The weird world of Viktor Wynd

Viktor Wynd with some of his curiosities. Picture Oskar Proctor/The Unnatural History Museum by Vik

Viktor Wynd with some of his curiosities. Picture Oskar Proctor/The Unnatural History Museum by Viktor Wynd - Credit: Photograph copyright Oskar Proct

Some people collect stamps. Viktor Wynd, who lives in north Suffolk collects skulls, carvings, erotica, folk magic and other things that scare his children.

Viktor Wynd in front of his museum Picture Oskar Proctor/The Unnatural History Museum by Viktor Wyn

Viktor Wynd in front of his museum Picture Oskar Proctor/The Unnatural History Museum by Viktor Wynd - Credit: Photograph copyright Oskar Proct

It is a collection strangely fitting for strange times. “The pandemic is an unpleasant thing and I have many things some might find unpleasant in my museum,” said Viktor, “A tongue-eating louse, a pickled horse’s stomach infected with bot fly larvae, human intestinal worms, oh and a diorama from London’s Science Museum of the plague in Venice.”

Collector, curator, artist, traveller, organiser of elaborate events and East Anglian family man, Viktor’s collection includes everything from the odd and unsettling through the macabre and disconcerting to the impossible and irrational. A two-headed kitten, a mummified fairy, an entire sub-collection of mummified penises, a lock of Elvis’s hair, the skull of drug baron Pablo Escobar’s hippo, a dodo’s leg bone and stuffed squirrels playing cards - all his.

Most are in his Museum of Curiosities in London, some are at his home, near Southwold.

His young children are not always as delighted by his collection as he is. “I bring back the most extraordinary carvings and masks from Africa and Oceania, many of them are vessels containing spirits,” says Viktor. “Some are friendly but there is one particular mask that I brought back from Papua New Guinea that my children screamed about until I took it back to the museum. Oh, and one of my daughters was asking why I had a dead baby in a bottle on my desk. I said I thought it beautiful, she thought not.”

Viktor and his family live in a rambling Tudor farmhouse, with a few fields and barns, at Sotherton, inland from Southwold.

“When I left London all my friends thought I was mad and would never cope in the country. Now I don’t know how they cope in the city,” he said.

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He spent lockdown gardening, including repotting his carnivorous plants, walking the deserted lanes, hatching wild turkey eggs, playing with his children and caring for his animals. His menagerie of living animals includes peacocks, spotted donkeys, royal python, a dog, a cat, poultry and axelotl.

So how did he begin collecting? “Like all children I collected seashells and pebbles from the beach, toy cars and toy soldiers, butterflies and birds next, carnivorous plants and orchids, reptiles, amphibians and stick insects. Though almost everyone else grows out of it with puberty, that never happened to me - I am Peter Pan!”

“Norfolk has been a very rich place for my collecting, especially with regards to folk magic. I have a wonderful and very beautiful mummified cat that came out of Wood Dalling Hall a few years ago when they were doing renovations there. Cats were often bricked into old buildings as they can use their sixth sense to keep evil from coming into the house from the Other World.”

Viktor also treasures a replica of Nelson’s coffin, made out of wood from The Victory, a corn doll bought at the Aylsham Show, and stones with holes said to have been caused by dribbled adder venom, which were also believed to keep evil out of homes and farm buildings.

“Every visit to Fakenham Market produces more wonders,” said Viktor.

In normal (for Viktor) times he runs a Museum of Curiosities in London, which includes a cocktail bar devoted to pataphysics – the science-like investigation of imaginary phenomena. And he has his own small travel agency, Gone with the Wynd, taking people to places where it is difficult to go alone. He was in Benin, West Africa, preparing to take a group to see voodoo ceremonies, when the pandemic struck. A visit to Transylvania, with his family, to search for bears and wildflowers, was also cancelled.

“In theory I will be taking two groups to remote parts of Papua New Guinea in November,” said Viktor. “We stayed in a village in the mountains there last year and the chief invited me to bring a group for his son’s three day initiation ceremony and celebration (and to provide the pigs for the feast.) But I am resigned to the idea that these may not happen until autumn 2021. It will be the first year in some time that I do not spend at least a month in Papua New Guinea, and half my dreams are there at the moment, so at least I visit in my sleep.”

Viktor’s latest book, The Unnatural History Museum, is an illustrated guide to his uncanny collections, and unconventional life. Pages are filled with flowers and butterflies, hallucinogenic plants and pagan traditions. Anecdotes include meeting Andy Warhol and getting Tracey Emin to blow her nose into a limited-edition Jeff Koons handkerchief.

A previous book, Viktor Wynd’s Cabinet of Wonders, was described by Derren Brown as “a dark romp through the miscellanea of the macabre.”

An exhibition of part of his collection will be in Falmouth for at least two years. “When it finishes, nothing on earth could give me greater pleasure than bringing it to Norfolk,” said Viktor. u

- The Unnatural History Museum by Viktor Wynd is published by Prestel for £35.

Viktor’s curiosities

What are your most recent acquisitions?

“I have just bought bones of the extinct moa bird from New Zealand and elephant bird from Madagascar, out of a Victorian collection. I am planning a new cabinet in my museum to display ‘Relics of Extinct Birds.’ I’ve also got bits of the dodo, passenger pigeon, great auk, huia and more.”

Do you have favourite places locally?

“Oh dear there are so very many. The park at Houghton Hall (where I used to have a festival - Wyndstock) is Arcadia in every sense - bury me there! The Hippodrome Circus in Yarmouth, the Shell Museum at Glandford, Seahenge in King’s Lynn, the coast path from Hunstanton to Cromer, ruined churches...And my local pub, where in return for a pint an old higgler would laboriously take off his sock and shoe and wiggle his sixth toe for me.”