Macabre? Maybe. Alluring? Absolutely!
Flint Hills Gypsies is an antique store of a different color.
Beaded necklaces drape over a tombstone for a 2-year-old child. A large wooden cabinet is filled with glass medicine bottles that held cocaine or morphine remedies. Dolls and mannequins pepper the store, displaying clothes or acting as unique planters.
Store manager Diana Wright struggled to reposition an anatomically correct human skeleton for a window display.
“The history is what gets to me the most,” she said. “The owner’s part of the historical society, so she’s into it, too.”
Morgan Marler, whose interest in a mortician career is visible in parts of the store, also runs Hillsboro’s water department. The recent pandemic and conflicts with her job limit the store’s ability to participate in trade.
Ordinarily, the store will appear twice a year at shows.
Wright is confident the store will do trade shows in the future.
“It’s just a lot of people in a short time,” she said. “Our mascot probably won’t be at them. That’s too many people for him to be happy.”
The mascot is a 2-year-old Australian shepherd named Sky. He came to the store at 8 weeks old in a box of puppies. One week later, he moved in. According to Wright, he is the cause behind her daily vacuuming.
Sky also poses for tourist’s cameras and protects store patrons from his arch-nemesis, the boxer living above Pop’s Diner next door.
“This 12-year-old girl comes by because she knew him since he was a puppy, and now she brings her group of friends,” Wright said. “They’ve become regular customers, and buy all their Halloween costumes here.”
Halloween is Wright’s favorite time of year. She has been reserving some oddities specifically to display at the store’s car in Peabody’s Trunk-or-Treat.“Last year, I couldn’t participate because I was quarantined,” she said. “A skeleton taking a bubble bath won instead.”
Many of the store’s curiosities were purchased by people visiting Peabody for fireworks. Stock isn’t easy to replenish.
“Curiosities are the hardest to replace,” Wright said.
A resident of Burns who trapped animals and raised buffalo was the source of many of the store’s bones.
“He died when he was 72, and his wife brought a three-layer serving tray full of bones to us,” Wright said. “We’ve been working through that ever since.”
The store has deer, bobcat, raccoon, and beaver skulls, as well as a skull that Wright managed to identify as a red fox’s. Ribs and other bones sit in a basket next to a buffalo skull at the bottom of the shelf.
Despite unusual and dark decorations, such as a pagan altar left by a woman who moved to California, Wright is more than happy working at the place. She has even slept in the store without being disturbed.
“But,” Wright said, gesturing toward a hand-crafted Ouija board propped up at the checkout. “I get some bad juju off of that, so I keep it away from little hands. It’s not dangerous if you know how to use it, but I don’t know how to use it!”
Wright proudly showed off a human anatomy mannequin from a 1950s classroom. It can be taken apart to show major organs and blood vessels down to the ovaries.
“I don’t even think kids know what this is,” Wright said. “It’s all gone digital. You don’t even have physical textbooks anymore. That’s not bad. You can get things that would take months in just a few weeks now, but there is that lost sense of nostalgia.”
Flint Hills Gypsies preserves unique pieces of history, especially its darker and stranger portions. The store is open noon to 5 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday at 111 N. Walnut St. in Peabody.
Last modified July 14, 2021