Friday, October 20, 2006

The Surnateum



Scientific theatres, cabinets of curiosities, sideshows and theatrical magic have been gently stepping away of our world and lives, giving the place to the electronic fairs, web wonders, reality tv shows.
If Harry Houdini, Georges Meli├ęs, Carl Hagenbeck or P.T.Barnum was alive today, where ever they would have look to satisfy their curiosity for the bizarre, or their primal need to discover and exploit a wonder-worker talent? They without a doubt would have paid a visit in Bruxelles to Christian Chelman and the place of which he is the keeper: Surnateum, The Museum of Supernatural History.
Along the years, I’ve regularly spent delightful hours in this ever-growing, unique and astonishing place, that is probably the world’s foremost collection of strange and
enchanted relics and artifacts.
Mr.Chelman is difficult to define. He is at the same time a Collector, Writer, Storyteller, Anthropologyst, Occultist, Archeologyst, Shaman, Hypnotist, Card Sharp, Teratologyst, Chryptozologist, Actor, Numerologyst, Ghost Hunter, Illusionist, Theologist, Mentalist, Inventor, Spiritualist, Taxydermist, Parapsycologist, Gymnopedian, Surrealist.


Surnateum hosts a range of bizarre items, and is specialized in hauntics (haunted antiquities): going from a hand of Yeti from Tibet to a vampire hunter kit; from ancient magician props to Egyptian papyrs for enchantment and spells, to the original photos of fairies signed by Arthur Conan Doyle. A human horned skull is not missing.
The concept behind all that, is a blend of seriuous collecting, literary surrealism (Breton, Cocteau), the tradition of mystery in arts, the genuine supernatural and, for non-believers, the respectable art of fraud.

What is more interesting, is that Mr.Chelman use parts of the collections for special interactive events, exhibitions or theatrical plays based on storytelling, conjuring, scientific demonstrations or supernatural powers. They are memorable experiences, between the modern theatrical purity of Peter Brook and the faded flavour of classic mystery novels or movies. Out of one of those performances, your vision of History is not anymore plain and linear as before.

Surnateum is open only by special appointment. But the world has now a window on it: through its beautiful and enormous website. It is available both in English and French (this latter section is more complete). Don't miss it: www.surnateum.org

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