Beyond the shelves of old knick knacks, antique pornography and rocks and minerals, hidden in the private collection is the legacy Dennis Garrett left behind: his vast collection of oddities from around the world.
On the surface Garrett was a reputable collector of rocks and minerals, but the private basement collection reveals another side of him.
“I tell you what, my dad was a very eccentric man, and he liked weird things,” David Garrett, Dennis Garrett’s son, said. “He liked weird things and the weirder, the better.”
Dennis Garrett, who died nine years ago, and his wife Nancy, who is 80 years old, bought the old Victorian mansion that sits on the corner of Madison and Kirkwood avenues in 1974. Now the mansion is home to Nancy and the couple’s third rock, mineral and antique shop.
Some of the oddities that are not for sale in the shop include monkey skeletons, taxidermied blow fish, a Japanese sting ray skeleton cut to look like a devil merman, octopi preserved in a jar of formaldehyde, and a salesman’s sample of a casket.
They don’t share the oddities with the public because they were a part of Dennis Garrett’s private collection, which his family preserves in his memory.
“Something really weird they had was a full-sized, wooden coffin,” David Garrett said. ”It got stolen off of the back porch. The lid was hinge, and you’d open it up, and guess what was in there? A skeleton, but not a real one. It was a prop, from a haunted house or something. But it was weird, so my dad liked it.”
Dennis Garrett said his interest in collections began when he was a kid, growing up on his family farm in Peru, Indiana. His father would find Indian relics when he was working in the fields and give them to him.
Dennis Garrett had always wanted to become an archaeologist, so he could excavate at Mexican pyramid sites. However, Spanish was a requirement to complete his degree and he struggled to learn the language, so he became a rock and mineral dealer instead.
“He couldn’t handle it,” David said. “He hated trying to learn a foreign language and he gave up on it.”
Once the Garretts bought the mansion, they named it the Garret, a play on the family’s last name and a word meaning attic.
The building, which is a Victorian mansion that is more than a century old, was built in 1895 by a tannery owner named John Waldron. The home was built as a wedding gift to his daughter and her husband-to-be, a judge named Ira Batman. To this day, the home is still referred to as the Batman House.
After the Batmans moved out of the home in the 1920s, it was turned into the Weir Funeral Home before it was bought by the Labor Unions and turned into a Labor Temple for 54 years, Nancy Garrett said.
“Even though this home isn’t on the national registry of historic places, this place will never be torn down,” David said. ”And if anybody does try to tear it down, well, they’d be shot.”