Homer Tate – Curator and Creator of the Macabre

mike wolfe, american pickers, antique archaeology, back roads travel blog, the thing, homer tate
Homer Tate’s Wolf Boy. Photo: 2015 by Meghan Aileen

Objects become collectible for so many reasons. Sometimes, it is simply their rarity. Other times, we are drawn to the collecting of things that remind us of a different time or of the inspiring life of those who originally created them. Homer Tate’s oddities fall into all of those categories.

Born in the late 1800’s, Homer Tate was a man that lived a conventional life, holding traditional jobs. He was a miner, a sheriff, a farmer, and eventually the owner of a motel and gas station in Arizona. Maybe it was the people he met and things he saw while running a desert gas station and motel that inspired him to completely change the course of his life.

Photo of The THING courtesy of http://www.delange.org.
Photo of The THING courtesy of http://www.delange.org.

In 1945, Homer Tate moved to the city of Phoenix and took up the pursuit of art. He didn’t take up the pursuit of traditional art, however, painting or sketching. He became both a curator and creator of oddities of the macabre. Working with papier-mâché and dead animal remains, he created mythical creatures like the Wolf Boy, one of 26 mummies found in a cave in Peru that you may have seen on American Pickers. He eventually opened Tate’s Curiosity Shop to display his many oddities. A flyer promoting the establishment claims the shop contained, “The world’s best manufactured shrunken heads–a wonderful window attraction to make your mother-in-law want to go home.”

Perhaps one of Homer Tate’s most famous curiosities is The THING, the papier-mâché mummy with the mischeivous grin. It was originally purchased by Thomas Binkley Prince and immediately turned into a tourist attraction, advertised by billboards for miles around. It was the kind of thing you probably begged your parents to let you to stop and see while on long driving vacations in the family car. Like many roadside attractions of yesteryear, it was displaced by an interstate. The THING was relocated and has undergone an ownership change, but has continued luring travelers from their paths to see it beneath the glass of its coffin since the mid twentieth century.

Thanks to his decision to spend his life in the pursuit of these oddities and art, we can easily think of Homer Tate as the man who ventured off the path of conventional and then lured the rest of us into following him, if only for a few brief moments while traveling.




14 thoughts on “Homer’s Tate’s Oddities & Attraction”

    1. Janell Darlene Post Author

      Frank is still on the show! The guys occasionally partner in buying and selling, but Frank stays busy with his own store. Antique Archaeology is where Mike Wolfe does business. Hope that helps.

      1. lynne Spangenberg

        That explains it: Ihad assumed they were partners and wondered about Frank,s occasional, seemingly inappropriate use of “I”

  1. Betty Smith

    Ha! I lived in AZ, made that trip many a time down I-10 and often wondered about “The Thing.” Thanks so much!

    Also, there’s a little place here in Columbus, MS. that you might want to visit sometime. It’s been around since before God showed up. Anyways, it’s called “Almost Antique.” Small place, but lots of different things to choose from and the items are beyond well priced. Books, the odds and ends of old farm machinery, saw an old plow like the one my grandfather used to use out front, lots of different cans with the old labels and odd bits of glass, fabric, and books. It’s on Hwy 45 just before you get into Columbus, but after the AFB and first stoplight. It would be on the right hand side of the road. Their phone number is: 662 251-7643 and 662 328-2340, The couple that runs the place are retired and during the week, you have to call them to make sure someone will be there. Just in case you happen down this way!

    1. Betty Smith

      PS: Today, I came out with a sack of old bottles (about 10), an old box from 1921, and some fabric to compose a still life painting. All for about $30. And there was still a ton left that I hadn’t gone through!

  2. Mark

    I had the pleasure of visiting the Dime Museum in Baltimore, just before it closed for good.

    It was full of artifacts like this, some real and others maybe not so real but real in the minds of those who visited the museum.

    Among the items on display were shrunken heads, a wolf child and the Fiji Princess, which was said to have come from the collection of P.T. Barnum himself.

    What a wonderful place! Especially for this not so young boy who remembered his Mom keeping him away from such places when he was a child. I guess that there’s a young boy waiting for a great place like the Dime Museum to bring him out of hiding.

  3. J

    I am a fan of your show and a fan of Homer Tate. I am also a collector of sideshow memorabilia and have actual Homer Tate work bought from his estate. I also have original order forms from Tates Curiosity Shop and much more. I hate to tell you, this is absolutely, without a doubt NOT a Homer Tate piece. He never did anything like this. He commonly produced a wolf boy but his were much more primitive and along the lines of his other stuff. You got tricked by a couple of old carnies. It’s what they do, how can you be too mad? Their show World of Wonder traveled with Tate pieces until a few years ago until they went to an almost entirely stage show. This was NOT one of the Tate pieces they toured with. Just hate to see this continued to be portrayed as a Tate piece. Veda Tate, his grand daughter, is an antique dealer like you guys. If you doubt me, send her a message.

  4. Kerene Larson

    There’s an artist today who makes “oddities” too. Her site is ” Dark Creation” and she takes dolls and repurposes them as vampires and ghost girls. But she also “creates” Victorian Mummies out of paper mâché and various antique fabrics and accessories. The fun thing is that not only are these things incredibly real looking ( I know, I have two!) but she also has little back stories on how they ended up becoming mummies. Plus she does sideshow freaks and some amazing like size sculpts. Her site is definitely worth a visit just to see her work.

  5. Robert Coronado

    The other day in one of your segments ,Danielle was getting a Rutherford phonograph from the watchtower society appraised ,I had already emailed you , and you said that Mike was going to keep this item, in the future if he decides to sell it , I would be interested in this item. mike is always saying that he wants items to go where they belong . My interest in the phonograph would not be just to put in a shelf ,but we have an an Assembly hall in Rosenberg Texas that has a small collection of items that were used in past times, I would love this item to be in that collection ,even to take to other assembly sites so that it could be apprieciated by a bunch of people, so in the future if you ever decide to part with it I would love to purchase the phonograph, you would make a lot of people happy to see a piece of thier heritage on display, thank you very much Robert Coronado

  6. Alex

    I was at a flea market a couple months ago and I found a vintage one of a kind Daiwa fishing company t-shirt. I’ve looked all over the Internet for any information on it and I can’t find anything. I even messaged Daiwas marketing group and all they could say was “that’s a amazing find”. Does anyone know what it might be worth?

  7. Frank Hardy

    My wife and I drove out to Arizona on I-10 in 2004 to visit her uncle in Sedona. For miles and miles we would see the billboards advertising ” The Thing “. The place that housed the Thing sold all types of highway kitsch, sort of like a Stuckey’s, but the main draw was the Thing. It cost ten dollars to view and my wife had no curiosity, so I was getting ready to pay, when a group of college guys came out of the exit. They were screaming what a rip-off it was and wanted their money back. I looked at my wife and said let’s go and never found out what the Thing was until today, November 13, 2015. I have often wondered what the Thing was and today I learned. The riddle has been answered.

  8. Barbara Scarborough

    I do genealogy research. I just found out that Homer Tate is my second cousin two times removed. When I was looking up Homer’s information I realized I had seen this show. I have a DNA match through Ancestery DNA with Homer’s family. My paternal grandmother was a Tate.

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