A global pandemic means living in strange, if not unprecedented, times. If you’re inclined to lean into health-related adventures—plus a vast array of other eccentricities from the world of science and the paranormal—consider a visit to the Oddporium.
Part store, part museum, part community for people devoted to fringy things, the Oddporium is run by Arden natives Ken and Beth Schuler. Visitors are met with a panoply of curiosities from the late 1800s and early 1900s, ranging from vintage medical devices (an early electroshock therapy machine) and reconstructed skeletons to the preserved remains of a cycloptic pig. Guests can ponder an instrument once used for a procedure known as an ice pick lobotomy or flip through century-old records rescued from asylums facing demolition. Some of the items are for sale, while others are permanent exhibits. “It’s really a wide range of subject matter in the store,” Ken says. “There are a variety of things that appeal to what we like to call ‘fellow weirdos.’”
Growing up, Ken was friends with Beth’s older brother; she describes herself as “the annoying little sister.” Ken was fascinated by animal skulls and old bottles they found in the woods and abandoned buildings; she had a crush on him and tagged along, eventually developing an interest of her own. “We were the first ones to poke something with a stick,” she says with a laugh.
The couple wound up marrying and becoming collectors of curios and oddities gathered during urban exploration expeditions and demolition photography. When Ken lost his job, they decided to open the business in 2014 in a building Ken’s family had owned for more than a century.
In addition to the hard-science items, the Oddporium sells tarot cards, crystals and other New Age merchandise. The Schulers have also created an educational prong of the business. Beth runs a science program for local middle schools, and AP science classes take field trips to the Oddporium, where the Schulers use a Tesla coil to demonstrate how electricity works.
In October, offerings will expand even further. Later this month, the Schulers plan to begin showing old horror movies on a 12-foot screen set up outdoors on their half-acre property, using an FM transmitter for sound; plots will be gridded out for appropriate distancing. The series will debut with Plan 9 from Outer Space, a 1959 film that Ken admiringly describes as “the king of schlocky bad movies.”
Halloween is naturally a robust time of year for the Oddporium, but they also see unexpected surges of interest, like around Valentine’s Day. The Schulers once came into a supply of lamps made from cow femurs and sold their entire stock around that holiday.
The business has survived the pandemic intact. Fewer people are allowed in the small shop at a time, but the only substantial challenge the Schulers face is restocking popular items. “That’s always hard,” Ken says. “It’s not like there’s a superstore you can go to to get vintage medical equipment.”
In addition to airing horror classics, the Oddporium is reaching out to the local filmmaking community with an offer to premiere movies at its outdoor venue. Also on tap is an outdoor lecture series involving local UFO organizations; Dr. Lou DiMieri, who does programs on local ghost stories and founded a local ghost-hunting group; and Matt Lake, who has written a series of books on paranormal activities in several mid-Atlantic states, including Weird Maryland and Weird New Jersey.
Ultimately, the Schulers say, the Oddporium is about fostering a community. “We’ve always been a safe spot—a space where people can come and feel comfortable with different interests,” Ken says. “We’ve always embraced that. If you’re into Bigfoot, you can come here and you’re not going to be judged.”
The Oddporium • 2115 Marsh Road, Arden • 757-9544