Standing proudly with its bright, red-striped exterior, the California Institute of Abnormal Arts (or the C. I. A. as they call it) draws plenty of attention to itself. The CIA is a club, performance venue, and sideshow museum located in North Hollywood, California. The venue is owned and operated in part by Carl Crew, an actor and screenwriter with an eccentric vision.
After hearing about the collection of sideshow attractions (and dead bodies) that they have on display at the venue, I just had to set up a tour and interview with Carl Crew for Weird World Adventures. We discussed his history in the abnormal, as well as the history of the CIA. Crew, himself, is a very fun entertainer. He has been called “The Barnum of Burbank Boulevard”, so we were very excited to meet him.
Crew’s history with art and sculpting began when he worked as an apprentice embalmer in the 80’s. Shortly after that, he played Jeffrey Dahmer in the biopic Jeffrey Dahmer: The Secret Life. While still acting and screenwriting today, Crew also took on the task of opening the CIA in the late 90’s. Since 2001, this venue has been operational with the same side-show type theme. And while the venue has featured many notable performers and some pretty exciting freak shows, we were immediately drawn to feature Crew’s collection of cryptotaxidermy, oddities, and artifacts.
After discussing Crew’s inspiration and family history with Bigfoot, which was very exciting, he showed us the dead bodies of an elderly man, a jewel thief, and, of course that of Achile Chatouilleu, a circus performer who requested his body be displayed for all time in his favorite clown outfit and makeup. Chatouilleu has become well-known, having been featured by Ripley’s. His body, embalmed with aresnic, is displayed in a hermetically sealed glass coffin. And now the CIA does an annual memorial for Chatouilleu.
Also notably on display at the CIA is a monkey’s paw, many taxidermied or preserved “mermaids”, the skull of the “world’s smallest Freemason”, the severed arm of Claude de Lorraine (who was the Duke of Guise in the early 1500s), and one of the copies of the “Spear of Destiny”. But I don’t want to ruin the fun by giving too much away! You can see all of these for yourself when you visit the California Institute of Abnormal Arts!
If you like freak shows, interesting attractions, music, and oddities, be sure to swing by the CIA. It was a very exciting place that I was ecstatic to feature.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: