Bad Taste Tours: Kathy's Freak Farm
by Cash Peters
At this point, if you're in any way squeamish or faint-hearted, you might
want to brace yourself. Kathy's Freak Farm is upstairs from the San Diego
Museum of Death. Both are run by Kathy Shultz and J.D. Healy, who, five
years ago, discovered that the best things in life are freaks.
Kathy: "We saw a picture of a live, two-headed turtle in the paper and
thought, 'Cool, a two-headed turtle.' So we called the turtle farm in
Louisiana and asked to buy it. And that's how the freak farm started, and
now we have three two-headed turtles and we have a chicken with two [BLEEP]
Sorry about that. There are certain words we can't say on public radio,
and [BLEEP] is one of them. Anyway, we'll come back to the chicken later.
Broadly speaking, a freak of nature is any creature that, if it crawled
across your kitchen floor, you'd smack it repeatedly with a rolled-up
newspaper. However, the way J.D. sees it, freak exhibitions like this one
appeal to an odd trait in humans.
J.D.: "I think everyone's interested to see something alive with two heads,
not just you. Curiosity. People want to see things they've never seen
before. That's it. Simple. I mean, it's like a traffic accident people
turn their heads. They're just curious."
Yeah, me too. The problem is, I faint easily. I do. Anything even vaguely
gruesome or 'internal' and I black out. Apparently, I'm not the only one.
Kathy: "Yeah, we have people faint. Often. Once a week. Usually groups of
guys. I hate to say this in a military city, but the Marines, Navy guys
are the ones who pass out."
Cash: "Then you lock them in a cage and suddenly they're exhibits?"
Kathy: "We take pictures of them secretly."
Cash: "We've all done that. Who hasn't taken a secret picture of a
Kathy: "This part of the Freak Farm is The Albino Swamp, featuring creepy
Cash: "And they're all dead?"
Kathy: "No, they're alive. This is an albino cannibalistic frog."
Cash: "What does it eat?"
Kathy: "Other frogs. But we feed it mice because frogs are expensive."
Cash: "And the mice are alive?"
Kathy: "Yes. Don't faint yet. Don't picture that."
Cash: "So there's a wriggling animal inside him?"
Kathy: "Yes, it's weird."
Cash: "Here I gooooo..."
Kathy: "No, no, no..."
It was touch and go for a moment. In truth, the live freak exhibition is a
bit on the small side. I was expecting an entire herd of three-headed
cattle, at the very least. Instead, it's just a bunch of fish tanks
containing some very desperate-looking animals: an albino snake, an albino
turtle (In case you're wondering what an albino turtle looks like, think
"Egg McMuffin"), and finally, Kathy's pride and joy, the two-headed
turtles, which are hopelessly confused as you might expect, and spend all
day, every day, trying to swim in two directions at once.
Kathy: "When they were young they would flip over in the water and drown;
so I had to give them turtle CPR numerous times because they couldn't swim
Cash: "The funny thing is, I can see you, on an evening when everybody's
gone home, blowing into turtles."
Kathy: "I do that. I've resuscitated my turtles numerous times."
How weird is that? Besides the true-life exhibits though, there are a few
that are called gaffes - kind of jokey exhibits to pad it out a bit. So
there's a turtle with the - they're very big on turtles - a turtle with
the head of a snake, a furry trout, and that perennial carnival treat, the
Kathy: "It's a cross between a jackrabbit and an antelope."
Cash: "It looks like it's got celery coming out of its head."
Kathy: "No, those are antlers."
Cash: "Luckily, I'm a complete idiot and I believe these things."
Kathy: "I have a thing in a jar, an alien fetus. I can't tell you the
number of people who think it's a real fetus."
Cash: "It's a ball of wool, isn't it?"
Kathy: "No, it's a plastic alien stuffed in a jar. But it looks good. Like
a real alien fetus."
Yeah, right, of course it does. Anyway, my first instinct with many of the
live freaks in this place would be to put them out of their misery, but
Kathy is a caring, giving person with...a business. She can't do that.
Kathy: "These guys would be dead in the wild. In one sense it's a better
to have something in captivity that wouldn't have a chance in the wild. At
least to study it and work out where the abnormality came from."
Cash: "But you don't know that even now. Months, years, you still have no
Kathy: "No, but I love my animals."
Cash: "I don't know which is the bigger freak, the albino snake or you."
Kathy: (Laughs) "Let me show you. These are the barnyard marvels. There's
a little mummified pig with seven legs and eight hoofs."
Cash: "Oh, my God." (Shiver)
Of course, by this time I'd turned more or less the same color as the
albino snake and yearned to leave. But I couldn't. Nobody leaves Kathy's
Freak Farm without seeing one of her most prized exhibits.
Kathy: "The famous two-assed chicken, Fortunato. It has two asses."
Cash: "Ooh, that's so horrible!"
Kathy: "And we have a dozen of her eggs here. She really laid them."
Cash: "All at once, presumably."
Kathy: (Laughs) "No, but in half the time it would normally take."
Cash: "But who would spot this?"
Kathy: "I know. I couldn't imagine having the job of chicken ass-checker."
It can't be worse than being a reporter, believe me. Of course, like it or
not, this kind of museum is a real crowd-puller. So much so that in
August, Kathy's opening up another Farm on Hollywood Boulevard in Los
Angeles. I'm not surprised. The public loves it.
Tourist: "It was definitely different. I've never seen anything like it."
Second Tourist: "Of course, the live ones you believe, but the other stuff
is difficult to believe."
Cash: "What about the rabbit with horns?"
Second Tourist: "The jackelope? I don't know. I hear there have been rare
Cash: "I thought it was just a rabbit with celery on its head."
Bad Taste Tours Links
Ramshock's Jackalope legend page
The Jackalope Conspiracy
The San Diego Museum of Death