There’s a bit in a book called Neverwhere, by my very favorite author, Neil Gaiman that goes;
“He opened his eyes. They were on the other side of the wall, he assumed, in what appeared to be a junk room. Not just any old junk room, though: there was something rather strange and special about the quality of this junk. It was the kind of magnificent, rare, strange, expensive junk one would only expect to see somewhere like…”
Richard had found himself in the British Museum. That’s not where I found myself. But the description is perfectly suited to the place I like to go when I need a little something…special. There’s junk, and then there’s Junk. There’s stuff you find at yard sales, and stuff you might find in the attic. Of a Tardis. That is capital “J” junk, and that is what is contained at Lost Eras on Howard street.
In a somewhat sketchy neighborhood of Chicago’s north side that you wouldn’t find yourself in unless you had business there. It’s been there for a couple of generations now, servicing the theater and film industry with a truly epic selection of costume and prop stuff. But that’s not all they do.
Connoisseurs of the unusual will find themselves wanting a flashlight and snacks, because to step into Lost Eras is to commit your afternoon to spelunking the treasures of Old Chicago and possibly Atlantis, and you will, I promise, be there awhile. It is huge. Lord knows how far back, or how far down, it goes. Room after room after room. I’m fairly certain it occupies more than one dimension. I believe the basement has access to subway tunnels occupied by mythological beings. The proprietress, far too cool to be human, may be one of them.
There is an entire room full of china. Not just china. Various delicate tchotchkes abound, as well as the type of furniture one would keep china and tchotchkes in, both ancient and modern. Also, a box full of skeleton parts and at least three cast iron stoves from the turn of the century.
You need an accordion? They have them. You need a large, taxidermied antelope? They have several. Buffalo too, if I’m not misremembering. Costume jewelry, non costume super antique crown jewel type jewelry? Got it. Antique cameras, instruments, electric fans and typewriters? In the basement. Oooo, the basement. It’s filled with every kind of rusty metal thing you could ever imagine. Also, luggage, silverware and serving pieces of serious vintage, lamps, farm equipment and stuff I simply can’t identify. But if I need glass insulators for high tension wires, they have them in the basement. If you keep following the basement’s yellow brick roads, you will find a room full of vintage clothing, hats, and accessories. Also a pile, nay, a veritable ziggurat, of giant bunny heads. There they are, piled under a stair like some weird sacrifice to the god of Furries. There’s a whole room full of skeletons and piles of foam skulls. There’s a closet full of mannequins. There’s a six foot long clothing rack hung with nothing but cassocks. If I need a coffin, they have two. That I can see, anyway. There may be an entire mausoleum under the floor for all I know. I suspect it contains the bones of dead gods to counter weight the amount of delightfully creepy religious art lolling about the front room.
Chandeliers, gas lamps, fur coats, old 80s movies on VHS. You don’t know what it is you need, but they have it. And you’ll know it as soon as you see it. I promise.
For those who celebrate Halloween as their high holiday, there is only one place to go for their accoutrements.
That’s just one costume room. And though from the pictures it looks a little chaotic, there’s a definite rhythm here. An order to the universe, as it were. You can find anything you need if you just open your mind to the funky mojo oozing from every crack in the ancient plaster. I went in looking for a skull. I thought I needed one. Turns out, that wasn’t what I needed at all.
THIS, is what I needed…
That’s baby Pubert up there. And Beulah Mae La Montagne, Miss Clamita’s new friend. Did I know I needed them? Of course not. But when you go, go with an open mind. Because as you sift through the antique china cups and big eyed porcelain dogs, the colony of feather boas, you’ll hear it. You’ll hear it in the hissing of the radiators and the imperceptible sound of accumulating dust. You’ll hear it in the groan of 100 year old hardwood settling. Listen. It’s the juju. It’s telling you what you need.