Think it’s illegal to buy a human skull in Canada? Not here.
The Prehistoria Natural History Centre is one of a kind in Canada as they claim they are the only free conservation and natural history educational centre in Toronto.
However, they’re better known as the SkullStore, one of the largest oddity shops in Canada.
They sell animal bones and skulls, taxidermy, dinosaur fossils, space rocks and other oddities.
They even sell human remains – which are all real.
Ben Lovatt, Owner of Prehistoria Natural History Centre & SkullStore Oddity Shop, says that human skulls can range in price from $650 to $2,500.
“One of the more – one could say – quirky products we sell are human skulls and bones,” said Lovatt. “The skulls range anywhere from about $650 to $1,200 for a medical specimen. And then you get into the really weird stuff.”
“We sell shrunken human heads from the Achuar tribe in Ecuador, we sell decorated skulls of monks that were traded off, and cannibal trophies from the depths of the jungles. Things like that can range anywhere from about $1,500 to $2,500.”
Lovatt assures that the basic human skulls they sell were attained in Canada legitimately.
Usually from retired medical professionals looking to get rid of a few skeletons in their closets.
“If someone offered me a skull with some grass growing out of it, I would be very, very concerned.”
When Lovatt was asked how much his skull would go for, he said it depends how he’s buried.
“Maybe it’d be cool to get myself buried somewhere where I can be fossilized in a strange pose and confuse a paleontologist one day,” said Lovatt. “Or maybe they can bury me riding the skeleton of a zoo tiger – when they dig me up they’ll wonder who this strange character was. I can see that raising the value by a few dollars.”
As for their animal remains, Lovatt says that they’re “100 per cent sustainable.”
All the animal products they sell come from animals who have died naturally or are antiques.
“You are not supporting the illicit markets, smugglers, traffickers or anything like that when you buy any of our artifacts or our animal parts,” said Lovatt.
According to Lovatt, salvaging animal remains is cheaper than buying poached animals on the illicit market.
Traffickers who smuggle poached animal parts into Canada charge a premium.
Lovatt isn’t a friend of poachers, he’s actually made a few enemies.
“The heads in our shop are not the only heads with a price on them,” said Lovatt. “So this poacher sent us a parcel on good faith assuming we would pay for it.”
“Instead, of course, we turned these poached and endangered animals over to wildlife control. And he demanded his money. Naturally, we did not send him a dollar and he wasn’t very pleased about that. This man was actually a danger to us in Canada. He traffics weapons and drugs as well as all kinds of critters.
“And now I have a travel advisory not to go to Cameroon because he’s very willing to collect my skull as well.”
The store also sells oddities other than skulls and bones.
That includes ritualistic artifacts like necromancer’s masks, cultural relics and prehistoric fossils.
Lovatt has a particular interest in dinosaur fossils and spends his free time searching for them.
“One of my favourite parts of my job, too, is that I travel coast to coast several times a year doing conventions and going to adventures and we always stop in Alberta to look for dinosaurs,” said Lovatt.
On his last visit to Alberta, he says he found the fossils of several prehistoric creatures including parts of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
“The sense of adventure, the sense of excitement find a dead Tyrannosaurs Rex – nothing could compare with that,” said Lovatt.
Lovatt had to leave the fossils where they were found because in Canada there are restrictions on who can dig up and sell prehistoric fossils.
He was kind of enough to document the GPS co-ordinates for Canadian museums so one day they can excavate them.
A lot of their collections comes from the United States where it’s legal for civilians to dig up and sell dinosaur bones.
As they grow their collection, the Prehistoria Natural History Centre and SkullStore hopes they can grow their business and remain one of Canada’s biggest oddity shops.