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ReTales: Nancy Smith, Owner of Necromance

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Nancy Smith doesn’t like to be photographed. When asked, she opts to pose her greyhounds Darwin and Donner, whose skeletal frames move throughout Necromance like friendly little phantoms making their home among mounted insects, human skulls, and taxidermy items. Two years ago, the curious shop outgrew its location at 7220 Melrose and opened a second location a few doors down. “That store is the disturbing stuff," Smith says. "Here, it's nature stuff.” “ "Disturbing" is accurate. Artificial limbs, antique doll heads and stainless steel surgical tools may be must-haves for a horror flick, but your living room? For those who are already feeling squeamish, there are plenty of sea horse pendants, graphic tees, and business card holders if you’re just looking for a rare find and not, say, a taxidermy duckling (which is actually pretty adorable!)

Why this store, on Melrose?
I always wanted to have a store like this. I used to work at a natural history museum so I’ve always been into this stuff. I picked Melrose because it’s a really popular street.

What’s been flying off the racks?
All the small stuff—teeth and bones. People buy them for crafts.

What are you most excited about in store right now that maybe isn’t flying off the racks?
I love the [stuffed] birds, because I love birds in general. I travel around the world just to see them. I’m getting ready to head to Costa Rica just to see the Resplendent Quetzal, which I’ve never seen before.

You have $100 to shop in LA—where do you go?
I’d shop here first. But I love going to fancy shmancy restaurants.

Make that $1,000.
God, where would I go? I guess to Liz’s Antique Hardware Store for lamps and drawer pulls.

Is there anything that makes your skin crawl enough that you wouldn’t carry it?
No. Well actually, I don’t like roaches so I usually don’t carry them. But if someone wanted them I would.

You must get a lot of strange people with even stranger requests, but what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?
Yeah, but a lot of those people are just stupid. Someone came in recently and asked if I could take some of her boyfriend’s blood and put it in a vile for her to wear around her neck. I said no, because that’s just stupid and dangerous. But those people aren’t serious. They just want to act like they’re so bizarre.

But the weirdest thing ever? some guy came in a while back and he was missing a pinky finger, and he bought one of our earrings, which is actually made of a human pinky finger bone. I thought, cool, maybe he had some sort of traumatic injury and this is special to him. Then he tells me it’s a fetish for him. He cut it off on purpose! And he told me about his friend, who is into the same fetish, who cut off his feet, then his legs at the knee, then finally cut them all the way off at the hip. Then a few weeks later he brought the guy in to meet me. You know, people think we’re weird here because we have tattoos and we work here and we like this stuff. But I go bird watching! I have two dogs, a house and a garden. I’m normal! Those guys are the freaks.
· Necromance [necromance.com]