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Trundle Manor.

Trundle Manor - House of Oddities

Field review by the editors.

Swissvale, Pennsylvania

"I jarred my first animal when I was seven," said Mr. Arm, the proprietor of Trundle Manor. The animal is still in its jar -- a frog floating in green liquid -- in a place of honor in the parlor.

Trundle Manor is a 1910 house in the Pittsburgh suburb of Swissvale. Surrounded by other homes of similar vintage, you might not notice anything too strange about the house -- until you see the hospital hyperbaric chamber in the weedy front yard and the barbed wire and hurricane fence enclosing the front porch. "We left those up from the zombie insane asylum Halloween party we had in 2012," said Mr. Arm.

Mr. Arm and Velda von Minx.
Mr. Arm and Velda von Minx.

We in this case refers to Mr. Arm and his partner, Velda von Minx, who operate Trundle Manor as both an attraction and their home.

Mr. Arm and Velda (not their birth names) are artists in the fun, not pretentious, sense of the word. They've filled Trundle Manor with their lovingly curated personal collection of meat cleavers, medical equipment, custom crypto-taxidermy, and dead things in jars, and have opened it to the public for tours since 2009. "It got so big," said Mr. Arm of the collection, "we figured, what's the point of having it if no one sees it?"

Trundle Manor is a macabre midway funhouse of an attraction -- somewhere between Victorian, Goth, Steampunk, and The Addams Family -- and begins just inside the front door. There, on a table, sits "Olivia's Singing Tumor," a real, baby-brain-sized human tumor that arrived at Trundle Manor in a Tupperware bowl. Mr. Arm and Velda used their art skills to improve the tumor by encasing it in a magnifying jar with mood lighting. A flip of a switch plays an eerie, ethereal song from the band Circus Contraption:

"Floating in my watery womb
Or is it only a jar...."

According to Mr. Arm, the tumor's former human host "comes to visit it every once in a while."

Turtle and chick family.
Turtle and chick family.

"It was benign," added Velda.

Despite being the curators of what they cheerfully describe as "horrible things," Mr. Arm and Velda are perfectly likeable, and obviously delighted to share their treasures with visitors. They are really just homebodies -- but what a home.

Some of Trundle Manor's artifacts have been donated by like-minded souls (such as the tumor), a few were created by Mr. Arm and Velda themselves ("If we can't find it, we find out how to make it," said Velda), but most are treasures they simply discovered in dusty attics and flea markets.

A jar with two deer fetuses, for example, was purchased from an "old hillbilly farmer" about an hour outside of town. "We've been told that you can preserve things in urine," said Mr. Arm, "so we've done our best to never open that jar."

Velda compares bites.
Velda compares bites.

Mr. Arm and Velda were affable hosts on our whirlwind tour. We were told the history behind a mummified cat named Pestilence and a taxidermied guinea pig named Poop, shown a display case full of artifacts from the future Machine Uprising, and given some specs on the firepower of various death rays built from old power tools.

When excited, Mr. Arm breaks into the bouncing cadence of a sideshow carny, particularly in the garage where he introduced us to "Trixy," his self-customized truck with a cowcatcher designed to plow through the Zombie Apocalypse. "The skull on the dashboard is a remote control that I carry around and use to set off the flamethrowers in the exhaust pipes," said Mr. Arm.

As artists, Mr. Arm and Velda go for eye-appeal, so Trundle Manor is a feast for shutterbugs. You visit, your senses are overloaded -- and then you come back again because you missed 90 percent of what was on display the first time. Was that really a shelf full of animal penises that you saw? (It was.) Was that jar full of human skin flakes real? (Yep.)

Trundle Manor display.

Mr. Arm and Velda understand. "We both like visual overkill," said Velda. "We get kind of bored when we go to other people's houses."

Mr. Arm agreed. "Everything's so plain out there, just white walls," he said. "Ack! I need horrible things to look at."

Trundle Manor - House of Oddities

7724 Juniata St., Swissvale, PA
South of Pittsburgh on I-376. After the Squirrel Hill Tunnels take the first exit and stay right toward Swissvale. Turn left at the stop sign, right onto South Braddock Ave., left onto Westmoreland Ave., then right onto Columbia Ave. Trundle Manor is on the corner of Columbia Ave. and Juniata St.
By appt. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Donations of cash or exhibits welcomed.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
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