I have a special place in my heart for the additive value of story and the art of the scam . This is why I’m keen on Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn’s Significant Objects project – an experimental literary and anthropological mash-up that demonstrated that “the effect of narrative on any given object’s subjective value can be measured objectively.”
The project auctioned off thrift-store objects via eBay; for item descriptions, short stories purpose-written by over 200 contributing writers, including Meg Cabot, William Gibson, Ben Greenman, Sheila Heti, Neil LaBute,Jonathan Lethem, Tom McCarthy, Lydia Millet, Jenny Offill, Bruce Sterling, Scarlett Thomas, and Colson Whitehead, were substituted. The objects, purchased for $1.25 apiece on average, sold for nearly $8,000.00 in total.
Okay, so that’s awesome. Now, let’s see what happens when this knowledge is applied to the dark arts – specifically witchcraft. Yes, witchcraft. A recent episode of the podcast Here Be Monsters featured an interview with “Malibu Ron,” a self-identified scam artist who Vice dubbed an “Etsy witch.” Here’s why:
Malibu makes his living selling trinkets supposedly imbued with spirits: sex demons, werewolves, mermaids, djinn, vampires, etc. They aren’t. Malibu sells his intangible beings and spells online for as little as $5 and as much as $11,000.
You can see where this is going, right? Thusly, I attempted to create my own significant, if haunted, object via the power of story.
The object in question is my brother’s old retainer. He wore it in his mid-teens and left it in a box that remained at my parent’s house when he moved out a few years later. That box traveled between storage units as our empty-nester parents decamped to smaller dwellings over the years. Finally, it became my responsibility and has infused my own private “Smithsonian Box” with a never-ending supply of weirdness since. When reunited with the retainer, my brother refused to take it, so… Now, it’s a Haunted Orthodontic Retainer that Channels Malevolent Spirits on eBay.
Of course, I couldn’t stop there. I had to create an entire business identity to give the seller account some narrative umph. Hence…
I also grabbed some stock art for shop…
Then – the fun part – I wrote a little story for the item’s eBay description, which can be read by clicking through the eBay embed below. Throughout the creative fugue state that precipitated the whole scenario, I began to think of eBay as a largely untapped publishing platform (move over Medium) and am considering integrating the Accursed Curios shop and its paranormal environs into the larger world of my one-man transmedia worldbuilding endeavor. I mean, we all need a little more magic in our lives, right?