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Bizarre beasties

Yetis, unicorns, winged cats and other strange creatures that never existed are part of a collection of bizarre Victorian taxidermy that went on auction.

A highly unusual Victorian-era taxidermy collection was put up for bid Tuesday at Duke’s Auction House in England. Along with mythical beasts, the auction featured taxidermy animals, waxwork statues, torture devices and furniture – all of which fetched nearly $450,000. The remarkable items came from a museum of Victorian relics on Britain’s Isle of Wight. The museum fell on hard times, so owner and self-confessed eccentric Robert Ball was forced to sell.

Honestly, who could resist this big, furry guy, pictured left, who sold for the bargain price of $1,005? The Yeti’s new owners told TODAY they planned to give him as a wedding present. Daniel Rushall / BNPS.CO.UK
The great thing about an extended dog is that there’s more of him to love! This extra-special stuffed animal sold for $743. "A lot of the items went to private collectors, and some went to dealers in London," said Rupert Perry-Warnes, saleroom manager for Duke's Auction House. "Some people just want to have something interesting in their house." Daniel Rushall / BNPS.CO.UK
Or is it a “phicken”? It’s both! This feathered creature, which sold for $310, was described by Duke’s Auction House as the apparent “hybridization of domestic fowl and ornamental pheasant.” Daniel Rushall / BNPS.CO.UK
Ah, the 1800s – it was a time when unsuspecting Brits might have believed that some of these fanciful animals actually existed. “People could say they went to South America and found these animals when in the jungle in Peru,” said Rupert Perry-Warnes, saleroom manager for Duke’s Auction House. “A lot of people wouldn’t have had a clue back then.” Indeed, legend had it that a Victorian adventurer named Professor Copperthwaite discovered this wooly pig in the dense jungles of Cambodia, according to the auction house. Daniel Rushall / BNPS.CO.UK
OK, so people may have been a bit gullible in the 19th century – but seriously, you say you don’t believe in unicorns? Even after seeing this photo? Well, this particular creature was so enchanting that his new owners plunked down $4,331 for him. Daniel Rushall / BNPS.CO.UK
It goes without saying that cats are angels, as all feline-lovers know. Check out the Duke’s Auction House description of this particular winged cat, who sold for $4,330: “Apparently, in the 1860s the famous winged cat was advertised for sale, at which time it was known as Thomas Bessie.” Daniel Rushall / BNPS.CO.UK
Sid – a fanged, flying monkey creature with webbed feet – really does have an almost irresistible charm. That may help to explain why he sold for $2,475. “He was one of the favorites of the auction, along with the flying cat – all a bit of fun, really,” said Rupert Perry-Warnes, saleroom manager for Duke's Auction House. The creature’s new owner told TODAY how he planned to use Sid: “I’ll probably nudge my fiancé out of her side of the bed and he’ll get to sleep next to me.” Daniel Rushall / BNPS.CO.UK
This wooly fish sold for $464 at the auction – a sad event for Robert Ball, former owner of the Brading Experience Museum where all of these fantastical items once lived. “There’s a lot of my life tied up in this room today,” Ball told TODAY. “And I’m very sad to see it being sold.” Daniel Rushall / BNPS.CO.UK
More than 500 items – including this Siamese conjoined lamb with conjoined bodies and heads – were sold from the museum. Price of the lamb, you ask? $1,547. “It was absolutely amazing,” said Rupert Perry-Warnes, saleroom manager for Duke’s Auction House. “The objects reached double what was expected.” Daniel Rushall / BNPS.CO.UK
Laura Powell, a writer for British newspaper the Daily Mail, gets a close look at the taxidermy animals up for sale at Duke’s Auction House in England. (Side note: These animals look real!) Daniel Rushall / BNPS.CO.UK