Ben Lovatt sells dead people and animals for a living

By Olivia Lambert at

Ben Lovatt owns the Skull Store oddity shop in Toronto, Canada. Photo / Facebook
Ben Lovatt owns the Skull Store oddity shop in Toronto, Canada. Photo / Facebook

On a quaint street in Toronto, bordered with flower boxes and lamp posts, is a store unlike the rest.

The blinds are drawn closed and it appears to be dark and deserted, but inside its shelves are littered with skulls and even human brains.

The SkullStore Oddity Shop is owned by morbid mastermind Ben Lovatt, a former Aucklander who sells parts of dead humans, and people are actually buying them.

One of his most popular items was a shrunken head of a child, which was ticketed at $25,000. It's sold out.

Mr Lovatt may sound ghoulish and gruesome but he told selling human parts was never part of his plan.

He started out running an exotic animal rescue and wanted to preserve some of the rare species he came across once they died.

A marmoset monkey skeleton.
A marmoset monkey skeleton.

He then began performing taxidermy on animals that would die from natural causes, so people could get the "trophy" without hunting and poaching the animals.

That led to his curiosity in selling human parts.

"Out of the thousands of items we have carried, the human body parts definitely stand out," Mr Lovatt said.

"Our human parts come from a few different places but all human specimens can be summed up in two categories.

"Medical skulls, typically bleached white and potentially with a hinged jaw, are usually specimens that had their origins as a teaching tool or were sold to art and medical students by their schools. Anthropological human remains are a bit more complicated. In some instances you could be dealing skulls or trophies taken during tribal warfare, dating up to centuries old."

So why would anybody want to spend thousands on a human skull?

A Kenyah carved tribal skull from Borneo. Photo /
A Kenyah carved tribal skull from Borneo. Photo /

Mr Lovatt said they had shown real human skulls to tens of thousands of people from across the world, all were more interested than disgusted.

"When you gaze into a human skull you are gazing into yourself. Our hopes, our dreams and our very identity dwell within this thin cradle of bone," Mr Lovatt said.

"A human skull can serve as a grim reminder of our mortality but in doing so it also gains the power to symbolise the beauty and significance of life as well."

According to his website, the shrunken heads were crafted by the Shuar people from Ecuador.

They traditionally use severed, shrunken heads for trophies, rituals or trade purposes.

Mr Lovatt has had in his possession body parts that would make many squirmish and even he admitted to it feeling a little twisted at times.

"The first time I acquired a human skull it did creep me out a bit but I got used to working with remains as time went on," he told Reddit.

"I am currently selling samples of human brain (and sold a complete brain). It was an interesting experience holding a brain."

This human brain was from a retired doctor's collection.
This human brain was from a retired doctor's collection.

Mr Lovatt, also the director of the Prehistoria Natural History Centre, said his line of work could be dangerous and sometimes dealt with dodgy buyers.

"Conservation and sustainability are the principles I founded my business on, which leads me into all sorts of confrontations against poachers and smugglers and people who simply don't care about the lives of animals, only the dollar figures attached to their corpses," he said.

There is even a bounty on his head in Cameroon, a country in Central Africa, because of a confrontation with a dealer.

"I was offered some poached gorillas, chimps, and mandrills but the guy claimed they were legally hunted by Aboriginal people. I contacted the Canadian government asking if such exemptions did exist and they confirmed it was bulls**t," Mr Lovatt said.

He assumed it was a "send me money and I promise you'll get a parcel scam" and when Mr Lovatt confronted the dealer, he said he would ship the parcel and Mr Lovatt could pay on arrival.

"I had it flagged at the border and it was a pair of mandrill skulls blasted apart from gunfire. I refused to pay, it would have been a major crime, and handed the items to the Canadian officials," he said.

"That's when the death threats came in."

Despite the serious side of his profession, Mr Lovatt has also met his fair share of quirky people.

"Some guy had accidentally cut off his finger doing woodworking in his garage. He found it a few days later while tripping out on painkillers and tried to sell it to me for beer money. I declined," he said.

"I also refused to do a refund once.

"A woman bought a human femur online and called to confirm the address. Two weeks later I got a notification from Visa, I had run a fraudulent order and that they were taking back the funds. I contested with proof that she did legitimately make the purchase.

"They deemed I was in the right so the next day she calls me demanding I come to her property and pick up the bone in person immediately. She wasn't even in the same country. I asked what the problem was and she said she'd used the bone to cast a spell and the spirit wasn't the one she tried to reach. Apparently this angry spirit was now haunting her barn so it was my responsibility to send somebody to her barn to remove the bone and haunting."

Mr Lovatt said skulls were just something that always made people curious, evident from the pages of Hamlet to the eyes of the children who saw them for the first time.


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