In 2007, not long after getting divorced, Pat Morrin received his first deer mount. It was a gift from a neighbor. Five years later, it sits above the fireplace in the living room of his three-bedroom home in a Duluth subdivision, surrounded by some 300 other mounts, skulls, and hides arranged in alarmingly convincing poses.
"I started buying deer heads and putting them all over,” Morrin, sixty, tells me during a recent tour of his house. One beast led to another. Thousands of dollars later, he’s got flying squirrels, mountain lions, beaver pups, kudus (the entry room has an African ungulate theme), bears, alligators, piranhas, a penguin, a Thomson’s gazelle, a camel, a ringtail cat, a wallaby with a joey, and even "assquatches" in a downstairs bathroom. Um, assquatches? "It’s a deer butt turned upside down, put on another form. So," he motions to one, "that’s on a bobcat form with antlers, and," to another, "this is on a monkey form or something. Guys put Bubba Teeth in there to make ’em look inbred. But this one has got, like, werewolf teeth." He pauses. "I didn’t invent it."
Originally from Detroit, Morrin has been in the computer industry for thirty-nine years, mostly with international banking clients. He works from home. He doesn’t hunt, nor does he do taxidermy. (He has a workshop for minor tweaks and repairs.) Rather, he is a very committed collector, who has accidentally turned his home into a suburban museum of natural history. To a visitor’s eyes, it teeters between passion and compulsion. He is aware of this, and hesitant to put on a fox head for my benefit. He eventually relents.
"Let’s go upstairs," he says, finishing up the living room, where there are at least three raccoons and two foxes. I follow, passing a warthog skull, a vervet monkey climbing a wall, and baleen from a whale.
"I’m not supposed to have anything in here," he says, gesturing to what was once his daughter’s room. "When my son-in-law and daughter come and stay with me, they don’t want a hundred different eyes looking at them." A mountain goat climbs a rock, unblinkingly, beside the bed.
Morrin’s bedroom has an Outer Banks theme. "I got ducks and geese and everything else. But I ran out of room." Some of the overflow has appeared in film, he says. "Right now they’re filming Killing Season up north with John Travolta and Robert De Niro. Somebody inherits this hunting lodge stuff, so they rented mounts from me." He’s also assisted Teen Wolf, The Collection, and My Super Psycho Sweet 16, which required 126 mounts to fill a mansion in Woodstock.
"This is the world’s smallest deer family," he says, continuing down the hall. "It’s called a Muntjac deer. Eighteen to twenty inches at the shoulders when it’s full-grown. This thing was two days old when it died. Take a look at the hooves." They’re impossibly tiny. He says the animal came from a farm in Tallapoosa, Georgia. (He has amassed taxidermy and animal contacts throughout the state.)
Onward. "Here’s a full-size boar. Here’s a Cape buffalo. Here’s a couple deer," he says. He motions to a moose rack. "Imagine that on your head." It weighs maybe forty pounds. Exhausted, we sit down. Near the living room are tanks where Morrin keeps his only live pets: turtles.
"It keeps me busy," Morrin says of his mostly dead zoo. When he retires, he may sell or trade mounts, he says. In the meantime, he’s tried to make collecting taxidermy a family pastime. Morrin has one grandson, two years old. "He likes coming over here and petting them," he says.
Other relatives are hesitant. On my way out, Morrin points to a snakeskin. "That was one of my live pets, a Colombian red-tail boa constrictor. I had two of them. Betty got about ten foot long before she died." He thought about getting another one. "My pregnant daughter goes, ‘Dad, no more big snakes. Nothing that will eat your grandkids.'"
Photograph by Justin Weaver and Chris McClure