If you were an aspiring Goth in Los Angeles in the early 1990s — as so many of us were — then you likely knew all of the best joints to grab your garb. Goths required, and still require, a very specific uniform, and finding proper Goth clothes has always been a bit of a struggle for those wishing to live the life of death. Back in the 1990s, before you could order Edwardian coats, Bauhaus patches, and perforated leather pants online, you had to trek into vintage clothing stores, fetish outlets, and other off-the-beaten-path fashion retailers to find what you needed. One may remember NaNa, a long-defunct store that provided Goths and proto-Goths with their oddball crap for many years in that glorious time before Hot Topic.
The growing Goth market made for some weird specialty stores to begin appearing in all the major urban centers, and L.A. seemed to have the most. Indeed, a trip down Melrose Avenue reveals that much of the Goth spirit is still alive in small ways, although the fashions have become far less funky and far more expensive over the years. You can still get a leather gas mask, but now it costs hundreds of dollars rather than $40.
As a proto-Goth myself in 1990 L.A., I was a regular customer of the amazing, and still functioning Melrose establishment NECROMANCE. Necromance was where I bought all of my death-twinged black t-shirts. For many years, I wore a TEMPUS FUGIT shirt taken from a Victorian tombstone, purchased happily at Necromance. It is still in operation today, and the spirit has, mercifully, never changed.
Necromance, founded in 1990 by a gregarious Goth, has been L.A.’s one-stop go-to for any and all dead animal carcasses, taxidermied bats, animal bones, creepy-ass t-shirts, old medicine bottles, and volume upon volume of graveyard trivia, Charles Addams comics, and disgusting medical journals. For those interested in horror, anatomy, death, and owning expensive scary shit, this place was a must.
The store was originally housed in a small storefront, eventually expanded into the space next door in 2008, and then shut off its original location, now still in a decent sized space at 7220 Melrose, down at the eastern end of the Melrose shopping district.
The store is a quiet, clean, slightly odd-smelling place that is veritably festooned with dead animals. Entering the store, your eye immediately goes to the stuffed moose heads and, more specifically, the conjoined calf mounted on a plaque. All of these things are for sale. A few more steps inside reveals a glass case full of jarred sheep hearts.
The variety of taxidermy on display is daunting and amazing and just the right amount of creepy. There is no feeling that the proprietors want to do you harm. Indeed, they are all open, friendly, and well-informed. If you want information as to their source of their animals, the history of funerals, or even just want to shoot the breeze about horror movies, they’ll be ready to engage. Indeed, on my last trip, the proprietress and I had a conversation that led to us both having to recall the name of an obscure Hammer film. The film, incidentally, was 1972’s HORROR EXPRESS.
The larger animal heads will set you back, and only the richest and most series collectors would probably want to put a full-sized bobcat in their homes anyway. For the frugal, however, there is still more to choose from. Eyeball and skull rings are plentiful, and are made of the best materials; no mere skee-ball prizes here, this is for those who want quality. Their jewelry selection is first rate, and you can even buy a large pendant with a real bat head attached.
If you just want a Gothy trinket to keep in your pocket, why not buy a marble with a bug in it? Or a real-life, perhaps-used human glass eye? Why carry your whiskey in a small flask when it’s so much cooler to put it in a vintage laudanum vial? Warning: Maybe don’t put your whiskey in a used laudanum vial. Instead, maybe keep that vial in your medicine cabinet to freak out nosy party guests. And, true to their traditions, you can still buy those black creepy t-shirts with death images on them. And not hackey ones like rib cage skeleton jammies. These are shirts with old-fashioned, classy death images.
Indeed, the class is what you’ll notice the most. These are adults who have a genuine interest in this stuff, not angry adolescents who want to shock you. Necromance is devoted to death in an adult way. That said, they realize the scary fun one can have in engaging with (and not necessarily wallowing in) horror images.
Next time you’re in L.A., give them a visit. Buy an eye. Have some fun.