Wild Kingdom

updated 09/21/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/21/1998 01:00AM

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen! See the two-headed calf! Marvel at the albino cobra! Then wander over to the state capitol and watch the politicians.

The calf and cobra are among the oddities in the Joseph Steward Museum—locally known as the Museum of the Bizarre—in the Old State House in Hartford, Conn. Curator Wilson H. Faude has been collecting the curiosities since 1992 to replicate the original museum, which opened in 1797 and closed in 1840. "Museums," says Faude, 52, "need to be more playful."

A father of two, Faude, son of a lawyer and an artist, oversaw restoration of the 200-year-old State House from 1992 to 1996. He feared that historical reenactments and art displays might not lure visitors. "I said, 'Let's do Steward's,' " he says. "The public likes animals—and the public likes two-headed things."

Since the original museum, founded by the Reverend Joseph Steward, a clergyman, artist and scientist, had a stuffed two-headed calf, Faude had to have one too. He bought one from a Michigan dairy for $3,000—and quickly added a two-headed piglet for $200. Now he's awash in artifacts—some bought, some donated—and visitors (318,000 last year), proving once again that two heads are better than one.

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