The Creeper Gallery – New Hope, PA

The Creeper Gallery – New Hope, PA

The Creeper Gallery opened in 2013 as a place for Donna Marian, the owner, to sell her Gothic artwork and what she called “creepy-cool” antiques. “I wanted to have a nice, quiet life running a store,” she said.

But Donna also had the ability — present since childhood, she said — to sense when an old artifact was haunted. So in 2018 she began displaying some of them in her shop. “I started with one small case and a few items. Good, weird stuff. I didn’t know if it would be palatable to the public,” she said — but it was. “It got to the point where there would be fifty people around that case and nobody in the rest of the store.”

So Donna abandoned her goal of a quiet life, converted the shop’s storeroom into the “Red Room” — a mini-museum displaying nothing but haunted items — and raised the standards for what deserved to be in it. Combining her ghost-detecting skills with a set of self-imposed tests and rules, Donna said, brought some credibility to the trade in haunted items, and specifically to the exhibits in the Red Room, which made them popular with customers. It also led to Donna’s realization that several of her shop’s items were too dangerous to ever be sold.

“I’m not gonna risk sending anything bad home with anybody, ever,” Donna said. “I know from first-hand experience that you can have death and illness happen if you do.”

Donna took us on a tour of the Red Room. Crystals hanging from its ceiling supposedly grounded any wayward entities, but our camera battery nevertheless died — a common occurrence with electronics exposed to the Room, Donna said. Among the items that we saw were an enslaved person’s shackles; a supposedly cursed human skull given to Donna by a suspected murderer; a Civil War knee bone with embedded shrapnel; a woman’s dress (“She drank mercury and died in her twenties,” said Donna); a 400-year-old prayer book protected by nuns that Donna talks to in Latin (“Horrific, horrific,” Donna said); a prosthetic foot; a hardcover copy of “Sinking of the Titanic;” Roman Catholic exorcism censers that were supposedly connected to two murdered priests (“Really bad,” said Donna); and a 200-year-old sealed box from England — so dangerous that Donna wants to destroy it. “He’s on his way to getting burned as soon as I’m strong enough,” said Donna, who often personifies her haunted items with the sex of its dominant spirit.

As bad as these things may be, Donna assured us that they’re safe to be viewed by the public — for the same reason that all of those haunted yard sale bargains in your home haven’t turned it into a portal to purgatory. “Anything that belonged to somebody else can be haunted,” said Donna — not a reassuring thought — but most of those previously-owned items won’t bother you because the ghosts inside them don’t know that you’re there. As long as you avoid the prodding and summoning typical of paranormal investigators — or of reckless amateurs with Ouija boards — the spirits will remain safely oblivious and inert. Probably. At least, that’s what Donna told us.

It can take months of work, Donna said, to unlock the secrets of a haunted item. After tracking down its history, pinpointing the identity of the dead entity, and making some initial extra-corporeal contact, the piece is handed over to spirit mediums and paranormal researchers. Only if their findings match hers, Donna said, will the item be tagged and added to the Red Room. Customers who are fortunate enough to acquire one — it’s first come, first served — receive certification paperwork and a follow-up contact from Donna. “I want to make sure there are no problems.”

Donna said that there are as many nice spirits as nasty ones, but that good ghosts aren’t as powerful and, frankly, as crowd-pleasing as the demons and ax murderers. “I do try to find things that have a seedy background,” she said. And the idea that haunted items have to be eerie-looking, or even old, is an artificial construct, she admitted. “What I want,” she said, “is something that will draw you in and make you say, ‘What the hell is that?'” Donna is happy to leave the haunted IKEA furniture and PlayStation 3s to a future generation. She’s not interested.

Donna’s artwork and antiques often look more haunted than the Red Room exhibits — she credits this to her “the weirder the better” aesthetic — and she’s posted a hand-written list in The Creeper Gallery of questions commonly asked by visitors, which include, “Do you have nightmares?” and, “Why is everything dead in here?” No children under 16 are allowed in without an adult, although the clientele is mostly self-sorting. “We have giant window displays that are not normal,” she said. “You should have an idea that this place is creepy.”

A never-ending supply of items owned by previously living people means that Donna will never run out of haunted exhibits. She hopes to eventually expand the collection into a dedicated museum. But if she should pass on before then, she still plans to stick around. “I’m not leaving,” she said. “When I die, I’m going to the Red Room.” As a nice spirit.

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Reviewed by 1 user

    • August 3, 2023 7:36 pm

    I take my daughter here for a cool little creepy day out in New Hope. The area is so cool. I like this gallery, and while I still haven’t investigated it, I do get a creepy vibe in the back room area.

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