If you find yourself standing before the Lower East Side’s Troll Museum, you might find yourself feeling bewildered, maybe even a little cheated. There is definitely little to indicate its presence in a nondescript apartment building on the Lower East Side. This is why making an appointment with Reverend Jen, the troll museum’s proprietor, is a must. Not only will Rev Jen allow you access to the psychedelic realm that awaits within, she will also ensure that you come away understanding that trolls are much more multi-faceted beings than you think.
According to Rev Jen, not one of the hundreds of trolls inhabiting her tiny, brilliantly hued apartment is whole. Many of the dolls still bear scars dating from a 2010 steam pipe explosion, a momentous event in the troll museum’s history. However, broken limbs, bite marks, chewed up hair and other such injuries indicated that each and every denizen had far more than just a shared history. Over the years, Rev Jen has collected so many trolls, she has lost count of how many there are. Without any prompting, Rev Jen launched into the hidden tales I was getting increasingly anxious to unveil.
“Ariana was my first troll. I got her when I was 9,” she said as she picked up a large troll in a yellow dress with a sequined headband adorning her orange hair. “Her hair got a little messed up in the steam explosion, so we had a little hairdressing party and I made her this headband.” Not that I’d seen Ariana in the pre-explosion days, but I personally thought the sequined headband was the highlight of her festive getup.
There were troll dolls in Nineties garb, in pastels, in punk clothing, nurse outfits and Elvis gear, among a multitude of costumes that sparkled, glittered and glowed even in that kaleidoscopic room.
However, the trolls were not just varied in their attire. Rev Jen keeps quite a diverse bestiary in the troll museum. There were cyborg trolls, soap trolls, dark skinned trolls, and certain species that seemed just a little bit of an outrage.
Take, for instance, these “sexy” trolls, complete with sexy feminine curves and Barbie breasts. Rev Jen makes a face and remarks, “Gross, aren’t they?” I can’t disagree.
Then, there are the pastel-hued Treasure trolls from the 90’s, all of which sport a belly gem one was supposed to rub for good luck. Rev Jen grimaces again. She has a low tolerance for cutesy trolls.
Back to the aforementioned stories. There was a veritable patchwork of these waiting to be discovered all over the room. Rev Jen is adept at picking out the best. She takes us over to the Elvis doll.
“I don’t know how, someone knew to send this guy to me at work at the LES Tenement Museum,” she tells us, “He came with this liquor bottle and a note saying he’d been traveling here and there, only to make his way to me here.” She shows us a miniature well-worn photograph of the Lone Ranger, probably somewhere in Vegas. “Look, he even took pictures for us!”
Then, there is no forgetting the Haunted Troll. There is a vaguely sinister cast to this one’s fixed smile.
Rev Jen found him on sale online. “So these parents buy their kid a troll doll. And he stabs it in the neck, as you can see here.” She shows us a deep puncture wound. “Soon, weird shit starts happening in the house. Things stop working, lights flicker on and off, stuff like that. Of course, the terrified family puts it up on Amazon, where it makes its way to me.” She shrugs, “I dunno, he could have caused the steam pipe explosion.” Maybe I should’ve asked before taking pictures.
Of course, there were many, many more tales to tell. But even if space and time were no constraint, it is my strong conviction that they are best heard from Rev Jen herself. She is a talented raconteur who infuses her accounts with her encyclopedic knowledge and infectious enthusiasm for her quirky obsession. Book your tour of the troll museum today by emailing her at [email protected]. I promise, you will not just come away with a lousy T-shirt.