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Tiki Central / General Tiki

Shrunken Heads

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House Industries came out with some Tiki T-Shirts a few years back, and one of them was of a shrunken head. That got me thinking, 'where do shrunken heads fit in the scheme of all things Tiki'? They are rarely mentioned on Tiki Central, yet Yma Sumac has done an album about headhunting, and seeing the real thing at the Pitt Rivers Museum alongside Tikis shows that the connection isn't just tenuous.

But how about those little plastic shrunken heads that dangle from car mirrors. They seem to have more conection with the 60's surf scene than Tiki. But would you have a couple in your bar? Hmmmmmmm.....

Trader Woody

I wondered the same thing. I think Shrunkend Heads are way cool and to me, the look totally fits in a tiki bar. Munktiki even makes a mug - Uncle Shrunk - that's a shrunken head.

Evidently head-shrinking took place in Hawaii. Take a look at this postcard I was outbid on recently. (But only if you're not squeamish. It is rather gruesome).




Shrunken heads Rule!!! I've had one (not the same one) around the house since I was old enough to pedal a chopper bike. The rubber one I have now makes a perfect topper for my bottle of Angostura bitters (a must for Manhattans). I remember the "creepy crawlers/thingmaker" S.H. mold that used more goop than any other bug and rarely "cured"...yep' gettin' old...well they fit in nicely with other exotica, anyway.

Trader Woody,

Do you remember the scene in South Pacific when Bloody Mary was selling shrunken Heads? One of the sailors asked her what they're made of and she said 'they're made of shrunken head!'

I have one that's made out of/from a goat that's formed to look somewhat human. Got it at Aloha Joe's.

'A thing of Tiki is a joy forever'

Celebrate 'International Tiki Day' the second Saturday in August!

[ Edited by: Tiki_Bong on 2002-11-20 15:44 ]

Hey who doesn 't mind a little head? Sorry I couldn't resist. I for one am a fan of shrunken heads but prefer to keep mine the way it is. I have a shrunken head decal at my store:


Here are a couple other S.H. links I had bookmarked.This one is an online gallery of shrunken heads, with lots of info on their origins, how to spot fakes, etc:


This one is for the cool rubber for sale:


Mar tranquilo hace mal marino.
Tranquil seas make poor sailors
... Mexican proverb

[ Edited by: Chongolio on 2002-11-20 15:55 ]

Shrunken heads have an attachment to Exotica music as well....! The original Arthur Lyman album Taboo vol.2 cover featured 2 shrunken heads. It became so controversial, that it was pulled from store shelves and replaced with a more vanilla image of an erupting volcano. Here's a pic of that cover:

The jacket notes for the album had this to say about the cover:

"Cover curiosity will prompt the question, 'What are they?' The two on the cover are unidentified shrunken heads, authentic but synonomous with the meaning of 'Taboo' which is forbidden or beware. Both heads are actual size and were photographed in another exotic land, Brazil. This cover is different."



Headshrinking was also popular in Maori culture. So there is some Tiki connection there. The "Shrunken Head" is one of our traditional Luau Drinks. We also made a shrunken head mug up from 98 to 2000.

Would I have them in my bar? wellll... here are a couple hanging at the luau bar...

...and there are also a few hanging on the door to the 821...

You can see more of this foolishness on the Tiki King website, in the Luau section

http://www.tikiking.com Neat Tiki Stuff
http://www.mp3.com/tiki_king Hear the King sing!

[ Edited by: Tiki King on 2002-11-20 17:02 ]


Have you ever made an apple shrunken head? They are pretty fun to make and look pretty scary when outfitted with hair and stitches in the mouths and eyes...I have attached the link for a website that talks all about shrunken heads and even includes instructions on how to make your own - perfect do it yourself decor for your tiki surroundings...



Just Cool!!

Aloha from the enchanted Pi Yi Lanai in exotic Bel Air Maryland!

[ Edited by: johntiki on 2002-11-20 17:17 ]


Wow! yeah! Back in the 70's my parents gave me a "shrunken head kit" that was indorsed by (if I remember correctly) Vincent price. you would carve up the apples, and put them in the shrinker, and two days later... you had a room that smelled like rotten apples! The heads looked like those apple dolls you see at "craft" shows.


I once watched a documentary type report TV thing-a-majob on how heads were really shrunk. Pretty gruesome, with the skinning of the skull and the baking and the fa-LAYDEE!-ling, but quite educational. So, if this current gig don't pan out...I got that going for me.

Which is nice.

midnite :tiki:


Shhhhhhhhh... some Hawaiiana preacher will have are heads cut off and shrunk for talk like this...

Jonny Quest RULES!!!!!!!

anyways... our bands first EP/CD sports "Jungle Gems!'

Go!APE! GO!!

Shrunken heads are so cool. If anyone knows where I can find a shrunken head, then you've got problems...


Wow, the gallery at


is pretty creepy!

Shrunken Head - That's what happens when you surf cold water!

Shrunken Head - That's what happens when you surf cold water!

That expains all the squeaky voices I hear in the water up here. I thought those were dang ol' sea otters.

In any topic of music for a shrunken head, It is required that you mention The Bomboras and there album "Headshrinking fun." This is a GREAT disk. These guys are " the originators that capitilize on that up-up sound" Killer surf reverb madness. It also comes with a game where you get to pour salt into your opponents mouth and remove his eyeballs. The artwork is by Shag and you can tell a lot of time went into creating the whole concept,art and graphics. Oh yeah, there are some shrunken heads inside and out, and one of the tunes is called "playa del los muertos" (Beach of the Dead)
All this talk makes me want to do a cartoon of a shrunken headed dude getting shacked on some remote outer island point. The inspiration never faulters at T.C
Keeping the headhunters at bay with a 4/3.

Mar tranquilo hace mal marino.
Tranquil seas make poor sailors
... Mexican proverb

[ Edited by: Chongolio on 2002-11-21 10:44 ]


The Mai Kai has a shrunken head drink. It's in their "Strong Drinks" catagory. Mmmm. Shrunken Skull - Dangerous and Deadly!

The Swank Pad Broadcast - If it's Swank...

[ Edited by: Swanky on 2002-11-21 14:42 ]

Shrunken heads are legit Tiki Bar decor, even though they do not hail from Polynesia (the one in that postcard must be an early tourist item from South America).Just like Zombies, which are from Haiti, all weird savagery is fair game to enhance the "Seven Seas" atmosphere of a Tiki bar.

This is not to say that Head HUNTING was not existent in Polynesia: The Maori Mokomai (BOT p.178) are such trophies, yet often erroneously referred to as "Shrunken Heads", yet they are merely DRIED (and tatooed) heads, with the skull still inside. In other Polynesian islands, the head, as the seat of mana, was a desired trophy, but they were not preserved.

The New Guinea head collectors kept whole skull racks in their men's meeting houses and painted the skulls, but SHRINKING is a South American peculiarity.

In my hometown of Hamburg, sailor's bars displayed these head souvenirs, and at Harry's Harbour Bazaar you could view a REAL shrunken head that was kept hidden from sight for the fee of one dollar.

All I have in my collection is a real monkey skull...cute lil' thing

Ask the average Joe about shrunken heads and the most you are going to get is a raised, quizzical eyebrow, but ask Tiki Central and you get a mine of information!

I've already started on an apple shrunken head....we'll see how that turns out.

Do many museums still have them on display these days? The ones at the Pitt Rivers are pretty amazing, as all the features really do shrink. They look pretty 'Western' too, so perhaps they were missionaries who took a wrong turn.

Must take a tour of those salty Hamburg bars one day. I had a couple of hours to kill there early one morning and wandered over to the Reeperbahn. Even at 6:00am it was quite a rum area, with the road awash with bodily fluids!

Trader Woody

Oh, here's Vincent Price hamming it up
Thanks Tiki King for stirring up a memory that had long been consigned to the back of my booze-shrunken brain!

Trader Woody

[ Edited by: Trader Woody on 2002-11-22 06:34 ]


The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has some shrunken heads in their collection along with a detailed description of how they were produced. They also have a great Polynesian gallery.

At the Mai-Kai there is a real shrunken head in one of the display cases but I forget which room it's in.

I also remember seeing one at the Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe in Seattle. A must-visit attraction if you're in Seattle!


Hey all - the last place I spotted really excellent quality shrunken heads (the kind that are molded out of - I think - goat hide) was in 'Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe' on the waterfront in Seattle, near Pike Place. Was going to buy one, and figured... I'll be back here soon enough... then I moved to SF... sigh!


I bought one of those fake ones at Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe, but they smell real bad and the smell never goes away so I eventually threw it away.

What I should have done (but I didn't think of it then) was to seal it up in a jar and put it in my bar!


No discusion of shruken Heads is complete without mention of Jane Dollinger's "Head with the Long Yellow Hair"

A robust tale of adventure as a dishy society type, Jane, trudges thru the wilds of South America

Here's our hero Jane "disguised as a Yumbo Indian Girl" so she can "learn the ways of the savage Headhunters"

Here is clearly a person with his head stuck thru the bottom of a basket masquerading as a freshly taken Head

Another classic tome of Headhunting is Caroline mytinger's "Headhunting in the Soloman Islands"


And here's a weird shrunken head that sings
Must have taken a while to prepare that one...

Trader Woody


AAAAAAAaaa! yeeech! that one is creepy.


You think that's creepy...check this out:

I've never heard of Hawaiian head hunters. I know this was practiced in Brazil And maybe Africa...but you have to admit shrunken heads are a part of our folklore and as such hold a place in our kitsch culture. I got my fist shrunken head at Disneyland's adventureland souvenier shop. My uncle had one hanging from the mirror of his '57 Chevy in 1963. It was the perfect compliment to his 8-ball gearshift nob.


I was watching South Pacific last night for the first time and in the first half hour Bloody Mary was trying to sell Lt Cable a shrunken head from the mysterious island of Bali Hai. I thought that was pretty cool. To my surprise there was not one tiki in the movie, just a few African looking totems. If you cant have a tiki a shrunken head will surfice in a pinch.

Man! My dad bought me that Vincent Price shrunken head set around 1975 from (get this) J.M. Fields department store! I put my G.I. Joe Talking Adventure Team Commander away almost for good when I got that thing! I can remember scaring my best friend's little sister with one of those things we used to call "Dr. Booger". I had a blast making those shrunken heads. I read about it in my House of Secrets comic book and had to get one! I still have that comic book. Has a skeleton ice cream cone on the cover.


You can make those shrunken apple heads even without the "official" maker. Here is the scoop: Peel an apple, carve it to look like a head, soak it in saltwater or brush it with lemon juice,(helps keep it from getting moldy) and then hang it in a warm dry place for a couple weeks.

Once it "shrinks" you can paint it, add hair, sew the eyes and lips shut, etc. fun for the whole family!

http://www.tikiking.com Neat Tiki Stuff
http://www.mp3.com/tiki_king Hear the King sing!

[ Edited by: Tiki King on 2002-12-03 12:22 ]

So let me get this straight... Stuff you can buy from Pier 1, which comes from everywhere but Polynesia, is NOT tiki, but shrunken heads, which also are not Polynesian, ARE tiki?

Wait, Rick, YOU collect tiki stuff too, you can figure this out. OK, so tikis are kind of retro to the fifties and sixties (surfers, tiki bars, etc.) and shrunken heads are kind of reminscent of the same era (horror movies, hot rod culture, etc.) Is this right? Did I win??


The shrunken head/Tiki connection is not clear, but the connection to Polynesia/exotica is not hard to follow and goes back much further than the 50's and 60's. I think a lot of it has more to do with early (1700's 1800's) explorers bringing back souvenirs from many exotic locals which all sort of got lumped together in the minds of the masses ala adventure land. kind of like the pirate with the hook and wooden leg. I have done a fair amount of study on Pirates, and there are no recorded examples of any that had such. Or Parrots for that matter, but we associate these things with Pirates. probably also had a lot to do with "Traders" coming around to sell their wares with stories of headhunters and cannibals, exotic tropical locals and beautiful topless Polynesian woman. In the mind of the adventure hungry public, these all came from the same far away place.

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