'Living dead' up for grabs in Cottle's shop of horrors

The Bride of Dracula smiled serenely at curious onlookers, the blood dripping from her mouth as she lay in her coffin under a sign which invited them to "view one of the living dead".

In her heyday, the animated figure was part of a ghost train ride looming out of the darkness to frighten holidaymakers. But youngsters today expect something more spectacular and it is a few years since she made anybody scream.

Yesterday, the bride fetched pounds 510 at one of the most extraordinary house clearance auctions ever held in Britain. Gerry Cottle, entrepreneur and former circus owner, had decided to empty his barn at his winter headquarters at Addlestone Moor, Surrey.

No one could ever accuse Mr Cottle, who has handed over the running of his circus to his three daughters, of being sentimental. As he viewed items he had collected over 25 years in circuses and fairgrounds, he said: "In the winter, we need to use this shed for servicing the vehicles and we don't have room for all this."

Buyers, some from the United States, Germany and the Netherlands, picked their way through the shed with the reverential awe of children let loose in a toyshop so wonderful that they barely knew where to start. About the only thing not for sale was a huge illuminated sign bearing the Cottle name.

Quadro and Lazar, otherwise known as Hughie and Christie O'Neill, from Woking, Surrey, were after an organ for their magic shop and props for their stage illusions and comedy act.

Mr O'Neill said: "It is very unusual for this type of stuff to come on to the market, some of it is just irreplaceable. I am surprised he is selling it." Paul White, an amateur enthusiast from Lingfield, Surrey, added: "It is the memorabilia in the auction that attracts me. But it is quite sad that it is being sold - it is a bit like being at somebody's funeral." When bidding got under way, a two-headed calf, made by a taxidermist to shock circus- goers, fetched pounds 210 and an eight-legged lamb, pounds 200.

A small Thomas the Tank Engine ride went for pounds 160, while fibreglass clown masks, from Butlins holiday camps in the 1950s, sold for pounds 60 to pounds 100 each.

But a waxwork figure of Queen Victoria, which had gazed sternly down on the proceedings from the platform by the auctioneer, failed to find a buyer. She looked so disapproving that even the most ardent enthusiasts were probably too frightened to bid.

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