Strange and Unusual Obessions

Behind seemingly ‘normal’ homes across America lie secret lifestyles. Lifestyles that can be considered unusual, strange, even taboo. From colossal collections to intense infatuations, here’s a roundup from Taboo USA: Extreme Obsessions.


House of 1000 Cats

Taboo USA: Episode 5: Extreme ObsessionsNGCUS Ep Code: 9798NGCI IBMS Code: 041960

Cats! Cats! Cats! I am an animal lover and a cat lover so when I heard we were doing a story about a woman with 1,000 cats I jumped at the chance to shoot with her. My co-workers made fun of me and called me a crazy cat lady for wanting to go, but this is not the first time people have said that about me so I was unfazed. When I told the crew that we were going to a house with 1,000 cats each one of them asked me first, “does it smell?” In my excitement to hang out with a ton of cats I didn’t stop to ask myself the logical questions; “Is it going to be sad? Gross? Hoarderish?” I began to get a bit skeptical about making the trip to the Cathouse.

When we arrived to check out the Cathouse on the Kings a day before our shoot I wasn’t sure if I should be excited or worried. We pulled up to a fenced in compound and could immediately see cats. We were greeted by one of the many staff members and she told us that she would get the owner, Lynea, for us in a minute, but while we were waiting we could hang out with the cats.

We sat down and a few cats ran toward us. At first I thought the cats would be dirty and malnourished, but the first that approached us were huge, clean and sweet. As we sat a while longer more and more cats gathered around our feet, jumped on our laps and just purred to have us around. I was surprised that there was no smell and that all the cats seemed happy and healthy. We realized that the Cathouse isn’t some sketchy house where one woman is surrounded by a ton of cats and living in squalor, the Cathouse is a well-run cat sanctuary and shelter where Lynea is saving lives everyday. The cats that live at the sanctuary are cats that people have passed up for adoption for many reasons such as the cats having amputated limbs, being too old or just not looking as pretty as another cat. The Cathouse has given a lot of animals, not just cats, a second chance to be adopted and if they aren’t adopted they get to live out their lives on a huge plot of land surrounded by staff and volunteers who are there to keep them happy.

My concerns about the Cathouse and Lynea were squashed almost immediately after arriving. Spending time with Lynea and her staff you are able to put the persona of the “crazy cat lady” out of your mind. My crew and I all found ourselves having way too much fun on the property. I found myself being inspired to do more volunteer work with animals and even convinced some friends to make the trek up to the Cathouse to volunteer on an upcoming weekend. Yes to CATS!

By Breanna Jensen, Producer, Taboo USA


Anorexic Athletic

Taboo USA: Episode 5: Extreme Obsessions NGCUS Ep Code: 9798 NGCI IBMS Code: 041960I can barely remember when I wouldn’t think twice about consuming more than two thousand calories a day or that I would be hitting the gym hard to be fit and healthy.  Splurging never phased me and I was more than content with being a size 8. All of a sudden I found myself waking up each morning wondering if I shed a pound or not.  I was more conscious of the things I was consuming and more concerned about hitting the gym than having a social life.  Filming with Chase for our ‘Anorexic Athletic’ segment it was something that hit close to home with me.

Our culture today is influenced to see themselves solely in the context of how they look. We are continuously bombarded by image after image of seemingly perfect women with perfect teeth, perfect hair, perfect figures. And because we live in a time when we are connected technologically with the entire world, we feel like we are competing with the most beautiful people in the world.

Prior to meeting Chase I had only seen a handful of photos.  However, the photos didn’t suffice how thin Chase really is. I arrived in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in early January to shoot this segment.  When I pulled up to Chase’s house he had been arriving at the same time.  My initial thought was, “he’s not as thin as I thought he’d be.  No more than the average Los Angeles kid aspiring to be a model.” Chase waved me on inside to his home where he began to take his coat off, followed by another, followed by another.  By the time Chase had taken his last layer off I was in shock of how thin he was.  I personally had never seen anyone so thin in my life.  Chase took me on a tour of his home starting with the kitchen (of course).  He walked me through things he eats daily, fruit, smoothies and sometimes protein with his smoothies. How can someone eat so little? And on top of this still work out an ample amount of the day? It quickly sunk in– just exactly how obsessed Chase really is with being thin.

I kept thinking about my recent concerns of wanting to shed the pounds, and shed the pounds quick but none of which could compare to how extreme Chase’s obsession is with staying thin.

By Elisabeth Chapetta, Field Producer, Taboo USA


Zombie Baby Dolls

Taboo USA: Episode 5: Extreme Obsessions NGCUS Ep Code: 9798 NGCI IBMS Code: 041960When I walked into the home of Marilyn Mansfield, the first thing I noticed was not the scores of zombie baby dolls taking up every nook and cranny of Marilyn’s Staten Island apartment, it was Ellie. Ellie was born a full sized sex doll, complete with removable tongue, ribbed mouth and over 100 lbs of dead weight. Whatever the manufacturer’s intention was for Ellie, Marilyn saved her from a potential life of promiscuity when she adopted her into her family. Now Ellie sits in a wheelchair in Marilyn’s living room, fully clothed in a very conservative sweater, stretch pants and warm boots- after all it’s winter. Marilyn is very adamant that Ellie is a member of the family and has never and will never be objectified as a sex doll as long as she is under Marilyn’s watchful eye.

According to her husband, Zoth, Ellie is Marilyn’s best friend. At first I was taken aback by this…how can someone get fulfillment from loving a doll, especially when they can’t return the love? After spending 3 days with Marilyn and her family, I got my answer. Marilyn knows that her dolls are inanimate objects, but feels that there is nothing wrong with loving them. Sure the dolls do not talk back, but love does not need to be returned through speech or physical affection, that affection can come from within and still feel just as valid. For instance, when people pray they are not having a two-way conversation with God, but it still makes them feel better within to know that someone may be listening, even if the physical signs are not there. Marilyn gets fulfillment from taking care of her dolls, like a mother taking care of her children, and those children will never grow up and move away or cause her pain or heartache. According to Marilyn, love is love and no one should be chastised for giving love. Who can argue with that?

By Brandon Lipsett, Field Producer, Taboo USA


Clowning Around

Taboo USA: Episode 5: Extreme Obsessions NGCUS Ep Code: 9798 NGCI IBMS Code: 041960The University of Sheffield conducted a study involving 250 kids ages 4-16. ALL 250 kids found clowns disturbing or scary. Growing up I was definitely one of these kids surveyed.  That being said when I found out I would be shooting our ‘Clowning Around’ segment I wasn’t particularly excited.

As I read more about William and Zoe’s story I quickly learned more about their obsession with clowns and just how serious it actually is.  All I could think was, “how can William and Zoe be so infatuated with something so scary?! What is it that appeals them to clowns? And they dress up as clowns on top of it? Shivers and Quivers? What could that possibly be like?” In all honestly I just couldn’t comprehend since I had been scared of clowns my entire life.  But, at this point my thoughts and opinions didn’t really matter because either way I was on a flight to Corpus Christi, TX within the next couple of weeks to meet William and Zoe.

When I landed in Corpus Christi, TX I had made plans to meet with William and Zoe that evening.  On my drive to their home all I could wonder is, “are these guys going to be dressed as Shivers and Quivers when I get there?” Maybe it would be a good thing if they were, I could just get all the anxiousness and anticipation out of the way early.  Here goes nothing.

I knock on the door, and it swings right open.  William and Zoe greet me at the door ever so kindly. Both smiling ear to ear.  In a way I am kind of relieved that I get to know William and Zoe some more prior to Shivers and Quivers.  I have never been greeted with such hospitality from two people before.  We set things up for their shoot and said goodnight.

The next day we arrive to their home and it is time for William and Zoe to get suited up as Shivers and Quivers.  Let the transformation begin! And boy was it a long one… William and Zoe put so much effort and detail into their transformation of Shivers and Quivers.  It was quite interesting to watch how specific they both were about their costumes along with their change in personality as they began to get deeper and deeper into their costume.  Once William and Zoe were completely in costume, they had made their transition into Shivers and Quivers.

Shivers and Quivers are two completely difference appearances and even personalities than Zoe and William.  It was almost like meeting two new people once they were fully transitioned.  At first I was a little uneasy and having to work so closely with Shivers and Quivers wasn’t even an option. Let’s be fair, their clowns costumes don’t look the friendliest.  Despite that, I quickly got over their costumes and just accepted it.  After all I knew it was really Zoe and William under those masks why should I have any reason to be scared or uneasy? Remember, Zoe and William that couple who so kindly welcomed you into their home?  It really clicked for me then and there that this wasn’t that strange to me and I had nothing to be scared of.  Yes, Shivers and Quivers are clowns.  However, they some of the nicest, hospitable clowns I have ever crossed paths with!

I guess clowns aren’t that bad after all.

By Elisabeth Chapetta, Field Producer, Taboo USA













  1. Shivers Pennywhistle
    Corpus Christi, Texas
    July 2, 2013, 3:07 pm

    It was great meeting you and your crew and we had a blast. Don’t forget if you get time in October to swing by…weird getting hitched on the 5th. Thanks for showing the world that clowns aren’t so bad after all.

    Honk-Shivers Pennywhistle

  2. Jitters
    St. Augustine, Fl.
    July 15, 2013, 1:41 am

    They got me out of the Clown Closet forsure.Both are full of fun and don’t hold back.They know not to go there and makes everyone feel equal and special.We need more people like them out in the public,they got me out and not to be afraid to clown around.Yes, it is a transformation and is a lot of work to get your alter-ego out there and to be yourself.