By Joe Roberts @jrobertsjourno
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Videographer / Director: Per Christian Lind
Producer: Joe Roberts, Ruby Coote
Editor: Thom Johnson
And their colony of rabbits has grown so vast they’ve housed it in a museum.
Located in Altadena in Los Angeles, The Bunny Museum is a huge collection of more than 35,000 items of bunny memorabilia which, together, tell a decades-long love story.
The museum was co-founded by husband and wife team Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski, and includes rabbit-related art, literature, figurines, games, and even Candace and Steve’s former real-life bunnies, who have been taxidermied and preserved for future visitors to enjoy.
Candace told Barcroft Media: “A lot of people will hop over and say, ‘Don’t you think you have enough?’ I’m like no… we just enjoy it.”
The novel collection began 25 years ago, when in 1993, Steve bought his beloved a stuffed bunny for Valentine’s Day.
“My husband Steve, when we were dating, I started calling him my honey bunny,” explained Candace. “He liked that so he gave me a plush bunny on our first Valentine’s Day.”
This simple gesture started off a tradition that continues to this day, whereby the couple give each other bunny-themed gifts daily, to express their undying love.
Candace continued: “We still give each other a bunny gift every day as a love token. So the bunny museum is a love story.
“People will hop over here and they will say, ‘Wow you really love bunnies,’ and Steve and I will say, ‘No, we love each other’.”
In the early days, before the museum was officially opened, the couple managed to amass an impressive collection of memorabilia just for themselves – and opened a bunny gift shop in Steve’s bike shop.
The gift shop bunnies amazed the shop’s customers, which eventually prompted Steve and Candace to open up their bunny-themed Pasadena home to visitors in March 1998.
At that time, the pair had around 7,000 bunny items, but have now moved their hugely-expanded collection to a new, larger location in Altadena – next to Steve’s Open Road Bicycle shop's new premises.
Now at 35,000 pieces, the museum previously earned Candace and Steve the Guinness world record for "owning the most bunny items in the world" back in 1999 when it was at a meagre 8,437 items.
Candace said: “We have items from antiquity which means they are 2,000 years old. We also have one figurine made from the ash of the Mount St. Helens eruption. We have ones made from Ivory soap bars. I mean, it’s just amazing what you can find.”
Among the incredibly diverse collection, the married couple’s three real rabbits can be found hopping through the museum’s halls, under the watchful eye of former bunny pets, who sit preserved in a special cabinet.
Steve said: “We believe in keeping them, just to show people, this is a true collection of ours.”
Candace added: “In any natural history museum, they have a coyote, and an elephant, and a dinosaur so, in The Bunny Museum we have real bunnies preserved and exhibited.”
But perhaps the strangest exhibit in the institution is the ‘Chamber of Hop Horrors,’ which has a 13-and-up age restriction and showcases items demonstrating the abuse of bunnies throughout history.
Candace said: “We have the lucky rabbits’ feet, and toys with bunny fur, and a fur jacket that took 30-40 bunnies to make… pretty creepy.”
But the majority of the museum maintains a more celebratory and charming atmosphere and has even managed to bring tears of joy to visitors’ eyes.
As Steve explains: “We had a gentleman a couple of months ago who had a Bugs Bunny toy, a stuffed bunny as a child.
“He had lost it, but he came up to me in the museum and he was almost in tears [and said] ‘I see the one I used to have. Can I take a picture with it?’
“So I went back and it just lit him up that he remembered his childhood, and here he was, a fifty-plus-year-old man holding this bunny with tears in his eyes cause it made him feel so comforted.”
It makes sense for a museum founded on a love story to strike such a profound tone with its visitors, and the romance of it hasn’t worn off for the couple who started it all.
“We look at the stuff and we know whether we got it together, or in an antique store, or on a vacation,” said Candace.
“It’s about love, how much we love each other.”