The weirdest museum I’ve ever been to was the Bowling Hall of Fame. My husband’s from St. Louis and during one visit to his parents, I insisted on dropping by the B H of F because it sounded so darn kitschy. I actually never made it past the gift shop, where I bought a friend a mug shaped like a bowling ball. The gift was as useless as it was amusing because the round shape of the rim made it impossible to drink without dribbling on yourself. But my friend still proudly displays this Bowling Hall of Fame trophy.
I still have nightmares from a creepy wax museum in Rouen, France honoring patron saint Joan of Arc. I was 15 when I visited and my French was good enough to catch all the details of her life up to her terrifying demise, portrayed with 50 Tussauds-style wax figures. It was located right next to the post where she was burned. Aargh!!! When I googled the museum for this post, I learned that a brand new, state-of-the-art, interactive museum took its place in 2015. The owners of the 50s-era wax museum who tried to sell it found no buyers (pas de surprise). Then someone broke in and decapitated one of the Joan figures. To spare you, I’m not including a link. Please don’t look it up!!’
If you’re ever in Key West, be sure to visit East Martello Museum, where the star attraction is Robert the Doll — a completely creepy life-size boy-doll who comes with his own stuffed animal and wears a sailor suit. Oh! And he’s cursed. He’s over 100 years old, and every ghost tour in town stops in front of his former residence, because he was known to move around mysteriously at night and cause household hijinx — a habit he supposedly has kept up at East Martello. It’s not enough to go see a creepy doll who may or may not set off motion detectors at night: the curse applies to museum-goers who dare photograph him or make fun of him. And displayed next to him are letters from people who have written over the years to apologize, which, apparently is the only way to lift the curse. (One can only speculate why he doesn’t pass the bad juju on to the people who locked him in a plexiglass coffin.)
I’m not a big museum person. I have my faves (the Museum of Natural History for one) and others I’d love to go to (African-American History Museum in DC and Museum of Ice Cream in LA). I’d say the most interesting museum I’ve been to is the Museum of Sex. If you’ve ever ridden a subway in NYC then you’ve probably seen the ads. The name is self-explanatory. They tend to have cool exhibits like an adult bouncy house of breasts, which unfortunately wasn’t there when I went. In fact, about the only thing I remember from my visit is the exhibit about animal mating habits. Lots of statues. Lots more photos. Lots more than I ever wanted to know.
Definitely Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, which celebrates weird in all its glory. (I think the slogan for the San Francisco one is actually “weirdest thing on the wharf.”) There are a strange combination of items on display, from medieval torture devices to animals with extra appendages etc.–kind of like the dark side of Guinness Book of World Records. I can remember reading the paperback books (anyone else read those?) as a young person, when part of the fun was not knowing whether the factoids recounted within were real or not. And the museums turn that experience into a reality. Everything is sort of gothic and joyfully disconcerting.
(I also loved the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. It didn’t seem weird at all, though. Just cool.)
Readers, what’s the most unusual museum you’ve ever been to?
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