If you happen to have an affinity for the bizarre, as many of us do, you’re in luck. There is an over-abundance of fairly weird museums smack-dab in America’s backyard. Chances are you aren’t aware of some of them, but maybe you should be.
Just about every state has at least several places that defy the imagination and beg the question why? Perhaps the more disturbing thought is these museums have been in business for a number of years so they’re obviously drawing in visitors.
There’s a museum for everything, and whether you visit the more bizarre ones for a chuckle or have a genuine interest in the subject matter, which could be construed as weird in certain circles, give in to your impulses and go. You won’t be alone.
Glore Psychiatric Museum – St. Joseph, MO
Before anti-psychotic drugs were introduced as a way of taming a person’s inner-demons and talking things out with a high-priced therapist hadn’t yet crossed anyone’s mind, treating the mentally disturbed was all guesswork. In fact, some things we nowadays view as normal we’re at one time seen as abnormal behavior in need of a good straightening out. Sometimes even a temporary emotional breakdown was considered as losing all one’s marbles. Those with Autism and A.D.D. sometimes never saw the light of day.
Thank goodness times have changed, but if you have a yearning to see the literal torture chambers of yesteryear, Glore Psychiatric Museum is the ticket. Efforts to reverse what was deemed as insanity included burning, electrocuting, puncturing, placing in shackles, suspending from ceilings, running in a human hamster wheel, spending solitary time in a “Lunatic Box,” and even a good old kick in the head. Many patients died as a result of their treatment.
It’s all there. The many tried but not true apparatuses take up four floors. Housed in the former St. Joseph’s Mental Hospital, a spokesperson said, “We wanted everyone to understand it wasn’t just us doing horrific things. Everybody was doing horrific things.”
The Museum of Bad Art – Boston, MA
Even horrible art needs a final resting place. Since 1993, this community based non-profit museum has been dedicated to the celebration of bad art. Their goal is to bring what they consider a priceless collection of quality bad art to the widest audience possible.
It’s worked. Sort of. The museum was able to move from the basement of a private home in Boston to the basement of the Boston area cultural institution, Dedham Community Theatre. The museum felt a basement location would best suit the desired ambiance for the collection. Their very first display at the new location hangs next to the men’s room.
Even knowing the artwork is funny, ugly, horrendous, or all three, because of people who won’t admit they enjoy weird stuff, they were successful enough to open a second location in the Somerville Theater in Somerville, Mass., also in a basement. The museum claimed it was the only location they found that met their quality standards.
This describes the art collection in the museum’s own words; “The pieces in the MOBA collection range from the work of talented artists that have gone awry to works of exuberant, although crude, execution by artists barely in control of the brush.”
Mütter Medical Museum – Philadelphia, PA
The only way to describe this place would be as disturbing. While the museum claims to be looking at the past to better the future, it’s pretty hard to get past some of the gross oddities on display.
How would you like to take a gander at a tumor removed from the jaw of President Grover Cleveland? If that doesn’t excite you, how about John Wilkes Booth’s vertebra, or Dr. Joseph Hyrtl’s human skull collection?
No visit would be complete without seeing the Soap Lady, a woman whose body was exhumed in 1875. She underwent a transformation where her body fat turned into a waxy type substance. And lucky you can now see her.
They have Einstein’s brain floating in formaldehyde and the tallest skeleton on record in North America. Warning: Visitors may experience extreme weight loss from a sudden loss of appetite.
Museum of Menstruation – Washington, DC
Yes. It exists. Who isn’t interested in learning the history behind pads, tampons, special underwear, and pre-modern devices of an astonishing nature?
The museum follows the rituals and customs of menstruation throughout history with an emphasis placed on hygiene advertising. They have on display over 10,000 ads from around the world.
Little known facts such as Hemingway drinking from a menstrual cup are revealed to the shock and surprise of visitors. There are no long waiting lines so reservations are never required.
The Spam Museum – Austin, MN
Mystery meat in a can. An entire generation grew up on this stuff, and despite the ever-growing health kick, people are still eating it.
Inside the museum is a mock-up Spam plant where visitors can wear hairnets and white coats while they pretend to be working at the real plant. Gee. Sounds fun.
You’ll be impressed by the 5000 cans of Spam wall. Surprisingly, Spam only has four ingredients but they’ll tell you this and all sorts of other useless information if you pay the admission.
National Museum of Funeral History – Houston, TX
While the museum is enthusiastically attempting to enlighten visitors as to the time-honored profession of being an undertaker, to those not in the business it’s a pretty morbid place. If you are one of the very few interested in the history of embalming or have an interest in the fine art of coffin making, you’ll have a blast.
Ghanaian artist Kane Quaye, a world-renowned coffin designer, has an extensive display. There is a chicken shaped coffin, one that looks like an outboard motor, and a Mercedes Benz. Quaye’s designs are fashioned after the last wishes of his clients, who were extravagant even in death.
These are only six of the hundreds of weird and wacky museums in America. They’re worth seeing just to say you’ve been there.