Monday, December 16, 2013

Bizarre Museums

I stumbled upon an article about strange museums in the United Sates and I have actually been to one! And then I found one about bizarre museums in Europe! So I combined the two for y'all.

United States
Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia, Burlingame, CA
Gary Doss has spent more than 20 years collecting these candy dispensers and now displays every PEZ ever made—over 900 (Image above). Rare PEZ include the donkey-head model made for President Kennedy, the “Make Face” akin to Mr. Potato Head with interchangeable parts, and a Mary Poppins. The gift shop sells all things PEZ, both new and vintage models, and the same building houses the Banned Toy and Classic Toy Museum.

Devil’s Rope Barbed Wire Museum, McLean, TX
Barbed wire has been used to keep people out since the mid-1880s. But at Devil’s Rope, visitors are welcomed in to learn about one of the most useful inventions for the pioneering American landowner. Housed in a former bra factory just off historic Route 66, the museum’s exhibits include patent information (there are more than 450 on the books), collections from private wire collectors, and warfare wire.

National Museum of Funeral History, Houston, TX
Funeral director Robert Waltrip realized a lifelong dream in 1992 when he opened this institution dedicated to the care of the deceased. Must-sees include the Vatican-approved pope funeral trappings, the largest collection of Ghanaian fantasy caskets outside of Africa (in crab, cow, and car shapes), funeral memorabilia from celebrities including Michael Jackson, Elvis, and Marilyn Monroe, and 19th-century mourning clothes. It’s also the place to brush up on the history of embalming.

The Hobo Museum, Britt, IA
Housed in the former Chief Theater, the Hobo Museum celebrates the vagabond lifestyle, which happens to have a stringent code of ethics. It’s full of drifter memorabilia from the likes of Frisco Jack, Connecticut Slim, and Hard Rock Kid. Hobo crafts, art, photographs, and documentaries depicting the unorthodox way of life are also on display. It’s brought to you by the Hobo Foundation, which hosts an annual convention in town.

Leila’s Hair Museum, Independence, MO
Don’t expect to find Mesopotamian curling irons or Cher’s wigs. What you will see is real hair—and lots of it—fashioned into art. Leila Cohoon, a retired hairdresser, has lovingly collected 600 hair wreaths and more than 2,000 pieces of human hair jewelry dating back to the 18th century. One pair of wreaths features strands from two sisters whose heads were shaved upon entering a convent. Notable personalities including Michael Jackson, Queen Victoria, and four presidents have also made contributions.

Bigfoot Discovery Museum, Felton, CA
Yeti. Sasquatch. Bigfoot. It doesn’t matter what you call the hairy creature. What does matter to museum founder Mike Riggs, who has collected hominid data for more than 60 years, is that you keep an open mind. His findings include video footage, audiotapes, and a local map with pushpins marking over 150 sightings. Riggs firmly believes Bigfoot is alive, well, and a resident of the Santa Cruz area. And after a stop here, you just might, too.

SPAM Museum, Austin, MN (yes, I have actually been there! Went when we were in Minnesota in 2011)
Hamming it up comes naturally to this museum, described on its website as M.O.M.A.: Museum of Meat-Themed Awesomeness. Did you know that more than 100 million pounds of Spam were shipped oversees to our troops in World War II? Or that a girl band called the Hormel Girls toured the country to promote the glorious gelatinous pork? These are just a few of the morsels you’ll learn about while in Austin, a.k.a. Spamtown (Hormel is headquartered here). Johnny’s SPAMarama Restaurant is conveniently across the street.

Apothecary Museum, Alexandria, VA
With items like dragon’s breath and unicorn root, this 18th-century pharmacy might be mistaken for a Harry Potter movie set. Beyond the remarkable anthology of herbal botanicals, handblown-glass jars, and medical equipment, the archival journals at the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop give a glimpse into both the bizarre and commonsensical aspects of colonial-era medicine. The shop shuttered in 1933 after being operated by a Quaker family for generations.

Museum of Bad Art, Dedham Square, MA
So bad, it’s good: artistic creations that would never see the light of day anywhere else are proudly displayed here. Yet this museum has its standards in curating “distinguished” dreadful art. Whether it’s by a talent who had an off day or a beginning painter with crude strokes, each piece has to have a special quality to meet the standard of “too bad to be ignored.”

International Banana Museum, Mecca, CA
“The Banana Museum puts a smile on peoples’ faces every time,” says founder Ken Bannister. Since the early ’70s, he’s gone bananas for the tropical fruit, amassing more than 18,000 items of bananabilia, from a banana-shaped putter to a seven-foot-tall banana popular for photo ops. He sold the world’s largest collection of a single fruit to a new owner in 2010—the equally enthusiastic Fred Garbutt—who serves banana smoothies and dresses in banana-themed clothing at the newly installed nonalcoholic bar within the museum.

Medieval Crime Museum, Germany
The charming medieval city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, located in the Franconia region of Bavaria in Germany, has become a tourist hot spot. But one of its chief attractions is decidedly not charming: the Medieval Crime Museum (above), which is dedicated to the horror of the Dark Ages. It’s full of creepy exhibits and instruments of torture, including the Schandmaske—a mask of shame made for public humiliation and ridicule. Each mask is designed to fit its victim’s crime (one mask on display even has a muzzle shaped like a pig’s snout). There's also a torture chair for bakers who sold undersized loaves of bread and a spinning Catherine wheel that victims were strapped to during public execution.

Petrified Forest of Lesbos, Lesvos, Greece
Greece's Petrified Forest of Lesbos has been declared a protected monument of nature. The protected zone covers an area of 150,000 acres and includes hundreds of fossilized conifer trunks and fruiting trees. Volcanic materials blanketed the forest more than 20 million years ago, which caused it to become petrified. Now, as the volcanic material erodes away, the beautiful colors and patterns of the stone tree trunks are exposed.

Lighthouse for Rent, Croatia
Croatians have taken the modern-day hostel and transformed it into a unique experience with their rented lighthouses, which stretch along the Adriatic coast from Istria to Dubrovnik. For only $55 to $85 a day, visitors can spend the night in a private lighthouse on an isolated island. But the stay definitely isn't as glamorous as it might seem: Visitors report that the sheets are changed only once a week, and tourists need to bring their own water and supplies if they want to avoid drinking the reservoir water.

Avanos Hair Museum, Turkey
Thirty years ago, one of Chez Galip’s friends left town for good. Before leaving, the woman left him a lock of hair for him to remember her by. So the Turkish potter and artist created the Avanos Hair Museum under his pottery shop in Cappadocia. Since then, most women who visit the museum leave locks of their hair—labeled with their addresses—behind. The museum is filled with more than 16,000 hair samples, which adorn every surface but the floor.

Dracula's Castle, Transylvania
Vampire lovers who find themselves in Transylvania might want to swing by Bran Castle, which is marketed as the home of Prince Vlad of Wallachia, aka Vlad the Impaler, the man who inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula. Located in the village of Bran on the border of Transylvania and Romania, the castle was the second-most expensive property in the world and valued at $140 million, according to a 2007 Forbes article.

Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine
At the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, daring tourists who aren't afraid of a little radiation can learn every detail of the Chernobyl nuclear accident and its effect on those who lived and worked around the area. Visitors will see a nuclear reactor, the ghost town of Pripyat, and the “red forest”—where nuclear radiation caused surrounding pine trees to turn a reddish orange. There is also the Chernobyl Museum in Kiev.

Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb, Croatia
Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić first conceived the idea of the Museum of Broken Relationships when they combed through their collection of tokens and gifts they had exchanged during their relationship. They decided to exhibit them and asked their friends to contribute their own collections. Over the years, they created a huge collection of items donated by divorced couples. Lingerie, toothbrushes, clothes, wedding dresses, and dental floss are among the items on display in the museum.

Have you been to any crazy/strange museums? 

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