A nod to the odd: the 10 weirdest museums in America.
 Mutter Museum
WHAT: Possibly the strangest, most fascinating display of historical medical specimens imaginable.
WHERE: Philadelphia, PA
HOW IT STARTED: The Mutter grew out of an 1850s-era collection of instructional exhibits for doctors in training.
HIGHLIGHTS: A tumor removed from president Grover Cleveland, a piece of John Wilkes Booth's thorax, and the conjoined liver of Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker.
DID YOU KNOW? A person can choke on practically anything. One popular Mutter exhibit contains drawers full of objects removed from gagging patients' throats including collar buttons, hair dips, safety pins, diaper tabs, jacks, and skate keys.
CONTACT: 215-563-3737; collphyphil.org/site/mutter_museum.html
COST: $14; $10 for 6- to 17-year-olds and seniors
 National Mustard Museum
WHAT: More than 5,300 mustard containers and 1,000 pieces of mustard-related memorabilia from 79 countries.
WHERE: Middleton, WI
HOW IT STARTED: "I began collecting jars of mustard on October 28, 1986, at 2:30 a.m.," says founder Barry Levenson, who hails from Boston. "I couldn't sleep because on the 27th the Red Sox lost the World Series. I didn't know what to do, so I went to the grocery and just walked up and down the aisles. I had a moment in front of the mustards--and that's how it all started."
HIGHLIGHT: NMM houses the only jar of mustard to appear in the U.S. Supreme Court.
DID YOU KNOW? Shakespeare loved mustard. He mentions it four times in his plays. He never once mentions ketchup.
CONTACT: 800-438-6878; mustardmuseum.com
 Cockroach Hall of Fame
WHAT: A collection of both live and dead critters amassed by exterminator Michael Bohden.
WHERE: Plano, TX
HOW IT STARTED: Launched as a publicity stunt to attract more customers to his extermination business, the collection was featured on CNN, Johnny Carson, and other shows. Eventually the museum eclipsed Bohden's business.
HIGHLIGHT: "Libe-roachi," (pictured above) a musical diorama that includes a piano, candelabra, and a cockroach dressed as the famously flamboyant piano player.
DID YOU KNOW: There are roughly 4,500 species of roaches, only 30 of which are associated with human habitation.
CONTACT: 972-519-0355; pestshop.com/cockroaches. html
 Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers
WHAT: More than 20,000 shakers of all makes, kinds, and origins.
WHERE: Gatlinburg, TN
HOW IT STARTED: "When I was young, my mother's pepper mills kept breaking," says Andrea Ludden, curator. "When one broke, she would put it on the windowsill and get a new one. As they accumulated, friends and family began to give us theirs, and the collection just grew!"
HIGHLIGHT: A salt shaker made from the ashes of Mount St. Helens. It's shaped like the volcano, of course. When you open the top, it resembles the "after" photos.
DID YOU KNOW? Many people share Ludden's obsession. There's a club for collectors of salt and peppershakers. To join, visit saltandpepperclub.com.
CONTACT: 888-778-1802; thesaltandpeppershakermuseum.com
COST: $3; 12 and under free
 Museum of Bad Art
WHAT: Plenty of museums are dedicated to good art, says Permanent Acting Interim Executive Director Louise Reilly Sacco, but this museum strives to be different. To make it here, it's not enough to lack talent; you have to be, um, special. "We're looking for something bad in interesting or new ways," Sacco says.
WHERE: Three locations in the Boston, MA, area.
HOW IT STARTED: Founder Scott Wilson noticed a painting lying in a trash heap as he walked home one evening. Planning to scrap it and sell the frame, Wilson was convinced by a friend to hold on to the thing. Today, the museum houses more than 600 pieces of art.
HIGHLIGHT: Don't miss the original inspiration for the museum, the rescued-from-the-trash painting "Lucy in the Field with Flowers."
DID YOU KNOW? If you're a bad artist, you're in good company. Consider joining the online club at bad-art.org.
CONTACT: 781-444-6757; museumofbadart.org
 New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
WHAT: The institution celebrates the religion of voodoo and how it helped create the unique city where it originated. "To understand New Orleans you must understand voodoo," says Dr. John, spiritual advisor at the museum (and no relation to the musician).
WHERE: New Orleans, LA
HOW IT STARTED: The museum grew from a collection of memorabilia associated with Marie Laveau--the matriarch of New Orleans voodoo--and was assembled by founder Charles Gandolfo.
HIGHLIGHT: An alligator head "ju-ju" that stands guard over the entrance to ward off evil spirits.
DID YOU KNOW: Contrary to popular belief, voodoo dolls were never designed to inflict pain on a practitioner's enemies; they were used for medical recordkeeping. The color-coded pins let doctors know what previous ailments the patient had and how they were treated.
CONTACT: 504-680-0128; voodoomuseum.com
COST: $7; $5.50 for seniors; $4.50 for high school students; $3.50 under 12
 Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum
WHAT: A 5,000-square-foot tribute to coin-operated machinery, ranging from turn-of-the-century gypsy fortune-teller machines to nickelodeons and pinball games--more than 1,000 machines in all
WHERE: Farmington Hills, MI
HOW IT STARTED: The museum's founder, Marvin Yagoda, began collecting gadgets and gizmos back in the 1960s. When a new food court was being installed in a local mall, Yagoda stuck a few of his machines in the back as a novelty. "From there, it just grew and grew and grew," says Yagoda.
HIGHLIGHT: The animatronic chicken tic-tac-toe machine.
DID YOU KNOW: The first vending machine was invented 2,000 years ago by Hero of Alexandria. He invented a holy-water-dispensing machine. A coin was dropped into a slot at the top and would fall onto a tray on a lever. This would pull the stopper out of a bottle of the blessed water and fill the patron's vessel with the proper amount.
CONTACT: 248-626-5020; marvin3m.com
COST: Admission is free; machines cost from a quarter to $2 to operate
 Museum of the Weird
WHAT: With no single theme, this place is a smorgasbord of all things strange--shrunken heads, movie monsters, two-headed animals, and more. "Basically, we're out to give you the willies," says manager Danielle Wilson.
WHERE: Austin, TX
HOW IT STARTED: Founder Steve Busti started with a gift shop specializing in odd and eccentric items. Then things just got out of hand.
HIGHLIGHTS: The Bigfoot exhibit and live tarantula and lizard displays.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Most nights visitors can enjoy live side-show acts by sword swallowers, fire-eaters, and the like.
DID YOU KNOW? A Soviet scientist, Boris Porshnev, suggested that Sasquatch could be a surviving Neanderthal. To which most scientists would say, "Uh-uh."
CONTACT: 512-476- 5493; museumoftheweird.com
 Museum of Questionable Medical Devices
WHAT: "Medicine changes overtime," says Kate Clover, the museum's collection gallery manager, "and practices that are questionable now were standard in the past. Crazy stuff continues to happen, and this exhibit provides examples of why it's important to stay informed and be skeptical."
WHERE: St. Paul, MN (inside the Minnesota Museum of Science)
HOW IT STARTED: Bob McKoy founded the museum as a way of "exposing nonsense and pseudo-science while advocating rational living and humanist ideals."
HIGHLIGHT: The psychograph, a 32-prong machine that measured skull shape and size and then ranked the subject's personality, talents, and intellectual abilities with a score from one to five.
DID YOU KNOW? The popularity of patent medicines peaked in the mid-19th century in Britain. At one time there were 1300 such cure-alls being sold--the majority of which contained alcohol or opium.
CONTACT: 651-221-9444; museumofquackery.com
COST: $11; $8.50 for 12 and under and 60 plus
 Museum of Pez Memorabilia
WHAT: Aside from the exhibit of every Pez dispenser ever sold to the public, there are two other toy-related shows; one showcases toys that have been continuously made for 50 years or more, and the other displays banned toys.
WHERE: Burlingame, CA
HOW IT STARTED: "This used to be a computer store," recalls founder Gary Doss. "About 15 years ago, I decided to bring in my Pez dispenser collection to give customers something to look at while they were waiting. They were so popular that they took over the store within a year. I haven't sold a computer since."
HIGHLIGHT: From the "Ban ned Toys" exhibit, check out the "lawn darts." The heavy projectiles may have caused as many 7,000 injuries before being outlawed in 1988.
DID YOU KNOW: The name Pez comes from the German word for peppermint, pfefferminz.
CONTACT: 650-437-2301; burlingamepezmuseum.com
COST: $3; $1 for 4- to 12-year-olds and seniors X
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|Publication:||Saturday Evening Post|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2011|
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