Photo Credit: Museum of the Weird’s Official Website
Befittingly you can find Museum of the Weird in the city that prides itself on its weirdness and insistence on keeping it that way. So when I was in Austin for a day and had some time to spare, said museum was an immediate addition to my agenda.
Museum of the Weird is not a big museum by any means, and if you’re not paying attention, you might just blink and miss it while walking down 6th street. It’s definitely a tourist destination as the gift shop full of Austin-related knickknacks and other tangentially-related weird things is the first thing you see upon walking in. Make your way to the counter where there’s an option to buy a combo ticket for both the Museum of the Weird and a wax museum (that’s located down the street). I was time-limited and opted for just the museum. For $12, you get to see the alleged Minnesota Iceman, some exhibits on oddities and aptly named freaks of nature, and a side-show performance by the tour guide.Although $12 may seem a little steep for a museum that perpetuates itself as the last of the dime museums, I found the admission to be money well-spent.
The Iceman exhibit did not allow pictures, but I’m not sure pictures would have done it justice. Whatever that creature is—although the guide is quick to point out the easily discernible teeth and hand—it’s, for the lack of a better word, weird. According to our guide, the Iceman was the inspiration for the museum’s owner’s interest in the weird and freaky. So if there is anything that is natural about this museum, it’s the fact that Iceman ended up here of all places.
After the Iceman, our tour guide took us through the back of the tiny building and up winding stone stairs to the showroom, a showroom with a small stage for performances and punctuated with a giant King Kong display.
My guide was John, who demonstrated the side effects of a chemical imbalance that causes a non-reaction to electricity (if I’m paraphrasing his explanation correctly). Basically, I, and a few other folks, watched him hold a live wire while a volunteer held up a light bulb to his skin. It was one of the freakiest, albeit fascinating, sights that I have ever witnessed. And it was definitely no trickery, as John offered for audience members to gently poke his hand. I was brave enough to do, and man, it huuurt. Maybe I’m a wimp, but the shock left me with a stomachache that lingered for the better part of an hour. Shows how much voltage he had running through him!
After the show, I perused the exhibits—do take care if you come with a big group as the exhibits line small hallways. The exhibits cover a range of odd topics including Big Foot, mutant farm animals, the Fiji Mermaid, voodoo items (which I didn’t pay too much attention to, admittedly thanks to a bad, inexplicable experience I had at NOLA’s Voodoo Museum several years ago), alleged hauntings, fortune tellers, etc. I had to laugh at some of the Yelp reviews for this place. Some folks apparently came with the expectation that museum = actual, bonafide artifacts. Yes, because there’s TOTALLY a real [Big Foot, ghost, Fiji mermaid] waiting to be put on exhibition. While some of the artifacts are genuine (some of the mutant animals, voodoo items and the fortune-telling machine), others are renderings. And frankly, that’s ok with me because the museum does do a good job introducing folks to some common folklore in the world of the strange and odd.