Back in May, I attended Contact in the Desert. For the uninitiated, it’s a fantastic weekend of Extraterrestrial research and interesting guests and speakers, regardless of whether you believe in alien life. At a Meet and Greet, I was lucky enough to meet researcher Nick Redfern. He was proudly wearing a shirt for the Museum of the Weird. Intrigued, I asked him where the Museum was. He replied Austin. This was super fortunate, as I recently relocated to just outside of Austin, Texas.
The Museum of the Weird is very easy to miss in the drunken debauchery of the infamous 6th Street. Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World, as many signs in the airport will tell you, and it’s easy to be distracted by the various types of music sailing out of every type of bar imaginable. For those who love the weird already, The Museum of the Weird is right next to a bar called The Chupacabra and another called The Jackalope. These are great places to get a burger and beer before you descend into the depths of true awesomeness. Keep walking past the Jackalope and you will see The Lucky Lizard Curios & Gifts Shop. Stop and enter the gift shop; The Museum of the Weird is in the back.The fantastic staff at the front is pure Austin, TX; they are polite and many have tattoos and piercings. They are also super friendly and happy you’re there and will guide you to the back after you purchase a ticket. Pictures are highly encouraged.
The Museum of the Weird begins with a walk through self-guided tour. Attendees are treated to a few gaffs (or fake side show items created to shock), wax figures of famous figures like famed Conjoined Twins Cheng and Eng, and a large statue of a Rockabilly style model of the devil that guards the exit. Around the corner, one is warned that now you are getting to the good stuff; the real bodies. For those of us who are a little more sensitive, you will be able to tell what is real and what isn’t almost immediately. There are elongated skulls, mummies from South America and shrunken heads, all complete with instructions of how they were created. To create a shrunken head, one must remove all the bones inside (usually by smashing the head around to break the skull), sew up all orifices and fill with heated sand. The hot sand shrinks the head, but leaves the features intact. Don’t try this at home kids.
Rounding the corner, one sees a large fake model of Bigfoot peeking through the trees. Impressions of footprints of various sightings are displayed with information regarding the creature. Did you know Texas is one of the premiere Bigfoot hunting states? I didn’t. Then, one gets to the bizarre animal taxidermy. Creatures with two heads, or two bodies and one head are lined up in a case together. Some are real, some I’m not so sure. The room also includes some props from horror movies and a door up to a tour of the rest of the building.
In the backroom, just before the tour, one will see the skeleton of a woman propped up in a coffin. I’d love to show you the picture I took of her, but it didn’t survive the trip. Let me explain. John, the tour guide, told me about the skeleton. She had been found in an old Odd Fellows Lodge and sold without too much hesitation. That’s when things got weirder.A few psychics and anthropologists have supposedly come to inspect her, but most reports are conflicted. No one seems to know who she was or where she came from, but she sure as heck loves cell phones and seems to be a jokester. John encouraged me to introduce myself to her and say hello. I did so.
“Watch your phone,” John warned as I took a picture. “She loves to send text messages and is obsessed with emojis.” Per John, she once highjacked a woman’s text message and inserted every flag option inside the emoji menu. She’s been known to take pictures on instagram and post them, all while the users phone appears to be locked. I took multiple pictures of her cheerfully and thought nothing else of it. She hadn’t appeared to do anything during our conversation. Later as I was going
through my photos of the Museum, the 5 pictures I’d taken of her were all blanked out on my phone. Not deleted, just blank files under the photo menu. She also deleted one of the pictures in front of the Museum itself. Evidently she doesn’t like her picture being taken, but she’s happy to play with yours.
As mention, John was my tour guide. He is also a performer. Born with shortened arms, John grew up in the Midwest before heading out the first chance he got. He will happily tell you about his times in New Orleans, as well as the trap doors,
Johnny Depp living behind the Museum of the Weird for a time and his skill set. While most people will look at John and just see his arms, they will miss his real talent; channeling electricity. Remember in the Addams Family when Uncle Fester would light a light bulb just by placing it in his mouth? Yeah, kind of like that. Seriously kids, don’t try this at home. As I was lucky enough to go to the Museum during the middle of the week, I was on the tour all by myself. Pro-tip: go during the week, but not during SXSW. John told me about how when he was a kid, he was responsible for removing the electric dipstick from the car when they couldn’t reach the wall plug because he didn’t get shocked. In fact, he further discovered his skills after messing around with electricity at a party later in life. He happily showed me how he can light up a light bulb,
hold onto an electrified cord without being shocked and even put the wire into his mouth briefly. He says that the wire in the mouth trick gives him a mild buzz and helps reduce his anxiety. The tour guides here work on tips or by having you purchase a poster from the Museum that they will happily sign. Don’t worry if you don’t have cash; they are happy to take credit cards too.
The Museum of the Weird is found at 412 East 6th St, Austin, TX 78701. Street parking is encouraged, although there are a few structures in town to park in.
Tickets are $12 Adults, $7 Kids under 8 or $18 Adults, $10 Kids under 8 if you want a combo ticket for the Museum of the Weird and Sfanthor House of Wax.
It’s always free to go into the Lucky Lizard Gift Shop at the front of the Museum.