From found art made of body parts to collected medicines in tin cans, the United States is a haven for offbeat little museums. If you’re a fan of the odd and headed off on a cross-country road trip, here are 15 of the strangest museums in America you must check out.
1. Hobo Museum – Britt, Iowa
In the sleepy town of Britt, Iowa lies an unique museum dedicated to the history of homeless people and drifters. Hobo artifacts, mannequins and souvenirs of burlaps help visitors understand the stereotype behind train hoppers. Arts and crafts courses are made available for little ones to make their own train whistles or hobo cups (because after all, we have to teach kids to chase their dreams). Oh, and the admission is only $3, cheap enough for any hobo to afford.
2. National Mustard Museum – Middleton, Wisconsin
Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon? The answer is yes if you’re at National Mustard Museum, where the world’s largest collection of mustard jars can be viewed. After browsing over 5,676 mustards from more than 70 countries and various historical eras, you will never look at a sandwich the same again. And don’t you dare ask if they have any ketchup on display.
3. Idaho Potato Museum – Blackfoot, Idaho
Before you say “spud-gettaboutit!”, give this odd museum a chance. Anchored by a giant outdoor monument to the humble spud, it’s a hard place to miss. Here you will learn about the history of Idaho’s ginormous potato industry and how the spud is processed. You can gleefully participate in potato trivia and absorb the art of growing and harvesting potatoes. And if all this hullabaloo over potatoes starts to get a bit weird for you, well what did you expect — you’re in Idaho!
4. History of Diving Museum – Islamorada, Florida
Tucked away in the Florida Keys, this kitschy diving museum is loaded with antique diving gear and equipment that’s available for the public to view. You can learn about the many successful (and not so successful) attempts to explore the undersea world over the last several centuries. When browsing through the strange assortment of extraterrestrial-like diving outfits, you’ll know where H.G. Wells and cheesy horror flicks from the 50s got their inspiration for their perfect monsters.
5. International UFO Museum – Roswell, New Mexico
This one is a mecca for conspiracy theorists and other believers of unidentified flying objects (and their alleged inhabitants). UFO lectures, replicas of aliens (matching the description of several people who claim to be abducted by our flying friends), and artifacts that supposedly prove their existence are all found inside this museum. And as if this doesn’t make you paranoid enough, you can learn a thing or two about preparing for possible UFO invasion. Let’s hope our non-earth friends come in peace.
6. Morbid Anatomy Museum – Brooklyn, New York
For $8 a head (alive and not on display), you can venture inside this museum of oddities. Antique anatomical wax models of bodily organs, taxidermied animals, and post-mortem Victorian photography will satisfy (or give nightmares to) the weirdo in you. This museum also houses a morbid library for morbid people with their morbid interests to learn about every morbid thing there is to know. Be careful not to drop while you shop in their souvenir store — after all, they might find good use for you in the museum.
7. Pez Museum – Burlingame, California
Northern California, land of fresh produce, fine Napa wine, verdant mountains and…Pez? In the suburb of Burlingame, just outside San Francisco, this museum houses a ridiculous collection of over 900 antique Pez heads ranging from Looney Tunes cartoon characters to Marvels’ villains. Zorro? Big Top Elephant-Flat Hat? Creature From The Black Lagoon? You name it, they have it.
8. Vent Haven Ventriloquist Museum – Fort Mitchell, Kentucky
Want to get unlucky in Kentucky? Head over to this horrifying museum adorned with dolls that you could have sworn were watching you behind your back. Learning about the history and art of ventriloquism and how the dolls are made may help you face your fears (that is, if you get out of this museum alive).
9. Neon Museum – Las Vegas, Nevada
This is the place where old Las Vegas signs go to die. This outdoor museum (or boneyard as the locals call it) sadly displays the signs like discarded toys that used to inhabit a child’s bedroom. This is your chance to catch a glimpse of the old Sin City that shone in the faces of Elvis or Liberace. It’s recommended to book a tour at night — that way you can see the neon signs in action.
10. The Museum – New York, New York
This little-known secret museum in the heart of the Big Apple is located inside an abandoned elevator shaft. In order to get in, you have to contact the curators in advance — only then will they give you the secret address. Once inside the tiny claustrophobic 60-square-foot space you’ll be amazed at the odd collection of toothpaste tubes from around the world, potato chip bags, and a shoe once thrown at President George W. Bush during a press conference.
11. Natural Museum of Funeral History – Houston, Texas
Founded in 1992 in the Texan city of Houston, the Natural Museum of Funeral History should put a little hair on your chest. Here you will learn about how death is mourned or celebrated around the world, and about ever-changing burial rituals. Embalming tables, a hearse on a carriage, and elaborately decorated coffins will have you realizing the effort it takes to part with someone forever. Au revoir.
12. Skunk Ape Headquarters – Ochopee, Florida
Near the tropical city of Naples in Florida, the small town of Ochopee (please don’t pee yet) proudly boasts a Skunk Ape research facility and museum. You can find artifacts believed to be evidence of this ape’s existence and tons of research documents. If that doesn’t convince you, you can embark on a personal tour of the forest, or take a ride in an air buggy in the swamp for possible Skunk Ape sightings. Oh, and the price is only $500.00 for the tour (for that price, they better hire someone to put on a gorilla suit and hide out in the swamp).
13. Apothecary Museum – Alexandria, Virginia
In historic Alexandria, where Robert E. Lee once romped around, a very well-preserved apothecary is open to the public. You can find antique tins and bottles storing cocaine, tonics and other old medicines you would never dream of consuming these days. After this tour, it’s guaranteed that you’ll find yourself at home, clutching your Ibuprofen bottle and being thankful for modern medicine.
14. The International Cryptozoology Museum – Portland, Maine
Sasquatch, Feejee mermaids and two-headed taxidermied creatures will have you questioning “what if?” This cabinet of curiosities harbors so many objects of conspiracy theory, plus the “scientific” evidence to back up the museum’s claims (including fecal matter from a supposed yeti). Before you leave the premises, the museum will ask you to make a generous donation to their cause before you can say “Ogopogo.”
15. Leila’s Hair Museum – Independence, Missouri
Hundreds of delicately decorated wreaths made from the hair of celebrities from Michael Jackson to Queen Victoria can be found in this small museum in Independence, Missouri. The owner of this hair-raising establishment, Leila Cohoon, has spent a huge portion of her life scavenging for antique hair art. And not a hair is out of place.