Talk about a museum that lives up to its name…
Okay, I should’ve known what I was getting into, visiting the Museum of the Weird on Dirty Sixth Street in downtown Austin. I expected weird, but turns out "Austin Weird is some next-level weird. And I loved it.
The front-end of the museum is a cool and kitschy gift shop. The museum entrance is in the back. It’s a small, multi-roomed space, filled with all sorts of wonderful and amusing oddities, such as a furry trout, a mummy skull, and lots of Bigfoot paraphernalia. Oh, and a whole human skeleton that was found in a yard sale. There were around eight other people in the museum with me, making for some tight quarters, but it was fun being able to gawk at everything with strangers.
In the back of the museum, beside a animatronic from the movie Gremlins (so cool), was a roped-off area that I wondered about. A museum staff member came to tell us that the next tour would be in fifteen minutes. A tour?! So we all hung out, kind of awkwardly waiting for this mysterious tour to begin….
*SPOILER ALERT*: If you have not yet visited the Museum of the Weird and are planning to (and you like weird stuff, which you must), I recommend not reading what happens next and just experiencing it for yourself.
Our tour guide appeared through the roped off area, introducing himself as Saul Ravencraft. After a brief intro, we followed him out of the main museum area and into a red-lit stone courtyard, open to the sky. He began the tour by pointing up some stairs to a second-story door in an attached building. He said this was Johnny Depp’s apartment during the filming of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. I thought that was interesting, but weird… but of course the weird was just beginning.
We then followed him into what I can only describe as a garage. A cold, dark garage with signs forbidding photography or filming “due to the controversial nature of this exhibit.”
We filed in and took a seat on a couple benches. We faced an old TV, on which Saul played a short video that looked like it was recorded on a 1980s VHS. It told a brief history of an Iceman — half-human, half-something-else, encased in ice — that disappeared for a time and is now strangely in this garage, available for us to see. Well, that explained the cold! When the film was over, we were invited to come up to view the Iceman.
We exited the garage and next went to a wax museum that featured awesome and realistic replicas of classic horror movie creatures, including Frankenstein, Dracula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, King Kong and more. Saul was knowledgeable, giving a history of the horror genre as we walked through the museum halls.
On the last leg of our tour, we followed Saul into what I believed to be Johnny Depp’s apartment, but now I’m not so sure. Behind the door was a small classroom-like space with chairs and a desk at the front. Saul asked us to be seated. I wasn’t sure what was happening until he started asking us what we thought about “subliminal messages.” Ah, a magic show perhaps?? He did a cool mind trick with a fellow in the front row. For his main trick, he picked two people from our small audience, to read their minds. I was one of them, naturally. Well, I don’t know how he did it, but Saul correctly guessed the name of a friend I was thinking of, and the name of a place the woman beside me was thinking of also. I got to hold some cool crystals in the process too. Bravo, Saul!
And that concluded the tour and probably the weirdest experience I’ll ever have at a museum.