Tucked away in the heart of Austin, Texas is the Museum of the Weird. Susan found this museum while searching for things to do in Austin and I’m so glad she did. While it’s a little rough around the edges, it is definitely worth stopping by if you like weird things.
The Museum of the Weird is divided into three parts. The first part is a self-guided tour through a collection of oddities. The second portion of the tour is a sideshow performance. The final portion, if you pay extra for it (more on that later), is a viewing of the original Minnesota Iceman.
The first section of the museum, the self-guided tour, has lots of real and not-so-real items on display. By real, I mean things like a stuffed two-faced calf…
…and by not real I mean things like this fur-bearing trout.
(The fur-bearing trout was of particular interest to me as that is one of the cryptids featured prominently in Robb Shewwin’s game Cryptozookeeper!)
This portion of the museum is very small. If you were to read every placard on every item it might take you ten minutes. If you are into weird things then you will love this stuff. There’s a “real” (?) skeleton, some wax dummies, and a few movie props to look at while you’re here.
At this point we experienced a bit of a traffic jam. Apparently we showed up right as the sideshow performers were changing shifts, which left us stuck in the first part of the museum for roughly 20 minutes. In that amount of time you can see everything in the museum roughly five times. Unfortunately because the space is so small, as other people began entering the museum we were literally trapped and had to stand shoulder-to-shoulder until we were eventually met by our tour guide and escorted to the next portion of the tour.
After leaving the museum we were led past a big monitor lizard (so lethargic that we were never quite sure if it was alive or not), past a small apartment where Johnny Depp stayed while filming What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and into the sideshow performance room. While waiting for the performance to begin, we were encouraged to take pictures with the props placed around the room.
Next, our tour guide took the stage and began talking about sideshow performances. He mentioned the “blockhead” trick which instantly perked my ears as I know exactly what that is. Based on the first part of the tour I was not sure whether to expect a real performance or a trick, but sure enough, within a few minutes the performer (Eric) had pulled out a hammer and a six inch penny nail and proceeded to hammer it up his nostril directly into his sinus cavity!
Once he was done with that he asked for a volunteer from the audience to help him remove it. I’ll give you three guesses as to who ended up on stage…
After giving her some specific instructions (mainly, “don’t wiggle the nail”), Morgan pulled the nail straight out of Eric’s face.
“You might think that’s brains on that nail, but it’s not (snot),” he said. The kids loved that joke.
Over a span of ten minutes Eric hammered a nail up his nose, stuck his hand into a fox trap, attempted to lift a concrete block with his beard (the rubber bands snapped), and finished the show by allowing an audience member to staple a tip to his chest using a staple gun. Did we get our money’s worth or what?
After Eric’s performance ended we were led back down the stairs and into a another room which held THE MINNESOTA ICEMAN. (Cue music.)
I remember reading about the Minnesota Iceman when I was a kid. According to the legend, a hunter accidentally shot and killed what appeared to be… well, an iceman. And it ended up in Minnesota. (Keep up with me here.) The Minnesota Iceman was encased in ice and displayed at carnivals and sideshows across the country for many decades. At one point the FBI examined it due to concerns that a real human being might be encased in the ice but they determined it to not be real. If you’re into cryptids and Bigfoot and tales about such things, the Minnesota Iceman was semi-legendary.
In 2013, the Iceman was sold on eBay. It was purchased by the Museum of the Weird. It was featured on an episode of Shipping Wars, where the Iceman was shipped from Minnesota to Austin, Texas.
The Museum of the Weird does not allow photos to be taken of the Iceman, although a quick Google search turns up thousands to choose from. Compared to older pictures of the Iceman, the ice he is encased in now is much cloudier, making the iceman’s features much more difficult to see. There are pictures online of the Iceman when he was thawed out a few years ago, if you really want to see the details.
To this day people argue whether or not the Minnesota Iceman is “real” or not. To me, that’s not the point. This is the actual box that was toted around the country for decades that people paid money to see. I read about it in books when I was a kid. Seeing the actual signs that were displayed along with the Iceman was super exciting for me.
This is a picture of the Minnesota Iceman that I found on the internet. The ice was nowhere near this clear when we saw it.
Our trip to the museum got off to a rocky start in regards to the admission price. While the website says admission is $8 for adults and $5 for kids, we didn’t read the fine print. It was actually $12 for adults and $9 for kids if you wanted to see the Iceman. We also learned that our kids, ages 9 and 12, are actually adults (the kid prices only apply to children under 8). So, we showed up expecting to spend $26 on and ended up spending $48. To be honest, we were going to let the kids buy souvenirs and we ended up not letting them to balance out the price.
I’ve already had one person ask me if I thought the Museum of the Weird was kid appropriate. My answer would be, “it depends on your kids.” My kids love scary stuff and were fine with all the horror movie props, the sideshow performance, and and the Minnesota Iceman. Know that our sideshow performer let someone from the audience staple a $20 bill to his chest with a staple gun, and it bled. It’s not a place for everybody; I suspect you’ll know if it’s a place for you and yours to visit.
If you’re the type of kid who used to watch (or read) Ripley’s Believe it or Not, stay up late reading horror comic books under the covers with a flashlight, or paid a dollar at the fair to see the “Man Eating Chicken,” then run (don’t walk) to the Museum of the Weird in Austin, Texas. If the thought of seeing a cyclops pig in a jar of formaldehyde or watching a guy stick his hand into a fox trap, this might not be the vacation destination for you.