As you drive through the desert along I-10 you see them–garish signs beckoning you to explore the mystery of “The Thing?” The signs are everywhere, 247 of them stretching from Arizona to Texas. The journey is long and boring, punctuated only by bad country music and Born-Again preachers on the radio. Finally you make it to Exit 322 at Dragoon, Arizona, and see the cheap yellow, red, and blue facade inviting you to stop and see The Thing? itself.
How could you say no? I couldn’t. A long, long time ago, a much younger Museum Junkie felt the siren call of roadside America and pulled over in his 82 Nissan Stanza to find out what The Thing? really was.
Past a curio shop stuffed with plastic tomahawks and The Thing? shot glasses, I entered a back lot with three sheds. The first two were stuffed with dusty displays of fascinating junk, everything from a mock-up of a torture room to a 1937 Rolls Royce supposedly owned by Hitler. There were strange carvings made of roots and driftwood too, and random bits that looked like they were saved from a dumpster behind an antique mall.
But then I spied the yellow trail of Bigfoot prints leading to the third shed. I followed them and beheld in all it’s glory–THE THING?!!!
So what is it? A crashed UFO? A fifty-foot Eiffel Tower made out of jelly beans? J. Edgar Hoover’s drag queen outfits? No! It’s. . .it’s. . .
. . .well, it’s this. A dusty female mummy holding a baby mummy and shyly hiding her geriatric genitalia behind a Chinese hat.
Is it real? This former archaeologist made a thorough examination of it (by staring through the dirty glass) and came up with the professional diagnosis of “maybe”. The face looks pretty fake, making me suspect its a paper mache dummy with a few spare ribs from somebody’s barbecue added for effect, but something made me think twice. Dessicated human remains are fairly common in the Arizona desert, and were even more common back in 1950 when the museum opened.
As an archaeology student at the University of Arizona back in the day, I got to tour the state forensics lab and saw several of these mummies. Some were ancient native Americans, others dated to modern times and were what the lab attendants referred to as JPFROG (Just Plain F**cking Ran Out Of Gas).
Another roadside attraction, The Million Dollar Museum in New Mexico, had several of these things, but sadly they have closed. According to unverified reports (what else would you expect?) the FBI was sufficiently convinced the mummies were real that they hauled them away for DNA testing.
Ancient mummy, cheesy fake, or JPFROG? You be the judge. Go to. . .The Thing?
Or be lazy and watch this YouTube video narrated by Hunter S. Thompson (not really).