Gadling’s 13 stranger than strange sites for Friday the 13th

Happy Friday the 13th! Tributed to being an unlucky day thanks to wives tales, religion and mythology, this is a day when people might think about altering their travel plans. The thought is, why push your luck? Franklin D. Roosevelt was one such person. He never traveled on the 13th. He even died on April 12, 1945. That, my friends, was on a Thursday. That is kind of strange, no?

In honor of a day that’s associated with strangeness, here is Gadling’s list of 13 top stranger than strange sites from around the world. They are not in any order of strangeness. You decide which one ought to be number one. All of them are places we’ve either been to, written about or both.

Even though this is photo is of a Friday the 13th in February, it fits the theme.

1. Baked Bean Museum of Excellence, Port Talbot, Wales

Perhaps a museum dedicated entirely to baked beans is not that strange. (Oh, come on. Of course it is.) What’s more strange than the shelves of 200 items attributed to baked beans is the owner, Captain Beany. In a benevolent strange sort of way, he is baked bean colored–kind of. Plus, he wears a cape. If you go to the museum, you’ll get a certificate saying you were there.

2. Berkeley Pit, Butte, Montana

The Berkeley Pit is strange enough that it was once the subject of a Daily Show segment. This enormous body of toxic water–7,000 ft. long, 5,600 ft. wide and 1,600 ft. deep in Butte, Montana is a result of the town’s copper mining history. Now a tourist attraction as well as a Superfund site, a good look only costs $2. How toxic is the water, you wonder? How toxic does this sound? Back in 1995, a flock of snow geese migrating from Canada landed on the water and died. Scads of them, as in 342 or more.

3. Checkpoint Charlie and Maurmuseum, Berlin, Germany

Even though the Berlin Wall is no more, the museum that started out in a two-room apartment near “Checkpoint C,” the most famous gate in the wall that once stood between East and West Germany, is still there. Check Point Charlie is where foreigners and diplomats were allowed to cross between the two Berlins.

The private museum tells about the history of the Berlin Wall and what went on at the checkpoint. The strangeness comes from the idea that an Iron Curtain existed –and the feeling one gets while reading about the various stories of people’s escape attempts-some successful, and many not. I was there before the Berlin Wall came down. Some of those stories still give me the creeps.

4. Creation Museum, Petersburg, Kentucky.

Even though I’ve passed the billboard to this museum many a time, I haven’t gone here–yet. This museum is dedicated to the idea that the creation story as written in Genesis is word for word true. What about dinosaurs, you ask? Well, according to some of the museum’s exhibits, dinosaurs and people walked the earth at the same time. As strange as this museum may seem, it is no rinky dink establishment, but one of those museums with state of the art interactive displays.

5. Hall of Horns, Buckhorn Museum & Saloon, San Antonio, Texas

Although there are more than one oddball section of this attraction in San Antonio, Texas, one of them stands out as the strangest– the Hall of Horns at the Buckhorn Museum. Even though it’s been years since I bellied up to the bar in the saloon for a Lone Star beer here, I can’t get the images of walls filled with trophy mounts out of my head. There are 1,200 of them from 520 different species. This horn collecting started back in 1881 when the bar first opened. People could bring in antlers for a free shot. My favorite for strangeness in this museum isn’t a mounted trophy, though. It’s the chair made entirely out of horns that looks strangely comfortable.

6. Haunted Prison, Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania

Another gives-a-person -the creeps place is this 1880s prison camp. Set up as a penal settlement and a timber station in 1830, prisoners from Britain were shipped here. This historic site is made up of old houses, cell blocks and even an autopsy room that visitors can wander through. Although Mike attests to its super creepiness, he also pronounces it super cool.

7. The Heidelberg Project, Detroit, Michigan

“Brightly-painted doors, shopping carts, shoes, telephones, old signs, tires, scrap metal, and rusted appliances form a surreal landscape of discarded relics from people’s lives” create an alternative version of abandoned neighborhoods in Detroit. Conceptualized by Tyree Guyton and created by children and artists in the neighborhood, this outdoor art project is Katie’s version of strange. What’s also strange is that people who don’t like it have set the project on fire from time to time. What’s not strange is that whenever a section is burned, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, art is added to it to transform blight into beauty once more.

8. House on the Rock, Spring Green, Wisconsin

The House in the Rock is one of those sites that is almost beyond words. Scott does a fine job encapsulating in this Gadling post why this creation of Alex Jordan’s is one of the strangest places he’s been. As Scott explains it, every inch of this place is filled with something to gawk at and wonder about on a do-it-yourself kind of tour. From what Scott describes, it sounds like each area of the multi-faceted building is bursting with all things wild and wonderful. I’m wondering about that “car with a heart shaped spa tub, towing a pyramid filled with elephants.” Scott snapped a picture of it. Yep, it’s strange alright.

9. Longwan Shaman Amusement Park, Changchun city, China

This park may not be any stranger than any other amusement park except that it has the world’s largest penis. Don’t you think this is a strange centerpiece for an amusement park? According to what Willy found out, the structure celebrates the area’s shamanistic culture. I guess that’s as a good a reason as any to have a 30-ft phallus made out of steel and straw.

10. Mao Zedong’s Tomb, Beijing, China

At Tienanmen Square, inside a mausoleum situated so you can’t miss it, is a crystal coffin similar to what Sleeping Beauty had while she awaited her prince. Inside the coffin, looking totally unkissable, lies Chairman Mao Zedong. If a “pickled” former head of state available for public viewing isn’t stranger than strange, than what is? Along with Mao’s dead body that looks as if it’s shrunk over the years so that his head seems out of proportion to the rest of him–seriously, he doesn’t look right regardless of the fact that he’s dead–the timbre of the experience adds to the oddness. There’s no talking, no stopping, and no moving out of the single file. The scene is one where creepy organ music would be fitting. (I’ve seen Ho Chi Minh as well, but Mao looks stranger–and so was the experience.)

11. Museum of Broken Relationships, Croatia

This is not a museum you have to go to Croatia to see. Broken relationships may be coming to you. This traveling show, created in Croatia, was last seen at Singapore’s Fringe Festival. Featuring items from people who have suffered from a broken hearts, the collection is a mishmash of love letters and objects from relationships that turned into sad, sad, tales of loss. One of the strangest items on display is a leg prosthesis that was donated by a war veteran. He had the misfortune of falling in love with his physiotherapist.

12. Museum of Forensic Medicine, Bangkok, Thailand

Located in Siriraj Hospital, this museum gets high marks for pairing the ick factor with strangeness. What will you see if you go to this museum? “Elephantiasis testicles, severed heads, Cyclops babies, murder weapons, blood-stained clothing, hanged corpses” etc., etc, etc.

13. North Korea

If you haven’t read Gadling alumni Neil’s posts on his travels to North Korea, do. Neil’s whole trip was filled with strangeness. Because Neil is not that strange, I’m assuming that the strangeness came from the country. If you’re in doubt about this, please read Sean’s open letter to Dear Leader Leader, Kim Jong. In addition to having one of the strangest world leaders, North Korea has Traffic Girls. Armed with white anklets, whistles and batons, these women whom Neil found fetching direct Pyongyang’s few automobiles.

For more Friday the 13th lore check out this article in The Valdosta Daily Times. That’s where I found out about FDR.

Ventriloquist museum and convention pays tribute to dummies

There’s a museum in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky that is a reminder that if you have a passion about something, collect it. If the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence isn’t proof enough, check out the Vent Haven Museum. Across the Ohio River from Cincinnati is collection of ventriloquist dolls that says if you have hundreds of a particular item, people will come. I found out about the museum in this New York Times article.

As a person who heads to northern Kentucky often, the museum is now on my places to see list. Someone in my mother’s family had a Charlie McCarthy doll that looked similar to the real deal that Edgar Bergen used in his act. The museum pays tribute to Bergen and has Charlie McCarthy as part of the collection.

The collection also pays tribute to creativity and kitsch. Click through the museum’s Featured Figures page on the Web site for a look-see into the breadth of the collection. To visit the museum, contact the curator, Lisa Sweasy. Click here for appointment information. As a note, the museum is only open from May 1 until September 30.

If you’re interested in picking up some ventriloquist tips yourself, head to the Vent Haven ConVENTion July 15-19. Professional and amateurs come here every year to develop skills and share know-how.

Also, Roadside America has a wonderful write up that recounts a visit. One of these days, I’ll have my own version. The lovely photo is of Jerry Mahoney, another dummy great.