Friday, August 21, 2009

Haunting Museums; The Strange and Uncanny Stories Behind the Most Mysterious Exhibits, by John Schuster


I think I'm as grounded in reality as most people. Occasionally I enjoy a ghost story or two. I'm not into horror movies or Stephen King. I'm talking about the inexplicable stuff that happens here and there. When I saw this in the library, I thought it would be the typical "strange things happen and 'paranormalists' investigate" kind of fluff reading. It doesn't start out that way however.

This book is a collection of brief accounts by various authors, and they each revolve around a particular museum or an exhibit in a museum. I love museums. I don't get to wander through them much anymore, (I know I should take my kids, but honestly, what good do they get when they are just pulling me through at warp speed without any chance to absorb anything?) but this book was like taking a "Highlights Tour" of museums around North America and Great Britain. The first stories have interesting trivia (dinosaur exhibits with the wrong head on, the "curse" on Greek statuary in a British museum, how a Nauvoo LDS temple Sunstone was acquired by the Smithsonian, the Cardiff giant hoax, and how two lions temporarily stopped the construction of a railroad in Africa) and the stories get more and more weird as you read the book (a medical museum with a piece of Theodore Roosevelt's mouth tumor, a rare book gallery with the Voynich book which no one can determine if the strange letters are in code or just nonsense, Lizzie Borden's house/murder scene turned bed and breakfast amongst many others). Some stories I'd heard before like the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, and Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis having a swastika on the propeller. I would expect ghost sightings at a former prison or even a decommissioned warship, but I didn't expect ghost sightings at a natural history museum in Lehi, Utah. Ghosts in a natural history museum? What?

This was a fun book. It made me want to go find an old spooky museum and just hang out. Knowing me, I wouldn't see anything. I'm just too dull a person, even for dead people, to hang out with.

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