Now, we all know one of those people. Several, probably. The ones who just seem to know everything, the ones we turn to whenever we have an obscure trivia question. That is, before Google existed, back when people actually used to talk to each other.
These people are handy to have around, for sure. If you’re watching a quiz show or you’re having a quiz at work or something, you want these super-smart souls on your side. Even so, though, it’s important not to overestimate them. Nobody knows everything.
There’s always more to learn, out in this wide world of ours. That’s a lot of the allure of travel, the opportunity to grow as a person and discover new and enriching experiences at every turn. Along the way, too, lots of us like to soak in a little culture and local history. A great place to combine all these things? A museum, that’s where.
You’ve probably already been to a lot of the bigger ones. The natural history museums and those sorts of things. They tend to be huge deals, tourist-wise, so you’ve probably got that covered.
But how about the world’s quirkier offerings? Fossils and ancient artefacts are all well and good, but how about an underwater museum? A hair museum? An instant ramen museum? Even a blood-curdling museum of vampires? You can find all of these wonders around the world (that’s Cancún, Turkey, Japan and France respectively, for those), and in this rundown, and that’s just the start of it. Brace yourselves and let’s dive in.
25 WEIRD: Sulabh International Museum Of Toilets, India- Respect The Porcelain Throne
We all tend to take certain things for granted in our everyday lives. The humble toilet would be one of them. There we are, doing our usual business (spraying a little air freshener afterwards, if we’d been to Taco Bell or somewhere the night before), not thinking about just where in heckola we’d be without our good old WCs.
Fortunately, there’s a place you can stop off to show your appreciation for all things toilet-related: the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets in New Delhi, India. Here, you can wonder at items pertaining to over 4,500 years of toilet history. “From simple chamber pots to elaborate decorated Victorian toilet seats, you’ll see it all,” Time promises. Consider me sold.
24 WEIRD: Beijing Tap Water Museum, China- Water, Water Everywhere
On that toilet-related note, we’re off to China next, where dwells a museum dedicated to another under-appreciated bathroom essential: tap water.
Beijing’s Tap Water Museum is built on the site of the Beijing City Water Supply Company, which was founded in 1908. It’s a tap water extravaganza, right here, celebrating a century of Beijing tap water. Inside, you’ll find… well, taps, water, and everything related to taps and water. The curious thing is that, as all Beijing residents know, drinking the water from their faucets is all kinds of a bad idea, but does this deter anyone from the wonderment of the Tap Water Museum? You’re dang skippy it doesn’t.
23 TOO STRANGE: The Mummy Museum, Mexico- I Want My Mummy!
Our next stop is Guanajuato, Mexico, a small mining town that’s home to one of the strangest museums you could ever hope to visit.
Guanajuato is a protected World Heritage site, and subject to some unique environmental factors. These factors caused the exhumed 19th century bodies (residents who couldn’t pay the burial tax the town demanded) to be naturally preserved, as National Geographic reports. This motley assortment of bodies (young, old, male and female) was put on display at the Museo de Las Momias, better known around the world as the Mummy Museum. It’s not an attraction for the faint-hearted, that’s for darn certain.
22 WEIRD: British Lawnmower Museum, England- How Very British
Ah, yes. This is more like it, friends. If the idea of those creeptastic mummies on display had you feeling some kind of way, how about this? The beautiful, clichéd image of suburbia: well-kept lawns, maybe trimmed into the shape of flamingos or something pretentious like that.
Images like this abound at the British Lawnmower Museum in Southport, England. It’s home to a fully-functional, 5cm lawnmower (I don’t want to think about what beauticians might do with that), along with mowers that belonged to some of the country’s richest and most powerful people (Prince Charles and Princess Diana among them).
21 WEIRD: The Bread Museum, Germany- Nope, You Can’t Eat The Bread
While I’m on the subject, do you know what else is criminally underappreciated? I’ll tell you, friends: bread, that’s what. It’s just astonishing how many different types of bread there are, and how many different ways it’s used. Where would we be without bread? Not on a darn planet I want to live on, that’s for sure. Bread means dough, and dough means pizza.
On that note, I think a visit to the Museum of Bread Culture in Ulm, Germany is in order. Bread is a crucial part of people’s diets all around the world, and it’s celebrated in this 400-year-old building that contains over 16,000 bread-related artifacts. But no actual bread, as Atlas Obscura reports, because, “The museum’s website states: Bread itself does not form part of the collection, reflecting the museum founders’ firm belief that bread is not a museum artefact, but a food, freshly baked each day.”
20 TOO STRANGE: The Kansas Barbed Wire Museum, USA- Don’t Touch The Exhibits
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never seen barbed wire as the most welcoming of things. It’s more a stay the heckles away, or you’ll make a pincushion out of your delicate squishy bits sort of material.
Be that as it may, though, there is indeed a museum dedicated to the stuff. In La Crosse, Kansas, you can visit a collection of over 2,400 different varieties of barbed wire (and here I think thinking ‘darn spiky and hurty’ was the only variety), according to Time. Along the way, you’ll also learn about the vital role it played in the development of communities in the United States.
19 WEIRD: The International Cryptozoology Museum, USA- Holy Yeti, Batman!
While we’re in America, it’s definitely worth a trip over to Portland, Maine. This is the home of another super unique museum, this time dedicated to cryptozoology.
Now, you can probably see the problem here. Cryptozoology is the study of creatures like the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot. Pure, verified evidence of their existence is… well, we’re still waiting on that. Nevertheless, the museum has a huge collection of artifacts and other pieces, supposedly related to these mythical creatures.
If you’re a fan of these sorts of stories, why not pay the museum a visit? Even if you aren’t, you may be surprised what you end up believing.
18 WEIRD: Instant Ramen Museum, Japan- A Student’s Paradise
Ah, yes. That super-convenient lunchtime lifesaver. You know that feeling, when you’re in a desperate rush to eat? You throw something in the microwave, bolt it down and hurry on your way. That’s the whole reason for breakfast bars and the like. We just don’t make the time for meals anymore.
Praise instant ramen, then, I say. If you agree with that sentiment, there’s only one place I can recommend to you: The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Ikeda City, Osaka. The city is the birthplace of this instant snack food, and the museum is named after its creator, Momofuku Ando.
17 TOO STRANGE: Cancún Underwater Museum, Mexico- What, Down THERE?
If you’ve had the pleasure of visiting Cancún, you’ll know what a beautiful little slice of the world it is. Located on Mexico’s easternmost point, it’s a huge tourist draw, boasting some important remnants of the Maya civilisation (at El Ray, for instance).
More important than that, in this context, the city also boasts a stunning underwater museum. Museo Subacuático de Arte was constructed in 2009, and consists of over 500 life-sized sculptures at home on the sea floor. It’s not just a novelty, either, as it doubles as a habitat for marine life. You can snorkel or take a glass-bottomed boat ride to check it out for yourself.
16 TOO STRANGE: Avanos Hair Museum, Turkey- My, Grandma, What A Lot Of Hair You Have
It’s that age-old story. Boy meets girl, girl has to leave, gives boy a lock of her hair for him to remember her by. Years later, boy has a huge, super-peculiar hair collection he keeps in a grim little cave.
Beautiful stuff, just beautiful. The boy in question is a potter, Chez Galip, and the collection is found in the small Turkish town of Avanos. Over the years, female visitors have taken a lock of their own hair and added it to the ever-growing collection.
If conventional natural history museums and art galleries don’t really do it for you, you know where to come to.
15 WEIRD: Salt And Pepper Shaker Museum, USA- Ah, Push It (Push It Real Good)
Hopefully someone out there appreciated that reference in the headline. I amused myself, at least. Moving right along, though, we’re actually talking about a very different salt and pepper here.
You know how it is with rich people. They’re able to afford collections most of us mere mortals could only dream of. Sports cars, salt and pepper shakers, whatever takes their fancy. Andrea Ludden, an archaeologist from Belgium, went with the condiment shakers, and so the museum was born.
The establishment in Gatlinburg, Tennessee was opened in 2002. It boasts more than 20,000 different salt and pepper shakers, arranged in categories (including Foods, Drinks, Cats and Dogs and so forth).
14 TOO STRANGE: The Museum Of Broken Relationships, Croatia- Now That’s A Downer
It’s a sad inevitability that we’re all going to experience some heartbreak over the courses of our lives. That’s just how life works. This isn’t a Disney movie, where little cartoon bluebirds land on our shoulders and sing all the time.
Break-ups are some of the toughest life events we face. And how do we face them? Well, that depends on the person. Some of us like to hide away and sing along to Avril Lavigne albums, some want petty revenge, and others… well, ‘donate’ their stories to the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia.
“Visitors are encouraged to donate artifacts from their own broken relationships as “a chance to overcome an emotional collapse,” Time reports. “You’ll see obvious artifacts — rings, clothing, Valentine’s Day gifts — but you’ll also spot some stranger remnants like fuzzy pink handcuffs or a wooden watermelon.”
13 WEIRD: The Plastinarium, Germany- Things Mankind Was Never Supposed To See
As a general rule, if your life proceeds relatively smoothly, you’re never likely to see any of your own internal… well, squishy bits. Certain professions and/or devious crimes aside, you’re not likely to see anybody else’s either. If you’d like to keep it that way, I don’t recommend visiting Germany’s Plastinarium.
Gunther von Hagens developed a controversial-yet-fascinating process called plastination, in which tissues are preserved through the use of polymers. This gives us a super-grim glimpse at human (and animal) anatomy.
Tour this institute in Guben, if you’re brave enough, to see preserved bodies in all sorts of imaginative poses, intended to show just what the human body is capable of.
12 WEIRD: The Paris Sewer Museum, France- It Smells A Little Down There
For many around the world, the simple name of Paris evokes all kinds of romantic and beautiful images. There’s a reason it’s known as the city of love, after all, and a global centre of culture and sophistication.
That’s just one side of the story, though. If you’ve toured Paris’ Sewer Museum, you’ll know that it’s not quite so glamorous down there. The city has offered guided tours of the sewers since the late 1880s, and the Musée des Égouts de Paris was part of that proud tradition. Here, visitors learned about methods of water treatment, what sewer workers do, and the history of the sewers from their creation to the present day.
11 TOO STRANGE: Vent Haven Ventriloquist Museum, USA- Is That You, Chucky?
As a huge horror movie fan, I do not know what to make of this. Dolls are one of the biggest horror tropes of all, and it’s a little played out in my eyes. Nevertheless, those Chucky memories live on, and I’m not sure I appreciate this.
There’s something just a little wrong about ventriloquist dummies. If you don’t have any such qualms, though, you can head on over to Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, where the Vent Haven Ventriloquist Museum awaits. The dolls number in the hundreds, and are the collection of one William Shakespeare Berger.
The museum hosts the annual ConVENTion (I see what they did there, and I liked it), a gathering for ventriloquists and enthusiasts from all over.
10 WEIRD: Museum Of Enduring Beauty, Malaysia- Well, That’s Just Beautiful
Now, this is a question that the internet had had all kinds of fun with: what is beauty? What does it really mean? Part personal opinion, part social construct, there’s really no answer to this one. All kinds of people have tried, though.
That whole idea is central to our next stop, the Museum of Enduring Beauty in Malaysia. It’s found on the third floor of the Muzium Rakyat (People’s Museum), and is dedicated to body modification and the various practices that some cultures deem to be beautiful.
With arresting selections of photographs on display, depicting things from tooth-filing to lip rings, it’s quite an experience.
9 WEIRD: The Dog Collar Museum, England- These Were No Pampered Pooches
These days, the rise in furbabies has seen the line between pet owner and parent blur beyond distinction. Which is, granted, nobody’s business but the owner’s/parent’s themselves. Nobody asked for the internet’s judgment.
If Kent, England’s Dog Collar Museum teaches us anything, though, it’s that dogs didn’t always have it so easy. The museum is located in Kent Castle, and includes a collar from the 15th Century, which was intended to protect hunting dogs’ necks from bears. Other collars exhibited are more decorative like those of today. Not forgetting those that cliché punk characters used to wear in cartoons and such.
8 TOO STRANGE: The Museum Of Vampires And Legendary Creatures, France- Just A Little Bit Spooky
Okay, Paris, you can stop this now. We’ve seen the grim sights that await in your sewers, we don’t need a vampire museum as well. Oh, you’ve got one for us anyway? As I say, I’m a huge horror fan, so I guess I’ll hop on in anyway.
This next museum displays the collection of Jacques Sirgent, an expert on the occult and general super-spooky folklore. On display are antique vampire-related items (including a kit to combat them), collectibles from Hammer Films, mouldy old books on the subject, and various other fascinating items. If, you know, this sort of thing is for you.
7 WEIRD: The Ninja Museum of Igaryu, Japan: Silent But Fascinating
When it comes to popular culture and inherently ‘Japanese’ characters, two specific flavours come to mind: the samurai and the ninja. Both of which are rooted in historic fact, of course, and both have inspired all sorts of shows, video games, movies and books.
If you want some further, authentic knowledge on the subject of ninjas, you’ll want to head over to Iga. There, the Igaryu Ninja Museum awaits. They stage mock-battles using historically accurate weapons, display ancient ninjutsu texts, and hundreds of genuine artifacts. Not many museums are given official cool points, but I think you’ll agree that this one deserves several.
6 WEIRD: The Museum Of Anthropology And Ethnography, Russia: The Most Curious Curiosities You Ever Saw
The next stop on our world tour is Russia, for a visit to one of the oldest museums in the world. The Museum Of Anthropology And Ethnography was founded by Peter the Great, and largely consisted of interesting items of his own choosing. Everything from stuffed animals to unusual instruments were added to the collection - the fruits of Peter’s travels around the world.
In 1718, he established the Kunstkammer (chamber of art) to store all of these curios. Anatomist Frederick Ruysch contributed some grim specimens, too, all in the name of combating the people’s superstitious fear of monsters. Again, a strong stomach is needed in some places.
5 TOO STRANGE: Meguro Parasitological Museum, Japan- My, Grandma, What A Large Tapeworm You Have
Over the course of this rundown, we’ve seen all manner of museums. We’ve covered everything from dog collars to ventriloquist dummies and broken relationships. We’re not quite done yet, but it’s been a darn wild ride so far.
Some museums, however, take a rather more scientific approach. Back in Tokyo, Japan, a small and unassuming little building houses a display as interesting as it is kind of frightening.
The Meguro Parasitological Museum is dedicated to the life cycles and variety of parasites in the natural world. There are thousands of books, papers and samples, but the big-ticket item is the perfectly-preserved 29ft tapeworm.
4 WEIRD: McDonald’s Big Mac Museum, USA- Educational And Tasty
So, yes. If all that talk of 30ft tapeworms made you hungry (well, I, for one, doubt I’ll ever eat again after that, but to each their own), let’s head on back to the United States. It’s burger time.
The McDonald’s Big Mac Museum is located in Pennsylvania. As you’d probably expect, it’s packed with McDonald’s memorabilia, and interesting information about the birth and growth of the brand.
As Rough Guides reports, you can also find the world’s biggest Big Mac there, but (probably luckily) it isn’t real. Fast food fans in the area will probably want to check it out.
3 WEIRD: Currywurst Museum, Germany- What’s The Wurst That Could Happen?
Nope, I’m not going to apologise for that pun. I’m just going to hop straight over to Germany to our next museum.
Currywurst is a German dish that usually consists of spiced, sliced sausage with curry ketchup and french fries. Knowing how seriously the German people tend to take their sausages, you’d probably expect that there’d be a museum somewhere in the country dedicated to currywurst. Well, good job, friend.
Berlin’s Currywurst Museum, as Rough Guides reports, sports a sausage-shaped sofa, a station that plays sausage-themed songs and a spice-sniffing station. Because sausages aren’t just for the holidays, they’re a way of life.
2 TOO STRANGE: Museum Of Food Anomalies™- Welcome To Strange Cyberspace
Up to this point, we’ve only been looking at museums in the physical sense. Actual bricks-and-mortar buildings. That’s an outdated way to look at things in this online-heavy world of ours (as unfortunate retail stores are finding), so let’s head into the modern world for a moment here.
That’s right. The Museum of Food Anomalies™ is located entirely on the internet (right here, actually). The website describes the collection of images as “an online exhibition of the Art of Regular Food Gone Horribly Wrong,” and that’s exactly what it serves up. Deformed pickles? Faces in peppers? You’ll see it all right here.
1 TOO STRANGE: Bran Castle, Romania- Hi, Is Dracula Home?
Of all the places in all the world to have a museum, Dracula’s castle is probably as imposing as it gets. Still, this is the sort of thing that has horror fans from all over the world flocking to your gift shop.
That’s right. Bran Castle in Transylvania may be frequently referred to as the home of Dracula, but that’s not to say that Bram Stoker actually made that decision. Or even knew of the castle’s existence, come to that. Nevertheless, a legend has built up around Bram castle, and it’s now a museum hosting a collection of Marie of Romania's prized furniture and the like.