Now Museum, Now You Don't: Strange American Museums

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When traveling I get a kick out of stopping in any random museums that I may come across. Some are educational, others are laughable, but most all are enjoyable for their own reasons. In fact the next time you pass by a museum, I encourage you to stop in and have a look around. Included are some of the museums I have visited over the last six or so months (however long since I returned from Mexico).

Have you been to any unique or amazing museums? Feel free to brag below ;)


Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum

  Logan, Ohio

The Pencil Sharpener Museum is definitely worth poking your head in, if you should be passing by -- and I do mean "poke your head in." With a total size of about 60 square feet, this is by far the smallest museum I have ever visited. However, it was not my "quickest museum trip" ever (that one is further down on the list).

Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum in Logan, Ohio

Paul Johnson started his collection when he retired in 1988 and eventually amassed over 3,300 different pencil sharpeners in all shapes and sizes. After he passed away in 2010, his widow generously agreed to donate the collection to the Logan visitor's center. Volunteers went out to her house, took numerous photos to record exactly how each pencil sharpener was arranged, and then used those photos after transporting to precisely re-assemble the pencil sharpeners just as Paul had intended.

Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum in Logan, Ohio

As you can see, many look like traditional pencil sharpeners but others are rather unique and much more impressive. Had I been thinking I would have taken better photos of the animal section of sharpeners -- many had pencil insertion points at rather questionable places ;)

View more fun activities in Hocking Hills


Museum of Questionable Medical Devices

  St Paul, Minnesota

Technically this collection is now merely one exhibit among many at the Science Museum Of Minnesota, although it still retains the same name. Like the pencil sharpener museum, this donated collection was originally the brainchild of one man, Bob McCoy, who also happened to pass away in 2010.

Museum of Questionable Medical Devices

Spend a few minutes looking at some of the bizarre contraptions and methodology of late 18th and early 19th century will make you really happy to live in such a modern era. But when I started to see items like a breast enlargement machine from the 1950s, well then it began to sink in that "modern" medicine is only as advanced as the day. Just as now we often think how technology was lacking a few years or decades ago, so too we will soon think that about 2013.

Otherwise the rest of the museum is decidedly family oriented and rather run of the mill for a capital city.

What is the wildest museum you've ever been to?

Kansas Barbed Wire Museum

  Lacrosse, Kansas

After stopping to get gas at some random town in Kansas last summer I noticed a sign for the barbed wire museum and figured I would check it out. Turns out that barb wire is as un-spectacular as you might think. However I did learn two things: 1) there are more types of barbed wire than current years A.D. and 2) barb wire collecting is actually a valid hobby -- but only for residents of Kansas.

Kansas Barbed Wire Museum
Barb wire collecting is actually a valid hobby -- but only for residents of Kansas

I spent more time oogling the crazy pencil sharpeners in the first museum than I did passing through here. However if you have a fascination with ranches or the wild west, this place could be right up your alley.



  Memphis, Tennessee

The Home of the King Of Rock 'n' Roll turns out to only be popular amongst senior citizens and kids under ten. Although entertaining, I was left with only one question: what will happen to this place in a decade, as the current baby-boomin' Elvis-lovin' generation passes on?

Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee

Regardless, the whole experience shed lots of new light on just how awesome Presely was. But as far as museums are concerned, it is definitely can be a pricey one -- they offer different tours based on sights, length, and well, let's be honest, love of Elvis. If you really love him you'll buy the most expensive package ;)

After this trip I now truly appreciate the Paul Simon song Graceland....oh yeah, and Elvis too. Just watch out for those peanut butter and banana sandwiches -- which of course is a specialty in the Graceland cafe ;)


Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Odditorium @ Times Square

  New York City, New York

Definitely more offbeat than obscure, this "museum" will leave you amazed, intrigued, confused, and most likely even a tiny bit grossed out. While the building exterior may not be as wild as some of the other Ripley's locations, inside it spans two massive floors and is a great way to kill an hour or two. If you have never toured a Ripley's museum before, well then you might as well start with what is arguably one of their best.

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Odditorium at Times Square

View more offbeat activities to do in NYC


While these are by no means the strangest museums in the world, they are some of my most recent explorations.

  What's the wildest, scariest, or most obscure museum that you've ever visited?

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Derek Freal

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Derek is a perpetual wanderer, cultural enthusiast, and lifelong traveler. He loves going places where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, as well as places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo (supposedly its healthier and more efficient). Say Hello On Twitter!



0 # Chris Booth 2013-02-12 14:18
Well I always try to hit all the weird museums wherever I visit. In Japan there's the Meguro Parasitological Museum for all your freaky and record-breaking parasite needs, or in Melaka there's the Museum of Enduring Beauty for all your tooth-filing needs, and then there's Munich's Potato Museum which is surprisingly thought-provoking (I've written up on all these places at if you want to delve deeper). These niche museums are pretty awesome. Out of your list I think the barbed wire one feels the most odd though the idea of anywhere devoted to the lowly pencil sharpener is pretty out there...
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0 # Derek 2016-05-15 03:31
The Meguro Parasitological Museum sounds right up my alley ;) I've found some much more strange museums in the years since writing this article, but all the really good and crazy museums are not located in the States hahaha ;-)
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0 # Derek Freal 2013-02-11 22:04
Hahaha oh I bet those museums were a trip indeed Olivia! Sounds like the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices would be right up your alley then ;)
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0 # Olivia - young on the road 2013-02-11 22:00
The museum of medievil torture devices. Been to two, once in Amsterdam and once in Brisbane, Australia. Hehe. I am quite morbid.
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