In the heart of Austin’s famous Sixth Street lies the city’s most curious and mysterious gift shop. In the back of the shop is what some call Austin’s best kept secret…
The Museum of the Weird.
Established in 2005, Lucky Lizard Curios & Gifts began life as a humble brick-and-mortar shop in the heart of the Sixth Street entertainment district in downtown Austin. Mom-n’-pop owners Steve and Veronica Bustigot the inspiration to name the shop from Steve’s beloved pet lizards, which were initially housed in a giant terrarium in the back of the shop. Simone the Iguana and Torgo the Nile Monitor soon became the store’s star attractions. In fact, people would come in just to see the lizards!
Soon after opening, Steve decided to convert an unused section in the back of the shop as a showcase for some of his more, shall we say, “unusual” items.
Shrunken heads. Fiji Mermaids. Suits of armor. And all were for sale.
But it was getting harder and harder for Steve to find those kinds of items. After parting with many rare, one-of-a-kind — and in some ways priceless — artifacts, Steve realized he was never going to get those things back. So he made the decision not to sell the oddities anymore, and instead keep them so he could continue sharing them with the public — but mainly so he can still get a kick out of seeing customers’ reactions to them! And thus the collection began.
Hanging a big red hand-painted sign on the front gate as to announce it’s arrival to the world, the Bustis officially opened the Museum of the Weird in 2007, an homage to the dime museums and cabinets of curiosities of old.
It became an instant hit. Laying claim to the title of “America’s Strangest Attraction,” the museum began to grow both in size and fame, expanding their exhibits while appearing on television shows such as Oddities and Mysteries at the Museum. Lucky Lizard has since grown to become one of the largest retailers of Keep Austin Weirdmerchandise, and the Museum of the Weird draws tens of thousands of visitors each year.
That same hand-painted sign by Steve still hangs on the front gate today, greeting every person that enters our doors. We hope that you’ll visit too!
The Museum of the Weird is one of the last true dime museums in the United States. Originally introduced to the mass public by P.T. Barnum in the 1800s, dime museums became popular forms of entertainment (and pseudo-education) around the late 19th to early 20th century, and were also the birthplace of the sideshow. The Museum of the Weird includes such curiosities as you might have found in one of those old dime museums — authentic freak animals, real mummies, fiji mermaids, shrunken heads, and life-size wax figures of historic sideshow celebrities (including Barnum himself). These are just some of the many more oddities to peruse in our hallowed halls. The Museum also explores paranormal subject matter like local haunted places and the Texas Bigfoot. We even have a classic movie monster Chamber of Horrors, including a life-sized King Kong you can have your photo taken with!
The mission Steve had in mind when opening the Museum of the Weird was not only to preserve this disappearing part of Americana — the dime museum, the sideshow, and roadside attractions — but also to give people the chance to wonder again. Could this artifact be real? Or is it a clever fabrication (or in carny terminology, a “gaff”)? Are these stories true, or are they simply concocted tales to entertain, frighten and amaze us?
We won’t tell you. We want you to decide.