Two days ago I had begun to tell the tale of how the museum came about (you can read it here), but I mainly focused on our gift shop, Lucky Lizard Curios & Gifts. Today I’ll continue to explore how our gift shop eventually gave birth to the Museum of the Weird. As I mentioned earlier, my concept for Lucky Lizard was to be a curiosity shop of bizarre oddities for sale, mixed in with more merchandisable items like t-shirts, postcards, etc. Well, as I found out, it was not an easy task to consistently stock a gift shop full of unusual, one-of-a-kind objects for sale, mainly because after you’ve tracked some cool item down, purchased it and then put it on the shelf for resale, once you sell that item it is gone and you’ll never get it back — ever. I’m not talking about some antique or collectible that, although possibly rare and valuable, there were probably hundreds or thousands of its kind in existence. No, I’m talking about an object that there is nothing else like it in the world, a true one-of-a-kind. After selling off several really cool things (and later regretting it), I decided maybe I could just display the remaining items in the shop, but mark them “Not For Sale”. Well, in the back of the store I had a large glass display case that I was using as a terrarium to house two large lizards, my 15 year old iguana Simone and a 10 year old nile monitor I dubbed Torgo (bonus points if you can guess where the name came from. Hint: MST3K). After realizing people kept coming in to the store just to see the lizards, and not buying anything, I jokingly thought “gee, maybe we can start charging admission!” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it might not be a bad idea. After all, we did have a large section in the back of the store that was not really being used, and I probably had collected enough strange and unusual objects that we could actually make a small “museum” (actually more the size of a sideshow than a legitimate museum) and the lizards would be the main attraction. So I took the remaining NFS items from the store, and began my search in earnest for even more strange exhibits for my Freakatorium. In the beginning, besides the lizards I only had three star attractions to display: a one-eyed cyclops pig that had been freeze-dried and mounted; a shrunken head I had on loan from a collector; and a fiji mermaid. While still a miniscule collection, I felt it was enough to open to the public soon as a small sideshow attraction. I originally wanted to call it “The Freakatorium,” but had found out there already was one in NYC owned and operated by Johnny Fox (I think it has since closed down). I knew that Austinites already considered themselves “weird” — our city’s unofficial motto is “Keep Austin Weird.” So I decided to capitalize on the popularity of the slogan and named it the “Museum of the Weird.” Now, all I had to do was build it… and see if anyone would come!
TO BE CONTINUED! FRIDAY: Part 3 of The Origin of the Museum of the Weird!