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Archive for December, 2014

Cryptozoologist of 2014: Bill Munns

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Bill Munns: a name better known in Hollywood circles than cryptozoological ones. Until recently. His career is one filled with awards and accolades for his extensive knowledge and experience in makeup and FX artistry. Emmys and Oscars decorate his shelves for his work on such films as “Mask” and on various Star Trek shows. So why is cyrptozoonews.com giving him their “Cryptozoologist of the Year” award?

Munn has a real interest in cryptids, specifically Bigfoot. He spent seven years analyzing the famous Patterson-Gimlin film (yes, you’ve seen it) and has written his conclusions in a new book, “When Roger Met Patty”. The appeal of his new book to cryptozoologists is not just the exhaustive study he does surrounding all the controversy around the film, but first explaining, then bringing to bear all of his experience as a special effects wizard to be able to authoritatively state that it wouldn’t have been possible in 1967 to create so realistic a hoax.

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Does his book put to rest skeptical claims about the film? Some would say no, that it spends more time on Munn himself, setting himself up as a reliable source of analysis than actually dealing with the facts and allegations in the case. Regardless, it is the first organized collection of responses to the skeptical analysis of the making of the film and as such, a valuable part of any serious cryptozoological library. Here at The Museum of the Weird  we salute you, Bill Munns, for your work in advancing the study of our favorite cryptid!

 


The Real Sideshow Performers that Inspired “American Horror Story: Freak Show”

The tv show “American Horror Story” grabbed our attention, as well as that of anyone interested in sideshow attractions, with their latest hit season “Freak Show”, that follows the travails of a failing traveling circus and its performers. Despite some amount of grousing from clowns, who weren’t pleased by the portrayal of yet another scary clown on the show (sorry dudes, clowns are freaky), overall this season has hit a high-mark for the show according to many fans. But how many of the show’s ‘freaks’ were close to reality? More than you’d think.

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The show’s very creepy ghost of Edward Mordrake, played by Wes Bentley, was based on a real guy (arguably). The real Edward, or at least the apocryphal tale relating to him, suffered from a second face on the back of his head which he claimed whispered horrible things to him at night, and led to him taking his own life at 23.  Many had since assumed the tale too fantastic to be true, but there have been numerous other examples of people born with more than one face, or at least elements of a second one, so it’s not possible to rule out Edward’s tale entirely.

More specifically recognizable is the origin of Pepper, the microcephalic or “pinhead” featured in the show as played by Naomi Grossman, certainly based upon the famous Schlitzie, who appeared in Tod Browning’s famous film “Freaks”.

schlitzie-pinhead-circus-freak

 

Schlitzie actually appeared in another film as well, “The Sideshow” and worked in multiple circuses to great success up until his death in 1971.

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As human mutations go, ectrodactyly fingers aren’t that uncommon; most digit disorders are inherited. But still, a number of sideshow performers became quite famous as ‘lobster boys’, probably none more so than Grady Stiles, whose family had carried the trait since the 1800s, and whose father had worked the sideshow circuit himself. In “American Horror Story”, Jimmy Darling, played by series regular Evan Peters, plays the lobster boy of the show who pays tribute to Stiles not just in sharing the condition, but in referencing the actual convoluted murder plot that involved Stiles’ own family paying another freak to murder him. The actual Grady Stiles appearance is shown in the show’s opening credits, but Evan, who is quite the looker, seems to have more in common with handsome sideshow performer Fred Wilson, who worked in the second half of the 19th century.

1 TWINS WITH TWO HEADS

Polycephalics, or two-headed animals, make their appearance on the show in the form of Sarah Paulson playing both Bette and Dot Tattler, dicephalic twins with two heads and at least the physical appearance of shared everything else. While their story arc seems closer to the famous Daisy and Violet Hilton, two barely-conjoined twins who went on to some degree of vaudeville fame (and appeared in “Freaks” themselves), the Tattler’s joining is considerably more rare and similar to Abigail and Brittany Hensel, pictured above, who had their own reality show recently on TLC.

Of course, many of the actors on the show are real freaks like Rose Siggins, who plays Legless Suzi, Mat Fraser who plays Paul the Illustrated Seal who suffers from Phocomelia Syndrome, and Jyoti Amge, the world’s smallest living woman, who charmingly plays Ma Petite. It’s important to remember that although it can be shocking at first to encounter people who have these rare conditions, that they are people too with feelings just like you. They want to be treated like everybody else and it’s really quite rude to do otherwise. However, I’m sad to report that Angela Bassett’s three-breasted woman on the show doesn’t appear to based on a real person so much as the famous mutant prostitute in the movie “Total Recall”. Recent reports to the contrary appear to be a hoax. I’m afraid I might have some trouble keeping my ‘eyes up here’, as it were, if she were real.


Myth and Legend Became Real in 2014

Many legends are born of historical fact, and become mythologized over time. Never was this brought to light as clearly as in the discovered reality behind the epic poems of Homer. His stories of the Trojan War and the adventures of Odysseus as collected in his “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” were originally assumed to be pure fiction until an amateur archeologist in the late 19th century, Heinrich Schliemann, discovered that its events and places were real. Many monsters were based on mutations, such as the stories of the werewolf may have gotten their origin from sightings of the sufferers of hypertrichosis. Who knows which stories of legend may turn out to have a basis in truth next?

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2014 actually was a pretty big year for legends proving to have some reality context. The website ancient-origins.net put together a list of 10 stories that all broke this year that are certainly worthy of the attention of followers of the weird. Like how about a possible explanation for mermaids? Sirenomelia, a rare congenital condition that causes the lower limbs to be fused, turns out to be a likely suspect for the roots of the mythological creature. Or how about the discovery of the remains of the Hell Hound of Suffolk, a 200 lb dog that broke into a church and killed parishioners before running off into legend? Maybe not just legend, as it turns out. Did you know the Icelandic government this year declared that a giant sea serpent called Lagarfljotsormurinn that lives there is real? Ok, I’m gonna take that one with a grain of salt, but I’ve still got my fingers crossed that one bears out.

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All these and more are discussed on the site in question. This serves as a great reminder to not dismiss out of hand the mysterious, mythological, or cryptozoological. Maybe this time next year we’ll be calling 2015, “The Year we Found Sasquatch”. We can only hope.

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Big Sale at Museum of the Weird/ Lucky Lizard: TODAY ONLY!

Lucky Lizard Christmas Celebration logo (low-res)TODAY ONLY – TUESDAY, DECEMBER 23! Come down to Lucky Lizard Curios & Gifts for our extended annual Christmas Celebration Sale!  That’s right we are extending our weekend sale into one more day, TODAY ONLY!  Today we are offering up to 50% off all day long on almost everything in the shop!  BUT HERE’S THE CATCH:  to get  access to our special sale, you must use the code word: SFANTHOR!

Many unique, handcrafted or one-of-a-kind gifts! 25-50% off

MUSEUM OF THE WEIRD® t-shirts! 20% off

All jewelry! 20% off

FURRY BONES® and all other figurines! 20% off

ARCHIE MCPHEE/ACCOUTREMENTS novelty toys and gifts! 20% off

also:

KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD® t-shirts and merchandise! 10% off

HORROR/SCI-FI t-shirts! 10% off

If you haven’t done your Christmas shopping yet, today is your day to SAVE $$$!


The Bigfoot Gift Guide for the Cryptid-Hunter Who Has It All

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Still having trouble what to get for that cryptid-hunter in your life? There does seem to be a bit of a cap on Bigfoot accessories available. Many of the more popular items you can buy at The Museum of the Weird, located at 412 E.6th St in Austin, TX, so please, come on down and shop in our gift shop! But the point of this post is to hunt down some of the more off the beaten track items. Lets explore Sasquatch gifts for the fan who seems to have it all…

First off, tis the season for outrageous holiday sweaters. Why not make your giftee happy with their very own Bigfoot one?

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This beautiful (?) bit of hirsute holiday habiliment is available over at Archie McPhee. Alternately you’ve got this great one…

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Available from middleofbeyond.com, which make crazy sweaters for lots of different obsessions, including Dungeons & Dragons, Cthulu, Krampus, Gremlins. Zombie Santa. and, my personal favorite to shake up the family at Christmas dinner, Satan. They also make scarves, rugs. t-shirts, christmas ornaments and more using images from these same off-beat topics.

Perhaps your friend is somewhat circumspect about engaging others in conversation about the beast-man. A more appropriate gift for them to admire in the privacy of their own home might be this:

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The story goes that Teddy Roosevelt had a Bigfoot encounter. Of course it probably didn’t go quite like this, but what fun is history if we can’t patriotically embellish it a bit (not sure if this is sarcastic or not)? This beautiful, handmade, 11×17 print is available from Etsy. The store also offers other US Presidents and historical figures fighting various monsters or using them as steeds. I’m partial to Paul Revere on a “Tron” lightcycle.

I don’t like to assume things about people. Like for instance, who am I to say that none of you are close personal friends with supermodel Megan Fox? That would be just plain rude of me. Especially considering that she’s a devoted cryptid fan.

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In an interview for Esquire Magazine, she extolled the virtues of Bigfoot and more…“Would you not be so much more interested in finding out that Bigfoot existed than in watching a really good movie?” she said.

Assuming you’re that guy tasked with buying her something nice, or really anyone who’s got to get something sexy for your lady that espouses her Bigfoot-belief, may I suggest the tasteful…

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What says “I love you” (or, at least, I love your body) better than a “Bigfoot for President” thong? I can’t think of anything (and believe me, I looked for Bigfoot engagement rings). You can pick this up. or the same slogan printed on just about everything else, right here.

You’ve got to decorate your tree, and there are a lot of cryptid-specific ornaments out there to choose from. But let me point out two of the best…

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This lovely fellow is extremely popular and tends to sell out well before Christmas every year, so this might be in prep for NEXT year, but you can pick him up from designToscano.

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Bigfoot rides Nessie. I love it. And on a Christmas star. I think this one is a loch for the perfect christmas gift.

Of course, your friend may not be quite so passive. Do they have a big trip planned this year to Washington State or Canada? You should know that they’re probably planning on traipsing through the woods hoping to catch a glimpse of the fabled creature. Why not help them out with professional Bigfoot hunting gear?

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Roadtrippers.com not only has assembled a list of the best Sasquatch hunting equipment out there, but is even sponsoring a contest where you can win it all!

So there ya go. We here at Museum of the Weird hope that not only will you consider some of our off-beat suggestions, but perhaps as well consider buying some of the items we offer ourselves. For instance, we offer this “Bigfoot Lives” t-shirt that you can see our intrepid leader Steve Busti wearing as he poses next to our “Minnesota Iceman” exhibit.

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We’ve got lots of Bigfoot gifts along with a plethora of downright weird items of every stripe. Come visit us at 412 E. 6th st in Austin, Texas or call at 512-476-5493 to see about shipping options. And have yourself a Merry, Hairy, Little Christmas!

 


Collect ‘Em, Trade ‘Em: New Star Wars Characters Revealed in Throwback Trading Cards

Kylo-Ren: A new Star Wars villain?

Kylo-Ren: A new Star Wars villain?

 

Now how cool is THIS?

Star Wars director J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy have released the names of all the characters from the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer in the most novel, fun and inspired way imaginable — they’ve released a set of retro Topps-style trading cards!

Can you say… Freakin’ AWESOME!!??

Anyone who was lucky enough to have grown up in the late-seventies and remembers all the Star Wars mania of those days — myself included — will instantly recognize the heartwarming feel of nostalgia these cards bring back.  They are almost identical to the original set of Star Wars trading cards put out by Topps back in 1977, even down to the starbursts and numbering system (and yes, according to Abrams those numbers DO have some significance — could they be in chronological order of events from the film?).

Here’s a couple of scans of the original 1977 cards for comparison:

 

Luke

 

Vader

Entertainment Weekly broke the story yesterday with their exclusive release of eight cards, which we have reproduced here in numeric order for your speculative enjoyment.

BB-8
Poe-Dameron
Kylo-Ren
Rey
Finn
Stormtroopers

 

Now for my next question:  will we be seeing the rest of the cards?

Anyone interest in picking up some of the original trading cards should come down to our sister store, Sfanthor! at 1101 South Congress!  We have almost the complete set!

 

SOURCE:  ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ character names revealed (in coolest way possible) — exclusive


Chocolate Skulls and Anatomy Cakes

 

Looking for some stocking stuffers for that Museum of the Weird avid blog fan on your ‘nice’ list this year? Traditionally (in my family, anyway) the stocking is where the sweets went; any kind of sugary sweet that we could immediately shove down our child-gullets was most welcome. I can only assume the plan was that we’d use all that hyper energy tearing open our gifts afterwards and then would crash for an hour or so giving our parents some peace.

These sweets might not be so kid-friendly, but your weird-fans will love ’em.

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Whatcha got right here is a baby skull. A CHOCOLATE baby skull. Because there’s a place for everything and everything has a place. Even chocolate baby skulls. Talk about your niche markets. But Conjurerskitchen.com has got your nichey needs for your chocoholic fantasy cannibal friends. But perhaps the chocolate baby skull is too tame for you. Perhaps you need something a little more wild for your sweet tooth.

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That’s right, CONJOINED chocolate baby skulls. Because, why not? SOMEBODY out there has got to be saying to themselves, “damn, if only I could pop a sweet chocolate conjoined baby skull in my mouth!”. Well hypothetical someone, you can pick up one (two?) of these babies for roughly 80 American dollars a pop. All you gotta do is visit their website and smack your lips at their ghoulishly tasty treats. Heck, you can even get them custom painted with the name of your, erm, loved one. Because it’s not morbid enough as is.

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Lest, I forget, you can also eat Vincent Price’s face. Heaven forbid I leave that one off the list. And I’m not even gonna discuss their ‘CAKES’ section…

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*gags*


The Tomb of Santa Claus

Hey parents, here’s a cheery yuletide story, or even a winter vacation, to give to your kids. Why not take them to Demre, Turkey to see the very grave of Santa Claus! Ho ho ho! Or even better yet, head on over to the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy to see some of his remaining bones (stolen from his grave in 1087 by Italian sailors to protect them from Muslim invaders) where they spontaneously leak a clear liquid once a year said to have miraculous healing powers! Presumably CHRISTMASY healing powers.

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What child wouldn’t be filled with joy to be in the same room with ol’ Saint Nick? He doesn’t have much of a lap left anymore but I think you could probably fit three or four of  the tykes on top of the tomb at once. That’ll get that interminable line moving.

 

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Ok, enough of my Grinchiness. The myth (sorry kids) of Santa Claus evolved from Saint Nicholas who was revered among many different Christian groups. He was a Bishop and a strict Orthodox Christian who was present at the First Council of Nicaea which was gathered to establish the church’s position on canonical law as relating to the Bible, including setting the date of Easter. Thus adding further fire to the great Santa Claus vs Easter Bunny rivalry. Arrgh, just kidding, I’ll settle down…

St Nicholas was a real, erm, saint of a guy according to legend. Apparently he was really into secret gift-giving and many of the stories about him center around this aspect. He also took on a serial child killing butcher and resurrected his victims, but that is given a bit less credence by historians. Regardless. his legend evolved, as legends do and from his Dutch name “Sinterklaas” and Saint Nicholas Day (Dec 5th) celebrated there, mixed with a bit of the Norse Odin, the British Father Christmas, and sizable doses of highly-motivated capitalists, we get the Santa Claus as we know him today in shopping malls across the world!


The University of Texas is Short a Few Brains

That’s the kind of headline that I’m pretty sure is going up in newspapers at rival school Texas A&M, whose rivalry with UT goes back to 1915, a rivalry so well known as to have been featured on a Wheaties box. Lots of jokes almost certainly are currently making the rounds there about a shortage of brain-power and so forth. But the truth behind the japes is pretty weird.

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The Austin State Hospital (an asylum) has been around since the 1800s. From the 50s to the 80s the head pathologist was collecting abnormal brains from his autopsies on mental patients housed there. Forget about all your ‘mad scientist’ imaginings, it was all pretty standard. After gathering about 200 of them, it was decided that space was too limited at the hospital. After a bit of a contest with Harvard Medical School, the brains were donated to UT’s Animal Resource Center. They were looked at as an important research tool, being used to examine how those with mental illnesses brains differed from the normal ones and how such diseases impacted the ol’ grey matter. Included in the batch was even the brain of Charles Whitman, who infamously in 1966 took a sniper rifle to the top of the UT tower and killed 16 people.

In 2013 a photographer, Adam Voorhes, who had found out about the collection, started photographing them and discovered that some of them were missing. And not just a few. HALF of the collection. He and a journalist, Alex Hannaford, began the quest to discover what had happened to them. But there seems to be no small amount of confusion about it.

In the mid-90s, Dr. Jerry Fineg, the Center’s director at the time, asked the collection’s curator, Tim Schallert, to move half the jars elsewhere to make more room. When he went to do so, he discovered the collection was no longer complete. He asked Fineg about it and he reportedly told Schallert that he got rid of many of them, although he never told him where. Why he would have asked Schallert in the first place to move the brains when he already knew he had is another question entirely. Fineg, now retired, was asked where they went and he told the questers that as far as he knew they were sent back to the Austin State Hospital…by Schallert. Schallert of course denies it. The Hospital says when they originally gave the brains to UT was the last they saw of them…and the circle goes ever on.

“I have been racking my BRAIN trying to remember where those brains went and although ASH says they know nothing about them I still believe that is where they went … SORRY.” said the now retired Fineg to Hannaford in a recent email. Not sure why the Austin State Hospital would lie about it…UNLESS THE INMATES ARE RUNNING THE ASYLUM!! Hey, UT, did a guy named Igor come by asking about the brain of Abby Normal?

You can read more about the mystery in the book published by Voorhes and Hannaford, “Malformed: Forgotten Brains of the Texas State Mental Hospital”. Will we ever solve the mystery? I bet Texas A&M hopes we don’t.