Growing up in the Philadelphia area, I found that there was no shortage of museums my school could visit on a class trip. During these museum visits, I remember being honored to be in the same room as items such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, or King Tut’s throne when the King Tut exhibition came to the Franklin Institute.
Museums always have collections of carefully curated relics, but where are all the rejected works of art, the first drafts, the evolutionary oddities, and the historical mishaps? Thankfully, Philadelphia is also home to plenty of museums and galleries that celebrate odd, creepy, and obscure moments in human and natural history.
1. Museum of Mourning Art
Hearse by Sayers & Scoville, on display (M. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia™)
It might seem a bit morbid, but the Museum of Mourning Art takes the eerie history of how people have coped with death and turns it into an educational and thought-provoking topic. Here, visitors can see items that were used during funeral ceremonies, including mourning clothes and jewelry, a horse-drawn hearse, an array of objects engraved with symbolic images of death, and even a lock of Washington’s hair encased in a souvenir ring.
2. Edgar Allan Poe’s house
Have a creepy time at Edgar Allan Poe’s house. (Kae Lani Kennedy)
Edgar Allan Poe’s literary works are known for being spooky, and that is also true of his house in Philadelphia. Though the rooms are bare, park rangers do a wonderful job recounting the challenges that Poe faced while living in this house, including poverty and his wife’s tuberculosis. Fans of Poe’s stories should tour the basement, which is believed to have been the inspiration behind “The Black Cat.”
3. Professor Ouch’s Bizarre Bazaar & Odditorium
Embracing the odd is necessary while visiting this museum. (Brian S. on Yelp)
Professor Ouch’s Bizarre Bazaar & Odditorium, in South Philadelphia, is a gallery of memorabilia, taxidermy, and curiosities that are worthy of any roadside attraction. Walking through Professor Ouch’s Cabinette of Curiosities will cause the entire family to gasp and even laugh at things like “proof” of Bigfoot’s existence.
4. Eastern State Penitentiary
Tour the cell blocks at Eastern State Penitentiary. (Wikimedia)
Possibly one of the spookiest attractions in Philadelphia, the Eastern State Penitentiary is a Gothic castle-like prison, designed by architects who believed that strict solitary confinement was the solution for criminal behavior. During its time as a penitentiary, it was home to such famous criminals as Willie Sutton and Al Capone. Visitors can take a regular tour of the cellblocks or enjoy “Terror Behind the Walls,” a haunted walk held in the penitentiary during Halloween.
5. Mütter Museum
The Main Gallery of Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum (Mütter Museum)
The Mütter Museum is legendary for having creeped out visitors for generations. This museum houses more than 20,000 items and strange artifacts from medical history, including walls of skulls, the skeleton of a 7-foot-6 man, and slides of Einstein’s brain. The purpose of the museum isn’t to gross out the masses (though it does a good job of that) but to study and present evidence of odd diseases and physical abnormalities that have been encountered since the collection began during the mid-1800s.
Get up close and personal with creepy crawlers at the Insectarium. (Insectarium)
The Insectarium, in Philadelphia, is dedicated to all things creepy and crawly. Not only is it a fun way for families to look at bugs, but also they’ll learn about what makes some scorpions glow in the dark and why Madagascar cockroaches hiss. One of the most unique experiences the Insectarium offers is the chance to indulge in what others may consider a delicacy. Here, you can try barbecued baby beetles, chocolate-covered mealworms, and other buggy treats.
Related: 7 Museums for 7 Days in Amsterdam
7. The Stoogeum
Love Larry, Curly, and Moe? Visit the Stoogeum in Philly. (Stoogeum/Facebook)
For fans of the Three Stooges, the Stoogeum is home to thousands of Stooge artifacts, including posters, props from the television show, toys, and games. There’s also an 85-seat theater as well as an art gallery dedicated to the slapstick comedy trio.
8. Pizza Brain pizza museum
The Pizza Brain museum is a slice above the rest. (Pizza Brain)
Known as the world’s first pizza museum, Pizza Brain, containing a gallery and a gourmet pizza shop, celebrates the impact of pizza on pop culture. Among what is considered to be the largest collection of pizza memorabilia are things like pizza toys, movie posters, pizza accessories, and all things that bring up fond pizza-related memories.
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