The 10 strangest museums around the world

Are you brave enough to have a trip from the bizarre to the macabre to the silly?

1. Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, Hólmavík, Iceland

This tiny museum is set in a small town on the Westfjords peninsula, which explores a chilling period in the 17th century when over 100 convicted witches – the vast majority men – were burned at the stake. The big draw is a pair of necropants – a replica of magic pants made of human skin – and artefacts include runes, spells and skulls. On a serious note, this museum has important things to say about the human inclination, as seen throughout history, to persecute those they see as ‘other’.

2. The Museum of Bad Art, Massachusetts, USA

This glorious museum is located in a ramshackle basement under a theatre, which celebrates bad art – and the sincerity and enthusiasm of those who ‘persevered despite things going horribly wrong’. Starting with an artwork found in the trash, the museum has gained international renown to the point where there have been two thefts. The founders say that most applicants don’t get in because their work isn’t bad enough; a lack of skill isn’t enough – the work needs to be compelling too. Even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

The 10 strangest museums around the world

Charlie and Sheba, The Bad Art Museum
Anonymous/ The Bad Art Museum

3. Siriraj Medical Museum, Bangkok, Thailand

Nicknamed “The Museum of Death”, this macabre collection of five small museums is not for the faint-hearted –being greeted by the skeleton of the founder may clue you in for what’s ahead, but nothing prepares you for the displays. These include babies with genetic disorders, various parasites (including a metre-long tapeworm), the bodies of people who have had violent deaths, and, to top it all off, the startlingly mummified remains of a serial killer who ate children in the 1950s. On the plus side, the museums have a serious purpose, providing a valuable learning resource for medical professionals and students.

4. Avanos Hair Museum, Avanos, Turkey

It sounds weird – a cave in rural Turkey adorned with the locks of hair of over 16,000 women, along with their names and addresses – and it is, but apparently this museum began as a stunt by a potter wanting to promote his workshops, and visitors are still invited to leave their own clippings. However, twice a year a ‘winning’ entrant is invited for an all-expenses paid stay at the attached guesthouse, along with a pottery course – so far so creepy – but the winner is chosen at random by a visitor – so maybe not. You decide.

The 10 strangest museums around the world

A cave filled with women’s hair clippings
Nevit Dilmen/ Creative Commons

5. KunstKamera, St Petersburg, Russia

Founded by Peter The Great in 1714, this is the oldest museum in the world as well as one of the oddest. Although Peter’s extensive collection of malformed children and dissected body parts in formaldehyde was intended to educate people that abnormalities were cased by quirks of nature, not demons, modern-day viewers may find it all a bit ghastly. If so, head for the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, in the same building; displays of clothing and artefacts chart the history of different cultures from around the world.

6. The Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb, Croatia

Started by two artists, this museum displays the sentimental objects left over from broken relationships, and the accompanying stories of betrayal or loss lift these often everyday objects from the mundane to heart-rending. Exhibits range from the tragic to the bizarre, ranging from a single sock and a prosthetic leg to a diamond ring with the simple inscription “S(he) be(lie)ve(d)”. A second branch has just opened in Los Angeles- fittingly in Hollywood, the very place of broken dreams.

The 10 strangest museums around the world

A display at the powerful Museum of Broken Relationships
Alan Vajdic/ The Museum of Broken Relationships

7. The Bunny Museum, Pasadena, USA

Yes, you’re invited to ‘hop on over’ to the Bunny Museum, home to over 30,000 collectibles, as well as live pet rabbits. Run by a couple who gift each other bunnies – and presumably ran out of space at home at some point – this museum is definitely run out of love and not a desire for profit. Incidentally, there are probably more rabbits in popular culture than you’d think – Bugs Bunny, Peter Rabbit, the March Hare, Thumper… It’s the ‘hoppiest place in the world’.

8. Cancun Underwater Museum, Cancun, Mexico

Dive into an eerie underworld where 500 algae-covered statues – ranging from statues modelled on locals from a nearby fishing village to cars and furniture – are slowly forming the largest artificial reef in the world. Devised as a way to attract divers from existing coral reefs that were being damaged, the statues have mostly been created by the celebrated British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, and provide a commentary on man’s relationship with nature, good and bad.

The 10 strangest museums around the world

The statues are slowly forming a coral reef

9. Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, New Delhi, India

Grab a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a guided tour through a room filled with some of the most unusual commodes, chamber pots and flush toilets found around the world… as well as a replica of Louis XIV’s throne (which had a dual function) and loos disguised as a stack of books or a treasure chest. Interestingly, the first toilets were probably used by the Indus Valley people (now Pakistan) around 2500 BC. The museum is run by a charity promoting clean sanitation, still a pressing issue in India.

10. Clown Hall of Fame and Research Centre, Baraboo, Wisconsin

If you have a fear of clowns (a.k.a coulrophobia) you probably won’t ever set foot into the town of Baraboo, Wisconsin, as it’s known as the circus capital of the world. The winter home of the famous Ringling Circus, the highlight here has to be the Clown Hall of Fame and Research Centre. This a great resource for clowns, with research, performances, seminars and workshops, as well as a Clown Hall of Fame, but visitors will find the memorabilia fascinating – this includes shelves of clown costumes, props, posters and musical instruments, as well as a clown car.

The 10 strangest museums around the world

A pair of clowns clowning around
Wilhelmus (Bill Neggers)/ Creative Commons

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