March 29, 2013

The Alligator Man and Other Delights



Okay, it isn’t a real museum—not in the modern sense of the word. No curators, no lecture halls, no yellow school buses unloading hordes of fourth-graders out on the sidewalk. Marsh’s Free Museum, located on the Washington coast, owes more to P.T. Barnum than it does to Charles Darwin, though the two-headed calf and the eight-legged lamb would surely have intrigued them both.

Marsh’s is a souvenir shop in the seaside resort of Long Beach. It’s a strip mall emporium gussied up with an old-fashioned false wooden storefront, halfway between the go-cart track and the kite shop with miniature golf. For the better part of a century Marsh’s has lured customers with an irresistible array of oddments and curiosities. There’s no charge for looking—a human tapeworm! A real shrunken head!—but gawkers find plenty of taffy and trinkets for sale once they get through the door. (more…)

March 13, 2013

The Finnish-American Hall


There’s a hole in the Finn Hall story.

Literally. A hole.

If you stop in southwest Washington to read the Finn Hall interpretive sign, tucked into trees off the road along the south flank of Mount St. Helens, you can’t help but see immediately that an adjective is missing. Not merely omitted—gone. Carved right out with a knife blade from the old-style wooden marker, leaving a neat rectangular hole where a modifier should be. (more…)