Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
I am walking down Thurman Street in North West Portland, with the Genius Loci of the city. OK, let me just state that the GL is a figment of my imagination. She represents everything cool and quirky about the city that I love. And today she is in an apologetic mood. “Honestly Dave, really didn’t know.”
“It’s no problem.” I reply.
“Really I keep forgetting that there is another Portland.” She gushes. We were planning on going to the Portland Cryptozoology Museum, when I sat down to map quest it out and found out it wasn’t in Oregon but Portland Maine. So instead we headed out to beyond the historic Alphabet District to the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium.
“It is OK.” I inset, as we reach the Pepto-Bismol pink building. So what is the Peculiarium? Well even now that I have been there I am not sure I can tell you. It is basically an ice-cream store with a museum of the weird tacked on to it. When you walk in it is basically the candy part of a liquor store where they also have ice cream. There is a rack where you can buy books on the weird, and there are a bunch of old books that I am not sure if are for sale or just on display.
The museum part is free to walk through. On the wall there was a display of what I think are photographs of Fractals called Honeymoon on Yogoth, the home of H.P. Lovecraft’s interstellar mind stealing fungi. Though they do change the art displays every once in a while
Then there is Al Capone’s safe. The story behind this (If I got it right), was that Al Capone was afraid that the feds were closing in on him so he mailed himself his safe. Though do to an error by the post office, it got sent to some dude in Oregon who happened to be also named Al Capone. The real Al Capone went to the big house so he never got a chance to ask for it back. It sat in this guy’s barn for decades until his decedents had a locksmith open it up and see what was inside. There was what looked like costume jewelry and other thirties looking knickknacks. On the top is paintings of Geraldo Rivera and Don Al. A sly tribute to Rivera’s famed Al Capone vault reveal. Which kind of makes me think this was tongue and cheek.
There is also a very creepy spontaneous combustion exhibit. A burnt old style chair with a pair of shoes with mannequin feet in it. Though the Peculiarium is defiantly low tech this is very effective, and for a moment I felt like I had been teleported to an actual SHC case sight. Now nowhere does it say these are artifacts from a real case it is just a representation. And if I think about it, the display actually bolsters the argument that these are cases of people falling asleep while smoking and a small smoldering fire starting. But it is still really spooky to look out.
There is also a display of what it might be like if you became a zombie. Again it is done very low tech, but to me that adds to the appeal rather than takes away from it. You go in to a small dark room with white Christmas lights that are supposed to represent synapse and neurons of the human brain as you watch a black and white movie from the zombies POV, slowly the screen turns red with blood rage. Al the time you hear an emotionless government scantest explain what is happening to you as you become one of the undead.
The ultimate attraction of Peculiarium is a display where gray aliens are doing an autopsy on a human being and you can stick your head in a hole and get a picture of you being abducted by aliens. Of course when I got there my camera ran out of juice. Obviously a vile conspiracy was at work.
So yes The Peculiarium is cheesy and campy, but it is also free and fun. So if you got some time to kill in Portland or maybe are in the NW side of Stump Town and want some ice cream go check it out. They are closed on Tuesdays and some Mondays so look them up on their website before you head out. Also these guys are making their own comic book this fall so you know that I am going to be all over that.
As walk out of the building after about thirty minutes I am not more convinced that there are aliens, spontaneous combustion, or Oregon farmers named Al Capone, but I t was a fun time. Now wasn’t that better than a lame old cryptozoology museum?” The Genius Loci asks.
“Well.” I say with a smile. “It sure was a whole lot closer.”