Originally created 04/22/01

Odd and entertaining museums



Before you shudder and scream, consider that something useful has been contrived for a common household pest.

Yes, the lowly, loathed cockroach has been elevated to a work of art at the Cockroach Hall of Fame in Plano, Texas.

It's among the wackiest museums in America that writer Marisa Lowenstein investigated for Fodors.com. Lowenstein selected the places for their entertaining subject matter and degree of accidental edification.

The cockroach shrine 10 miles north of Dallas was created by Michael Bohdan, a pest exterminator, in his retail store, the Pest Shop. It features dozens of displays of roach art, using dead cockroaches dressed in costumes to portray various themes.

Among them: Liberoachi, a roach with a white mink cape sitting at the keyboard of a tiny piano; Roach Perot, standing on a pile of money; and Marilyn Monroach, decked out with blonde hair, white dress and spiked heels.

Bohdan told Lowenstein, "Cockroaches are actually very clean because they're always grooming themselves."

He added, "Cockroaches have been around for 350,000 years. Maybe we can learn something from them."

Cockroach Hall of Fame, 2231-B W. 15th St., Plano, TX 75075; (972) 519-0355, www.pestshop.com; free; 12:30-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays.

Among other wacky museums Lowenstein looked at:

- Mount Horeb Mustard Museum in Mount Horeb, Wis. Barry Levenson was so fascinated with the spicy condiment that he left a successful career as a lawyer to found the museum.

Visitors will find more than 3,500 varieties of mustard, view more than 1,000 antique mustard pots and douse their ice cream in honey mustard instead of hot fudge. They also can sample and purchase mustards made from fruit and honey, champagne, Guinness and Jack Daniel's.

Mount Horeb Mustard Museum, 100 Main St., Mount Horeb, WI 53572; (800) 438-6878; http://www.mustardweb.com; free; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.

- Leila's Hair Museum in Independence, Mo. Leila Cohoon opened the Independence College of Cosmetology 39 years ago and eventually expanded into exhibition space for hairy treasures. The museum showcases 200 hair wreaths and more than 2,000 pieces of jewelry containing or made of human hair dating before 1900. One piece of Victorian-era hair art is an 1853 floral tapestry made from the locks of 156 members of a single family.

Leila's Hair Museum, 815 W. 23rd St., Independence, MO 64055; (816) 252-4247; http://www.hairwork.com / leila; $3; 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays.

- Hoover Historical Center in North Canton, Ohio. The boyhood home of William H. "Boss" Hoover gives visitors a peek into Hoover vacuum technology, including antique cleaning devices and manual cleaners from the late 1800s, as well as the first Hoover ever made (in 1908).

Children can push a button and hear the company's theme song of the 1920s-'30s, "All the Dirt, All the Grit", and rock back and forth on a platform to activate the 1910 Kotten suction cleaner.

Hoover Historical Center, 1875 Easton St. NW, North Canton, OH 44720; (330) 499-0287; http://www.hoover.com; free; tours hourly; 1-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays.

- Museum of Bad Art in Dedham, Mass. Awful art is guaranteed in this museum, which is in the basement of the Dedham Community Theater, about eight miles south of Boston.

Jerry Reilly, a software engineer, founded the museum and appointed his friend and former art student, Scott Wilson, as curator. Their inspiration was a painting that depicted a blue-haired, elderly woman floating in a field of daisies under a glaring yellow sky. As bad as it was, they knew it could be worse and began collecting "sincere attempts at art gone bad."

Museum of Bad Art, 580 High St., Dedham, MA 02026; (617) 325-8224; free; 6:30-10 p.m. weekdays, 1-10 p.m. weekends.