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A Museum of Nightmares in the Shadow of the Eiffel Tower Offbeat Museums The Occult 

A Museum of Nightmares in the Shadow of the Eiffel Tower

I don’t think about hair. I mean, sure I’m losing mine. And sure, the musical is one of the greatest things of all time. But really… is hirsituity that big a deal? Big enough for the Musée de Quai Branly to brazenly devote an entire exhibit to it? Lord no! And Lord YES! (Adapting my professorial voice here, and pushing my glasses up my nose ever so slightly.) You see, hair is a symbol of sensuality, sexuality, virility. And that’s clearly why this exhibit features a score — yes, A…

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The Ossuaries of Paris… Historical Wonders Offbeat Museums The Occult 

The Ossuaries of Paris…

This was like the trip to Disneyworld I’ve never taken. My golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory. Our trip to North Korea. I know you’ve already been. Many times. But walking these two kilometers, I realized why this was one of my mom’s favorite places in Paris. Two kilometers of stacked-up bones, all to us. Entirely alone. So damned romantic.

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My Gout, and Jules Baretta’s Wax Museum of Incredible Diseases Offbeat Museums 

My Gout, and Jules Baretta’s Wax Museum of Incredible Diseases

The Bangalore doctor frowned at the printouts of my blood tests. “Do you eat innards? You know, like brains, liver, kidneys?” Well, dear reader, if you know me, you know the answer is yes. “And red meat?” I nodded. “And herring and mackerel?” Oh yes! “Well, you must stop. Your urea levels are dangerously high. You are at risk of gout.” I didn’t tell him about the trip to Paris. And here I am, doing my best to bring this gout on. Foie gras, smoked salmon, and plates and plates…

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Dr Shankar’s Wonderful Collection of Brains and Other Medical Obscura Devoted Obsession Offbeat Museums 

Dr Shankar’s Wonderful Collection of Brains and Other Medical Obscura

It came up over a bowl of brain stew at Karim’s, Old Delhi’s famously-dingy 1913 eatery. “Tasty,” I said, wiping my mouth. “By the way, did I tell you about the brain museum in Bangalore? The architect told me we should go.” Michelle tore off a piece of naan, and sopped up a wet chunk of brain. “We have to go,” she said. And this weekend, we did.

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Castration Classes at the Beijing Eunuch Culture Exhibition Hall Offbeat Museums 

Castration Classes at the Beijing Eunuch Culture Exhibition Hall

The first time I ever met The Professor, he told me about the eunuch museum. He didn’t say much. Just that there was one. In West Beijing. “You really should go,” he said. “It’s… well, it’s interesting.” He adjusted his glasses the way a professor should, but he wouldn’t say more. A few weeks later, I found myself staring through smudged plexiglas at the only remaining inhabitant of the Beijing Eunuch Culture Exhibition Hall. He was, of course, dead. Covered by an imperial yellow sheet, this junkless monk apparently died…

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Speaking of Revolution at The Beijing Police Museum Offbeat Museums 

Speaking of Revolution at The Beijing Police Museum

“Have you heard about the coup?” “Only that there may have been one.” The Professor and I were making our way through Beijing’s Police Museum, a few blocks from where a coup would have happened. We’d already broken the door of a fake interrogation cell, and almost knocked over a motorcycle. We shouldn’t have been talking about such sensitive matters as well. But we seemed to be the only visitors, and the few guards weren’t paying attention. “I have a friend who works for a Chinese newspaper,” he continued. “I…

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Beijing’s Supercool Steampunk Printing Museum Offbeat Museums 

Beijing’s Supercool Steampunk Printing Museum

“There’s nothing like that around here,” said a shoe-repair man. Two waitresses laughed at us, and a woman selling onions gasped. “A watermelon museum?” she asked, “Really?” So we tried the Printing Museum instead. It was closed. The 12-foot-tall black doors, the entire four-floor building, was firmly locked. I’d read about a great statue of the father of printing, Bi Sheng, and sprawling planographic exhibits. But it, like the Watermelon Museum, was just out of our grasp. Until Michelle discovered an unlocked door leading into a basement. “Let’s go!” she…

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Chinese Freak Shows: An Age-Old New Years Tradition Offbeat Museums Theme Parks 

Chinese Freak Shows: An Age-Old New Years Tradition

Two-headed ladies! Ladies with tails! Big-headed ladies and snake-eating ladies and elephants, too! All this, for only 75 cents! Every year, for Chinese New Year, these tents appear across the country. This one was in rural Shanxi Province. Outside, an old lady counted her renminbi in the cold. She shouted out “Five kuai!” She completely ignored the monkey on the swing.

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The Owl Lady and Her Gazillion Owls Cute & Kawaii Devoted Obsession Offbeat Museums 

The Owl Lady and Her Gazillion Owls

I love obsessions, and Myong-Hee Bae is obsessed. She’s a freak for owls. Her home is crammed full of 3,000 owl-y items. Clocks, quilts, paintings, stamps, cut-outs hanging from the ceiling, mugs filled with steaming hot tea, candles, toys, and rugs. It was weird. And absolutely wonderful. “Her love of owl started when she was in 2nd grade,” a clumsy document she printed out, then handed to me, read. “She was very much attracted by the big eyes of the wooden own sculpture and became owl mania.” She spoke no…

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The Incredible Dollhouse Explosion of Xi’an Offbeat Museums 

The Incredible Dollhouse Explosion of Xi’an

Dark and modern and ultra-creepy, the Hanyangling Museum of Xi’an is empty of tourists, but crammed with pits of naked, two-foot-tall men. It’s something like an explosion in a doll factory, or a scene of marionette massacre. Their silk robes and wooden swords and wooden arms rotted away centuries ago, leaving them unarmed and armless, but their little bodies (and penises) remain. It reminded me of Gacy’s basement. A clown scene of true boy terror. This is the mausoleum of Liu Qi, Emperor of China from 156 to 141 BC….

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This Strange Collector Has 1,000 Pairs of Shoes (and a Fetish for Foot Binding) Devoted Obsession Offbeat Museums 

This Strange Collector Has 1,000 Pairs of Shoes (and a Fetish for Foot Binding)

Yang Shaorong lives in a small Shanghai apartment. He collects women’s shoes. Tiny shoes. Shoes for bound feet. “That’s horrible,” said the publisher of my magazine, when I mentioned Yang the collector to him. “It’s a disturbing part of Chinese history.” I was confused. I didn’t really know much about them, or why he was so upset. So I did some reading. And the more I learned, the more nauseous I became.

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America started the war, and lost it, too. Historical Wonders Offbeat Museums 

America started the war, and lost it, too.

“Look at that soldier,” said a burly Dongbei redneck, shoving past me to get a better look at the painting. “He’s on fire. He’s a real man.” His sweaty pal leaned in, and laughed. The torched soldier was still letting loose a volley of bullets from his machine gun, mowing down a row of terrified pale Americans. “That’s awesome.” They probably didn’t realize I understood what they were saying. I didn’t stick around to find out.

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Fascinating Old Handbook for Chinese Heading Overseas Offbeat Museums 

Fascinating Old Handbook for Chinese Heading Overseas

In Chinese, hello is 你好。 What? Can’t read characters? Just say knee-how (or nǐhǎo1, nixao2 or niihao3). What about the reverse, though? How do Chinese learn English if they can’t read Latin alphabets? Can you use characters, instead? Can “Hello” be written as 河罗 (héluō4). Can “Who is he?” be spelled out as “夫,衣寺,希” (fu hu, yī sì, xī or “Husband clothes temple hope”)? Back in 1912, someone tried just this. A remarkable book was published for southern Chinese heading to the US and Canada. It’s called “Half-Chinese, Half-Western English”…

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The Best Stamps from Beijing’s Incredible Stamp Museum (including 3-D North Korean stamps!) Offbeat Museums 

The Best Stamps from Beijing’s Incredible Stamp Museum (including 3-D North Korean stamps!)

Continuing on from yesterday’s post, here are my six top favorite collections from Beijing’s wonderful stamp and post museum…. Sorry for the spoiler above. But it’s just… too weird. 6. Table Tennis What’s there not to love about table tennis?  Mao adored it, so did Deng Xiaoping and Zhou Enlai.  Plus, there’s always the game to thank for opening those relations between east and west.  (Actually, I guess you could thank ping pong diplomacy for my even being here!)  You even occasionally find tables sitting hidden in the hutongs, the…

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