Chicago's quirkiest museum finds


Sure, Sue the T-Rex is awesome, but digging below the surface of Chicago's museums yields some pretty quirky items. From a naked man bench to a 27-foot guitar car, we found all sorts of interesting things just waiting for some adventurous visitors with an appreciation for the unusual.

  • nakedmanbenchWhere are his clothes? The Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier has 27 sculpted benches where families can take a break, but by far our favorite is the Naked Man Bench by sculptor Dan Galemb. With a newspaper on his lap to cover things up, this guy would make for some weird photos if you put your kid on the bench, but a shot of mom and the naked guy? Could be worth the trip.
  • nakedmanbenchTaking music on the road. When we asked staffers at the Volo Auto Museum to tell us about their quirkiest find, they just couldn't narrow it down, so we'll leave it for you to decide. The museum includes a 27-foot guitar car, a 100 mph piano car, a 12-foot-tall rollerskate car and a bunny-in-the-28-foot carrot car. The cars just returned to the Volo museum after visiting 30 countries on a world tour. The museum is two blocks long and houses hundreds of cars, including famous TV and movie cars.
  • mummyThe dummy mummy. This baby and mommy mummy set is sure to creep you out until you realize it's not a real mummy. Made of wood and nails, no one's sure if the original owners of the Fabyan Villa Museum knew it was fake or even where it came from. One theory is that it may have been part of a circus sideshow.
  • mousetrapBuild a better mousetrap. Getting those pesky rodents out of the garage has been a problem going way back. In 1876, John H. Morris invented a wooden tumble-in live mousetrap, which contains a balanced door that flies back and resets itself, permitting multiple live captures. Not sure what you do once you have a wooden trap full of live mice, but a trap based on that design continues to be manufactured today. The mousetrap is on display at the Joliet Area Historical Museum.
  • Find the hidden deer. sculptureKids will enjoy puzzling this one out. From most angles, the four pieces of the bronze sculpture in the Kohl Children's Museum outdoor exhibit appear to be a cluster of tree stumps, logs and fallen tree branches. But from one vantage point they line up to become a deer lying on the ground. If you explore the individual pieces of the sculpture, you can find a hidden raccoon, salamander, snake, snails and frogs.
  • What exactly is it? deerThe man who built the Elgin Public Museum displayed an Irish deer skull in 1898. Irish deer lived during the Ice Age and were huge, about 9 feet tall with antlers spanning 6 feet. Somewhere along the way, someone decided the naked skull wasn't attractive and covered the head with elk fur. The resulting deer head with giant antlers has a museum-of-curiosities feel to it and is the first thing visitors see when they walk into the museum.
  • Toothy finds. teethIf your kids have ever seen "Home Alone," where the bad guy sports a gold tooth, they'll appreciate seeing some upclose at Naper Settlement in Naperville. The teeth were dug up during an archeological dig in the city. The real-not gold-tooth on display at the First Division Museum at Cantigny in Wheaton was knocked out of the mouth of a solder riding a tank in Vietnam. The tank drove over a drop-off in the dark while the soldier was standing in the turret; his face slammed into the edge of the tank. The donor, William C. Brickert, received a purple heart for injuries from the accident (not just the knocked out tooth). Not sure why he kept the tooth all these years, but he recently donated it to the war museum.
  • Radioactive is retro. radioactiveDid you know one of the sites used for the Manhattan Project, code name for the exploration of atomic energy and development of the atom bomb in World War II, was Red Gates Woods in Palos? The Lemont Area Historical Society has items excavated and decontaminated from the site. While you're visiting, check out the letter written by Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt championing the use of atomic energy and a Geiger Counter.

Kids Eat Chicago

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