Deep in the rural valleys of Southern Alberta sits a little blue farm building full of unusual, strange objects. The Museum of Fear and Wonder is a unique rural museum full of haunted objects, out of commission ventriloquist dummies and a hallway full of historical ouija boards.
The items contained within the museum have been purposely chosen to make you feel emotionally uncomfortable. They are meant to encourage discussion about the psychological impact certain objects have on certain people. For example, some pieces provoke fear, which possibly stems from negative childhood experiences that have followed the affected children into adulthood.
Visiting The Museum of Fear and Wonder is an intriguing and fascinating place that helped me gain insight into fear and how different people react to different things.
After arriving at the museum I was greeted by Brendan, one of the brothers who founded it. We stood outside on the deck in front of a foreboding wooden door and chatted a bit about the purpose of the museum before we went inside. Brendon told me that the building was once used as an army barracks for a German internment camp. This instantly created an unsettling atmosphere that prepared me before stepping inside.
Museum of Fear and Wonder’s Dolls
Walking into the museum, I was greeted by a selection of dolls, ventriloquist dummies and a derelict house that looked like it had disintegrated and fallen apart in just the right way so as to resemble a jack o’lantern. The yellow triangular curtains painted on the insides of the windows created perfect pumpkin eyes.
Scanning the room, I saw several weathered dolls, with paint peeling away from their faces and decorated with smiles just faded enough to give off a seriously creepy feeling. It was an unusual sensation, seeing these dolls that were once cherished by their owners being left to decay and rot.
Brendan said something I loved so much that I kept repeating it over and over in my head to make sure I wouldn’t forget it. I don’t remember it verbatim, but he said something along the lines of, “Dolls are things that are loved until they become old and decrepit and eventually become repulsive.”
This section was definitely my favourite part of the museum, as it offered a new perspective on something as every day as dolls and left a distinctly creepy feeling in the air. It was as if they were all staring at me, watching me as I watched them.
Haunted Objects Museum in Alberta
The little jack o’lantern dollhouse, which was made in the Appalachian Mountains during the depression era, has a somewhat terrifying reputation. Previous owners had reported paranormal phenomena when owning the house, including seeing the spirit of a little girl standing at the edge of their beds in the night. Brendan said the museum’s had no issues and he doesn’t believe that objects can be haunted, rather they can leave you with a feeling of uneasiness.
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Kiddo the Leather Doll
Another doll that stood out amongst the smiling ventriloquist dummies was a life-size doll made of leather and fabric, wearing little girl’s clothes. “Kiddo” quickly became a member of a family in the 1930s and was passed down through generations. She was handmade by a father for his children and immediately became a part of the family, even having her own place at the dinner table.
As the children grew up, Kiddo remained a very big part of the family and was carted around by the kids. When the kids reached the age where they were able to drive the car, they’d fasten Kiddo to the front seat. This was an attempt to prevent the kids from sneaking out and getting into trouble.
The creepy thing about the doll is that all the little details, like eyelashes and fingernails, are made of leather. Brendan mentioned that a previous visitor said she liked the doll but found its little teeth creepy.
But hold on a minute. The doll’s leather lips completely cover up the mouth…however, the dry Alberta weather does appear to pull back the leather lips, revealing what appears to be human teeth.
Brendan mentioned that human teeth and human hair were often used to make old dolls, mannequins and wax figurines so they’d appear more lifelike. I find this fact to be quite creepy. But I also wonder why I find it so creepy, when it was commonplace back in the day.
Human-like Waxworks Body Parts
We passed through a hallway of ouija boards to a large room filled with several waxworks. A lot of the wax heads were from a former museum of criminals in Niagara Falls.
My gaze was constantly being drawn back to the head of a woman whose lifeless eyes stared at me from behind the glass case. I later found out this was the head of the infamous Lizzie Borden, whose house I’m eager to visit the next time I’m in Massachusetts.
The tales that Brendan told about each piece were incredibly interesting. He knew so much about every item we passed and mentioned that he spends his time researching and learning the history of everything in the museum. The way he talked about each item really showed how enamoured he was of the collection of oddities he and his brother spent over 20 years collecting.
While the museum may offer up some creepy-looking wax heads, out of commission ventriloquist dolls and a sort of macabre look into how imagery creates an uncomfortable atmosphere, it’s not a scary museum.
You don’t need to worry about venturing through dark rooms filled with items designed to frighten you. The museum will excite you and make you think about all the ways seemingly mundane objects create fear and wonder.
Anatomical History with Wax
There are so many fascinating pieces on display. Everything from waxworks and a chess set made by a prisoner on death row to Halloween masks from the 1930s and a number of anatomical pieces.
The anatomical items, which were first created with wax, helped student doctors learn about the body without using real cadavers. If you read about grave robbing issues in my Edinburgh post about the serial killers Burke and Hare, you may be familiar with why people wanted their bodies to remain intact after death.
Dissection After Death?
In Scotland, people thought they wouldn’t be able to pass into the afterlife if their bodies were subjected to an autopsy. Brendan had mentioned, similarly, that physicians could only use the bodies of criminals, as people believed they entered heaven in the way their bodies were on earth.
So if someone underwent an autopsy, that meant they’d forever live in the afterlife in little pieces. People believed criminals got what they deserved, so it didn’t matter if they were dissected. Medical history and religious beliefs through the years are always interesting subjects!
Brendan emphasized that the Museum of Fear and Wonder is a small, rural museum that is designed to encourage people to go out for the day and explore the quirky little museums hidden far away from the large cities.
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Visiting the Museum of Fear and Wonder
The Museum of Fear and Wonder is accessible by appointment from June through August. You can book an appointment with them for next year starting in March 2020. Be sure to keep an eye on their social media channels for more information!
The museum is free of charge, but I highly recommend bringing money for a donation, as the owners spend time giving you a substantial hour-long tour (give or take). Brendan thoroughly discussed the items in the museum and answered all the questions I had. The owners were incredibly knowledgeable and gave me as much information as they could.