Museums are home to a multitude of wonders. There are museums for art, architecture, history, science and technology. You can even find more specialized museums dedicated to the printing press, soft drinks, sports, and even international tragedies. Museums are where we go to remember where we came from, what we as a global people have achieved, and sometimes to catch a glimpse of where we might be heading.
However, if you are like most people, sometimes a trip to the local museum can be a bit... well... boring. I mean, how many times can you look at the bones of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and be full of wonder? After all, didn’t we just see one with all its skin just a year ago in that movie Jurassic World? I know, not quite the same thing, but for a younger child, it might not be all that different. Ah, but believe me, there are still wonders to be found in the museum. New discoveries are still being made every day. This big blue marble we call home hasn’t given up all its secrets just yet.
What if I was to tell you that there are tons of museums spread out across the world, some a little off the beaten path, where you can still find little-known artefacts that are guaranteed to make you take note? Well, rejoice, because I am here to say just that! Below, I have compiled a list of some fascinating artefacts - some seemingly everyday items - that stand as evidence of some unbelievable occurrences; occurrences that might end up terrifying you once you think about them. These aren’t locked away in some research lab or vault; they are all on display and can be readily viewed on your next vacation. So take note and enjoy fifteen ordinary items that are evidence of some extraordinary events.
15 Tjipetir Mystery Blocks
On display in the Wrakkenmuseum, in Terschelling, Netherlands is a curious-looking rubbery block, dark in color, rectangular with rounded corners, about the size of kitchen chopping board. Engraved on the front of the block is the word, “Tjipetir.” For many years, these rubber-like blocks have been washing up on shores along the United Kingdom and Europe. Sometimes they are found with bales of rubber washed up nearby. The word, “Tjipetir,” is the name of a rubber plantation in West Java, Indonesia, from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The blocks are not entirely rubber, but gutta-percha, the gum of a tree indigenous to Malaysia and the Malay Peninsula.
There has been speculation that these blocks could be coming from the wreckage of an old cargo ship. The ship’s manifest uncovered that the legendary Titanic herself was carrying gutta-percha blocks as well as bales of rubber. Another possibility is that these mysterious rubber-like blocks are from the Japanese ocean liner Miyazaki Maru which was sunk in World War I. That vessel had also been known to be carrying these blocks. The Miyazaki Maru was on her way to London when she was sunk on May 31, 1917, near the Scilly Isles, off the southwestern tip of Great Britain. The Japanese ship was sunk by German submarine U-88, captained by famous U-boat ace Walther Schwieger, the man who also sank the RMS Lusitania in 1915. Some years ago, salvagers located the Miyazaki Maru and possibly released the rubber-like cargo while searching for other valuables, though blocks had been reportedly found many years prior to the salvage. Oceanographers believe wherever this flotsam originated from, is being circulated via the ocean currents and it is entirely possible that similar pieces will continue to wash ashore for another 100 years.
14 Legend Of The Red Ghost
Residing in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum at Fort lee, Virginia, is an interesting bronze collar bell, approximately 3 7/8” across and about 3 ¾” high. The bell displays the image of American eagles with a shield, banner and star bursts. This odd little bell is evidence of a strange experiment conducted by the U.S. Army in the 1850s. The camel is a truly adaptable animal, able to thrive in almost any terrain. The U.S. Army thought they would be perfect for a pack train to move supplies from Texas across to the West Coast. The U.S. Army purchased some from overseas and began to train them for the project. However, the Civil War interrupted the experiment and the camels were released, some sold at auction, some just turned loose. That brings us to the legend of the Red Ghost.
It was 1883, at a ranch near Eagle Creek, Arizona. Two men rode out to check on livestock, leaving their wives alone at the ranch. The women heard barking dogs and a horrible scream. They looked out and saw a large, reddish beast run out of view with some strange demon on its back. The horrified women locked themselves indoors and told their husbands upon their return. That night, the body of a woman was found, trampled to death nearby. Near the body were cloven hoof prints and reddish tufts of hair. Sightings continued for months and no one was sure to make of the creature. Finally, a rancher sighted and killed the beast, and then recognized it for what it was… a camel. The demon on its back turned out to be the skeletal remains of a rider who had unfortunately been strapped onto its back.
13 Karen Silkwood’s Purse
On November 13, 1974, 28-year-old labor activist Karen Silkwood was killed in an apparent car accident, however mystery has surrounded her death ever since when it was revealed she was about to go public about hazardous conditions at a nuclear plant. Silkwood’s purse, recovered from the scene of her fatal crash, is now displayed at the Museum of the Gulf Coast, in Port Arthur, Texas. Silkwood is remembered as one of the great whistleblowers in modern history; her purse is a reminder. In the early 1970s, Silkwood worked as a technician at Kerr-McGee’s Cimarron Plutonium Plant near Crescent, Oklahoma. Her job included polishing fuel rods filled with radioactive plutonium. She was involved with the union and was tasked with investigating plant safety issues.
In the summer of 1974, Silkwood testified before a commission about serious violations of health and safety regulations, including evidence of leaks, falsified inspection reports, and even missing plutonium! Within months, strange occurrences began to occur. She was exposed to dangerous levels of plutonium, despite not having handled any hazardous materials. Then, plutonium was found in her lungs. Silkwood believed she was being deliberately contaminated. By November 13, she decided to go public and was to meet with a union representative and a New York Times reporter. She grabbed her file of evidentiary documents and proceeded to the meeting when her car went off the road and she was killed. Even though dents and scratches on her rear bumper pointed to her vehicle being pushed off the road, the investigation ruled that she had fallen asleep at the wheel. Her documents were never found in the wreckage. The publicity surrounding Silkwood’s death led to a federal investigation; many of her allegations were proven true. Kerr-McGee closed Cimarron in 1975, and subsequently paid her family $1.38 million as a settlement.
12 The Mysterious Plaster Cast
In 1963, Harlan Ford and his friend, Billy Mills were deep in the Honey Island Swamp of Louisiana. They were searching for an old cabin they spotted overhead by plane. When they reached a clearing, what they found has shocked and haunted the area ever since. The duo spotted some type of animal, standing upright. The creature made eye-contact momentarily before rapidly escaping into the underbrush. Later, in 1974, Ford and Mills returned to the area for some duck hunting. They found several dead boars with torn throats. They suspected the creature they had previously sighted was in the area. Around the boards, they found several footprints, four-toed and appearing webbed. Not wanting to encounter the creature again, they left the area quickly but returned later to make a cast of the prints.
One of those original prints sits at the Albita Mystery House, in Albita Springs, Louisiana, just 25 miles from the mysterious swamp. Ford was the first man to report a sighting of the creature, dubbed the Honey Island Swamp Monster. He certainly wouldn’t be the last. Another local, Ted Williams reported seeing the creature numerous times. One day, Williams ventured into the swamp to set trout lines and was never seen again. Witnesses claim the creature is approximately 7 feet tall, weighing about 500 lbs., covered in a thick coat of dark matted fur and swamp weed. It has large yellow eyes and emits an incredibly bad stench. University zoologists have examined the plaster cast and are at a loss for what the creature might actually be. Is this actually a cast of some as-of-yet undiscovered creature living in the dark swamplands, which have remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years?
11 Jersey Devil Plaster Cast
Displayed in the popular International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine, is a curious artefact: a plaster cast, measuring 20 inches long, 8 inches across, with dark shapes at each end that appear like a large “C.” Some people believe this cast is evidence of dreadful encounters and a fearful legend.
It all began in January 1909, in Trenton, New Jersey. In the early morning hours, a respected city official, E.P. Weeden, is awoken by a loud flapping noise outside his second floor window. He looks outside and sees a curious set of hoof prints on the ledge, similar to those of a horse. But how could a horse leave prints on a roof? Over the next days and weeks, several others report finding the eerie prints, one of which was cast in plaster and now resides at this Portland museum.
Over 1,000 people, from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, begin reporting the hoof prints. Finally, on January 17, 1909, Bristol, Pennsylvania police officer, James Sackville catches sight of what is leaving the prints. Sackville was patrolling the streets when he hears a pack of dogs barking uncontrollably. He looks off into the distance and sees a shadowy figure that then lets of a sharp scream. The figure then leaps up and flies off into the night, allowing Sackville only a brief glimpse of the creature’s appearance.
He described large wings, a hairy body, and a face that appeared like a horse or deer. He said it had hooves and horns. The legend of the Jersey Devil was born. Over the century, others have claimed to see the creature, but this cast, from the original 1909 sightings, remains evidence of something truly remarkable that occurred that icy winter.
10 Damascus Missile
The Titan II Launch Complex 374-7 is located in Van Buren County, just north of Damascus, Arkansas. It is the site of the most publicized disaster involving a Titan II nuclear missile. It was September 19, 1980, around 6:30 P.M., routine maintenance was being conducted on a Titan II ICBM missile. A U.S. Air Force repairman dropped a heavy wrench socket, which fell toward the bottom of the missile silo. The socket struck the missile, causing a leak from a pressurized fuel tank.
The missile complex and the surrounding area were immediately evacuated and a team of specialists were called in from Little Rock Air Force Base, the missile's main support station. About 8 hours after the leak began, the leaking fumes ignited and exploded, destroying the silo and killing one airman. Twenty-one other air force personnel were injured. The missile's nuclear warhead was blown clear and was recovered intact. The explosion was so powerful that it blew off the 740-ton silo door of reinforced concrete and steel over 200 feet into the air and hurled the 9-megaton nuclear warhead 600 feet. Safeguards operated correctly and tests revealed that there was no radioactive contamination.
In October 1980, cleanup operations began and tons of debris was gathered from over 400 acres surrounding the silo complex. Some of the debris resides now at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History, in Arkansas. It is a constant reminder of the tragedy that almost was, and the brave men and women that worked to divert it. The Air Force sealed the complex with soil, gravel and concrete debris. The site of the former missile complex was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on February 18, 2000.
9 A Haunting in Connecticut
You might have seen the 2009 movie. It’s a terrifying story and is based on an ever scarier book. However, did you know they are both loosely based on an actual investigation that took place in Southington, Connecticut, in 1986? The Snedeker family moved from upstate New York to 208 Meriden Avenue in Southington on June 30, 1986. They relocated to be near the University of Connecticut Health Center for their son’s cancer treatments. Strange and horrifying occurrences begin to take place: mop water tuning bloody red, dishes on a set table miraculously disappearing only to be found put away, lights flickering even though the sockets were missing bulbs, ghostly apparitions, and family members being physically assaulted. It seems outrageous and the family wanted answers.
In 1988, they called in paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, along with researcher John Zaffis, to help determine what was happening. They discovered that the family’s new home was once the Hallahan Funeral Home, and the funeral workers were rumored to be necrophiliacs. This is believed to have led to a malevolent presence. The investigators spent nine weeks investigating the former funeral home. Eventually, on September 6, 1988, the Warrens called for and received one of the last formal exorcisms endorsed by the Catholic Church.
According to Zaffi, during the exorcism on the house, a small statuette of the Virgin Mary was sitting nearby. After the exorcism, the priest noticed that the hands of the statuette had melted off during the ceremony. The exorcism appeared to have been a success as no more demonic activities have been reported and a new family now resides, problem-free, in the home. The Virgin Mary statuette with the melted hands now resides at Zaffi’s Paranormal Museum in Adams, Massachusetts.
8 Palomares Broken Arrow
The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is home to a unique artefact, a nuclear warhead available for viewing by the public. It looks like a simple 10-foot long metal capsule, dented and dinged, but it is the remains of a once deadly hydrogen bomb that was lost over the skies of Spain. It’s called a “Broken Arrow,” a euphemism the U.S. military uses for a lost nuclear weapon. That’s exactly what occurred on January 17, 1966. Due to the Cold War, American B-52 bombers patrolled the skies of Europe around-the-clock, ever-diligent to react quickly to the threat of a Soviet nuclear attack.
At 10:20 A.M., on that fateful day, one such B-52 was flying along the Turkish-Soviet border. In need of refuelling, the bomber moved over the southern coast of Spain. A KC-135 Stratotanker was ready to conduct a mid-air refuelling of the bomber when all of a sudden tragedy struck. The bomber came in too fast and collided with the tanker, triggering a violent explosion. All crewmen aboard the KC-135 were killed, and four of the seven crewmen aboard the bomber were able to eject before their plane broke apart.
Wreckage from the planes rained down upon Palomares, a small coastal community. This included the bomber’s payload of four Mark 28 thermonuclear weapons. Three of the bombs landed safely but the third parachuted into the Mediterranean a few miles off the coast. The nuclear warheads did not detonate, but the conventional explosives on two of them ignited on land, sending radioactive material across the community. Eventually, in April 1966, a submarine found the lost bomb and it was recovered. The U.S. conducted an extensive cleanup operation and still, as of 2015, aids Spain with radiation monitoring and contaminated materials removal.
7 The Fouke Monster
It’s a simple wire mesh screen, about 5 ½ inches tall, 8 inches long, made of metal and attached to an old piece of wood. It is housed at the International Cryptozoology Museum in Maine and it appears innocuous. However, it is evidence of a horrifying encounter with what people call the Fouke Monster. It’s 1964, Fouke, Arkansas, young Mary Beth Searcy is at home doing schoolwork. She feels a chill and goes to close the window when she notices something odd. She looks out into the moonlit front yard and sees a hairy animal on two legs coming towards her. She screams in terror, locks the window and spends the rest of the evening staring at the screen, a small piece of which remains on display at the museum.
Years go by, it’s 1971, Bobby Ford and his wife Elizabeth share a new home in Fouke. Bobby goes hunting, leaving Elizabeth alone. She falls asleep and is awakened by a moving window curtain. She goes to check and a hairy arm reaches in for her. She screams as she jumps back, catching a glimpse of the creature’s piercing red eyes. The animal retreats back into the darkness. When Bobby returns and finds his terrified wife, he immediately reloads his gun and goes to find the creature. He soon sees it, a shaggy-haired beast, with sharp claws, standing nearly 7 feet tall. He shoots at the beast and it runs off. As he heads home the beast surprises him and throws him to the ground. Breaking away, Bobby escapes to his home and immediately calls the police. They find huge pieces of the home’s woodwork ripped away by large claws, as well as large tracks. People in Fouke are sure that something horrifying lurks in the swamps of Arkansas.
6 The Boy Scout’s Atomic Energy Patch
At the American Museum of Science and Energy (AMSE) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, visitors can see an example of the now-discontinued Atomic Energy merit badge, awarded by the Boy Scouts of America, one of the largest youth organizations in the United States. One young man named David Charles Hahn became the first scout in the history of his troop to earn the badge and in doing so nearly caused a radioactive disaster.
In 1994, Hahn was captivated by chemistry and secretly conducted experiments in the backyard shed of his mother’s house in Commerce Township, Michigan. He worked hard amassing radioactive material by collecting minute amounts that could be found in household products. He was able to create his own homemade nuclear reactor at age 17. Though his reactor never reached critical mass, it did emit dangerous levels of radiation, over 1,000 times that of normal background radiation. Hahn knew this was serious and began to dismantle his reactor. He drew attention to himself when police pulled him over and found radioactive material in his backseat. This resulted in a Federal Radiological Emergency Response involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Ultimately, his mother’s property was designated a Superfund hazardous materials site and the Environmental Protection Agency was called in to seize and dispose of all the property as low-level radioactive waste. Hahn was awarded his Eagle Scout rank shortly after the incident, and the nickname, “The Radioactive Boy Scout.”
5 “Authentic Alien Artifact”
If you visit the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada, you will see something that is truly rare to find: an exhibit labelled “Authentic Alien Artefact.” The exhibit includes vials containing small metallic fragments. These fragments are from the crash of an unknown object that occurred high on Mount Izvestkovaya, in Russia. Known as the “Russian Roswell,” the crash occurred on January 29, 1986, around 7:55 P.M. Witnesses watched as an odd red sphere darted across the sky over the town of Dalnegorsk, jerking wildly before it crashed into the mountain. Witnesses reported the crash site burned bright for an hour.
A researcher from the Academy of Sciences was the first to arrive at the crash site. He collected samples of the peculiar metallic debris that was scattered about the mountain side, along with scorched plants and rocks. A U.S. journalist travelled to the site some years later and was allowed to view the debris. He described perfectly round metallic and glassy spheres. He brought some of this debris back to the United States for testing and exhibition. American scientists, like their Russian counterparts, discovered the debris demonstrated strange properties. Though metallic, the debris was very different from normal iron, appearing to partially contain gold-like fiber threads. When melted in a vacuum, some debris would spread out, while others would condense into the ball-like objects. Scientists never came to a consensus as to the nature of the objects or their structure. The only thing they could really agree on was that some ash found at the crash site was biological – meaning something was alive when the object crashed, possibly a stray dog or a flock of birds caught in the explosion, or, incredibly, someone was inside the object when it went down.
4 The UFO Car
On August 27, 1979, something extraordinary happened to Val Johnson. Johnson was a deputy sheriff in Marshall County, Minnesota. He was on duty that evening, driving near the North Dakota border. He spotted a brilliant light through his side window. Believing at first it was a low-flying plane, he turned to get a better look. He then noticed the light was now moving towards him, travelling incredible fast. As the light grew closer, he was blinded. He remembers hearing glass breaking but then lost consciousness. When he awoke, his car was stalled and had skidded across the highway. He radioed for assistance and an ambulance was called. Johnson was determined to be in a mild state of shock. His eyes were irritated and they appeared to be suffering from flash burns, known also as “welder’s burns.”
What is stranger is the condition of his vehicle. A driver’s side headlight was shattered. There was a circular dent on the left side of the hood, close to the windshield. And, there was a large crack in the windshield on the driver's side, with four apparent impacts. The roof antenna was bent at a 60-degree angle, and the trunk antenna was bent at a 90-degree angle. All the damage was on the driver’s side of the vehicle. Even odder, the vehicle’s electric clock was now running 14 minutes slow, as was Johnson's wristwatch. An investigation was conducted with experts from Ford Motors and Honeywell Engineering examining the vehicle. No explanation could be found for what caused the damage. All anyone knows is Johnson’s account that an incredible bright light raced towards him and apparently slammed into his vehicle, causing the damage, blinding him, and knocking him unconscious. The vehicle now resides in the Marshall County Museum, with a plaque reading, “U.F.O. Car.”
3 Betty Hill’s Dress
Betty and Barney Hill were the very first to ever report that they had been abducted by aliens. In the many years since their report it appears their case is still the most convincing. It was the early hours of September 20, 1961; the Hills were on vacation. They were driving from Niagara Falls to their home in New Hampshire, when they sighted a strange object in the sky. Barney pulled out his binoculars and viewed the object before panicking and driving quickly away. They remembered hearing a beeping sound and then, instantly, they found themselves some 35 miles further down the road, hearing the same beeping sound again. Once home the couple experienced anxiety and nightmares; they wanted to know what occurred during that lost 35-mile trek that they couldn’t recall.
The couple agreed to being placed under hypnosis and recalled what happened during their missing time, which was actually two hours. In separate sessions, Betty and Barney recalled vividly being followed by the object in the sky and eventually stopped, pulled from their vehicle by some alien creatures and given medical examinations before being placed back into their car. The Hills recalled that the aliens were not malicious but fascinated by many little things, such as Barney’s false teeth. After the event, Betty’s dress was covered in some type of pink powder, leaving stains wherever it lay. She kept the dress and cut off small sections of it to satisfy the numerous requests for testing. No one in all these years has provided any clue as to the origin of the pink powder. In 2009, an archive composed of audio tapes, transcripts of their hypnotic sessions, and the powder-covered dress, were donated to the University of New Hampshire in Durham, where they remain to this day.
2 The Exorcist Cross
1973’s The Exorcist was a chilling film, based on William Peter Blatty’s book, about a child possessed by a demon who undergoes an exorcism. This supernatural thriller gave many who saw it nightmares. What many might not know is that the story was based on the real exorcism of Roland Doe, a pseudonym assigned by the Catholic Church. Most of the details about Roland’s possession and exorcism come from a journal kept by Father Raymond Bishop. It all began in January 1949; Roland was a 14-year-old teen living in Maryland. The Doe family began hearing strange noises in their home, seeing objects moving by themselves, and finding strange scratches on the walls. They contacted their local parish priest who, after keeping Roland under observation for a night, concluded that an evil entity was present. He recommended the rites of exorcism.
Numerous priests were called in to assist and Roland was taken to the Alexian Brothers Hospital in St. Louis. Witnesses reported the words “evil” and “hell” appearing on Roland’s body during the course of the exorcism. The rites were performed over thirty times over the course of several weeks. Finally, it was over and Roland returned to normal. The exorcism was supervised by Father William Bowdern, along with Father Bishop, a young Father Walter Halloran, and six other priests who all signed the ecclesiastical documents certifying Roland’s experience as a real demonic possession. Father Halloran, the last of the priests, passed away in 2005, admitting that in all the years since, he always kept tabs on the young Roland as he grew. The hospital is long gone, but today, in St. Louis’ City Museum, visitors can see the large cross that hung in the east wing of Alexian Brothers, from near the room where it all took place.
1 The Annabelle Doll
In 1970, a thoughtful mother bought a vintage Raggedy Ann Doll as a present for her daughter, Donna. Donna, and her roommate Angie, began to notice that the doll, normally sitting on Donna’s bed as a decoration, was appearing all over the house. Neither woman moved the doll but it seemed as if it was relocating itself on its own. Then one night, Donna noticed what appeared to be blood on the doll’s hands and chest. The women decided to seek help. They contacted a medium and conducted a seance. It was determined that the doll was home to the playful spirit of Annabelle Higgins, a seven year old who died on the property upon which the apartment building was built. Believing the spirit only wanted companionship, they welcomed Annabelle and the doll into their lives. However, they would soon find out that the spirit was not as benevolent as it claimed.
The spirit began appearing vindictive against the women’s friend, Lou. He would claim the doll would attack him when left alone. Another instance, when alone in a room with the doll, his chest was slashed and left bleeding. They had finally had enough and called a priest who recommended paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens believed the doll was indeed inhabited by a demonic presence. An exorcism was conducted and the apartment cleansed. The Warren’s took the doll with them when they left but were immediately plagued with strange occurrences until Ed doused the doll with holy water. They built a special case for the doll inside their Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut, where it resides to this day. Since being placed in the case, the doll no longer appears to move on its own, though a warning has been posted never to unlock the case.