Museums of the Dead and Creepy!

30 Oct

Grapejenga here again to shameless hijack* the blog with more random travel exploits!

The theme of today’s post is museums of Central Alberta. I will be profiling three establishments. Two I have visited. One was very unfortunately closed. These museums contained things which were dead, or creepy, and often both. Since tomorrow is Halloween this is a Very Timely and Appropriate post I think.

I’ll start with the very unfortunately closed museum:

The World Famous Torrington Gopher Hole Museum!


It is a new dream of mine to visit this place while it is open. You might be scratching your head thinking, “Uh, but gophers aren’t that interesting no matter how big their burrows are,” but you would be WRONG. The museum showcases NO gopher burrows and it is VERY interesting.

Despite the lack of burrows, Gopher Hole isn’t completely false advertising. The “holes” are actually cubby holes which contain taxidermy gophers dressed in doll clothes recreating various scenes.

Yes. You read that right.

There is an entire museum in Alberta devoted to this:


And this:


And this:


 Can you see why I was a little sad that it’s a purely seasonal museum which closes its doors at the end of September? I mean, this EXISTS. Don’t you want to visit? It’s only a toonie for admission!

As to the, “Why? Why does this exist?!”

Well, Torrington had a lot of gophers and creativity, but not a lot of tourists. They had to get rid of the gophers and they had to get more tourists, so obviously the logical solution was to trap, taxidermy, and play dress-up with the resulting (adorable) gopher corpses.


(pictured: LOGIC!)

They also painted some fire hydrants:


Now onto museum number two which was open (and also contained a fair amount of death an taxidermy): The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology!


Tyrrell, in case you’re wondering, is pronounced so that it rhymes with swirl. Also, that is a sign in front of the museum, not the museum itself. This is pointed out in the museum’s Behind The Scenes video.

This is a museum devoted to the history of life on earth. It is a working scientific establishment with a large staff of professional researchers, field workers, phD.s, perpetrators, Master’s students, etc . (these categories all overlap haphazardly). Of course, if you’re a lay person, it’s where the DINOSAURS live:








DIMETRODON! (which, interesting fact, ISN’T a dinosaur)


No bones about it, if you like dinosaurs, paleontology, museums, big scary things, science, life in general – then you’ll like this museum. Otherwise, you are a sad, sorry, soulless person, but you might still enjoy the ballroom. Did I mention the ballroom? It’s not a traditional room full of sketchy pee-smelling balls. Instead it’s a room where you have full out wars using air canons to launch foam balls at your friend’s face.**

The third, final, and scariest museum on this journey is The Valley Doll Museum.


Dolls are always scary. Ancient, vacant aged, vintage dolls staring out of random dioramas are creepier still. I was expecting a lot of creepy in this museum and I was not disappointed.

It cost over five dollars to get in, which I thought was a bit steep given that it’s only two rooms and the Tyrrell (a huge, world renowned museum) was only eleven dollars. Eleven is more than five, yes, but on room to dollar ratio… Still, I think that these admissions are how the woman running the doll museum makes her living and she can’t get many visitors. It is very obviously a labour of love.

The museum is located in one room in the basement, and in another room off the main level gift shop. You have to inform the curator before you go in each room so she can unlock the door and turn on the lights.

The curator told me that I was allowed to take pictures, but not to photograph the entire museum. I feel that people have photographed everything and then mocked it on the internet before. This makes me feel a bit guilty, but as a disclaimer before I point out the humour in some of the Doll Museum exhibits:

This is actually a fairly neat and well done little museum considering, 1. The creepy subject material and, 2. The staff of one. I was very impressed with the signage and the creative displays. If you are interested in doll history this is a really interesting little museum. My Mom was with me while I was visiting and she got really nostalgic over the dolls in the one-roomed school house and ended up telling me a lot of stories about her childhood. I think that this museum was one of the high points of her visit and you’ve got to give credit to any shoe-string, two roomed museum that can compete with MOUNTAINS when it comes to high points.

I did take several pictures, but I’d say this represents maybe 1/10 of the actual museum. If you want the full effect you’re going to have to visit yourself.

This one was staring into my soul and trying to devour it:


This one was dying:


And I don’t even know what’s going on here:


Ken is being slowly converted into a Cyberman? I think?

The thing that confused me the most in the entire museum was the diorama of a Hudson Bay trading post with different fur samples nailed to the wall behind the dolls. The samples were labelled: seal, otter, bear, beaver, wolf, muskrat, ocelot, fisher, raccoon…


One of these animals doesn’t belong. Can you guess which?


And that is my post about museums in Central Alberta. My next post will be either a Dinosaur Safari, an adventure around the island of Efate in Vanuatu that I didn’t have an opportunity to post at the time, or a retrospective on Sydney, Australia. Vote in the comments!

*I say hijack in the least literal and most humorous sense of the word sine I do have permission to be posting here. Please don’t misunderstand and arrest me for cybercrimes! That would be really embarrassing. Please don’t arrest me for bad grammar and abuse of the English language either. That would be completely legitimate, but no less embarrassing.

** I don’t think that the Royal Tyrrell is actually supporting war, just facilitating it. There is a large model bee hanging from the ceiling and the text on the ball room walls indicates that the foam balls are “pollen”. And the air canons are shapes like flowers. So it is educational. Educational ball war!


Posted by on October 30, 2012 in Uncategorized


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2 responses to “Museums of the Dead and Creepy!

  1. Good Deed

    November 5, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    It looks like great museum… I never heard of it though…

  2. museumnerd

    October 30, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Next year! Next year I am coming to Alberta and we are going to the Gopher Hole Museum! I am making it my life’s mission, ok?


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