So I'm finally back in San Diego. I had a great vacation, but it involved a lot of driving which got tiring after a while, so it's good to be home. Here are a few of the hoax-related highlights of my trip (which started in Washington DC and ended in Minneapolis):
This is the one thing that I got a chance to post about
(see below) while I was actually on the road, because the hotel I was staying at that night in Roxbury, NY happened to offer internet connection. But that turned out to be my last chance to connect to the internet during the trip.
The Cardiff Giant
After leaving Roxbury, NY we drove up to Cooperstown, NY. Most people visit Cooperstown to check out the Baseball Hall of Fame, but I'm not a baseball fan, so I was there to check out the Farmer's Museum
, home of the Cardiff Giant. The Farmer's Museum turned out to be a lot more interesting than I expected. I thought it was going to be a museum full of tractors and other farm implements, but it's actually set up as a recreation of a 19th century farming community, complete with actors dressed in period costumes who pretend to be part of the community (kind of like Williamsburg). In the middle of the museum's grounds there's a carnival tent in which the Giant lies. An actor stands outside of the tent pretending to be a carnival barker, urging people to come on in and see the Giant. Once a crowd has gathered he explains the history of the Giant, and he actually did a really good job of telling the story right. I half expected that the museum would gloss over the religious aspects of the Giant's story, but the 'interpreter' made it very clear that the Giant was created by an atheist as a spoof of Biblical literalism.
The next day (after spending the night in the Fingers Lake region of New York where we did some wine tasting), we drove to Buffalo and stopped off at the offices of the Center for Skeptical Inquiry (aka CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal). They're the publishers of Skeptical Inquirer
magazine. I got a tour of their offices. Joe Nickell showed me around his office (center picture), and I posed for a shot with Ben Radford, editor of Skeptical Inquirer. Ben also had lunch with my wife and me before we took off for Niagara Falls.
Marvin's Marvelous Museum
After visiting the Falls, and spending the night in Canada, the next hoax stop was Detroit, home of Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum
. I didn't really know what to expect before I arrived at Marvin's Museum. All I knew was that he had on exhibit P.T. Barnum's fake copy of the Cardiff Giant (a fake of a fake, so to speak). But his small museum, tucked away in a strip mall in a Detroit suburb, turned out to contain so much more. I was completely blown away by it. Marvin's collected all kinds of bizarre coin-operated oddities. There are a few of the mechanical fortune tellers often found at carnivals, but he also has other coin-operated machines that are far more ghoulish and bizarre. For instance, there's a machine that recreates a man being electrocuted in an electric chair (it ends with smoke billowing out of the machine), as well as a machine that recreates (with extreme realism) a bum vomiting into a trash can. The pictures below show the outside of his museum, me posing with Marvin in front of the fake Cardiff Giant, and the electric chair exhibit (somewhat obscured by a flash).
After Detroit we drove through Michigan, crossed Lake Michigan by ferry, and spent a couple of days in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (where, by accident, we got to meet the mayor). But the next hoaxy thing we visited was the Forevertron, a piece of massive metal sculpture that doubles as an anti-gravity machine located in the middle of Wisconsin. Unfortunately we arrived on a day when the Forevertron happened to be closed, much to our disappointment. I could see the Forevertron in the distance if I peered over the fence, but I couldn't get up close to it. The lesson here was that we should have looked at the opening hours posted on the Forevertron website
more closely (though we couldn't have changed our schedule anyway). However, the trip wasn't a complete waste. Down the road in the Wisconsin Dells we found a giant fake dinosaur looming above a gas station.
In terms of hoaxes, that was pretty much it for the trip. After Wisconsin we drove to Minneapolis where we spent a couple of days visiting family. I got a chance to visit the Mall of America, but unfortunately that wasn't a hoax.