A bat that can fly through walls, a human horn, a pronged screaming ant: these are some of the marvels at the Museum of Jurassic Technology (MJT), a shrine to wonder and madness in Los Angeles.
Like so much about the museum, the name is playfully misleading: the MJT has no connection with dinosaurs or Steven Spielberg. But the man behind the museum, David Wilson (no relation), does have a background in special effects.
Inside, the former forensic laboratory is dark and noisy. The interior is like a maze, and some of the exhibits are so strange they border on repulsive. Take, for example, the horn supposedly shorn from the head of a 16th-century woman named Mary David. According to the exhibit notes, horns were common before people discovered shampoo.
Creepy creatures abound: one exhibit fleshes out the 'duck's breath cure' theory, which says sucking in the bird's exhalations remedies throat infections (now you know why crank doctors are called 'quacks'). Another exhibit broaches the idea of mice on toast as a bed-wetting remedy.
By contrast, the Cameroonian stink ant serves no purpose except perhaps to amaze. One of the most outrageous organisms on Earth, its scream is supposedly audible to the human ear. According to a diorama, now and then one of these ants that roar inhales a fungus spore that rots its brain. The ant promptly takes up climbing and, where its brain used to be, sprouts a protrusion. 'This spike is about 4cm long and has a bright orange tip heavy with spores which rain down on the rainforest floor for other ants to inhale,' the tape says.
Then there's the species of rainforest bat that can fly through solid matter like an armour-piercing shell. The museum displays the only 'piercing devil' specimen in captivity, and it comes with a catalogue entry whose finicky exactitude may owe a debt to Monty Python. 'A typical report would describe a piercing devil entering a local savage's dwelling by flying through one of the thatched walls, proceeding across the living quarters, and exiting through the opposing thatched wall,' the entry says.
Some MJT (above) oddities occupy a twilight zone between fact and fiction. Look no further than the specks of dust and fragments of human hair crafted into statuettes contained in the eyes of sewing needles. In case the vibrations jogged the sculptor, he supposedly worked between heartbeats. Hey, it might be true: photographers are supposed to take their pulse into account when snapping the shutter.
Now doesn't all that sound like an alluring alternative to Disneyland?
Museum of Jurassic Technology, 9341 Venice Boulevard, Culver City, California. For details, go to www.mjt.org