28 October 2013

The National Museum of Funeral History!

28 October 2013--Cathy and I are still sitting here in Katy, TX waiting for our RV to be fixed, so we checked out a couple of local oddities on Saturday.  Cathy went to a website, www.roadsideamerica.com, that has lists of weird things to see in towns across America, and these 2 stood out.

Our 1st stop was at the National Museum of Funeral History, in Houston, that is not a "National" museum in the sense of a "National Park", but a non-profit museum with some weird stuff in it.

Outside the building they were having a car show, with a Halloween theme I guess...too funny!  (I recognize in light of the past few years events that this seems an odd subject to laugh at, but it is bizarre, so what else are you gonna do?) The writing on the back of the hearse in the last picture here says, "See You Soon!"...Maybe it's just me, but I think that's funny.  haha

Inside they had quite a few different displays, from a Presidential Funerals section, to a Pope section, to a "Thanks for the Memories" section about movie stars.

And of course the obligatory t-shirt at the gift shop.  I must admit that the last pic here sums up my feelings--"Any Day Above Ground is a Good Day!"

Dracula and the origins of his name.

They had an exhibit on the "origin of sayings"--here are a few, starting with the "bone yard".

We have all been to too many wakes, but I bet no one knows where that term came from...now you do!  (And I must admit that the thought of mistakenly being buried alive absolutely freaks me out!!!)

How about "Saved by the Bell" "and "A Dead Ringer"?

Me as a wanna-be Dracula, and a saleman's sample coffin that was carried door-to-door in the old days.  How about the handy little handout?  "This is about You and your Future!"  Marketing Genius!!!  haha

A large section on the Presidents included displays of Lincoln, the 1st president to be embalmed, and a lot of the others, including the 2 caskets below identical to the ones Reagan and Kennedy were buried in, and the actual hearse that carried Reagan and Ford to their burial sites.

The open floor area was used to exhibit lots of different kinds of both caskets and hearses used throughtout the years.  A few of the more interesting are below.

This ornate casket was made for a Cardinal...are we surprised?

How about this huge one, built for 3, with the accompanying story. If you blow it up you can see there are 3 pillows, a mom and dad big pillow, and a small pillow for a child.  Never actually used but made for a then-grieving family.

This was one of the prettier ones, in the shape of a cross...I love how the write-up says the design had plenty of room for the shoulders and wide part of the body....meaning your butt!  haha

All the coins and bills in this "Money" casket have never been in circulation...Hallie, you would love this for your coin collection!!  haha And how or why did it come about that people send flowers to funerals?  Read below in the 3rd pic.

The "Thanks for the Memories" section had just about every star you could think of, but of course had Elvis and Judy prominently displayed at the entrance!!!

And a film playing of one of the Munchkins, who was also the guy on the Oscar Myer Weiner mobile. He only died a few years ago.

Snow White's casket and there I am, as the mirror, mirror on the wall says "The fairest of them all"!


They even acknowledged famous animals, from Morris the cat to Trigger!

A horse-drawn hearse of 1880 and the origin of the saying "a basket case". (I think people were less sensitive in those days. haha)

A 1916 Packard Funeral Bus.  You had the driver up front, the casket where the flowers can be seen, and up to 20 mourners in the back of the same bus.  (I'm betting it probably prevented a  lot of our current problems with global warming.  haha)

This section covered the history of embalming, and showed Isis, the Goddess of both Motherhood and Funeral Rites, along with Anubis, the God of both Embalming and the Dead.  Did you know that not only was Abraham Lincoln the 1st President to be embalmed, but that he essentially started the wide-spread practice of embalming in America?  Lincoln ordered that all dead soldiers were to be embalmed so that their remains could be sent back home and a service could be held for them.

Shadow boxes of the 1800s were made with the deceased person's hair in them.  (A little creepy!)

And a Mourning Clock, too!

Mourning in the 1800s followed very strict rules, but the part that stood out to me was that women were required to publicly mourn for a full 2 years, while a man only had to for 1 year!  (Does it never end?) haha

This quilt was made in the 1920s and is still around.  Not a bad thought, I think.  Very practical.

And believe it or not, the largest exhibit of all was on the Popes.  There were a full 3 or 4 rooms of Papal stuff, and I couldn't figure out why until I came upon a display of one of the museum members of the Board of Regents, a monsignor.  He was given credit for it, but a lot of it had absolutely nothing to do with funerals, so it was really overdone.

The Coat of Arms here is that of the Holy See and the State of Vatican City.

Did you know that every Pope has his own Coat of Arms?  Here are 2 of the 12 they displayed, along with the Papal shoes.

This was sort of interesting...the reason for the skull cap was the bald spot on the top of the head, signifying the embrace of celibacy--ahem!!!  haha

This 1st guy is called a "Papal Gentleman" one of those whose only function today seems to be to act as pallbearers for Popes, and of course the Swiss Guard.  The Swiss Guards have been around for over 500 years, since 1507.  I knew that members had to be Swiss, but I didn't know their primary language was German.

And finally, the Popemobile, used in 1982 for a trip to England.

A Japanese hearse...pretty elaborate on the inside, too, followed by some made-to-order caskets.  If you blow up the last one you can see where it opens for you to fit in it.

Having satisfied our curiosity about the museum, we headed over to the one and only Beer Can House, a house in a regular neighborhood that a guy covered in beer cans over a period of 20 years, from 1968-1988.  He actually started with his yard, covering it in concrete and marbles at first, saying he wouldn't have to cut the grass anymore (I'm with him), then moved onto the house, saying he wouldn't have to paint it anymore.

The entire house and what I think was a carport at one time are covered in beer cans that were cut up and flattened, while the dangling things and the fences are filled with the bottoms/tops of beer cans.  He used over 50,000 cans before he finished.

And that's all we need to know about the Beer Can House!  haha  Now Cathy and I wait again for our repair parts to come in.  They are saying they should be here Tuesday or Wednesday, and that if they do indeed come in at that time, we could be out of here by Friday or Saturday.  Time will tell...keep your fingers crossed for us!!


  1. I sure am praying for those parts and the repairs to get finished real soon, because my chore list is getting longer and longer and ya'll are two weeks behind already. HA HA . Just be careful coming home love ya.

  2. WOW. Some of this stuff is really interesting and oddly amusing. "Mirror, Mirror, so true !!!!!
    The beer house and fence is pretty cool.

  3. Paula, I like the idea of a funeral bus. When I go, please speak up. Patti

  4. There was a lot of interesting information, but when you asked about Abe Lincoln I knew the answer because it was in a previous paragraph!
    Where is the part on a funeral bus????