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13 of the strangest (or creepiest) items in the Sioux City Public Museum

13 of the strangest (or creepiest) items in the Sioux City Public Museum

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In the archives of the Sioux City Public Museum, historian Tom Munson shows a coffin with a glass top that seems to be for something much skinnier than a human...what could it be for?

Have you ever wondered what kinds of weird and creepy artifacts and items are hidden within the Sioux City Public Museum's archives?

We have had that question for a while at The Weekender, so we decided to talk with local historical oracle, Thomas Munson, employee and professional local knowledge-seeker at the museum. Munson knows nearly everything there is to know about the history of this town, right down to the blueprints of the old buildings themselves.

Munson has spent 22 years of his life working at the museum in at least some capacity.

"I started volunteering at the museum in January of 1997," said Munson. "It used to be for just three hours on the weekend, then it changed to whole Saturdays, then to entire summers. I ended up falling in love with the work. I wanted to be an architect, so the first kind of work I did was I catalogued the old blueprints. I've always appreciated old Sioux City buildings. The next project I did was cataloguing all the maps. I then became inspired by the people behind the buildings and the monuments in town. In high school I figured this was what I wanted to do, so I went to college with the express idea that I would work in a museum."

The museum receives new items nearly every day. In the fiscal year between 2018 and 2019 the museum received 240 donations, some of which had multiple items. Munson figures within the last year, they have received nearly 9,000 items in total. A lot of these items include collections of old photographs; each photograph equals one item, so you can see how the numbers can rise astronomically with each donation.

The age range of pieces housed in the museum range drastically, some even by a couple billion years. Some pieces are even as new as the Jackson Street Brewing bottle Munson was currently cataloguing. 

"We have a lot of natural history, which means we have a lot of rocks," said the history buff. "From what I believe is the Mesabi Range in northern Minnesota, we have iron ore specimens that are 2.2 billion years old. The oldest man-made object we have here is a folsom point that was found in Ravine Park in Morningside. That is a 6,000 year old piece. People have been inhabiting this area for around 8,000 years, so there is a possibility of finding something that old. We also have collections of pottery from the prehistoric people around this area."

Aalfs Manufacturing historic
Capital Theater 1940-1959
Badgerow Building
Salvation Army

The sheer amount of items in the museum's archives is staggering. There are around 100,000 three dimensional artifacts. For photographs, there are around 2 million, half of which are physical and half of which are digital. Also, there is 3,600 linear feet of archive space.

The Weekender crew then asked Munson to think of the strangest, possibly creepiest items in the museum's archives. With some help from fellow museum employee Haley Aguirre, we were able to hit the gold-mine in strange items.

13. Creepy Santa

Museum 2

Davidson's Department Store Santa

Posted up on the top shelf in the middle of the archive at the museum rests a very creepy Santa Claus. He used to greet customers to the Davidson's Department Store during the holidays. His arms would inflate and be outstretched. By now, this terrifying Santa with limp arms is more likely to scare at a haunted house than greet happy folks during a merry time of year.

12. Judge Laser Eyes

Museum 3

District Judge Asahel W. Hubbard

A sinister portrait of Judge Asahel W. Hubbard gathers dust behind other portraits of similar size. It is no surprise they want to keep his face hidden, as his eyes seem to be looking at something with laser precision. This man was the District Judge here from 1859 to 1862. He went on to be the first US representative from Iowa...aka the first predecessor of...ahem...Steve King.

11. A fox to warm your hands

Museum 4

Fox fur hand warmer

If you were wealthy in the turn of the century, you wanted to show it off. We found a hand warmer made out of the fur of a full fox...tail, head and everything. It is a hoop designed for your hands to go in at either side and meet in the middle. The creepiest part is the dead, plastic button eyes staring at whomever the wearer of the garment would be talking to. Eesh!

10. Racist dolls

Museum 5

Racist dolls in the museum archive.

Who wouldn't want blatantly racist dolls in their friendly doll collection? I sure wouldn't, but then again, I don't collect dolls...and these are probably worth a fortune these days. They depict white people as well as people of color and the difference in clothing on the dolls is apparent when it comes to class structure of the  time they were made.

9. Urology equipment

Museum 6

Urology tools.

A collection of medical equipment, most of which was used in the practice of urology. We have different types of forceps, vaginal dilators, a bone saw and other obscure equipment we had no clue the uses of. This stuff was disturbing just to handle, and I was happy to see each piece go back into the box from whence it came.

8. WWI syringe kit

Museum 7

WWI syringe kit.

These syringe kits were carried by US service members during World War 1. The kit had syringes and medicines including stimulants and blood clotters among other things. These didn't serve as life-savers, but did serve as band-aids until a medic could take care of you. Watch out! These needles are still sharp! 

7. WWI gas mask

Museum 8

WWI gas mask.

I had never seen one of these in real life, but the look hearkens back to movies I have seen about the World War I time period. This mask has seen better days, as it is over 100 years old. It was flaking, and you have to use gloves to handle it. It looked like something out of an old horror flick. These were extremely necessary to get through the chemical side of warfare for our troops.

6. Hitler Youth at the museum?

Museum 9

Hitler Youth book.

This was an extremely uncomfortable item for this Jewish entertainment writer to handle: a book published for and about the Hitler Youth. Inside were nude photographs of German children. I can't read German, so I can't tell you what it said, but I can sure tell you the book sent uncomfortable shivers down my spine.

5. Medicine Mask

Museum 10

Iroquois medicine man mask.

I have been mesmerized and gleefully creeped out by this mask my whole life, since seeing it as a child in the museum when it was still in the Pierce Mansion. This is an Iroquois medicine man mask, worn by a healer to induce healing on a sick or injured subject.

4. Non-human casket

Measuring about 5 feet in length and about 1.25 feet across, this glass-topped casket seems like it wasn't even meant for a human body. We know that humans have grown over the past century or more, but the skinniness of this coffin is still beyond strange.

3. Sioux City Samurai?

Museum 11

Samurai face and neck mask.

The staff doesn't know how or why this artifact came into the collection of the Sioux City Public Museum, but they have the bottom half of a samurai mask dating back to the 1700s. This piece is ornate and cool, but how did it end up in Sioux City?

2. Dead babies

Museum 12

Photo of a dead baby.

In times gone by, photography of deceased relatives was a popular way to preserve the memories of said relative. Creepy, yet popular. The museum has professionally taken photographs depicting dead babies. How freaky is that?!

1. Rampant racism

Museum 13

Iowa KKK regalia circa the 1920s.

While Munson opened this oblong box, I could feel the hatred escaping. The feeling was dark and menacing. There was a full KKK robe and hood in the box. Also included was a poster from an event the KKK hosted in Iowa in the 1920s that boasted "an authentic Indian pow-wow for your viewing entertainment." Who knew the KKK celebrated other cultures? Wait...they didn't...the other culture was purely for entertainment.


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