Professor Pierce's Museum of Mysteries and Monsters
1202 Cook Lane

Frequently derided by more 'reputable' sources as little more than a tourist trap in a warehouse, Professor Pierce's Museum of Mysteries and Monsters purports to chronicle the 'History of the Shades and Shadows' -- allegedly the 'true' history of the world. Its library is filled with texts on ghosts, goblins, witches and all manner of occult matters from throughout the world, written in all its many ages, while its main display floor holds everything from ancient amulets and tools of magic to embryos (and even the odd adult corpse) of mutants and monsters, from tablets carved with runes and sigils to galleries and banks of monitors displaying photographic evidence of ghosts and other strange beings from beyond. Colorful banners hang from the high ceiling of the facility, advertising the exhibits of the moment and directing visitors through the labyrinthine warren of displays.

Of course, most of the exhibits are easily dismissed as replicas, forgeries and clever frauds. The collection includes such clearly false items as classic 'Fiji mermaids' in the Barnum tradition, and various mutated animal embryos passed off as aliens and mythical creatures -- not to mention the resin vampire and demon skulls and the latex 'baby dragons' and such suspended in colored fluids. For all of that, the museum does -- rarely -- offer genuine artifacts, usually smaller, less expensive items, such as small amulets that were in fact produced through actual magical practices or the collected items of local psychics and Spiritualists of note. In the past, the museum has even offered exhibits including infamously cursed diamonds and other costly artifacts. Clearly, not everything within the warehouse walls can be so easily labeled false.

Adding to the conundrum is the museum's extensive security, which includes a great many security cameras, several motion- and heat-sensitive sensors, and a network of laser beams keyed to a silent alarm, among other measures. Nearly all of these have been tested at one time or another by would-be thieves, some of whom have even reported to police that an extensive series of bright, focused cross-shaped spotlights switched on all at once above them once the alarm was tripped, covering the whole floor in crucifixes. Those who are inclined to believe in the veracity of the museum frequently ask its detractors why such a comprehensive security system would be installed to protect (largely) a collection of fakes and frauds, and at this, many critics have failed utterly to come up with an answer that does not rely somewhat overmuch on the owner's particular eccentricities.

Then, too, there is the matter of the current owner himself. Prior to his purchase of the museum in 1993, Dr. Nigel Hampton Pierce was a highly respected and well-regarded young mind specializing in the fields of psychology and parapsychology, educated at Oxford and hired as a tenure-track professor at the University of Philadelphia at the age of 26. Serving at the university for four years, Pierce inexplicably resigned in December 1992, pulled up his roots and moved to Shadowgard with his daughter, Clara. Within weeks of his arrival, he had purchased what was then the Shadowgard Museum of Miracles from its previous owners. Massive renovations and expansions began at once, and the museum finally reopened in its present form at Halloween of 1993. Why a respected scholar and professor would give up a well-paying position and the prestige that came with it to become little more than a carnival barker at best and an utter charlatan at worst remains unknown, but his mere presence in Shadowgard attracts a good deal of speculation and suspicion.

Whatever the truth behind the museum, its owner or the artifacts therein, it is at least a diverting and entertaining local attraction. Those who posess the proper mindset can easily while away a whole day wandering through the exhibits. Visitors can explore the space as they will (though they are required to sign in and out with a desk attendant in the library portion of the museum) all for the low full-day admission price of $17.50 for adults, $15.50 for students and $10 for children 13 and under. Self-guided audio tours cost an additional $5 per headset, while tickets for tours guided personally by Professor Pierce himself go for $7.50 each. The museum is generally open from 10 am to 8 pm on weekdays, with hour-long tours with the Professor starting at 10:30 am, 1:30 pm, 4 pm and 6:30 pm; on Saturdays and Sundays, the museum is open from 12 noon to 10 pm, with guided tours starting at 12:30, 3:30, 6:30 and 9:30 pm -- visitors on the last tour are permitted to linger somewhat past general closing. In addition, the museum occasionally offers nighttime visits and even special overnight events geared toward various audiences, usually clustering these around Halloween.

For all its obvious schlock, for all the derision that surrounds it, the Museum of Mysteries actually does quite well for itself, and in the decade since Professor Pierce stepped in and took over, it has evolved from a forgettable tourist trap to a beloved not-to-be-missed attraction run by a reasonably well-liked local rascal. As Shadowgard gradually begins to embrace its status as the new occult capital of New England, the museum is swiftly becoming one of its central landmarks.