George McArthur (aka George The Giant) presented the Museum of Oddities to lovers of the strange next to the FOX Theater on Oct 20. The Museum of Oddities is McArthur’s own collection of mysterious trinkets and artifacts that he collected throughout his life. Some of these items are more mysterious than others, ranging from the bones of wood face to the bed of nails that McArthur achieved the Guinness World Record for breaking the most concrete blocks on his body while laying on a bed of nails.
Among the strangest of the oddities was the supposed original Barnum Fiji Mermaid. The Fiji Mermaid was one of P. T. Barnum’s most controversial oddities, causing many to debate its authenticity. In the 1860s, Barnum’s own museum caught on fire and the mermaid was thought to be lost forever. Many replicas have popped up over the years and they always bring the question of authenticity, both as the Barnum original and of the existence of mermaids.
Other oddities included two-headed calves and ducklings, haunted dolls, Victorian hair art, fairies and fae, skeletons, relics from McArthur’s own career as George The Giant, and spooky circus figurines made by McArthur’s older brother, Terrance.
“It’s interesting, some of the things I made for George’s collection,” Terrance McArthur said about his figures made from Suji wire.
“Suji wire was a craft created by X-acto Knife in the 1950s. I learned to do this [craft] in 1961.”
Terrance McArthur not only made items for the exhibit but also worked and guided people.
“The outpour of people has been amazing. George was worried that no one would come, but Bakersfield was good to us,” Terrance McArthur said.
“It’s the Barnum tradition. Everyone needs to see something they’ve never seen. It’s up to them if they believe it.”
The crowd of the event had mixed opinions.
“It feels like a lot of stuff I’ve seen before,” said BC professor Reggie Williams. “It’s cool, though. We’ve never seen a lot of this except on TV.”
Ethan Moreno, a man in his young 20s said “everything in here is fake.”
Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Kamalie Formica, disagreed before admitting that she wanted to call the haunted dolls ugly but was too scared to do it.
Brittany Faulkner, a volunteer at the exhibit, had a favorable opinion.
“It was my five-year anniversary yesterday and I wasn’t working, but I still came here with my husband and even paid to get in because we wanted to.”
Outside the museum was a magician called Mr. Unrooley, real name Pat Reuley, doing tricks for the line as they waited to get inside.
“I’m down here because I performed for years with George… He’s been wanting to do this for years. It makes me so happy to get to see it.”
To close off the event, George McArthur gave a small speech and a show. He swallowed a large sword that was similar to the 33 inch one that he holds the Guinness World Record for longest sword swallowed with.
“I love the weird and strange,” started McArthur. “I can’t believe Bakersfield is embracing me like this.”
After his speech, he greeted fans and took pictures. “There’s been a wide variety of people in here. Every age from a 6-month-old to 80-year-olds in wheelchairs. I think it’s great that people are loving it.” He then joked “I’m just a sword swallower, and nothing else.”