By the time I made it to Tasmania to visit Dr Frankenstein’s Museum of Monsters, it was officially closed. The signs had been taken down from the suburban street where the museum was located and I had no address to work with. Fortunately it was just around the corner from Shorty’s Private Museum and Shorty was able to pinpoint the house for me.
It was the kind of afternoon almost tailor-made for visiting a monster museum. The clouds had rolled in dark and foreboding, and as I approached an unmarked house in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, there was a slight feeling of trepidation. The blonde woman who answered the door initially protested, saying the museum was now closed. But it didn’t take too many polite questions to get her to the point where she said: “All right then, I’ll show you through”.
Dr Frankenstein’s Museum of Monsters was open for about 10 years. Essentially it was an outlet for the owner Gail’s creative expression. As Gail told me when I visited, it came about because she loves making things, and those things just happened to be a bunch of crazy looking monsters. The museum is located in a large Colorbond shed out the back of her house. It is truly something to behold.
“If you give me a photo I can make it into a monster,” Gail said, and a brief look around the shed shows she’s not fooling around. Centaurs, giants, mummies and Shrek mix it up with gruesome food displays, digestive organs and dismembered fingers swimming in an entrail soup, all lovingly crafted from different kinds of crafty material. It’s not creepy though – it’s more like a permanent Halloween party than Saw or Wolf Creek.
The monsters fall into three broad categories:
- Classic Monster, such as Frankenstein, a corpse wedding or a bloodied Humpty Dumpty.
- Celebrities. Michael Jackson, Ernie Dingo, Catriona Rowntree and more.
- Local townspeople and Gail’s family members.
The monsters made in the likenesses of local townspeople are particularly striking, and you have to wonder what Margaret Coulson, Timmy Johnson (right), Len Crawley and the rest think about being immortalised in monster form. But there’s a monster self portrait in there as well, which is only fair.
So while I could speculate that some local ill will is why she’s closing up shop, l suspect it’s because her husband was hoping they could do something nice together now that he’s retired, rather than Gail spending all her spare time on this weird monster business that he never really understood anyway (and yes, that’s a monstrous likeness of him upside down fixing the light on the ceiling).
“I’ve had people visit from all over Australia and all over the world,” Gail told me. “I made some Daleks (from Doctor Who) once and the Dalek operators came over from England to have a look at them. They loved it.
“Most people seem to enjoy it here, although Michael Jackson’s had a good kicking over the years. The kids don’t like him. We’ve had some great parties and a lot of fun.
“I’ve really loved making all the monsters, but I guess it’s just time to move on,” she said.
I for one am disappointed that Gail has stopped sharing her unique gift with the world. But if you ask her nicely I’m sure she would make you a special monster on commission. She gave me a pierced, pickled tongue in a jar as a souvenir of my visit, and you just don’t get old-fashioned hospitality like THAT on the mainland these days.