Tragedy in U.S. History Museum Dies
How Do You Spell Tragedy? C-L-O-S-E-D.
A museum with a theme this twisted could only be the work of a visionary, and it was: L.H. "Buddy" Hough, who got the idea after watching TV news reports of the Kennedy assassination. He opened the museum in 1965 and was immediately thrown in jail for zoning violations. His little house, covered with big signs screaming, " See Jayne Mansfield's death car -- learn the truth!" and, " See human skeletons inside Old Spanish Jail!" didn't fit into St. Augustine's neat tourist package (inc. Oldest Schoolhouse in the US, Fountain of Youth, Spanish Fort).
For the next 20 years Buddy battled the St. Augustine Chamber of Commerce, until the issue was finally resolved in his favor by the Florida Supreme Court. Even then, although Buddy had won the right to keep his museum open, the Chamber of Commerce would insist it was closed whenever we called to check. Buddy, perhaps justifiably leery of the press, wasn't much help, either -- he never answered his phone. We had to travel to the Tragedy in U.S. History Museum repeatedly to make sure that it was still open. It always was, and this claustrophobic nightmare of an attraction was one of our favorites. Where else in America could you eat a picnic lunch next to displays of celebrity death cars and human skeletons?
Buddy died in 1996. His widow, Debra, valiantly kept the museum open, but the responsibility of selling tragedy to carefree Florida vacationers proved too much for her. She closed the museum in March and on Saturday, April 4, Buddy's unique collection of tragedabilia went on the auction block.
Some of the items:
- A 2000-year-old mummy in a coffin.
- Lee Harvey Oswald's bedroom furniture.
- A bad photocopy of Elvis Presley's will.
- An 18th century Spanish jail cell with two human skeletons.
- A forked barbeque utensil, allegedly used by a woman to murder her husband.
- The white Lincoln Continental used by President Kennedy only hours before he was shot in Dallas.
- Bonnie and Clyde's death car, riddled with 137 bullet holes. (There is a rival Bonnie and Clyde death car in Primm, Nevada.)
- The Buick Electra 225 in which actress Jayne Mansfield supposedly was decapitated in 1967. (Photos of the crash scene, also part of the Museum collection, show that she died in a Cadillac.)
Buddy's treasures were expected to sell quickly, according to a family spokesperson. "People like tragedy."[04/05/1998]
- 1998 - closed.