Conspiracy Museum (Gone)
By definition, a successful conspiracy leaves no evidence: no umbrella pistol, no microfilm hidden in a pumpkin, no desiccated alien hung in a meat freezer. That makes it difficult to get exhibits for a conspiracy museum. And the Conspiracy Museum in Dallas is not just A conspiracy museum; it's THE conspiracy museum. Its theme is the uberplot, the bulbous head of the evil octopus whose tentacles reach into every world capital and every corporate boardroom.
All of which is a way to say that while this place is long on premise, it's short on punchy displays. Perhaps this is by design -- conspiracies imagined often outpace reality in vivid detail. But this Conspiracy Museum wants to prove that Truth is more shocking than anything you could make up in your head....
The museum promotes the theories of R.B. Cutler, a self-proclaimed "assassinologist" whose wealthy family made its money in fertilizer. Cutler blames everything on what he calls "The Professional War Machine."
As a helpful visual aid, the Conspiracy Museum displays a large "Conspiracy Tree" that links John F. Kennedy/Lee Harvey Oswald (who was in fact Alek Hidell, a CIA-trained spy) to Robert Kennedy to Mary Jo Kopechne/Teddy Kennedy ("There is no way he could have swum against the current like they said he did."), to Martin Luther KIng Jr. to Korean Airlines flight 007 (which was shot down by American stealth fighters to prolong the Cold War), and beyond. Downstairs, a 108-foot-long mural streaked with bullet trajectory brush strokes and splattered with abstract bloodstains similarly ties it all together.
We were particularly intrigued by the conspiracy surrounding the death of John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Lincoln. Booth did not die in 1865 (as the conspiracists would like us to believe) but instead lived in Granbury, Texas, as "David L. George" until he died of poisoning in 1903. The embalmer's chemicals accidentally turned him into a mummy, and he was exhibited across the U.S. in carnival freak shows.
Today he's in the hands of a private collector in Arlington, Virginia, and the Conspiracy Museum has a bid in on him. It seems to also have a bid in on every other gun and bullet fragment that would prove that THE conspiracy exists, if only the museum could get its hands on them.
People sit in silence watching a film of the JFK assassination on TV monitors. After the narrator tells them what -- in the opinion of the Conspiracy Museum -- they will see, the film runs silently, frame by frame. At the appropriate moment, audience members obediently jump up and yell, "There! He got hit a second time!"
The Conspiracy Museum's gift shop is stacked with Kennedy books, and with titles such as "It's A Conspiracy" and "Unsolved Texas Mysteries," and with copies of "Paranoid" magazine.
Update: The latest development in the Conspiracy was the eviction of the museum by its landlord to make way for a sub shop on Dec. 30, 2006. At the time there was talk that the museum would move to a twice-as-large facility closer to Dealey Plaza -- the spirtual epicenter for assassinologists -- but it never happened. The museum became just another victim.