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Boonsborough Museum of History.
Shake hands with history: this stringy limb might have belonged to an unlucky Civil War soldier.

Doug Bast's House of History

Field review by the editors.

Boonsboro, Maryland

Boonsboro needed a guy like Doug Bast. His family had lived in town for generations, he knew everyone, and he also knew what everyone had stashed in their attics and basements. Odds are it would all eventually end up with Doug.

Boonsborough Museum of History.
Carved bullets, including a strange version of Lincoln's head, complete with stovepipe hat.

Doug's interest in history suited his hometown, which is surrounded by historic Civil War battlefields, and can be seen in the relics displayed in Doug's Boonsborough Museum of History (Doug used the town's historical spelling). One item, "Dead Man's Hook," is a bent bayonet used to drag bodies into mass graves. It's displayed next to a human leg bone that was accidentally unearthed in someone's garden in Boonsboro. The bone still has a musket ball embedded in it.

Doug's family ran the town's furniture store and funeral home, but Doug's passion was collecting. He turned his house into a museum in 1975, then ran out of room and built a three-story addition for more exhibits, then ran out of room again, closed the furniture store, and began filling it with treasures, too. "I use every space," Doug told us, and he meant it; even the ceiling is covered with bolted-on weapons and artifacts

Boonsborough Museum of History.
We asked Doug where he got this skull. "My family was in the embalming business," he answered.

The museum's most talked-about relic is a shriveled human arm, displayed in a blood-red showcase, with a Civil War bullet lodged near where its elbow used to be. Some think that the arm -- which is real -- was found by Doug on a local battlefield. He said no, the bullet was added by him as a visual aid, and the arm came from a Shriner lodge in nearby Williamsport, where it was used as a ghoulish initiation prank. So where did the Shriners get the arm? "That's a good question," said Doug. A label under the arm notes suggestively that the old German Reformed Church was used as a hospital after the Battle of Antietam, "and outside the windows amputated arms and legs were piled high."

Doug's interests were wide-ranging, which helps explain why he was always running out of room. Among the items we saw in his museum were a medieval beheading ax, Egyptian animal mummies, a ticket to the hanging of Henry Wirz, African witch doctor knives, a land deed signed by Mad Anthony Wayne, salvage from a 1733 Spanish treasure ship, and a lead bullet carved by a soldier into Abraham Lincoln, complete with his stovepipe hat. "I have one of the best collections of carved bullets in existence," said Doug.

Boonsborough Museum of History.
Doug stands amid his treasures. He used to live here. Now his collection does.

Doug owned 53 cannons and a lot of baby coffins. He showed us a dog-eared Bible, opened to a handwritten note that it was "kissed by 10,000 Rebel soldiers" (Confederate POWs) who then swore an Oath of Allegiance to the Union and were freed. "They swore the Oath," said Doug, "and then went right back and fought the U.S. anyway."

Boonsborough Museum of History.
In the furniture store annex: two dummies, a 1970s sectional sofa, and a coffee table covered with ancient documents.

We walked next door to the furniture store, where Doug wanted us to see his collection of moonshine stills. Our eyes instead were dazzled by Carpet Man, ten feet tall, made of polyester rug remnants in the Age of Aquarius. Doug said that Carpet Man was, in fact, himself circa 1969, with multicolored drawstring pants, a Sonny Bono furry vest, and groovy hair and sideburns. Doug was clearly never an average guy, even as a furniture salesman.

The store annex is still a work in progress -- a Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse experience -- but Doug showed it to visitors if he thought they were really interested. Nestled among the half-unpacked crates and boxes, we saw a table made from the scaffold where John Brown was hanged, more baby coffins, an entire library of books, and the headboard of a bed punctured by a Civil War cannonball. Carpet Man was kept company by a life-size photo stand-up of JFK, urging early 1960s shoppers to buy Bast furniture rocking chairs.

Doug told us that he'd cataloged all of his possessions, but hadn't the slightest idea how many there were. He described his approach to acquisitions as, "I'm the guy who can't say no." We asked if he had ever considered selling some of his items, maybe to start living a slightly less cluttered life. "I would remember them," he said. "And I'd have a hard time sleeping at night."

The Boonsborough Museum of History is a place where visitors really should commit a lot of time, but we had to leave and so did Doug. Someone in town was taking him to see a friend's collection of over a thousand hammers.

Doug Bast passed away in 2021, but the local historical society has pledged to keep his museum open.

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Doug Bast's House of History

Boonsborough Museum of History

113 N. Main St., Boonsboro, MD
Downtown, on the east side of Main St./US Hwy 40, just north of a three-story brick building that's probably the tallest in town.
May-Sep. Su 1-5, or by appt. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

First Washington MonumentFirst Washington Monument, Middletown, MD - 2 mi.
Fake Castle for War CorrespondentsFake Castle for War Correspondents, Jefferson, MD - 7 mi.
Spook HillSpook Hill, Burkittsville, MD - 8 mi.
In the region:
Abe Lincoln Meets Perry Como, Gettysburg, PA - 32 mi.

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