Family portrait: Mark Twain's relations and creations in one crowded room.
Family portrait: Mark Twain's relations and creations in one crowded room.

Haunted House on Hill Street Wax Museum

Field review by the editors.

Hannibal, Missouri

The strangest attraction in Hannibal is, of course, our favorite.

Day-Glo hand emerges from toilet, skull floats in air.
Day-Glo hand emerges from toilet, skull floats in air.

The Haunted House on Hill St. Wax Museum, according to a historical marker out front, is "as described in Mark Twain's books," although the house in the books was not on Hill Street and did not have a wax museum. It closed as an attraction in 2006 and sat, undisturbed, for eight years until it was reopened by a new owner in 2014. Photos from its earlier incarnation show that the house has changed little between then and now -- and that's a good thing.

The attraction is an odd mule that joins a typical touristy spook house (flashing lights, claustrophobic corridors, loud noises, and day-glo ghouls and skeletons), with a display of wax dummies related to Mark Twain. The only connection between the two is that they're in different rooms of the same house.

Slumped skeleton in the attic window of the house.
Slumped skeleton in the attic window of the house.

We thought the dummies were more terrifying than the ghouls. They're crowded into one display, 27 full figures and one disembodied head. They were made in the 1970s by wax-master Martin Krewson, who lived to be 100 (he died in 2012) and who also made the dummies for the Hall of Presidents Wax Museum in Gettysburg. According to a newspaper clipping in the lobby, President Lyndon Johnson was so pleased with his Gettysburg dummy that he personally wrote to Krewson to congratulate him.

Half of the dummies in the Twain mob are of real people, half are of people that Twain made up in his books. They're introduced by a recorded voice that also provides memorable background detail. We were told, for example, that Krewson used hair from his arms for some of the dummies' eyebrows, and that the Tom Sawyer dummy has real human teeth extracted from a boy for reasons that were not explained.

It's all in the lighting.
It's all in the lighting.

The narrator relates the back story of every dummy, real and fictional. Mark Twain is there, of course, standing behind his parents, who sit at a table that has a box of 1970s Hannibal brochures. Mom and Dad appear to be ready to sign autographs. The other dummies range from the familiar (Huckleberry Finn) to the obscure (Pamela Clemens, Mark Twain's older sister). Langdon Clemens, Twain's son who died young, has been reduced to a head perched on a pole. Most disturbing of all is the slave, Jim, whose head appears to be a reworked Devil from a religious wax museum, dyed black. Krewson ran his own Life of Christ Wax Museum in the 1970s, so this is not a far-fetched idea.

All of the dummies are lit from below, which makes even benign Aunt Polly and Becky Thatcher seem menacing. It probably wasn't deliberate, but it definitely adds to the horror of the Haunted House of Hill Street. We thought it was terrific.

Also see: Hannibal: Twain Town

Haunted House on Hill Street Wax Museum

Address:
211 Hill St., Hannibal, MO
Directions:
Across from the Mark Twain Dinette. N. 3rd St and Hill St.
Hours:
Summer daily 10-5, fewer hours and days off-season (Call to verify)
Phone:
573-248-8040
Admission:
Admission
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Tom Sawyer's FenceTom Sawyer's Fence, Hannibal, MO - < 1 mi.
Large Mug of Root BeerLarge Mug of Root Beer, Hannibal, MO - < 1 mi.
Mark Twain Boyhood HomeMark Twain Boyhood Home, Hannibal, MO - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Mark Twain Lighthouse Lit by Presidents, Hannibal, MO - < 1 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in Missouri

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Missouri.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use RoadsideAmerica.com's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

December 11, 2017

My Sights

My Sights

Save Cool Vacation Destinations!

Try My Sights

Roadside America app
Roadside Presidents app

Missouri Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

LBJ Museum and Library, With Robot, Austin, Texas (Dec 11-17, 2017)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings

Sightings. Arrives without warning. Leaves no burn marks. A free newsletter from RoadsideAmerica.com. Subscribe now!
RoadsideAmerica.com Hotel & Motel Finder

Special online rates for hotels & motels.

Book Online Now