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Lemme outta here: translucent young Twain escapes his calcified elder self.
Lemme outta here: translucent young Twain escapes his calcified elder self.

Mark Twain Boyhood Home

Field review by the editors.

Hannibal, Missouri

The Mark Twain Boyhood Home opened as an attraction over a hundred years ago, and has grown in size as Mark Twain has receded into history, an uncustomary flip of the lifespan arc of most celebrity attractions.

Initially, just one room in the house was set aside for Twain memorabilia, then the whole house was opened to tourists, then the house itself was expanded, and now the Boyhood Home is part of a complex that includes an interpretive center in a former pizzeria, Becky Thatcher's house across the street, a reconstruction of Huck Finn's house next door, and a Mark Twain Museum a couple of blocks away.

The ghostly Dollmaster at work.
The ghostly Dollmaster at work.

The result: the neighborhood looks a lot nicer now than it did while Twain was alive. It reminded us of a similar posthumous cleanup at the birthplace of Elvis.

The home was "reimagined" in 2005 by a St. Louis design firm that had previously done work for Universal Studios. What this means is that every room is now sealed behind floor-to-ceiling plexiglass and inhabited by ghostlike statues of old man Twain in his signature white suit. Behind each Twain stands a large panel displaying quotes from his writings that vaguely correspond to the room theme. "A procession of the dead... they were welcome faces to me," reads one as ghost-Twain sits at a table, playing with a set of Tom Sawyer paper dolls. "The things about me and before me made me feel like a boy again," reads another as Twain sits in a rocking chair, staring at some marbles on the floor, while his younger ghost self climbs out a window.

The final room on the self-guided tour shows Twain with his back toward the tourists, staring out a window at the Mississippi River. The statue at one time stood near the glass, so that outdoor visitors were occasionally startled to see Twain's ghost framed in the window -- but he has since been pulled back into the room.

Twain's little known career as a bottled water pimp.
Twain's little known career as a bottled water pimp.

Also displayed at the home is a model of a gigantic sculpture of Twain and dozens of his book characters; it was planned for Hannibal in 1935 but never built, according to its exhibit, because "no one could raise the million dollars needed for it in the middle of the Great Depression." There's also the home's original Tiffany plaque, commissioned by George A. Mahan, the rich guy who saved the building from demolition in 1911.

Mahan saw its preservation in terms other than literature: "Mark Twain's life teaches that poverty is an incentive rather than a bar, and that any boy, however humble his birth a surroundings, may, by honesty and industry, accomplish great things."

Also see: Hannibal: Twain Town

Mark Twain Boyhood Home

120 N. Main St, Hannibal, MO
Downtown, in the historic district, at the intersection of Main St. and Hill St.
Daily 9-5 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Adults $12. Also covers admission to separate Mark Twain Museum.
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Tom and Huck StatueTom and Huck Statue, Hannibal, MO - < 1 mi.
Tom Sawyer's FenceTom Sawyer's Fence, Hannibal, MO - < 1 mi.
Large Mug of Root BeerLarge Mug of Root Beer, Hannibal, MO - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Giant Mark Twain, New London, MO - 7 mi.

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