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Monkey From Mars.
Despite its name, the Monkey From Mars never left Earth. It's the star of the GBI Crime Lab Museum.

Monkey From Mars

Field review by the editors.

Decatur, Georgia

Three young men were riding in a pickup truck on the night of July 7, 1953, just north of Atlanta, when they said they came across a small flying saucer in the road -- and accidentally ran over one of its occupants. The police, not knowing what to do, sent the men home with the dead creature, which they kept in their refrigerator.

Monkeying with the Monkey From Mars.
They said it came from a flying saucer. They lied.

The next day they took it to the local newspaper. Forensic experts were called in, including the top guy at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Crime Lab. The experts found that the "Martian" was in fact a dead monkey (of unknown origin) whose hair had been removed with depilatory cream, then dyed green, then had its tail chopped off (Two of the young men were barbers and the third was a butcher).

"One guy later confessed that he did it to win a $10 bet that he could get his picture in the newspaper," said Brad Martin, GBI Accreditation Manager and resident authority at the GBI Crime Lab Museum. The monkey, now bleached with age, slouches in a glass jar streaked with overflow formaldehyde. Honoring its status as a celebrity, it's the only exhibit in the Museum with its own showcase.

False teeth and fake cans of Vienna Sausages. Crime investigation isn't always sexy.

There's plenty to see in the Museum, which fills the Lab building lobby, packed with displays that highlight various Crime Lab disciplines. In the Trace Evidence exhibit, for example, Brad pointed to a swatch of hideous green carpet that looked like it could belong to a serial killer -- which, in fact, it did. "It was very rare carpet; one in a hundred million," said Brad. Not only was the carpet found in the killer's home, its fibers were found on the bodies of several of his victims.

Brad pointed to a photo of a man with finger-shaped scars on his chest. "This gentleman tried to use superglue to get rid of his fingerprints, and accidentally glued his hand to himself," Brad said. "In the 1950s and '60s, some folks would actually put their hands on stoves to try to burn their fingerprints off."

Voodoo curse hatchet.
Creepy mirror message and "voodoo curse" hatchet were decoded by the Crime Lab.

The Documents Analysis exhibit contains several examples of odd (but still analyzable) documents, such as a handwritten message on a crime scene mirror ("You Used Me To Hurt Her Guess What I Hate You") and a hatchet obsessively inscribed, in microscopic letters, with what was identified by the Crime Lab as a "voodoo curse."

"I believe it was used in a murder," said Brad of the hatchet. Also in this exhibit are several cans of fraudulent Vienna Sausages, an example of a GBI case from a more innocent time, Brad said, which the Crime Lab would probably be too busy to handle nowadays.

The Chemistry exhibit showcases drug paraphernalia, with displays on the "Polk County Pot Plane" of 1975, and on a cocaine smuggler who tried to parachute to freedom with 77 pounds of coke strapped to his body (He died). The Firearms Analysis exhibit showcases what the Crime Lab calls Function Testing. "Some people say, "The gun just went off,' when it kills someone," said Brad. "It comes into the Lab and we check the safety and drop it from different distances, to see if it actually is possible that it could just 'go off'." From the tone of Brad's voice, we guessed that most guns fail to pass these tests.

Cocaine parachutist and bear.
Dead smuggler and bear, both killed by too much cocaine. The bear is on display in Kentucky.

We asked Brad if the popularity of TV crime lab shows makes the Crime Lab Museum a popular destination. Brad winched. "Some of the Lab scientists call me 'Dreamcrusher'," he said, particularly when school groups tour the museum. "You don't one day become a biologist and the next day you're a chemist and the next day you're an agent," he tells the youngsters. "It doesn't work that way."

"And everybody wants to be a Criminal Profiler." Brad said. "I tell them, 'Do you realize there's, like, two openings for Criminal Profilers a year? In the whole world? You're not gonna find a job doing that.'"

Speaking of criminals: whatever happened to the three guys who faked the Monkey from Mars? Brad said that no one at the GBI really knows; they dropped out of sight soon afterward and vanished off the Crime Lab radar. The monkey, however, was too awesome to disappear; it was even brought to school for show-and-tell by its GBI debunker's granddaughter. "Evidence control back then was not like it is today," Brad said. "She once told me she was fishing through her grandfather's fridge looking to make a sandwich, opened up a drawer, and saw body parts."

Monkey From Mars

Georgia Bureau of Investigation

3121 Panthersville Rd, Decatur, GA
I-20 exit 65. Drive south on Hwy 155/Candler Rd for one mile. Turn right at the stoplight onto Panthersville Rd. Drive a half-mile. You'll see the large Georgia Bureau of Investigation building on the right. Drive past it, then turn right into the visitor entrance on the south side of the building. Park in the visitor spaces, then walk behind the main building, to the far (north) side. On the left you'll see the annex building. That's the Crime Lab (you'll see an aerial walkway connecting it to the main building). Walk to the front door and the receptionist will buzz you in.
M-F 8-4:30 pm. Visitors welcome, school groups by appt only. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Walmart MausoleumWalmart Mausoleum, Decatur, GA - 4 mi.
Doll Head TrailDoll Head Trail, Atlanta, GA - 4 mi.
Waffle House MuseumWaffle House Museum, Decatur, GA - 6 mi.
In the region:
Anti-Gravity Monument, Atlanta, GA - 7 mi.

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