Smiling resident of the Graveface Museum.
Smiling resident of the Graveface Museum.

Graveface Museum

Field review by the editors.

Savannah, Georgia

"My parents are very normal and nice," said Ryan Graveface, founder of the Graveface Museum. Ryan seems normal and nice, too: a soft-spoken, respectable member of the Savannah business community since 2011 (He owns several independent record labels and a vinyl LP shop). If you dressed him in a suit and tie, he could pass as a branch manager at your local bank.

Visitors must walk through this mouth to get to the wonders beyond.
Visitors must walk through this mouth to get to the wonders beyond.

But Ryan has another, not normal side: he's a compulsive collector of what he calls "weirdo crap." A stuffed five-legged cow. A human spine owned by satanist Anton LaVey. Lizzie Borden's postcard album. Charles Manson's sweat pants. And when Ryan learned that other people were as interested in his weirdo crap as he was, he opened his namesake museum in February 2020.

"I didn't have to buy anything to start the museum," said Ryan. "Clown stuff? I had 18 storage containers. Shrunken heads? I had a box of them under the bed."

The Graveface Museum isn't wedged into some tiny storefront on a side street; it fills two floors of an old tobacco warehouse in the heart of Savannah's tourist district. The scale is impressive; Ryan has devoted himself to his hobby with a zealot's tenacity. "I don't want just one of something, I want the world's largest amount," he said. With obvious pride, Ryan noted that he had the most extensive collection of John Wayne Gacy death row art on the planet.

Visitors enter the museum through the open mouth of a giant, hell-red head of Satan built of chicken wire and papier-mache by Ryan and his wife, Chloe, who also makes the museum's taxidermy. The big head serves as a funhouse-style warning sign: if walking down Lucifer's gullet weirds you out, you probably don't want to go in.

Marshall Applewhite speaks from the hereafter in the Cult Room.
Marshall Applewhite speaks from the hereafter in the Cults room.

Once inside, visitors find themselves wandering a warren of rooms packed with relics related to Ryan's special interests, which include cults, sideshow freaks and wonders, true crime, UFOs, fraternal ritual regalia (and pranks), the occult, Victorian funeral practices, and "Roadside America," named in honor of Roadside America, which Ryan credits as having "influenced my life for good or evil." There's also a large room filled with over a dozen horror-themed pinball machines ("Elvira," "Freddy Kruger," "Tales From the Crypt") that visitors can play as often as they like for free.

Gallery of some of the world's most loathsome artists.
Gallery of some of the world's most loathsome artists.

The pinball, Ryan said, is a "palate cleanser" from the rest of the museum, which he quickly realized was overwhelming some of his customers. "A friend if mine called and said, 'I've been having horrible nightmares since I left your museum,'" Ryan said. Some visitors spend several hours viewing Ryan's relics; that makes him happy, but it creates a potential for weirdness overload. Ryan and Chloe are always on hand to reassure those who become upset, or to de-spook anyone who claims to have encountered a ghostly presence.

For sensitive souls, the Graveface Museum offers countless triggers for a potential freak-out, including the Heaven's Gate videos in the Cults room and the cremated clown-in-a-box (Derwood Belmont Adams) in the Sideshow room. The UFO room has what must be the world's most comprehensive exhibit on the Flux Liner, a reverse-engineered alien spacecraft that was being investigated by a Savannah filmmaker who suddenly died. Serial Killers, Ryan said, are an understandably "heavy subject," but Ryan is baffled when visitors get terror-sweats from the haunted relics in his Occult room. "They're not even that scary."

Fish Girl was created by Homer Tate. The hair came from his wife.
Fish Girl was created by Homer Tate. The hair came from his wife.

The museum's Roadside America collection has it's own raffish allure, from the aforementioned five-legged cow (named Clementine), to a stuffed bear (Eddie) on a unicycle, to a tribute to the late Leonard Knight and his Spider Web Farm. Much of the room is devoted to Homer Tate, father of The Thing, who diligently hand-crafted hundreds of blackened freaks and monstrosities for early roadside attractions, many of which are on display here. Ryan, always a completist, exhibits a mermaid whose hair came from Homer's wife, pages from Homer's mail-order catalog and his funeral service program, and an autographed copy of the book, Through These Eyes: A Poetic View of Life by Homer Tate, which its museum display describes as "insanely rare."

Ryan Graveface: Clementine's fifth leg was
Ryan Graveface: Clementine's fifth leg was "fully functional."

"Soulless shock and awe drives me nuts," said Ryan, who has deliberately designed his museum exhibits to avoid the gross sensationalism and even jolly ballyhoo found in other freakatoriums. Because Ryan really cares about what he's collected, he feels that its genuine history is more amazing and instructive than any manufactured concoction. Graveface Museum offers a just-the-facts look, but what it's looking at are the dark corners and creepy weirdoes of America. Yikes; no wonder the visitors are scared.

Ryan said that immediately after opening the museum he was asked when he would hire employees and get back to his other businesses. "Imagine having a child and then a day later hiring a babysitter," he said. "Right now I can't imagine hiring anyone. I feel at home here."

Surrounded by the things he loves, Ryan welcomes everyone to visit his museum-home of monstrosities. The Graveface Museum may be unsettling, but it also lets everyone know that being normal may not be such a bad thing after all.

Graveface Museum

Address:
410 E. Lower Factors Walk, Savannah, GA
Directions:
Off of the Lincoln Street Ramp, just south of E. River St. Follow the tobacco warehouse on the left about a hundred yards until you get to the museum entrance.
Hours:
M-Sa 11-10, Su 11-5 (Call to verify)
Phone:
912-335-8018
Admission:
Adults $15.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
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