Valiant mouse knights fight a fire-breathing iguana.
Valiant mouse knights fight a fire-breathing iguana.

Wacky Taxidermy and Miniatures Museum

Field review by the editors.

Mackinaw City, Michigan

If your only encounters with dead animals on display have been in creepy taxidermy museums or dusty old dive bars -- or as horror decor in films such as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre -- then the Wacky Taxidermy and Miniatures Museum will broaden your perspective. Opened in 2020 by Brandon and Julie Howey, it's a bright, cheerful place whose guiding principle, according to Julie, is that, "Animals can be cute dead as well as alive."

Child mouse cowers from a monster under its bed.
Child mouse cowers from a monster under its bed.

Brandon and Julie began collecting taxidermy in 2012, then began making their own and selling it at curiosity shows. One day a woman told Julie, "I'd never buy a dead mouse but I really like what you're doing with yours." Brandon and Julie realized that people would probably never purchase the elaborate taxidermy displays that they wanted to make -- but might pay to see them in a museum. Being fans of roadside attractions (and RoadsideAmerica.com), they decided to open their own.

Tourist mice pose in front of the Mackinac Bridge.
Tourist mice pose in front of the Mackinac Bridge.

Brandon and Julie, both vegetarians, tell everyone who walks in the door that they love animals and that none are harmed to make the dioramas in the museum. The animals are either found dead along the road or are purchased already dead as packaged snake food (After skinning the critters, Brandon and Julie give the meat to a birds-of-prey sanctuary). Another judgmental flashpoint, that it's just wrong to display dead animals riding jet skis or floating in space as astronauts, remains a puzzle to Brandon and Julie. "We should only be so lucky," said Brandon, imagining himself posed as an action figure in a heavenly museum. "I get to do this in my afterlife? Cool!"

Cub Scout mice and looming guinea pig Bigfoot.
Cub Scout mice and looming guinea pig Bigfoot.

The museum opens with a room devoted to taxidermy's offshoots and odd tangents, drawing on Brandon and Julie's experience as both creators and fans. "We wanted to make sure that if we called this a 'museum' that we could back that up," said Julie.

There are displays of niche collectibles such as taxi-derpy (bad taxidermy) and ass-quatches (creatures made from deer butts). A wall of Western jackalopes and fur-bearing trouts compliments a display of exotic folklore mash-ups such as the Alaskan Hoofibou and the German Wolpertinger.

There's a skeletonized feegee mermaid, a lobster boy, a shrunken head, a monkey's paw in a box. A display of taxidermy souvenirs such as conga-playing Cuban turtles and Mexican mariachi band frogs notes that the frogs are now a protected species.

Post-apocalyptic mice and their battle-cyborgs.
Post-apocalyptic mice and their battle-cyborgs.

Then it's on to the main art room and its centerpiece display, Mousiknaw City. "Mice lend themselves really well to being human," said Brandon, especially when each one -- and there are hundreds -- is outfitted and surrounded by 20 to 30 itty-bitty props, all painstakingly hand-crafted by Brandon and Julie. Businesses in Mousiknaw City include Mickey's Arcade, Varmint Vintage, Gym Rats, and Cheesy Tattoos ("We wanted it to be as mousy as possible," said Julie).

The movie theater is screening An American Tail and Willard. The art gallery displays a mouse trap ("It's 'shocking art,'" said Julie) as well as a gold mouse head, a framed photo of Swiss cheese, and a large painting of a cat slumped dejectedly in a chair ("Mice would love to see a sad cat"). The mouse couple eating dinner at the fancy La Maison De Fromage (House of Cheese) are Brandon and Julie.

Prophet mouse warns of impending cat-astrophe.
Prophet mouse warns of impending cat-astrophe.

Lining the walls throughout the museum are dioramas in lighted shadowboxes, with themes that go way beyond the tea parties and poker games of typical anthropomorphic taxidermy. Described by both Brandon and Julie as "things that modern people can relate to," they include pirate mice, Steampunk mice, a Cub Scout campout with a guinea pig Bigfoot, and mice knights fighting a fire-breathing iguana.

In one shadowbox, Doctor Frankensquirrel brings a mouse to life in his lab; in another, two stoner mice share a bong in a room with a toadstool hassock; in a third, a Mad Max mouse rides a battle squirrel while another sits in the belly of a cyborg groundhog.

There are magician squirrels and possum-raccoon jazz musicians and tourist mice posing in front of a miniature Mackinac Bridge. Beach dioramas, circus dioramas, alien dioramas, nostalgia dioramas, over 60 in all.

"We had to make sure that people had a lot to look at," said Brandon.

The museum is open from May to October, which gives Brandon and Julie six months of off-time to build new displays for the following year. "We really feel like it's worth doing; it's not just a job," said Brandon. Julie said that it was an honor to create taxidermy that "belongs to everybody" and noted that if this was just a museum of miniatures, people wouldn't be as into it. "The idea that we can be weird for a living, that we can be artists and talk about taxidermy all day, that I can be with my best friend and share with people my crazy-ass brain... it's really awesome."

Wacky Taxidermy and Miniatures Museum

Address:
272 S. Huron Ave., Mackinaw City, MI
Directions:
On the west side of S. Huron Ave., in the Mackinaw Crossings outdoor mall, just north of Mackinaw Crossings Drive.
Hours:
May-Oct. daily 12-6 (W 12-3) (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
231-427-7041
Admission:
Adults $5.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Giant Hot DogGiant Hot Dog, Mackinaw City, MI - < 1 mi.
America MooseAmerica Moose, St. Ignace, MI - 5 mi.
Indian VillageIndian Village, St. Ignace, MI - 6 mi.
In the region:
32-Foot-Long Steel Sturgeon, Indian River, MI - 26 mi.

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