Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sam Sanfillippo & his Dioramas of the Dead

Yes, those really are what you think they are...Chipmunks riding on horseback.

Today's featured place is truly...unique and bizarre. In my 40 years, I've never seen anything like these dioramas.

Sam Sanfillippo used to own the funeral home located at 6021 University Avenue in Madison, WI. Upon his retirement, it became Cress Funeral home. I discovered this odd little museum at a website called Roadside America. You can read the complete story of Sam and the dioramas here:

Yesterday, I called the funeral home to arrange a tour of the museum. (PHONE: 608-238-8406) They will allow visitors on weekdays, and when there are no funerals scheduled, but you must call to make an appointment. We were told that we could come visit yesterday morning. I asked Hannah to read the article prior to going, just to make sure that she wouldn't be squeamish. She was intrigued and excited!

Upon entering the basement museum we were overwhelmed by the wildlife display. There are over 200 fish specimens on the walls. A huge blue marlin and a hammerhead shark were Hannah's favorites. Deer, moose, turkeys, badgers and many other animals are also on display.

Ah, but the highlight of this place is the kooky dioramas. The Wiki definition of diorama is "a three-dimensional model, usually enclosed in a glass showcase for a museum." Amongst the "normal" mounted animals on display, Sam has created several dioramas featuring dead chipmunks and squirrels. At the Squirrel Bar, there are brown, black and gray squirrels, lifting beer mugs and smoking cigars. A piano is played by a squirrel sporting headphones, while a pair (of squirrels) dance cheek-to-cheek.

The Woodland Fair is the most detailed and the largest diorama. Here is a complete carnival scene featuring chipmun
ks in many roles. Louie's Bar and the Girlie Show ('munks in skirts) are the best. Chipmunks ride the carousel horses and stroll with cotton candy. Other displays depict albino squirrels driving trucks, riding horseback & ferris wheels, and playing basketball.

I advise you to go now, if you're interested. No one knows what will become of the museum in the future. It is definitely something that you'll always remember!

P.S. At the entrance, pick up a "Wildlife Quiz." It has such entertaining questions as, "How many albino animals are in the museum?" and "How many legs does the white goose have?" Even if you don't answer the questions, it will assist you in noticing details that you may not have otherwise. The last question - my favorite - "In your opinion, what single word best describes the museum?" My answer equals "Bizarre."

P.S.S. Hannah noted yesterday, "Dead animals today, dead people on Monday. Huh." (Body Worlds report on Tuesday!)

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