The Peculiarium: The Hidden Jewel That’s Keeping Portland Weird

The Peculiarium freakybuttrue sits comfortably on 2234 NW Thurman St.. The museum makes shock value their goal, with their moto as, “Unique Art for the Evolving Class.” Photo by Estelle K. Haapala  

The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium is weird. You can tell the moment you see it, as a zombie in a bow tie sits expectantly by the front door, a lanky alien creeps out, and a million little objects, posters and creatures present themselves in the split second that it takes to glance at the exterior of the art exhibit.

Just five dollars to enter, this shop is unique to anything else in Portland, as hard as that can be. It embraces freakiness as an art wholeheartedly, never leaving behind a good alien abduction or a liver splatter. It will make you jump in anticipation and laugh with shock.

Walking into the Peculiarium, a local Portlander might feel a sense of nostalgia and regard for the true city culture that this art exhibit represents. Clara Howell, a local Portlander, says, “I feel like I was really surprised having been born and raised in Portland that I hadn’t been here until now… When you walk in here, you’re just like, this is so Portland.”

Established in 1967 by Conrad Talmadge Elwood, the art exhibit always had the goal to teach and to terrorize, leaving visitors mesmerized by the time they are finished. Displayed is art by Colin Batty and Mike Wellins, two artists with a unique love for the bizarre.

Mike Wellins’ art is whimsical and terror-filled, and each painting is seemingly laced with dark edge that feels foreboding and simultaneously still, while Colin Batty brings a realistic terror to the postcards and pictures that he makes fantasy.

The art inside the crunched museum is, simply stated, shocking. A human-size bath and sink filled with fake livers and blood splatters is one of the first pieces that you see as you walk down to the end of the miniature hallway, and above the art are multiple bizarre facts about livers such as, “6% of livers are traded for a cellphone or an ipad,” and, “19% is anonymously added to the global meat stream.”

Further in is a coffin large enough for an adult to fit in, which is exactly what they expect visitors to do. People crawl under the velvet black curtains and reach their hand out to scare a friend, and make-believe that they are zombies. The terror continues further through the exhibit, with haunted doll houses, scenes of alien abductions, and lifesize monsters scarier than the ones you imagined as a child. “There’s so much to look at. Every direction that you turn, your eyes will catch something new.” says Heather Howell, a visitor at the museum.

The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium is a perfect Halloween destination for someone looking for an October spook. It serves as a year-long haunted house, with thrills at every corner, and an assortment of interactive displays that will leave you giddy with fear and excited to see more. After walking through the interactive and shocking museum, grab a snack at the shop through the door. They offer food such as dried caterpillars, and bug ice cream. “The Peculiarium is an everyday Halloween,” states Mary Mclean, a customer.

From alien abduction scenes, to bug ice cream, this exhibit proves to be a key part of Portland’s culture. In a city well known for being weird, the Peculiarium surpasses even the high standards of wild that the widely acknowledged show Portlandia has set for us. This museum is a true part of culture in Portland and a fun way to spend a day. Clara Howell puts it perfectly, stating in three simple words, “Keepin’ it weird.”

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