When Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz says “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” it’s obvious she’s not talking about Kansas City for one reason — it’s actually a pretty weird place.
From “holy fingers” to unlikely sunken treasures, here are some of the bizarre things you’ll find when you scratch the surface of Kansas City, Missouri.
Leila’s Hair Museum
Leila’s Hair Museum is the only place in the world that focuses specifically on “hair jewelry.” For the uninitiated, that is jewelry that is actually made out of human hair. From hair wreaths to brooches to neckpieces fashioned from “pulverized, painted hair,” a trip to Leila’s is certainly a hair-raising experience. Ahem.
Charlie Parker Memorial
A giant green head may not be the most obvious way to honor a hometown jazz hero, but that’s how they do it in Kansas City. The 18-foot monument aims to capture Bird in his most natural state — held tilted downward, eternally blowing into his horn.
Kansas City Workhouse Graffiti Museum
Although this jail was built in 1897, it looks like a medieval castle you might find on a Transylvanian hilltop. The historic site is long since abandoned, but its internal walls have become an irresistible draw for local graffiti artists, who have created an unofficial “gallery” inside.
This old limestone mine was transformed into an underground complex by late Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, and claims to be the “largest underground business complex” in the world. The complex contains 7 miles of underground roads and sits around 160 feet below the surface.
Holy Finger of Kansas City
One of the more bizarre items you’ll find at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is a finger bone that is said to belong to Jesus’ first cousin, Saint John the Baptist. It may not be immediately obvious as you approach the gilded cage, but take a closer look: The glass vial in the center contains an actual human finger. Spooky.
Treasures of the Steamboat Arabia
While Missouri may not be the most obvious place to look for shipwrecks, it is home to one of the most impressive. Steamboat Arabia sunk in the Missouri River in 1856, carrying around 200 tonnes of cargo. The story was more of a local legend until a diving crew dredged up the ship in 1987, and found that the entire cargo — from jars of pickles to crates of china — had been remarkably preserved by the river mud.
National Museum of Toys and Miniatures
You don’t have to be a kid to be charmed by this incredible museum of historic toys and miniatures. While the collection features items that date back hundreds of years, it also includes many games, figurines, and dolls from recent decades so everyone can enjoy a little jolt of nostalgia.
Haunted Sauer Castle
This historic mansion was home to Austrian businessman Anton Sauer, who built the home in the late 1860s. Due to the many tragic deaths in the house, including the suicide of Sauer’s second wife, many consider the mansion to be haunted. (The mansion is located on private property, so if you visit, please do not trespass.)
When Kansas City Library constructed a new parking garage in 2006, the original design was just a little too boring. After asking for suggestions from the public, they did what any group of bibliophiles would: built a 25-foot high bookshelf to hide the ugly structure.
World’s Largest Shuttle Cocks
A visit to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is a must for any badminton fan, as it’s probably the only place on Earth where you can be dwarfed by a giant shuttlecock. The sculptures were created by famed pop artist Claes Oldenberg and his wife Coosje Van Bruggen and installed at the museum in 1994.
Finish Off with Some Famous Kansas City BBQ
So, there you have it. There’s a little more to Kansas City than baseball and BBQ. Not that there’s anything wrong with BBQ. In fact, if all that weirdness made you work up an appetite, maybe it’s time for a plate of hickory-smoked ribs at one of the city’s many legendary restaurants!