Bug Museum South of Colorado Springs
Yup, the May Natural History Museum of the Tropics, located southwest of Colorado Springs, is a unique museum filled with over 8,000 bugs!
In 1929, John M. May and his father began exhibiting a tropical display of insects at national exhibitions, flower and sports shows in many large American cities. Then, in the 1940’s John May built a permanent museum and headquarters building on his ranch nine miles southwest of Colorado Springs. The collection actually contains over one hundred thousand bugs, however, only the largest, most beautiful and the most valuable are on display, with the exhibits changing from year to year.
Imagine a stick insect from New Guinea which measures 17 inches long and looks so much like a bundle of sticks that it is invisible unless it moves, a nine inch scorpion of the African Congo, the world’s largest purple Tarantulas that actually catch and kill mice and small birds, and the ten inch wide Actius Moths of India that imitate the Cobra Snake to scare off their enemies.
There are Colombian Beetles so large that they can break street lights and knock a man down if they hit him while flying, moths that rob beehives and creatures that build log houses around themselves.
James F. W. May was born in England in 1884, but his family lived in Brazil, South America where he was raised. Mr. May’s father was an adventurous man and for some years collected for the British Museum on the Upper Amazon River which, in those days, was virtually unexplored. He died of Yellow Fever which he contacted on one of his expeditions when James was only 8 years old; however, it must have been his father’s influence that stimulated James to do his work in this field of Natural History. James’ brother, Ted May, was the curator of the Government Museum in Rio de Janeiro for many years and independently built up one of the largest collections of Brazilian Arthropods.
The May Natural Museum is open from May 1st to October 1st and reservations are required for groups in the winter. Groups of ten are the minimum number of persons possible for winter reservations. The Museum is approximately 9 miles southwest of Colorado Springs and one mile west of Highway 115.
A replica of the Hercules Beetle of the West Indies marks the turnoff to the Museum.
Contact Information: May Natural History Museum Website
Brothel Museum in Cripple Creek
The Old Homestead House Museum is a house with a history. The original 1890s brothel once housed several “soiled doves” catering to the area’s many miners during the gold rush days.
The building was built and owned by Pearl DeVere, the house madam, in 1896. The finest and most expensive house in the settlement, Pearl required the men to make a financial application before they could be admitted to the house, and then, by appointment only. Pearl was said to have been a beautiful woman and obviously popular, so when she died of a morphine overdose just a year after building her fabulous house, the area men were shocked. Her funeral was the largest that Cripple Creek had ever seen.
Located in Cripple Creek’s Old Red Light District, tours include the history of the famous Parlor House, Myers Avenue, and the Cripple Creek Gold Rush. The Old Homestead is on Myers Avenue, one block from Cripple Creek’s main street, Bennett Avenue and is open from Memorial Day through September. Group rates are available and will also open anytime for a group of 6 or more.
What’s really interesting is the museum offers admission for half-price to children ages 10-13 and free for children under ten. Children?? Go figure.
Another interesting note came from our reader Lindy in Elizabeth, Colorado who says that museum staff report hauntings in the old brothel. Once in a while, according to staff, visitors will get a funny look on their face and suddenly ask if there are ghosts at the museum. Obviously, they are feeling a presence of something around them. During recent construction, there were several reports from workers who said that the former “girls” of the house were watching them work. Others have felt someone touching them and sensed movement out of the corner of their eye. Several people have reported that there are three former soiled doves who continue to reside at the old parlor house.
Contact Information: Old Homestead House Museum Website
Genoa’s Wonder Tower
Rising sixty feet above the flat eastern plains of Colorado on U.S. Highway 24 east of Limon is the Genoa Wonder Tower. This one-time popular roadside stop was built by Charles W. Gregory in 1926, a railroad engineer and entrepreneur. Looking a little like an out of place lighthouse on the vast prairie, the attraction initially included a motel, restaurant, and gas station. During this golden age of travel, these were referred to as “one stops.”
When the attraction first opened, Gregory, touted as Colorado’s P.T. Barnum of the time, would stand at the top of the tower, yelling through a megaphone at passing cars enticing them to stop.
Over the years, Gregory added to his dream by covering the wood-frame additions with stone and converting the interior into imitation caverns. The site became an official Greyhound bus station and a popular truck stop.
In 1932, the tower was recognized by Ripley’s Believe It or Not, claiming that visitors could see six states from the top of the tower. After this national recognition, the claim “See Six States” was soon painted on the tower itself.
However, when Gregory died in 1946, the property fell into disrepair and went through a series of owners who operated the tower complex as a traveler’s rest area and community gathering place. Along the line, the motel, station, and restaurant disappeared.
In 1967, a man named Jerry Chubbuck took over, and when Highway 24 was replaced by Interstate 70 in the early 1970s, it almost proved a death knell for the attraction. However, Chubbuck added a room that served as an entry to an “oddity museum” that was filled with a large collection of Native American artifacts and animal monstrosities, including a two-headed calf and a skeleton of a wooly mammoth. The complex also included more than 20,000 Indian arrowheads, fossils, a wide array of bottles and insulators, farm implements and other antiques. The World’s Wonder View Tower held so many wonders that it was able to carry on for several more decades. In 1995, the tower was added to the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties and was included in many guides as one of America’s most curious roadside attractions.
When Legends of America visited in 2006, we were thrilled with the oddities of the museum and climbed the steep stairs of the tower, where we could supposedly see Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, New Mexico, and South Dakota. While this may have been a bit of an exaggeration, the tower provided a magnificent view of the high plains and the distant mountains.
In addition to the oddities, we also noted at the time we visited, that the vintage roadside attraction was filled with cars parked outside the tower, and stated in our article:
“Don’t be fooled by the cars parked outside the tower that are no more than rusting hulks — a ruse to make passing travelers think that crowds are flocking to the attraction. Another gimmick further perpetuates itself with dummies peeking from the windows in the tower above.”
However, it was a great stop for roadside attraction junkies like ourselves.
Unfortunately, Jerry Chubbuck died in 2013 and his family decided to close the increasingly decrepit World’s Wonder View Tower, auction off many of the contents, and then sell the structure.
However, in July 2016, a consortium of longtime Colorado residents formed an organization to save the historic folk-art attraction and purchased the closed-up tower, with the goal of preserving the structure as an irreplaceable Colorado landmark.
At the time of this writing (2018), the tower and its buildings still stand, but are not open to visitors.
More Information: World’s Wonder View Tower
© Kathy Weiser-Alexander, August 2018.