"The World's Best Wax Museum - El Museo Cera, Madrid, Spain."

Brian M. Clark, 2002

( Originally posted as an online-journal entry - later printed in International Living magazine. )

Every major city in the world has a wax museum, the most famous being London's "Madame Tussauds" and "The London Dungeon." Sure, fine, great. Lame tourist traps to be sure. I can't say I've spent much time in any of them, and I suppose I could be wrong, but I think Madrid's wax museum is something special - because it's totally ridiculous.

One of the nice things about Spain, is that the Spanish have yet to really grasp the concept of "kitsch" - camp, cheesy, tacky… whatever you want to call it (you know what I mean). When people here sing love songs or give hallmark greeting cards, they really mean it. There is a certain degree of sincerity, earnestness, and naïveté which abounds, and which is really, just plain weird to the hyper-sensitive "politically correct" sensibility of Americans (I hear it's even worse in Italy, though I find that kind of hard to believe).

For example, they have this brand of candy here called "Conguitos" (little Congo-boys), which are like chocolate-covered peanuts or something, but whose mascot is a little caricature of an African tribesman, complete with big red lips and a spear. Stuff like that would never fly in the U.S. (for obvious reasons), but to the Spanish, it's like: "What? What's so 'ofensivo' about that? Why the hell not?" They are just so literal about everything, that it's just beyond them to read anything pejorative into that at all.

But I digress.

So anyway, Madrid's wax museum - it's great. And the reason it's great is that these people just don't realize just how completely silly it all is. A lot of the museum is just like any other dumb wax museum in any other dumb city (famous actors, rock stars, sports figures, etc.) but what makes Madrid's wax museum special are things like the fact that The Beatles only have three members. Weird stuff like that.

Other highlights of Madrid's Museo de Cera include:

  • The "medieval times" (read as: the Spanish Inquisition) exhibit, which features bare-breasted women being whipped to death, and people impaled on posts (one guy has the post going right up his you-know-what, and out his open mouth… woo hoo!).

  • Famous political figures such as: Napoleon, Joseph Stalin, Francisco Franco, Benito Mussolini, and Adolph Hitler.

  • Re-enacted famous "murder scenes" from Spanish history and the busts of famous serial killers from around the world.

  • Late '70s era Animatronic "monsters" whose movements are so screwed-up and jerky that they actually are scary.

  • An Animatronic Louie Armstrong who sings "What a wonderful world" and looks like a black version of Yoda with a trumpet.

  • And the undisputed highlight of El Museo de Cera: an animatronic Dracula who makes a long "scary" speech about sucking blood and hunting the living (in Spanish, but in a "Transylvanian" accent), who then bursts into a lip-synched rendition (in English) of "I want to marry a lighthouse keeper," which incidentally, is sung by a woman.

    And you get all of this for around four bucks.

    Screw the Prado.

    © Brian M. Clark