Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Time We Roamed the Museum at Night and Almost Died. Died!

During my sophomore year of college, I started working as a docent at the Museum of Natural History on campus. It was a pretty sweet job - I gave prehistoric life tours to school children (DINOSAURS!), I worked in the gift shop, and I was an office assistant in the main office.

I also made some really fun friends. I mean, we were all total dorks, but what else would you expect at a museum? With dinosaurs? (DINOSAURS!)

I have told this story so many times, it's practically a campfire tale. And I promise that I am not exaggerating, which is something that I truly love to do. No, my friends, this is what happened. AND IT WAS AWESOME.

One Saturday night, we had a movie party at the museum. We watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail, ate pizza, and drank pop. Most of us were old enough to drink, but we didn't because we were GOOD kids, and alcohol wasn't allowed on University property. (Of course, this didn't stop me in the dorms, where we regularly snuck in beer and other things, including a pony keg of Molson during the last week of classes one year).

Later that night, after quoting the movie verbatim, we decided to go exploring. We were lucky that we had some senior docents in attendance, because they had access to areas that most didn't. Like the roof.

So there we were, on the roof of the museum at midnight. This is not the part of the story where we almost died, though it would be a fair assumption. No, we did not almost die on the roof or by almost falling off of said roof. Instead, our collective near-death experience came later. In the research wing of the museum... DUN DUN DUN!!!!

So there we were, in yet another place in the building that we were not supposed to be, and we were snooping. We were snooping HARD.

First, we found a room with huge freezers. One freezer was labeled, "Bird Division," and the other was labeled "Mammal Division." We figured that those were where the different staff members kept their lean cuisines. BUT NO.

Each freezer was JAM PACKED with grocery store bags. Each grocery store bag contained a carcass! Apparently, each division accepts dead animals and birds and whatnot for study specimens. Roadkill! It was pretty gross, you guys!

But not as gross as what we found next, a door labeled, "BUG ROOM."

Was it just another room of freezers? Does one freeze bugs for future use and dissection? Were there just going to be a bunch of bugs flying and crawling around? IF ONLY.

The door was unlocked. No one would open it, so I reached over and turned the knob, because I apparently had a death wish. The second the door opened, the odor hit us. I have no other way to describe the smell other than it's what I imagine the smell of pure death to be.

There was a crate on the floor in front of us. It had a wooden base with chicken wire sides. Inside was a dead... something. It was covered in beetles. COVERED IN FLESH-EATING BEETLES OH MY GOD.

Flesh eating beetles are able to remove every bit of organic material from a bone, and without them, scientists and researchers would never be able to use the bones for study or for mounting unless they let nature take its course. This could take years, and the bones could be scattered and broken by scavengers and it would be a fucking disaster. Hence the beetles.

And this is STILL not where we almost died.

No, we were still alive and not yet fearing for our lives when we ventured further into the depths of the Zoology wing. We could hear a faint sort of dull pounding, and as we got closer to the source, we recognized that it was music. And not just any music, mind you, but death metal rock that scared me to my very core.

All of a sudden, a very short, very strange woman stepped out of her office. Like, horizontally. Like she was in a play. She had short white-grey hair and was wearing a floor-length lab coat. On the coat, someone had taken a sharpie and drawn a large white mouse - like, the entire length of the coat - with mouse babies at its feet.

EXCEPT THAT THEY WERE DEAD. They had x-marks where the eyes should have been! Dead mouse babies! On her coat!

"You're not supposed to be here," she said.

Cowering in fear - us.

"Come with me," she said, as she retreated into her office/lab.

Looking at each other for guidance, someone followed her in. And, like MICE, we followed.

She started explaining her research, much to our horror. She showed us around her lab, and the only thing that I specifically remember is when she pointed out the microwave that she used for her lunches, and the microwave that she used to nuke mice fetuses. "You don't want to use that one for food. Ha ha ha."

Terrified - us.

"Go now."

Backing slowly out of her office - us.

The story eventually got out, and the exhibit designer, a KNOWN GOSSIP, ended up telling the story at a full staff meeting. We... weren't allowed to have parties at the museum for a while after that.

But some good did come of our trespassing!

Said exhibit designer was tasked with creating a small exhibit for this person. Here is the result:

There are mice on her lab coat, you guys!

So we didn't really almost die. But it was close.

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