- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 29, 2000

I have loved learning about bizarre scientific and unscientific phenomena since Erich Von Daniken, author of "Chariots of the Gods," hooked me with his theory that extraterrestrials visited Earth long ago and built the pyramids.
A site devoted to man's fascination with the sometimes unexplainable is perfect for a peek during the Halloween season. The Museum of Unnatural Mystery comes filled with theories and realities and has a bit of everything to hook the budding "X-Files" investigator in the family.

Museum of Unnatural Mystery

Site address: www.unmuseum.org

Creator:

Lee Krystek of Bensalem, Pa., has created, designed and acted as curator of the site since its opening in 1996.

Creator quotable:

"I created the site because I had long thought a museum that used fringe science as an entree into the more mundane aspects of science would be a fun way to get people interested in the subject," Mr. Krystek says. "Everybody loves a mystery. Building such a physical museum was well beyond my means, but when the technology of the World Wide Web came along, I realized that it would give me a method of realizing this dream in a way that I could afford."

Word from the Webwise:

Does a Yeti exist? How did a child trick Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Was there an autopsy of an alien life form in the 1950s? What is the sea serpent of Gloucester? Why does Tom Arnold keep getting film work?
Mr. Krystek examines all of these issues (except the Arnold enigma) through a cyber-museum that resembles a haunted castle ripped from "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" but filled with engaging science and entertaining possibilities.
The visually minded immediately should load "The Grand Rotunda" page to find a large illustration of a relics room filled with clickable areas.
The major modules to the site, "Hall of UFO Mysteries," "Lost Worlds Exhibition," "Dinosaur Safari," "A Collection of Odd Archaeology," "The Virtual Exploration Society," "The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World" and "Museum Attic" are mostly self-explanatory, and each leads to pages that use eye-catching backdrops, plenty of textual sources and lots of color to bedazzle while informing.
I started my search in the not-so-obvious module "A Collection of Odd Archaeology" to highlight an example of Mr. Krystek's passion in explaining the unusual. Here I found an opening document in an "Indiana Jones" design with a narrative offering 26 linked topics, including the myths of Tutankhamen's tomb, Camelot, the Piltdown man hoax and "The Lost Gold of Devil's Tower."
Within the page devoted to the Devil's Tower visitors will find a large piece of art showing a figure looking toward an immense cavern filled with gold and also find a complete explanation of the Devil's Tower legend. Some say a fortune in gold hidden by American Indians rests under the geological structure, a national monument found in northeastern Wyoming.
The reputed huge reserve of precious metal has never been found, but the surrounding Black Hills have many deep caverns where gold was discovered in the 1870s proving that at least part of the legend is true.
Before becoming forever lost within the halls of the museum, I suggest using the site map to navigate the depth of information. In all, more than 200 pages are available on everything from "Atlantis, the Lost Continent," to "Dian Fossey and the Gorillas of the Virunga Volcanoes" to "The Zeuglodon."
Visitors also may enjoy the free computer wallpaper designs, free e-mail postcards, an area that answers readers' questions and a cartoon strip highlighting the extraterrestrial exploits of Zeep and Meep.

Ease of use:

What is that incredibly cheesy music I keep hearing? Am I in a 1950s UFO film? Those venturing into the museum will be wise to shut off the audio on their computers so as not to subject themselves to this time-wasting, unwanted musical selection whenever they return to the front page.
Other than the tacky tune, the occasional misspelled word and annoying banner ads, the site offers a spooky atmosphere filled with quick-loading pages and very impressive illustrations.

Don't miss:

Two features stand out that surely will bring a smile to even the Loch Ness monster's camera-shy mug.
First, many of the modules contain two icons for viewing pictures of such subjects as a Tyrannosaurus rex or a classic-looking alien in three dimensions. A click on the "goggles" icon loads a photo that requires the standard blue lens/red lens glasses for one to take advantage of the effect; the "double mansion" icon requires ocular muscle power to find a three-dimensional image wedged between a pair of two-dimensional graphics.
Also, the "Virtual Cyclorama," section provides a few 360-degree views of legendary landscapes. One not only will learn the history of the 19th century's version of virtual reality, but will get a look at either the Temple of Zeus, Paleozoic Museum or Stonehenge 1500 BC using simple JAVA technology or by downloading the Live Picture plug-in for a sharper view.

Family activity:

The section "Mad Scientist's Laboratory" displays 12 experiments using household items that range from making hydrogen to building a balloon rocket. I constructed a submarine using a pen cap, modeling clay and a plastic bottle. The experiment demonstrates the principles of buoyancy and makes a minimal mess in the sink.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

Even children who couldn't care less about science will find an area to enjoy at the Museum of Unnatural Mystery. The teaser page has a link to the "Children's Reading Room," which houses numerous stories geared toward 3- to 9-year-olds, featuring the exploits of Bunny and his friends.

Family fun factor: 85 percent

Overall grade: A

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician. Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski rat Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (joseph@twtmail.com).

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