- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 6, 2004

DANNEBROG, Neb. - A visit to this tiny central Nebraska town will squelch any suspicions that the National Liars’ Hall of Fame is just a tall tale.

It really exists. Honest.

Creator and humorist Roger Welsch will tell you the museum is dedicated to “the art of prevarication and metric mendacity.” It often is compared to the Smithsonian and attracts nearly 2 million visitors a year.

Of course, Mr. Welsch warns on his business cards, you can’t believe anything you see in the museum. Might as well add “hear” to that for good measure.

The hall occupies the back section of the Lille Mermaid Gift Shop, which is squeezed between the Dannebrog Bank and the Dansk Hall community center in this self-proclaimed “Danish Capital of Nebraska.” The main street through town is called Roger Welsch Avenue. Ask Mr. Welsch, he’ll tell you that having a road named after him just means he has to shovel the snow there in the winter.

Over the years, the author and former commentator on the CBS program “Sunday Morning” has collected a few favorites for the museum’s collection.

Colored golf balls are kept in a box labeled “golf balls as big as hail.”

A miniature yellow plastic football covered in X’s is autographed by all of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

A fly swatter with a gaping hole in its plastic mesh is accompanied by a certificate of approval from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the lesser-known Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Flies.

“You get the same thrill of the swat and the noise, but it doesn’t hurt the fly,” said Gaylord Mickelsen, the museum’s curator and owner of the gift shop.

Though Mr. Welsch and Mr. Mickelsen advise groups of 500 or more to call ahead for the free tour, only a few people could fit comfortably into the “hall” to encircle the three-shelf unit that holds the museum’s contents.

Mr. Welsch, who lives on a tree farm near Dannebrog, population 350, and has written several books, including “Everything I Know About Women I Learned From My Tractor” and “Ode to the Outhouse,” created the museum in 1986 after noticing a wall in Eric Nielsen’s place, the Big Table Tavern.

“I came in there and he had pictures on the wall of presidents,” Mr. Welsch said. “I asked why he had those up. He said, ‘Washington never told a lie, Johnson never told the truth and Nixon didn’t know the difference.’ I decided that would be the best foundation for the Liars’ Hall of Fame.”

Its quirky collection comes from Mr. Welsch’s readers and others who learn of his interest in tall tales and all things eccentric, such as the two-way hammer, cow seeds and a mounted head of the fictitious jackalope — an antlered species of rabbit.

This year, though, Mr. Welsch has been overshadowed by other figures.

“Election years are very hard for tall-tale tellers because of the competition from the professionals,” he quipped.

In typical Welsch fashion, he seems amused by opposition to the museum from some Christian groups who are against promoting dishonesty.

“None of this stuff — obviously — is meant to deceive anybody,” he said. “It is all humor.”

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