Marsh’s Free Museum is a roadside stop that lures you in with more than tacky seashell gifts—it also serves as home to famous cult figure and mummified celebrity Jake the Alligator Man.
From snake skins to weapons to bee hives to Soviet military metals, Marsh’s Free Museum has a plethora of curiosities to offer. Marsh’s delightful taxidermy collection includes a two-headed calf, a cycloptic lamb, a two-headed pig, and a shark—a self-playing violin, America’s largest collection of glass fishing floats, and a (supposedly) real shrunken head also help to make up this fantastic curio exhibit.
Stuffed Russian boars and seashells aside, what you truly go to Marsh’s to see is “Jake the Alligator Man,” a mummified half-man half-alligator. Purchased for the costly sum of $750 back in the 60s, Jake has enjoyed quite the celebrity over the years. A cult figure in Northwestern culture that has earned his own bumper sticker and has sold over 30,000 postcards, Jake was featured in the ever-amusing Weekly World News, his dramatic story included an escape from captivity, a murder, and a murkily-detailed birthing of an alligator-baby.
The tales of Jake’s fabulous life don’t end there. Sideshow performances, dancing in nightclubs in drag, cigar smoking in houses of ill-repute—he is even rumored to be “one of our forefathers”, according to a “doctor” quoted in the Weekly World news article.
These days, Jake rests in a glass case, enjoying his throngs of admirers and selling plenty of Alligator Man merchandise. Jake’s keepers like to keep his true origins a mystery, but in all likelihood Jake was a creation of Homer Tate, the man responsible for countless gaffs for the sideshow circuit during its heyday in the early 20th century. The mysterious oddities artist was prolific in the 40s and 50s, and is rumored to be behind many “mysterious oddities” from that era.
Know Before You Go
From Interstate 5 near Longview, take state Highway 4 west to US 101 south, then follow to Long Beach. Marsh's Free Museum is on the main strip in town.