Obscura Society

When visiting a museum devoted to artifacts from the holy land, there are many items that one would expect to see, but in a collection as immense as this one, there are bound to be some questionable pieces. The best illustration of this was in the "Archaeological Display”, a stark room lined with glass cases.The cases displayed suspect items such as thorns cut from the same bush as the crown Jesus wore at crucifixion, and two dried, dusty walnuts that had allegedly been liberated form the birthplace of John the Baptist, along with several other mundane rocks and sticks with assigned biblical significance.

Antonia F. Futterer created this extraordinary collection of religious and historical artifacts during his explorations of the Holy Land in the early 1900s. While suffering a severe, life-threatening illness, Futterer prayed for recovery, promising a lifetime of service if only he was given another chance. That chance was received, and his new-found faith propelled him to the Middle East to search for the famed Golden Ark of the Covenant. (Sound familiar? Futterer is often refered to as a “Real Indiana Jones”.)

While he never found his elusive ark, he amassed a giant collection of artifacts which now reside in a modest 5-room museum in Silver Lake, California. The museum is now lovingly cared for by a matronly follower of Futterer’s teachings, who with the assistance of her two adult children maintain the grounds and exhibits through the small tour fees, gift shop profits, and the grace of god.

Arguably the most treasured piece in the Damascus Room was the game table. Different varieties of quality wood assembled into an ornate mosaic housing mother-of-pearl inlay. Panels of the table could be removed and rearranged to accommodate several different games, including chess and backgammon. After demonstrating the many uses of the game table, we were escorted out of the Damascus Room, our hostess cryptically mumbling, “Terrible times are coming, terrible times...”

A pleasant and unexpected surprise was discovering that Marshall Lakey’s life-sized sculpture of Christ had taken up residence in it’s own little grotto off of the “Egypt Room”. In 1943 Clifford E. Clinton commissioned Lakey to sculpt the figure of Jesus kneeling in prayer for the original location of his legendary eatery, Clifton’s Cafeteria. Beloved by locals for their generous pay-what-you-can policies and eccentric interior designs, Clifton’s has been through many renovations and downsizing, and it was comforting to know that such an important part of their history had found a loving home in Holyland.

After our extensive biblical lesson was over and we had been properly warned about the end of times being right around the corner, we were in need of libations and levity. Upon arrival we found our scheduled meet up location, the Cha Cha Lounge, dark and deserted. A resourceful bunch, we decided to leave a note stuck to the door and explore the previously uncharted Red Lion Tavern across the street. We were rewarded for our ingenuity with giant pretzels, deep fried pickles, waitresses in lederhosen, and “Das Boot”, beer served in a giant, boot shaped glass.

MORE PHOTOS:

www.flickr.com/photos/69615683@N04/sets/72157628907475699/

DO IT YOURSELF:

2215 Lake View Ave., Los Angeles,California, United States Adults: $2.50; children under 16: $2.00. Tours are by appointment only, call 1 323 664 3162

atlasobscura.com/place/holyland-exhibition

Places in this article
Share:
Refresh