Who Is Buying the Museum of the Weird?

Conspicuously absent from the MLS listing for 834 W. 24th St. in the Heights: any mention (or photos) of the Scar Room, a small chamber of sculptures and small wood panels on which house owner and artist Dolan Smith and sympathetic visitors graphically documented their physical and psychological afflictions. Sample Scar Room decor: “a submerged doll with a piece of rubber hose wrapped around its neck, representing the umbilical cord that nearly strangled Smith at birth.”

But it isn’t too hard to find exacting descriptions of the home online. The Houston Press, for example, featured this bit of color as it celebrated the home’s come-from-behind win of the paper’s “Best Shrine to the Abnormal” award back in 2002:

Donations of every imaginable variety show up weekly: horns, doll heads, a film canister of Tommy Lee Jones’s spit, balls of Saran Wrap, clumps of hair, an appendix, color photos of fallopian tubes and contemporary art of a disquieting nature. Artist/nutball Dolan Smith has turned his Heights bungalow into a mecca for all things weird. . . .

Smith is supplementing his empire of the bizarre with a two-thirds-complete pet cemetery. Last year, Tropical Storm Allison took its toll on the nascent final resting place for pets. Rising floodwaters filled the jars of 32 dead rats, inadvertently creating biological pipe bombs.

Sure, you’re thinking . . . Who’s gonna buy this place?

No problem. Realtor Weldon Rigby, himself no stranger to homes graced by an occasional mannequin, has already done himself proud. After just a month and a half on the market, the home — listed for $150,000 — went “option pending” on November 14th.


The main building of Smith’s Museum of the Weird is a souped-up 848-sq.-ft. 2-bedroom bungalow, behind this front gate:

Separate buildings in the back

house a studio, an office,

and two half-baths. This one appears to be the women’s room:

The large back yard also features a domed hot tub with a custom mosaic (aka the champagne baptismal)

. . . as well as a pond feature, currently under renovation:

Understated example of Rigby’s home-marketing genius: This photo of the well-stocked workshop,

which lends an air of normalcy to the surroundings.

A Houston Press account of Smith’s 2003 grand opening of the Pet Columbarium documents the Museum’s spunky genius loci:

He had a couple hundred partygoers in attendance, plenty of booze and contortionist-hula hoop-strippers to entertain the crowd. Halloween (on the eve of Day of the Dead) seemed like perfect timing to celebrate the opening of a cemetery that would house the ashes and memorabilia of people’s dead pets.

Around midnight, though, a few guests — one apparently wearing only a stuffed animal loincloth — brought in ten huge helium balloons, tied the strings to stuffed toy animals, doused them in lighter fluid and sent the fiery furballs off into the sky.

“The first round was really beautiful,” says Smith. “It was a beautiful metaphor for the Pet Columbarium opening.” The metaphor didn’t hold up so well in the second round. The batch caught an errant breeze and lit a neighbor’s tree on fire, bringing police and firefighters out to shut the party down. No one was arrested or ticketed, and although Smith thinks that he’s landed on some sort of arson list, he calls the fiery shindig a swinging success.

Will the new owner keep the Museum of the Weird weird?

4 Comment

  • If this property was for sale as a cultural landmark, it wouldn’t be on the market for $22.90/sf. That price per sf is in the ballpark for teardowns on this side of Shepherd. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this in the Daily Demo Report before too long.

  • I suspect a teardown…

  • Not to worry…NOT a TEAR DOWN.. I am the buyer and and art car driver and going to reinvent the property aS THE MUSEUM OF WIT. DOLAN IS DOING MUSEUM OF WEIRD SOMEWHERE IN TOWN.

  • Think there is a little misunderstanding. Museum of Wit or whatever we rename the house will not be open to the public. It will be my studio and residence during the week. I was thinking to rename the house to Compound Wit in order to clear up the thinking that this will be a business open to the public. I never planned to have a commercial business on site.