What's Up With the Laclede's Landing Wax Museum?: A Riverfront Times Investigation

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Here at the RFT, it is our business to keep abreast of community affairs and pass our accumulated knowledge onto you, dear readers. Reporting can be an arduous process. Oh, sure, we make it look easy -- that's what brilliant journalists do, you know -- but we want you to be a part of this process of gathering news. Also, it's Monday and a slow news day. (Note: There is nothing more irritating to a journalist than waiting for someone to call you back. It's like a scene out of He's Just Not That Into You.)

So here we go behind the scenes of an investigation we undertook last week to uncover the fate of the Laclede's Landing Wax Museum.

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Our alert music editor Annie Zaleski was the first to notice the museum was closed. She'd wanted to take a visiting friend to see Jesus on Holy Saturday and maybe the drug victim with her butt on backwards. But it was closed. Like, permanently, with paper on the windows.

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Web editor Nick Lucchesi thought photos of people carrying wax figures out of the museum would make a good slide show. I thought it might make a mildly interesting short story, so I volunteered to lend my sharply-honed reporting skills to the investigation.

The museum's phone number, obtained after a little bit of Googling, rang and rang with no answer. The Laclede's Landing Merchants Association people also weren't around, but they had voicemail.

By Wednesday, we still had no answer. It may seem shocking in this Internet age, but sometimes journalists have to resort to old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting. It's tough, but there are also benefits, like getting out of the office on a sunny day.

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Down at the Landing, the museum was, indeed, locked and papered, just as Annie had said. Through gaps in the paper, I could see into the lobby. It was empty, except for a turnstile and a dusty display case. A lone wax figure stood at the top of the stairs. (I couldn't tell who it was. Maybe an astronaut?)

It was time to start pestering the locals.

"I'm not sure," said a carriage driver. "Yeah, it's closed, but they might be restoring it."

"Huh?" said a host at the Morgan Street Brewery across the street.

"It's closed for good," a hostess confirmed. "I've seen people carrying the wax dummies out of there. Like, all the time."

"It's closed?" asked a woman at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial offices, which are right next door to the museum. "I never even went in! It's a weird place. That costume shop up the street is kind of weird, too. Maybe you could write about it."

Oh, Charlie, Charlie the Caretaker, why hast thou forsaken us? - FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/RAYMONDCASTILE
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  • Oh, Charlie, Charlie the Caretaker, why hast thou forsaken us?
She looked over an official map of the Landing and found a number for the museum. It was the same one I'd already tried.

"Huh," Nick said when I called to pass this bit of intelligence on. "You can't even flip a coin." (We could have rolled a die. Not that news reports ever get determined that way.)

To me, it still seemed unclear. I actually wanted a drink, but it was my duty to press on to the Merchants Association in the great quest for truth.

On the way, I met Reggie.

"I'm homeless," he told me, "so I know the Landing real, real well. The museum? I think they're rennovating it. Could you help me get something to eat?"

I gave him a dollar. (I think that was unethical. Reporters aren't supposed to pay for information.)

The Merchants Association was closed.

"I have no idea," said the hostess at Jake's Steaks. "Are you sure you don't want a table?"

I went back to the museum for one last go-round. The front doors were still locked. The wax figure at the top of the stairs was still there. It was all quite mysterious. I wandered around the back, looking for an open window. No luck. So I got my drink and went home.

On Thursday, I got an e-mail from Emily Kochlan, the executive director of the Merchants Association. She wrote:
Sorry I have been out of the office and have missed your calls.  The Wax Museum is closed, due to renovation.  I'm not exactly sure when they plan to reopen.
And there you have it: the news. And the human effort to get it. Largely wasted, it's true, since I could have just sat on my ass for one more day. But isn't it good to know?

Fill in your own inspiring sermon here about the importance of newspapers to a functioning democracy.

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