Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wilhelm Reich Museum


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If you ever find yourself in Rangeley, Maine and have exhausted all the resources for having fun that you can find (such as the hardware store and ice cream stand), take a ride on over to the Wilhelm Reich Museum. You will not be disappointed if you are looking for an adventure.
We learned about this place in a book called Weird New England so we expected it to be a little bit wacky but weren’t fully prepared for the amount of weirdness we were to experience.

Wilhelm Reich was a scientist who studied under Freud and then moved to Rangeley. He supposedly discovered an energy he called “orgone” that he used to treat cancer and control the weather He also ended up in prison for the last days of his life.

So the tour started in a small dark room with folding chairs set up. We had to watch a DVD about Reich’s life that lasted way too long to occupy our attention. Luckily our tour guide, who sat in the corner, interjected random facts she thought were funny throughout the presentation. After the video, we were brought into the house/laboratory and told not to take any pictures because they didn’t want the pictures to be sold to outside media …. (I hope it’s ok for me to be writing this!)

The first floor had all of Reich’s weirdo machines and contraptions: like the cloud buster that could create or dissipate clouds and an orgone chamber for someone to get locked into. Upstairs was his bedroom, living room, library and examination room – and I don’t believe there were doors to any of these rooms. There were weird books and paintings and pictures of his wives and girlfriends. On the third floor was his observatory and painting room that stepped out onto the roof with such a beautiful view of the mountains all around. After the official tour, we were brought back down to the first floor so that we could quench our insatiable curiosity of his machines – which apparently was not satisfied by the first 25 minutes we spent looking around in there.

We then walked a little way into the woods to find Reich’s tomb and another cloud buster. After we looked at all of his books in the gift shop we left and our watchful tour guide waved wildly and yelled when we went the wrong way – it would have been a disaster if we had continued and met the HOARDS of people trying to make their way to the museum. We went down the road a little way to the conference room because we had to go to the bathroom. This building apparently holds the wackjobs who spend $275 to come to the museum for 4 day long conferences annually to discuss Reich and his work. The door wasn’t locked and it didn’t look like there was anyone in the building so we seized the opportunity to explore.

The reading room housed all of Reich’s writings that they charged $20+ for in the gift shop. I resisted the urge to swipe any of them. There was also the actual ORGONE ROOM! A whole room that we could sneak into – just like the tiny compartment we weren’t allowed to touch in the museum! So, anyway, we were poking around and taking pictures (oops!) when a man burst out of a closed door at the end of the room half-yelling, “MAY I HELP YOU?” He was mad scientist from the neck up and lumberjack from the neck down and he very nearly gave us all a heart attack. We all were semi-nervous due to the ridiculous nature of the situation we suddenly found ourselves in and told him we were just looking, as I hid my camera from him. He very quickly ushered us to the door and asked, “Can I answer any questions for you?” Our mom answered, “I wouldn’t really know where to start!” and he barked, “IT’S REALLY NOT THAT HARD!” And we left.


19 comments:

  1. Love this post! Your experience was priceless, and I loooove the way you recounted it. Keep it up!

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  2. Thanks so much for reading! We're hoping to have more adventures real soon!

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  3. We visited that same museum - we still have a Willem Reich mug to prove it !

    When we went they didn't have a DVD player so we watched a 16 mm film that they projected onto a screen - same folding chairs though.

    The house itself was amazing but with all that orgone floating around, it is sort of sinister too.

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  4. We're so happy you commented! We feel like we probably got a lucky deal by getting to watch the DVD but also feel like the projector probably added to the experience - and we both laughed about the folding chairs!

    We're actually really surprised to find that we aren't the only people who got suckered into this place (at least we didn't buy a mug!)

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  5. we had this really creepy tour guide who told us no one was FORCING us to take a tour that we PAID for! He scolded us if we chuckled or were less than respectful in our questions. When we tried to leave he kind of followed us telling us there were TWO MORE FLOORS!!! I have never lauged so hard in my life. But for a good time, don't call....

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  6. We've been going to Rangeley for years and have always seen this place, but never visited. However, having exhausted all ice cream shops, bars, gift shops, and gas stations, and finding ourselves in a couple of days over the 4th of July of pouring rain, we decided to give it a whirl.

    Trying to actually find it was an adventure in itself, as the signage is very poor. The first building you find is the museum office, which was locked (why bother to have it open and staffed?) and it was only with the assistance of a passing local that we were able to determine that the unmarked road next to the hiking trail sign was the one we needed to follow. (Why make the visitor experience pleasant or easy?)

    The setting of the place is beautiful, high on a hill overlooking Dodge Pond, and the stone building is impressive. We met our tour guide, who was a curious cross of Lurch and Rocky Horror, at the bookstore; he took us across the field to a sinister, squat, cement block and told us we would be watching a movie on Dr. Reich's life. He closed the door and left us in dank darkness on folding chairs for a 28 minute film. (28 minutes; really?) We were a party of four with one other couple and we were laughing so hard one of us had to leave the room. The other couple broke the ice and said you don't have to stop giggling on our account, and launched into a discussion about what they found on Wikipedia about Reich and we were having a great conversation when Rocky Horror Lurch slithered back into the room and with a passive-aggressive snarl commented, "Well, I see all the Wikipedia talk stopped when I came back in!" Thus chastened, we glumly watched the rest of the film and then then trooped upstairs.

    The museum itself is badly curated, poorly lit, and indifferently displayed. There were 6 of us in the museum, with 3 docents hovering nearby. We opted out of going upstairs for the "more personal" view.

    The thing is, this could be a very interesting little museum, if they were to focus on the resistance Reich faced and the censorship battle he (ultimately) lost. He began his career as a legitimate scientist, but somewhere along the way, descended into some kind of quackery and delusion.

    However, if you want to laugh until you can't make a fist, wait for a rainy day in Rangeley and head to this place. I, for one, can't wait to go back to buy one of those funky t-shirts...

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  7. dude was insulted cause we were laughing...and they had some crypt keeper lady following us around....and almost gang tackled us trying to bail early....my cloud buster is bigger than your cloudbuster

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  8. Thank you all for reading and commenting!
    Mollybloom51, we are so happy to see that our experiences were so similar!
    We just got back from our annual Eustis/Rangeley, Maine trip and we, unfortuantely(?) didn't go back to the museum but we just might have to go next year because it sounds like this male tour guide (whom we didn't have) sounds like a great time!

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  9. Thanks for this account. We were greeted by a docent wearing a Marilyn Manson T-shirt and told to come back when it was open.

    We didn't.

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  10. For my account, see http://tommclaughlin.blogspot.com/2011/08/maine-mountains-meandering.html.

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  11. Tom, thanks so much for reading and linking to our post on your site. We really hope you decide to go back someday because it's definitely worth it - for the story alone!

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  12. Your account of visiting the Wilhelm Reich Museum is really funny. Thanks for putting it up. I have no idea when I'll next get to Maine, but when I do, I'll definitely pass by.

    Reich was not only crazy, but his followers today are still out there, doing, among other things, trying to use cloudbusters for weather control and modification, his version of "therapy." As a child, my brother and I were subjected to years of what Reich called "Vegetotherapy." It was not fun. We were made to strip naked and the therapist, an old man, ran his hands over us and he dug his knuckles and fingers into our bodies, making us scream, cry and left us sore, humiliated and bruised. It was abuse, plain and simple, in the guise of "therapy."

    If you had to buy one book at the Museum, I'd recommend Wilhelm Reich's "Contact with Space," where Reich goes into great detail about his battles with dozens of UFO's (UFO's!) in 1954 and 1955 using cloudbusters as weapons. Contact with Space is truly a classic in quack literature.

    Again, thanks for your great review of your visit to the Reich Museum.

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  13. Tim - Thanks so much for reading! Although the museum is pretty far north and takes awhile to get to, we definitely think it's worth it - at least for the kooky story you're bound to get out of it.
    We looked up some information about the therapy you're talking about and it sounds pretty awful...and sad. We're so sorry you had to go through that! Since you've had some firsthand experience with some of Reich's beliefs/therapies, we would love it if you could write a blog post about your experiences, as a supplement to this post. If you're interested, please email us at absurdadventurers@gmail.com.

    Thanks!

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  14. Hi Kathryn,
    My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blogs about Rangeley to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you soon!
    Jane

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  16. geez you guys,
    slightly harsh, uneducated, and nasty of you all..
    I sure hope the CIA doesn't walk into your living room and burn your belongings and throw you in jail for playing a video game or some other favorite activity.
    The only absurd adventure I see here is one in the lengths people will go to keep their minds squeezed tightly shut.
    Best of Luck.

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    Replies
    1. It's all just a 'kooky story' though to the mindless kids who wrote the review.

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  17. Another smartarse disrespectful review which is typical of the social media generation we have today. Your ignorance of Reich would result of course in this half hearted childish review (how old are you? Seriously). Why not actually learn about his life and about his experiences - Reich led an amazing life from fighting in the trenches in WW1 to escaping the Nazis and his research especially concerning sexuality is over 30 years long. Reich became a cultural icon in the 1960s and his name was a motto in Paris in 1968 which unfortunately saw a cultural revolution that creates idiots like you.

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  18. Come on Anonymous.. don't you know they won't stop to defame the greatest scientist of all times (or one of them), either until the end of the World or until the end of Thinking Humans?

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