The Cabazon Dinosaurs as they appear in Pee Wee's Big Adventure.
The Cabazon Dinosaurs are a couple of giant concrete dinosaurs located out in the desert near Palm Springs, California.
They're best known for their appearence in the movie Pee Wee's Big Adventure, but have also featured in Paris, Texas, Fallout: New Vegas, and the video for the Tears For Fears song "Everybody Wants to Rule the World".
You may have also heard of them described as "those big dinosaur things you go past on the way to Coachella".
The Cabazon Dinosaurs as they appear today.
The dinosaurs were built back in the 60s by a former Knott's Berry Farm model sculptor named Claude K Bell as a roadside attraction to attract people to his restaurant. However, after Claude's death, they were sold to a group who turned them into a creationist museum.
I decided to take a visit last week.
The theories put forth are all fairly standard creationist museum stuff: Evolution isn't real, God created everything, etc, etc.
As always with these type of places, the "facts" are presented in dense, impenetrable blocks of text. Like the sign pictured above, which contains easy-breezy sentences like: "evidently a tectonic event fluidized an unconsolidated sand deposit".
Presumably they do this in the hopes that people won't spend too long picking apart what they're saying, and just assume that the point they're making is true.
This museum differs from other creationist museums in one major way, though. As they believe that dinosaurs probably still exist. Here's why:
– The Loch Ness Monster, which is actually a plesiosaur, was spotted 52 times in 1933 alone.
– In 1910, the New York Herald ran an article called, "Is a Brontosaurus Roaming Africa's Wilds?"
– A missionary once met two pygmies in a church in Congo who told him they had killed a Mokèlé-mbèmbé, which is kind of like Congo's version of the Loch Ness Monster.
– Back in 2005, a paleontologist named Mary Higby Schweitzer found some T rex bones that contained evidence of intact structures like blood vessels n' stuff. "Can soft tissue, ligaments, and blood remain fresh after millions of years?" a sign at the museum asks, "The answer is undoubtedly no."
– Some ancient stones called the Ica Stones were found in Peru in the 60s, that had drawings of dinosaurs etched on them. (The internet tells me they also had etchings of people doing open heart surgery on them and are almost certainly forgeries.)
– In 1907 a colonel of the British Army named Percy Fawcett claims to have seen a diplodocus on the border of Brazil and Peru.
The $7.95 entry fee also gives you access to a nature walk type thing with a bunch of dinosaur models.
Dotted among the dinos are other, more contemporary animals. Cus, y'know, Noah's Ark n' shit.
There's a couple of activities for kids there, too. Like the "Dino Dig".
Which is perfect if you have the kind of kid who enjoys excavating pieces of actual shit.
You can also go inside the T rex, like Pee Wee Herman does in the movie.
But if you thought you could enjoy this piece of nostalgia uninterrupted, you'd be wrong: a sign inside the T rex explains that cavemen are just like you and I: "Neanderthals were simply a race of stocky humans. However, imaginative artists have consistently rendered them as stooped 'ape men'."
And, apart from a totally superfluous second gift shop, that's pretty much it. A bunch of (honestly quite shitty) concrete dinosaurs and some computer printouts about Jesus that you have to pay $7.95 to see.
If I'd paid for it myself (rather than VICE paying for me), I would be feeling pretty ripped off about now.
On the plus side, at least this place doesn't pose too much of a threat to more traditional, sane sources of information, like every natural history museum in the country or the junior novelisation of the movie Jurassic Park.
Though, according to these super depressing posters they have dotted around the place ("one day!",) the museum plans to expand into a giant "destination spot" that will have tons of things to do, like "some type of water amusements, a dig pit, an amphitheater of some sort, a museum, and a video arcade for starters".
They predict that this destination spot will be so popular, it will require TWO hotels to house all of the visitors.
But if the quality of this dino trash can that's currently gracing their museum is anything to go by, I don't think they'll be reaching their expansion any time soon.
Follow Jamie Taete on Twitter: @JLCT