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Did you know that in Iceland’s countryside, dried up bulls penises are used as cattle rods to whip farm animals? Me neither, but this is apparently how it all started and the world’s only penis museum came to be.
Back in the 1970s, when Sigurður Hjartarson was still the principal of a school in a port town in southwest Iceland, he and a couple of his teachers started joking about ancient Icelandic traditions over drinks. Hjartarson related a tale from his childhood in which he had been given a pizzle – a dried up bulls penis made into a cattle rod – by relatives who owned a farm. The joke grew from there, with a teacher bringing back a similar “gift” to Hjartarson, when an animal was slaughtered on a farm he visited. Friends working at nearby whaling stations joined in on the fun and started bringing him several feet long whale schlongs as well, all to tease the poor headmaster.
Probably to his wife’s and everyone else’s bewilderment, Hjartarson actually started collecting the phalluses, hanging them up in his home and experimenting with different preservation methods such as tanning, drying and submerging them in formaldehyde. Soon, he actively started pursuing his new hobby and asked everyone from abattoir workers to fishermen for help.
Through several moves and a switch in management to Hjartarson’s son, the museum eventually ended up in downtown Reykjavik and is now definitely one of the coolest things you can do in the city. Today, the Icelandic Phallological Museum is the only museum in the world exhibiting all the penises of all mammals living in one country. But apart from displaying all the peckers from all the Icelandic land and seamammals, the collection also includes penises from around the world.
There are gigantic, rubbery looking sperm whale penises, floating in tanks that are taller than a human and the teeny tiny little members of house mice. Horses, rams and bulls compete with giraffes, bears and porpoises in size, shape and state of erection. There is the huge, curved ankle spanker of an elephant mounted on a wall, a thing so huge you could probably beat someone to death with it and there is also a jar with absolutely nothing in it, claiming to contain the invisible phallus of an elf. The elephant is a crowd favourite and has been featured in many a selfie and the elf is a nod to the widespread Icelandic belief in myths, legends and its creatures.
As weird as it sounds, the museum isn’t pornographic at all, but very honest about it’s purpose. As soon as you enter the modern building with the well lit rooms, it delivers what was advertised and you are surrounded by almost 300 eerie specimen floating in their jars. Like in some weird, Alien science lab, wrinkled skin sometimes with tufts of hair attached presses against the glass confines. Some penises are coiled up tightly, others are frozen in eternal erection, while some have been fashioned into art. Penises are nailed onto wooden boards like hunting trophies, ball sacks were made into artsy lamp shades and sculptures, paintings and all kinds of weird things only add to the charm.
There is also some space dedicated to human penises, which ties into one of my favourite stories about the museum.
Not too long ago, the Icelandic Phallological Museum was involved in a hilarious competition. When Hjartarson expressed interest in acquiring a human penis for his collection, several people, among them the famous Icelandic womanizer Pall Arason and an American named Tom Mitchell stepped up to volunteer. While everyone promised the museum would get the organ after their death, Mitchell took it a step further.
This is what he said: “It is very important to me that Elmo be the first human specimen in your museum. I decided to remove my genitals completely.”
Yes, you can’t make this stuff up. Tom Mitchell wanted so desperately to have his beloved, personified schlong on display in the museum and to show the world that “the largest and best one came from the States”, that he got it tattooed in stars and stripes, named it Elmo and promised to cut it off before he died.
Spoiler alert: Arason won, but Mitchell is still determined to prove that whales aren’t the only well endowed mammals out there. He sent the museum a plaster mold to reserve his space.