“The Ugliest Artifact I’ve Ever Seen”

Museum artifacts can be beautiful. Museum artifacts can be plain. Plain museum artifacts can sometimes represent ugly ideas. It is rare, however, to come across a museum artifact that is, in actuality, literally ugly. Ah, but we’ve found one! Thanks to staff member Dale Bacon, who is our go-to-guy for all things weird, spooky, or paranormal, and his sleuthing, the Society is now the proud owner of one of the ugliest artifacts I’ve ever seen.

Why yes, that is a hair growing out of the mole on her face (bottom right)!

In case you couldn’t see the rotten teeth (left) well enough in the other photos.

This lovely bit of clay work is called “Mother-In-Law” (we’ll call her Mom for short) and Dale recently presented a Brown Bag program at the Nebraska History Museum that informed us all about Mom’s origins.

Mom was part of  the Gregore show which began its run on Omaha’s KMTV in 1958. Gregore was a locally produced, low-budget, late night program that featured bad horror flicks along with a character named Gregore who would tell jokes, make fun of the movies and perform skits before and after the movie and commercial breaks. Gregore was played by accomplished actor and radio announcer Gregg Dunn with production staff filling in wherever needed.

Gregg Dunn as Gregore (at left)

One of the running gags on the show was that Gregore had the head of his Mother-in-Law in a cabinet which he would open, without revealing the contents, thereby unleashing an annoying chattering. This would be followed by a Mother-in-Law joke such as, “I bought my Mother-in-Law a chair for Christmas, but she wouldn’t plug it in (ba-da-ba).” Finally, toward the end of the show’s run KMTV employee Ken Philo gave form to the cabinet dwelling in-law using clay, earrings, and, in impressive attention to detail, rotten teeth obtained from the Creighton Dental School.

Although Gregore was quite popular with KMTV viewers and even had its own fan club, the show ended in 1961.

Since then Mom had been living in the closet of Benny Benschoter, one of the directors of Gregore, until he transferred her to us last week. She served a noble purpose as disciplinarian while at the Benschoter household as Benny would threaten to send his kids into the closet with the creepy head if they misbehaved.  From what we’ve heard, the Benschoter children are happy to see her gone.

–Deb Arenz, Senior Museum Curator & Dale Bacon, Assistant Curator

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History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
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