Category New York

Evil Is Not A Scientific Word: The Jekyll & Hyde Club

  jekyll and hyde nyc lobby

When I talked about my upcoming trip to New York, my polite friends would inevitably inquire what sights were on the docket, and were generally perplexed when the first words that came out of my mouth were “I’m going to the horror Chuck E. Cheese!”  The look of confusion in their eyes would say everything. “Isn’t that just the regular Chuck E. Cheese?” “You’re going to a city with the best restaurants in the world and you’d choose Chuck E. Cheese?” “I bet the horror is what you find in the ball pit.” “What’s wrong with you?”

In some ways, The Jekyll & Hyde Club is the horror Chuck E. Cheese, but it’s also so much more: if Chuck E. Cheese and an English library and freak show shared a magical evening and somehow split their DNA three ways and had a baby, The Jekyll & Hyde Club would be that baby. Unlike Chuck E. Cheese, the animatronic parts of the restaurant were created much more recently than the 1970s, and they’re creepy in an enjoyable way, not a “I can’t believe they’d let that dusty half-rotted material jerk around near food intended for human consumption” way. No detail was neglected: the servers dressed like Victorian-era butlers, complete with bowler hats, every seat in the house was near something interesting to look at (unlike the sequestered mine area in Casa Bonita), there was even a secret entrance to the restrooms through the fireplace and down a book-lined corridor, AND in said restrooms sometimes a face would pop out at you in the mirror like the Bloody Mary nightmares of your childhood sleepovers….good thing you’d already let go of your bowels just minutes earlier! The eyes in some portraits would move. Other portraits would morph over time–sometimes it would look like a standard portrait, sometimes the subject would blink, slowly erupt in boils, his face would twist in pain, or the shadow of a tarantula would start crawling across. It was excellent. Truth be told, this place looks exactly how I’d decorate my house if I had infinite money and no one to tell me no. Except I’d also have a dinosaur room.

jekyll and hyde specimens

elephant head mountI was seated opposite this, so I had a lot of time to watch these most-excellent moving portraits.

king tut wall of skullsSometimes the pharoah would talk!

disco skeletons

Jekyll and hyde bar

shrunken head bar

jekyll and hyde mummy

fireplace werewolf mount

fireplace restroom entrance

hidden restroom doors

shark head mount

skeleton ventriloquist

wall of masks

zeus is pissed

drusilla dreadfulFrankly, I’ve seen a few dolls that are scarier than this.

jekyll and hyde conjoined dolls

jekyll and hyde mermaid tank

jekyll and hyde haunted house

What I didn’t know was that the Jekyll & Hyde Club also contained its own haunted house: The Chamber of Horrors. If I hadn’t already decided to visit, this would have sealed the deal for me. Objectively, it’s not the best haunted house I’ve ever been to–it was fairly evident that there were only a few employees working inside and they relied overly much on the room being pitch black for scares. However, just having the place to ourselves was enough to make it better than our experience at Halloween Horror Nights Orlando : it’s hard to be scared with a line of bros penguin walking with their arms around their girlfriends in front of you. I don’t know how the experience would change when the restaurant is full. The night that we went was relatively dead and we were some of the last people through the maze before it closed for the night.

mad science experiment

frankenstein lives

They also put on combination live/animatronic show every so often (Every hour? Two hours? We only saw one while we were there, so it’s not often enough to be obnoxious) that was definitely Frankensteinian in nature, not Jekyll and Hyde. Not that I’m complaining! The show was entertaining, the actors looked like they were having fun, and the audience was definitely into it, which are all important elements to keep it from from feeling sad and awkward.

It’s weird to talk about a restaurant and not mention the food, right? I went in with really low expectations, because restaurants in this category rarely make food that you feel enthusiastic about eating, and I ended up being more than pleasantly surprised, as was Jason. Granted, the things that we ordered were hard to mess up (a Memphis burger and a margherita pizza, respectively), neither one of us have food critic tendencies, and we were both quite hungry, so a boiled shoe probably would have been acceptable at that point in time as long as it was a large one. Still, I would say that it outclasses many of its theme restaurant peers. As far as prices go, I didn’t find it shockingly expensive save for the stupid-expensive drink I ordered ($20!!! In USD! For a drink that didn’t get me drunk!)–in general, the prices seem in line with other theme restaurants. They do tack on a $3 “entertainment fee” per person which is a little annoying, but seems reasonable by comparison to Casa Bonita‘s insistence that no one may enter without purchasing an entire meal. Neither would be preferable, but ultimately $3 is negligible. The Chamber of Horrors isn’t included in that $3 fee, it comes at an additional charge which varies depending on whether or not you’re dining at the restaurant.

I would say that the biggest downsides to the Jekyll and Hyde club are that it’s in Times Square (which is all-around horrible unless you are a fundamentally different sort of person who enjoys massive crowds of people wandering aimlessly and excruciatingly slowly in a mall filled with stores you have at home and advertisements flashing at you on all sides…it’s like walking in a stinky, annoying, pop-up banner), the seats all have arms which make them difficult to climb into when you’re butted back to back with another customer, and your experience is wholly dependent on how much effort the employees are willing to put forth into their performances. None of these caveats would prevent me from going back, should I find myself in NYC at some point in the future. In fact, I think Casa Bonita has a serious contender for the title of “most exciting restaurant in the world.”

The Cloisters Museum of Art in NYC

One of my top priorities in New York was to visit The Cloisters Museum & Gardens: the branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated solely to their extensive collection of medieval art and architecture. Instead of creating a copy of one specific building, The Cloisters combines religious and secular architecture in chronological order throughout the building. This makes each room a beautiful complement to the art as well as an immersive experience; it’s rare to see period art in context with its surroundings. Medieval art tends toward the highly religious, and while I’m not generally entranced with the subject matter, the craftsmanship is undeniable, and visiting The Cloisters was a unique opportunity that I refused to miss.  

Fuentiduena Chapel

LionLion relief tramples a dragon

Saint-Guilhem Cloister


Bearded Men Fighting

Romanesque Hall

arch at the cloisters

Langon Chapel

ornate door handleDoor with ironwork

medieval chapel

Pontaut Chapter House

Monks from the Cistercian abbey at Pontaut in Aquitaine once gathered for daily meetings in this twelfth-century enclosure known as a chapter house. At the time of its purchase in the 1930s by a Parisian dealer, the column supports were being used to tether farm animals.


Cuxa Cloister & Garden

Both medieval and modern species of plants are grown in the garden, the pink stone of which was quarried in the twelfth century for the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa.

Cloisters Garden

Early Gothic Hall

Stained glass

head perhaps of an angelThe title of this piece of artwork kills me: “Head, perhaps of an Angel”. It reminds me of nothing so much as the conclusions that the Ghost Adventures bros leap to. You could just call it “Head”? Or stick to your convictions and call it “Angel Head”?

Gothic Chapel

The Gothic Chapel contains stained glass windows from fourteenth century Austria and carved images from royal and noble tombs of Spain and France.

Chapel at the Cloisters

Glass Gallery

our lord's bongOur father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy bong

Dragon eating a manA water vessel of a dragon eating a man or a man escaping from a dragon’s mouth.

Brass unicorn water vesselUnicorn water vessel

brass water vesselsSelection of fanciful water vessels

 stained glass at cloisters

Seasonal Cafe in Trie Cloister

The cafe at the CloistersJason, refreshed after drinking a $6 bottle of medieval Sprite. My $6 medieval water was just ok.


A room that illustrates the wealth of medieval churches, containing precious objects wrought in gold, silver, ivory, and silk.

Bishop's robesIn days of old when knights were bold, bishops dressed like wizards.

a chalice for serious drinkingThis chalice is legit. Even crappy booze would seem fancy when sipped out of this thing, which after you paid for it, would be the only type of booze you could afford.

illuminated bibleIlluminated bible

medieval playing cards15th century illuminated playing cards

golden handThis must be Jamie Lannister’s lesser-used gold hand reserved for fun times.

quatrefoil stained glassQuatrefoil roundel with arms and secular scenes

Silver mary and bishopBishop saint and female saint wrought in silver. I feel that it’s a missed opportunity to not have had reproductions in the gift shop as salt and pepper shakers.

Boppard Room

Stained glassStained glass from the fifteenth century Carmelite convent

Merode Roomceiling beamsEven the wood beams on the ceilings in the Merode Room were works of art!

Late Gothic Hall

st michael defeats the antichristThe archangel Michael defeats the antichrist. Possibly the inspiration for the “bitchin tattoo” an ex of mine expressed a desire to acquire. Frankly, this depiction of the antichrist only raises more questions for me, like, what the eff does he do with all of those mouths and why is he helping Michael to jab him through the uppermost mouth and if he has mouths all over and salamander arms and chicken feet, why are Christians worried that he walks among us unseen? He’s not exactly Waldo, I’m pretty sure I could pick him out of a crowd with no trouble.

Nine Heroes Tapestries Room

From a series of nine hangings created around 1400 for a member of the Valois court; they are among the earliest sets of surviving medieval tapestries.

medieval tapestry

Unicorn Tapestries Room

The Cloisters wouldn’t be what it is without the contributions of  John D Rockefeller Jr–not only did he donate the land for the site of the museum, but he also donated a significant amount of land around the museum to preserve the view of the Hudson river, as well as donating works of art from his own collection, including the Unicorn Tapestries. In truth, the Unicorn Tapestries were the main impetus behind my visit. I’ve always had it bad for unicorns, and I recall first encountering the Unicorn Tapestries in an enormous book in the library filled with unicorn art throughout history. The book was incredible…and I never saw it in the library again, nor have been able to find its like. It was then that I realized that the introduction to The Last Unicorn cribbed heavily from the Unicorn Tapestries. Well, one of them, anyway.

Their origin and symbolism remain a mystery. The initials found in several of the tapestries point to two different potential owners/commissioners, as well as signs that they may be part of two separate sets. If not, there’s debate as to whether they were woven in Brussels or the Netherlands and as to whether their meaning is religious or secular. My uneducated belief is secular, if only because by this point in the museum, it was clear that people weren’t exactly afraid of putting Jesus on everything so there wasn’t exactly a need to couch it in hunt symbolism.

We didn’t enter the Unicorn Tapestries room until close to the end of our visit, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the closest thing to a religious experience I’ve ever had. Here is this artwork that I’ve seen small, lesser versions of for over twenty five years, in person, large as life. Much larger than I’d imagined. Vivid, astoundingly detailed. Lush. I almost cried at their beauty.

Nothing compares with seeing them in person, but the Met has high quality scans so you can see more of the detail. They did offer Unicorn in Captivity tapestry decorative pillows in the gift shop, but they were pale shadows compared to the original, which is a shame. If they were even somewhat close to the beauty of the tapestries themselves, I’d have flung money at them for the opportunity to have a reminder in my home of how I felt standing in the Cloisters.

Unicorn Tapestries roomThe 7th, 2nd, and 3rd Unicorn Tapestries (l-r)

unicorn tapestries roomThe 4th, 5th, and 6th Unicorn Tapestries (l-r)

The unicorn purifies the waterThe 2nd tapestry, The Unicorn is Found. Also known as The Unicorn at the Fountain.

Bunny detailJason attempted to point out these bunny butts on the second tapestry to me, and apparently his finger crossed some sort of laser beam line because all of a sudden a siren was going off and a guard was furiously motioning at us to stay away from the tapestries. He didn’t touch anything! That bun is an instigator. Troublemaker. Tattler.

The unicorn leaps the streamDetail of the 3rd tapestry, The Unicorn is Attacked or The Unicorn Leaps the Stream

majestic fireplaceThe fireplace to end all fireplaces in the Unicorn Tapestries room!

The unicorn defends himselfDetail of the 4th tapestry, The Unicorn Defends Itself

The unicorn is captured by the maidenFragments of the 5th tapestry, The Mystic Capture of the Unicorn

the unicorn is killed and brought to the castleDetail of the 6th tapestry, The Unicorn is Killed and Brought to the Castle

The unicorn in captivityDetail of the 7th tapestry, The Unicorn in Captivity


NY State Museum in Albany







ny-museum-opossumI want to get my hands on a reproduction copy of Icones animalum now.

bad-selfieI wanted to take a picture in front of this giant drawing of old-timey NY and then make it look like I was part of it, but then felt deep embarrassment over taking a selfie in a museum so I didn’t line it up properly and this is what we ended up with. I feel like I’m in the “Take On Me” video.

anit-fertility-symbol“Anti-Fertility Symbol” by Megan Cavanaugh. This would have been a delightful addition to my “Never Gonna Have a Baby” shower.

  Albany’s Cultural Education building is jam-packed with public services: the NY State Archives, the NY State Library (one of the largest libraries in the world!), and the NY State Museum. I only had time to check out the NY State Museum, and even that was very limited as I needed to hoof it back to the hotel and make myself a presentable wedding guest, so I was only able to see one of their (enormous) floors. I was able to learn a bit about the history of New York City as well as some of the history of Albany and New York State, see some of the creatures of the nearby Adirondack mountains, check out their impressive mineral collection, and see the “Best of SUNY” art exhibit. My only complaint is that it’s not laid out very well. Things seem to be jammed in where there’s physical space instead of where they belong: natural history is mixed in with urban history, their 9/11 stuff is split between the NYC area and the Adirondack Wilderness area, and it makes the museum even more difficult to navigate when it’s already a labyrinth. I’d also like for monitors placed so there’s easy access of information without obscuring the exhibit itself, but that’s just nitpicking. It’s free (donations accepted and recommended — at $5 per person, it’s still a bargain) and definitely worth checking out if you’re in Albany, but not necessarily worth going out of your way to visit.