The Drumbeat of Death
RIP, 2000? (Last site update 1999)
2019 Update: No, this wasn’t the 430th museum I visited. It was actually the 63rd. But I decided to roll these post-closure “visits” into my general Museum Visits list so I have one less list to worry about. I figure with the defunct visits, it doesn’t really matter whether I visited in 2008 or 2019, y’know?
As CTMQ readers are acutely aware, I love museums. And I hate when they close – most often due to lack of funding, awareness, and visitations. However, this particular museum may have “had” to go by the wayside. Somehow, “Somers Mountain Museum of Natural History and Primitive Technology” doesn’t really have too much name cache. It’s a tough one.
But there is a jerky part of me that really isn’t too upset at the demise of this place. How can I say that while admittedly not even really knowing what this place was all about? Well, those of you who know me, know that I abhor all types of mysticism, woo-wooism, nonsense, superstition and those who promote such nonsense really bug me. And, it appears, the Somers Mountain Museum of Natural History and Primitive Technology did just that. So the fact that they are no longer in this line of work is not really a huge loss. In fact, it’s a gain in my rational book.
Note: commenters below have pointed out that the original guy, Jimmy King, who created this museum was an awesome guy and that it was those who succeeded him here that ruined it. I’m sure they are correct.
To wit, back in 1999 (the last time this place offered such things), they presented a class called “Shamanic Journeying.” Just what is such a thing? “Shamanic Journeying has long been known as a vehicle for performing healing work and for sojourning and counseling with power animals and spirit guides. We will guide you on a journey to meet your power animal or spirit guide and experience the healing effects of drumming.”
Oh really. So in three hours one could become adept a “healing” through their “power animal,” “spirit guide,” and some drumming? Riiiight. Oh sure, this stuff is embedded into Native American lore and history… but that hardly makes it viable. It’s cute and quaint and interesting to learn about, but it’s also silly and childish to pretend its effective. (My son is sick with strep as I write this, with a 103.7 degree temp. Maybe I should give him a wooden spoon and a pot?)
Anyway, back to our defunct museum. They also offered other – what were I’m sure pretty cool – classes in things like bow-making, edible plant identification, arrow making, and primitive pottery. It also appears they had some Native American displays and interpretive centers. I hope they gave their good/real stuff to other nearby Native American museums… but calls and emails to the former proprietors (made by the local Somers Historical Society a mile away) have gone unanswered.
All that remains (outside) today is the skeleton of a primitive hut of some sort and a For Sale sign.
Lizzeee saysMay 26, 2009 at 10:47 am
I grew up in Enfield and I remember this place. Back in the 70’s it housed the collection of Native tools and artifacts of some really old guy who admired the ways of the Native Americans.
Kerri saysOctober 11, 2010 at 5:23 pm
Okay, I just saw this and find it upsetting. Growing up, I went here many times, but it was called something totally different and just featured Native American artifacts. I was wondering if it still existed and am disappointed that it both went in the woo-wooism direction, and then closed altogether. Dang. I still have a ring I bought from there way back in the day. Now, I am wondering when it switched from plain old museum to this other incarnation.
Cheryl saysMay 21, 2012 at 11:25 am
I grew up in Somers and I remember the Indian Museum run by Jimmy King, filled with Native American artifacts. Mr. King was very old in the 1960’s (or I was very young…) and he had a wealth of information and long, long stories. I recognize the house–the one in the photo with you in it. It Was a fun place to go. Sorry you missed it.
Taryn saysJanuary 12, 2013 at 11:28 am
I visited the Somers Indian Museum as a kid, probably 1972-is. I wonder what happened to their collection? There’s a great Native Indian museum in Warner, NH called the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum http://www.indianmuseum.org which reminds me of the Somers Indian Museum, only the MKIM is much bigger and more impressive.
Judy saysNovember 12, 2013 at 9:53 am
I find this posting to be very sad. With Native American roots, I found this place interesting as a child of the 60’s. I took both if my children there growing up & Barbara was very informative & gave me direction to learning more about my ancestry. My children slept in the teepee over nite after listening to Native American folk lore which housed great memories; my oldest, now 26, actually asked me how to get there to bring her children – she will saddened to find they’re closed. As for you’re comments on natural healing whether herbal or spiritual, drums have been used for 1000’s of years by the Tibetan for healing & have been proven to help (they practice this a couple times a week locally in the Enfield area). It seems your a skeptic who is closed minded & need to focus your energy somewhere else!
Steve saysNovember 12, 2013 at 10:28 am
I am always curious when people use “skeptic” as though it’s a negative thing. I am a proud skeptic! Of course, lumping “closed minded [sic]” with “skeptic” is a unfair to me and that hurts MY feelings. A skeptic would simply ask for peer-reviewed evidence for the efficacy of drum therapy. Nothing more, nothing less.
“Used for 1000’s of years” means nothing to me. Anecdotal stories of drumming in Enfield means nothing.
Aha! So I just searched around for “peer reviewed evidence for drum therapy efficacy” and lo and behold, there seems to be some “complementary” therapeutic qualities of banging on drums all day, especially as it pertains to alcoholics and drug addicts in Native American and Inuit populations!
More study is needed, but yes, the hypnotic qualities of repetitive drumming probably does have some therapeutic positive effect – as long as those involved believe it does. Which is tenuous evidence at best.
So there you are! That’s how skepticism works. But as for most of the links above… Nope. Still woo-woo. They go far beyond the evidence and make wild claims with no evidence to back them up.
Michael Keropian saysApril 11, 2014 at 1:25 pm
What a way to find out about the demise of an “indian museum” that touched so many young people. The article would have been better if you could have done a little research on the place. I can’t say what happened after the original owner turned it over to “Somers Mountain Museum of Natural History and Primitive Technology,” but my annual trips as a teenager were very rewarding. I grew up in Manchester and my friend Ken and I would venture over there in the 1970s. We were doing the usual stuff teens did back then and we stumbled upon it one day and went in. We would speak to the old man there and usually buy some moccasins. He was a very nice man and would always try and have a conversation with us reluctant teens about the native people. Sometimes he, (I believe it was James F. King) was dressed in native regalia (usually western plains style). There were a number of exhibits and for the size of the place it was and in some ways still a better indian museum than the one in Foxwoods or the one in NY City, due to the real artifacts this man had collected from around Northeast CT. There are very few if any museums that can boast artifacts from the Native Americans who lived in the Northeast. I think Foxwoods has a rotted dugout canoe from a lake in southern CT. So for the size of the Somers Indian Museum it was pretty nice. I went off to college and some years went by when I didn’t visit. At some point in the early 80’s Ken and I made the time and we went for a visit. James was covered with bandages. He told us some hoodlums came in likely looking for money and roughed him up. This really ticked me off because this man was such a giving individual, he certainly didn’t deserve this. Sad to hear the new owners or managers messed it up.
Lastly, I believe everyone has the potential to heal another person, in the very least the ability to say a kind word.
Bruce Matthews saysJuly 10, 2017 at 6:32 pm
I knew Jimmy king well.
I grew up not more than 3 miles away.
Jimmy had Indian artifact from native tribes all over the northeast.
A common language. Understood by all the tribes was known as Algonquin.
Jimmy had Native American pow wows held on his property before they popular tourist attractions all over the US.
Jimmy was man who kept Native American culture alive when it was at its lowest in this country.
Jimmy had 3 times the number of artifacts stored away then he had on display at any time.
I am angry, appalled, and find someone would write such a distasteful article with out researching the story and man.
After Mr. King died I don’t know what course the museum took under new management so you may be spot on about ” woo woo” at that point.
But as far as the man and the original museum, you do ten both a horrible injustice.
Raised in Somersault, Ct from 1949 till 1970 when I entered the service.
Bruce Matthews saysJuly 10, 2017 at 6:38 pm
Darn spell check.
bobbi turner saysJune 29, 2019 at 10:50 pm
My relatives had a farm adjacent to the museum. I went up there every year when we visited the farm. The man there told me many stories, some from the past and some of what would happen in the future, some have come to be. I dont remember what road the farm was on or the museum but would love to travel back for a nostalgic moment. I am sure the farm is long gone and now the museum but part of my heart is there. My dad also lived on that farm as a child. Can anyone direct me to the address? thank you
Paula Simpson saysFebruary 13, 2021 at 3:15 pm
I remember the old Native American man who ran the museum He would say that he didn’t own it. It was there for his people. I am ashamed of the people who turned it into something that Mr. King was not.
Nancy saysAugust 8, 2021 at 7:46 pm
I went there in the 70s. It saddens me to see history being wipe away. Indians live in Somers. In the museum were their artifacts. The museum was educating whoever was interested who lived there, in their town, and how they lived. Very sad.
John Coccia saysSeptember 4, 2022 at 1:48 pm
I grew up in Enfield CT and I would go there a lot and the man and his wife were good people and I liked to look at the artifacts and listen to the stories. I bought more than a couple pair of moccasins from them.
To the person that saids they are happy they are gone. You are a fool.