Ohio\’s only wax museum celebrates anniversary

MANSFIELD (AP) – Ohio’s answer to Madame Tussauds is turning 25.

The state’s only wax museum with life-sized figures – all characters from biblical history – is in Mansfield in northern Ohio. It’s celebrating a quarter century by offering 25-cent tours Aug. 12-17.

BibleWalk got started with some figures purchased from an outdoor museum in Pittsburgh that was closing because of a change in zoning rules. Now it has 300 figures made of wax, fiberglass and vinyl that inhabit more than 70 displays.

On a recent weekday, the museum hosted visitors from northwestern Ohio, Massachusetts and Germany in its temperature-controlled home.

The hour-long Life of Christ tour starts with prophecies and Mary’s visit from the angel Gabriel and culminates in Jesus’ reign on the “Great White Throne” of judgment. Figures encountered along the hour-long Miracles of the Old Testament tour are Abraham, Moses, Samson and Ruth. Half-hour tours offer insight into the Reformation – including figures of Martin Luther and Henry VIII – and the Christian martyrs, such as Paul and Perpetua.

“If the Lord was here, he would want to share his word with as many people as we could get,” the museum’s director, Julia Mott-Hardin, told The Columbus Dispatch. “We’re prepared for a crowd of people, and we really just want to share the word of God with them.”

Mott-Hardin said 30,000 to 40,000 people from around the world come each year, often drawn by the “Great Experience for Members” designation bestowed by AAA tourism editors.

After her first visit to the museum, 10-year-old DeLainie Bland of Findlay was certain her grandmother would love it. So DeLainie, her mother and her sister returned with grandma Donna Bland, who called the Jesus tour “wonderful.”

“You want to reach out and … give him a hug,” she said.

The museum was started by the Rev. Richard Diamond, pastor of Mansfield’s nondenominational Diamond Hill Cathedral, with the purchase of the first figures from Pittsburgh.

Members of the church started construction in 1985 on the 20 acres surrounding the cathedral. The building was dedicated in 1987, and other parts of the collection were added from 1994 through 2003.

The various museum tours usually range from $4.75 to $5.50, according to the museum’s website.