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Got a taste for the weird? Book details 50 wacky sites

Landscapes painted on toilet seats. A working guillotine. Civil War amputation saws. The car in which Jayne Mansfield was decapitated. Bonnie Parker's autopsy photos. A dead cockroach dressed like Liberace, playing a tiny piano.

Weird, huh?That's just the point of "Offbeat Museums: The Collections and Curators of America's Most Unusual Museums" (Santa Monica Press; $17.95), a new book written by a Santa Monica man.

Prodded by a college friend who grew up to be a publisher, Saul Rubin, 40, set out more than a year ago to find 50 of the United States' most outlandish collections of . . . well, weirdness.

They include an Independence, Mo., museum featuring jewelry made of human hair anda Helendale, Calif., storehouse of G-strings, pasties and other burlesque exotica.

With more than 500 museums featuring the strange and offbeat in all 50 states, it wasn't easy to pick just 50. Rubin and publisher Jeffrey Goldman arrived at a compendium of the 50 they considered the strangest, the most unusual, the most outlandish, the macabre, the downright disgusting.

Many weird museums - like the National Lighter Museum in Guthrie, Okla., filled with more than 30,000 cigarette and cigar lighters - started because somebody's collecting simply got out of hand, Rubin said.

"People started collecting things, and then their spouses say, `You'd better get this stuff out of the house or I'm leaving you.' And they say, `I'd better open a museum.' "

And they did.