At the Holyland Exhibition, visitors can peruse the artifacts left behind by Dr. Antonia Frederick Futterer - a preacher and explorer purported to be the real life inspiration for Indiana Jones. His travels culminated in a quest for the Ark of the Covenant, which sadly was never recovered (unlike in the movie) but his wife and daughter remain in Los Angeles offering a glimpse into a wild and daring life he once lived.

The exterior of the Holyland Exhibition.
The Holyland Exhibition shows off artefacts from the Middle East © Graham Berry / Lonely Planet

With historical and cultural appeal and more kitsch than decor, the guided tours are still available by appointment on weekdays for a whopping $2.50. The Holyland Exhibition has no website and allows no photography, but it’s a must for anyone who might enjoy an extra weird and hands-on look at one of the more fascinating albeit eccentric figures in LA’s rich history. Whether you’re a cult scholar, religious historian, or the curious pagan - it’s almost impossible not to be enraptured in the sea of shimmering artifacts that Futterer collected while on his archaeological quest. 

A large array of photographs behind glass at the Holyland Exhibition.
Inside the Holyland Exhibition © Graham Berry / Lonely Planet

Spanning Damascus, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Palestine and more, Futterer acquired large antiques and ornamental knick-knacks including masterfully crafted furniture sets complete with stone inlays and hidden compartments. One room showcased numerous eerie dolls, a child-sized sarcophagus and a few stylish crescent moon shaped lamps. Another held a shimmering collection of plates, ashtrays, hookahs and other assorted bibelots  - even portable desks and ancient eye-liners.

A statue of Jesus.
A lifesize statue of Jesus caps off the tour © Graham Berry / Lonely Planet

The museum itself is a peculiar painted structure fashioned with an adobe-like clay. It sits proudly on the corner in a residential neighborhood overlooking a highway that it actually predates. According to the museum’s guide Betty Shepard, it was modeled after King Solomon’s Temple. The tour led us on a journey through some intriguing Old Testament lore and Betty shared morsels of the area’s early history too. At the end of the tour, she revealed a lifesize statue of Jesus, which was a gift to Futterer from the mogul who started LA’s prized Clifton’s Cafeteria, Clifford Clinton.

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