Go There is a new feature in which our writers tell you about tourist attractions and other places of interest around the city.
Word comes, in the form of a press release, that the Gordon Insect Museum and Educational Center is once again open for tours, after having been closed for the last three weeks. The GIMEC is a private facility owned and operated by Gordon Pest Control and located on the third floor of their main office, at 3348 Manchester Ave. It’s a rather large space and much better than you’d think a commercially-based educational facility about insects could be. This is due, in large part, to its founder, Mitchell Gordon, who started the exterminating company in 1964, but saw it as his duty to not only try to eliminate every unwanted insect in the tri-state region, but also educate its citizens in the field of pest control. Sparing no expense, he had the first version of the GIMEC, designed by a top student of Norman Bel Geddes’, installed in 1975. Periodic updates since then have kept the center refreshingly up to date, compared to other similar educational facilities which seem to have been built, then largely forgotten and left unfunded (We’re looking at you, SpaceCenter2000, built in 1978 and still using a film starring Shields & Yarnell to “entertain” its visitors).
It’s a regular stop for school and other youth groups, who come by to take in its interactive exhibits, sit in the Extermicruiser and run its siren and browse its collection of over 3,000 species of insects, mounted and extensively catalogued. But the prime attraction, largely unchanged since GIMEC’s opening, has been the “Kitchen,” and this is the reason for the museum’s closing these last few weeks.
The “Kitchen” is a full-scale replica of a typical kitchen in a city rowhome, with two differences- it is surrounded by plexiglass and at any given time 800-1000 cockroaches call it home. Mitchell Gordon wanted something disturbing and shocking to really drive home the horror of unchecked pests in the home. If you’re at the museum on a typical afternoon, checking out the large plastic cutaway of an ant’s digestive system and you hear some high-pitched screams from the back of the place, you’ll know a group of second-graders has just seen the plush red velvet curtain drawn back on the “Kitchen.” One of the key components of the exhibit is a series of high-pitched sonic emitters which keep the cockroaches from venturing too close to the top of the plexiglass walls, which are not airtight.
During the windstorms which swept through the area February 13, there was a power outage in the Northwest section of the city, the section in which the Gordon Insect Museum and Educational Center resides. So, at two in the afternoon, when a Girl Scout troop was visiting, the lights went out. No problem, as the building is equipped with emergency lighting and, more importantly, battery backups for the high-pitched sonic emitters. At least, it was supposed to be. For some reason, the backups failed and almost 1000 cockroaches saw their chance for escape, scurrying up the plexiglass walls in a massive, swarming dark brown cloud, into the ceiling tiles. Then, according to the Journal-Clarion, “they started falling [from said ceiling tiles] in clumps onto the heads of Troop 38, like a biblical curse of old.”
Needless to say, there were lots of traumitized little girls, lots of angry parents and a very apologetic Mitchell Gordon II (the founder’s son), who was offered a lot of free service around town, while also having to use his company’s services to clear out its own headquarters. But, the place is open again and crowds are very likely going to be non-existent for quite awhile, so you should go down and check it out, if you’ve never been. Try the snack bar. Great hot dogs.
- R. White