A small horde of mythical creatures lurk almost imperceptibly within the museum’s wildlife dioramas.

Back in the 1970s, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science hired artist Kent Pendleton to paint the backdrops for many of the museum’s wildlife dioramas. Little did it know that Pendleton’s penchant for hiding tiny mythical creatures in these paintings would add a whole new dimension to the museum experience.

It all began with eight elves—or gnomes, or leprechauns, depending who you ask—hidden in Pendleton’s wildlife dioramas. An elf hiding in the lowland river. An elf riding a dinosaur along a cretaceous creekbed. Another elf sat on a rock in the Great Smoky Mountains. And others, hard to spot but definitely there, in various backdrops throughout the museum.

When these eagle-eyed volunteers began to spot the museum’s incongruous and thoroughly unscientific inhabitants, the whole thing began to snowball. The staff decided to go along with the game, adding more elves and gnomes to the museum. A ceramic elf, for example, found his way onto the Candor Chasma of Mars. And now a digital elf exists in the entrance video, cleverly concealed within a cluster of stars.

The fantasy easter eggs diversified, too; there are angels, unicorns, even a Millennium Falcon and a tiny Yoda hidden in the museum. Precisely how many creatures are hidden around the museum is an open question. The museum’s official elf scavenger-hunt guide currently lists nine. But Maura O’Neal, the museum’s communications and media relations manager, says there are about double that amount.

So even if you do go on the scavenger hunt, guide in hand, you’ll never quite know when you might spot an undocumented elf lurking somewhere, surreptitiously, in the Denver museum…

35 responses »

  1. I love it hen people add something unexpected to the world. There’s a local walk in our town (Crieff, Scotland) with a tiny decorated door hiding in a tree. We call it ‘Mole’s house’. Local children now leave presents for mole on a regular basis. (We’ve spotted a few more ‘Mole’s houses’ or fairy doors popping up recently as well. Looks like its taken on a mind of it’s own 🙂 )

    Thanks for sharing, needed a cheerful start to Saturday 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • i love that, and have a fairy garden myself. it’s in a garden by my sidewalk and families stop by often to visit, often taking or leaving or moving things. it’s brings me as much joy to see them, as it does to them to visit, i’m sure. good to see you, john –


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  3. May we all continue to look with the curiosity of child’s eyes. I am always grateful for those in our world who are contributing to make life interesting and helping us to keep our eyes open. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How marvelous! I’m glad the museum staff had a sense of humor and embraced the idea. After all, for all we know there really *are* little gnomes living in the woods! 🙂 Thank you for this charming post, Beth.

    Liked by 1 person

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