Hannibal exhibits bring new life to Mark Twain's writing

Two Hannibal attractions put a new spin on Mark Twain's writing

Hannibal can teach you about all things Mark Twain and his famous books, but you might be interested in two parts of Mark Twain's work that are being re-told like never before.

Imagine if he had written a spin-off to the famous Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; a story where you learn more about Jim, Huck's comrade in search of freedom from slavery.

Imagine no more - that's exactly what you'll find at Jim's Journey, a part of the Huck Finn Freedom Center.

"What we've learned in the latest Samuel Clemens autobiography is that Jim is based on a real man named Daniel Quarles, who actually lived and died here in Hannibal," said Faye Dant, executive director of the Freedom Center.

Hannibal's first African-American history museum provides a new perspective on Twain's work.

"Jim is the kind of character that Samuel Clemens wanted to identify with and wanted to base Jim on, so we expand on that to talk about not only his life but the life of some of his family members," Dant said.

"And then we go on to talk about the life of Hannibal's African-Americans in 19th- and 20th-century Hannibal."

Throughout the museum, you can learn about all aspects of Hannibal's African-American heritage, a theme many might not realize is one of the largest parts of Twain's contribution to American literature.

"Twain is the first white author to give an African-American - a slave - a name, a family, a voice, and make him a central character in this very moving novel about an abusive family relationship and two individuals that were kind of on the run together," Dant added.

You might say Jim's Journey brings the book to life, but there's a second exhibit in downtown Hannibal that does the same.

It's the Haunted House on Hill Street Wax Museum, now re-opened after a major renovation.

Inside, you'll find a whole cast of life-size Mark Twain characters - all made from wax.

"They have their own fingerprints, real eyes, real hair - it's just extraordinary work on the wax figures. They look so real," said Cathy Miller, assistant manager of the museum.

The figures are the work of Missouri-native Martin Krewson.

Visitors are introduced to the cast of characters with an audio tour, followed by a walk through the haunted house portion of the museum.

"It's an interesting story about how Mark Twain brought all of these people out of his real-life Hannibal to put into his book," Miller said.

No need to give away all the details here when you can see the fascinating exhibits for yourself.

They're guaranteed to teach you something Mark Twain's books never did.

You can learn more about Jim's Journey and the Huck Finn Freedom Center by visiting the museum's website here.