9 am - 9 pm
A Titanic museum in the Midwest, hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean? I was prepared to be underwhelmed.
Instead, I've been talking about it ever since. If this museum was meant for children, I must be a big kid.
I tapped out my first-ever Morse code message. ("Ellen in trouble"). I started a timer and stuck my hand in a tank of water set at the temperature of the ocean that April night in 1912. I was in pain after about 15 seconds.
I tried to walk on three different decks that had pitches of varying steepness, demonstrating what it was like to hang on as the ship was sinking. I needed both hands on the railing to pull myself up the steepest one.
Sitting in a recreated lifeboat, I pushed buttons and listened to the stories of the people who had been in them. I patted two real dogs - Molly and Carter - two King Charles Spaniels whose trainers at the museum talk about the dogs known to have been on board the ship.
I stood on the ship's aft, in the simulated cold and dark, under the stars. It was eerily evocative. Was that where Leo and Kate stood in the movie? (That's what someone asked me. I dunno.)
A woman dressed as the "Unsinkable Molly Brown" told me her name was Margaret and she'd never actually been called Molly.
Another young woman in period costume told me the story of the man whose wife and baby were put on a lifeboat. The wife realized she'd forgotten the baby's thermos of warm milk and shouted up to him. He climbed down the rope to the boat, tossed the bottle and climbed back up...when he could just as easily have hopped in. But he didn't. That was the last they saw of him.
The thermos is on display.
Why Branson? That's where John Joslyn, a co-leader of a 1987 expedition to the site of the sinking, and co-producer of a controversial two-hour television documentary on the Titanic, decided the "attraction" should be. Who am I to argue?
It turns out Joslyn operates a similar Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
I've been to Titanic museums, exhibits and/or displays in Belfast, where the ship was built, and Liverpool. A friend mentioned the Titanic museum he went to in Halifax. Why Nova Scotia? Three Halifax ships were involved in recovering the bodies and those victims whose bodies were not sent on to their families are buried in the Canadian province.
I'm not sure why I and so many others are still so fascinated by this particular disaster.
But if you're ever in Branson - whether to see the Three Redneck Tenors (I kid you not), the Baldknobbers Jamboree Show (you must click on this link just for the photo of these guys) or to see an Elvis impersonator from Nebraska (who is "known" for his appearance on "America's Got Talent"), don't be too quick to pass by the half a ship you see floating (NOT) in a concrete parking lot, near the steak and chicken place with the really big chicken out front and the "skyscraper" with King Kong hanging on the outside.
It's well worth a visit.
Photos: Titanic Museum Attraction
1. RMS Titanic's grand staircase recreated. 2. Thermos from the ship.