The Museum of Death
On Hollywood Blvd not far from the Capital Records Tower sits the Museum of Death. Curators JD Healy and Cathee Shultz founded the museum in 1995 as a way of educating the masses on that part of life many of us fear and hardly ever talk about. On a self-guided tour through murder, mayhem and mortuary, visitors learn everything under the sun about death. Though it leads with sensationalism—appealing to the Lookie-Lou in all of us who fain curiosity about infamous killers and their gruesome crimes, the museum is brimming with factual information illuminating the most routine practices associated with death. In about 45 minutes to an hour (although you can stay as long as you like) spectators walk from one death themed room to the next looking at photographs, videos, autopsies, letters, newspaper clippings, pet-death taxidermy, embalmed specimens in jars and real human shrunken heads next to cannibal necklaces.
According to the MOD website, it “houses the world's largest collection of serial murderer artwork, photos of the Charles Manson crime scenes, the guillotined severed head of the Blue Beard of Paris (Henri Landru), original crime scene and morgue photos from the grisly Black Dahlia murder.” Serial killer Richard Ramirez pays homage to serial killer Jeffery Dahmer in his doodles. Old photos of hangings and beheadings from the early 19th century featuring mangled remains decorate the walls, while a video of people getting executed plays on the T.V. screen above. I watch “Mohamedeen” struggle for his last 60 secs of life before passing by the embalmed head of Henry Landru.
Video footage and photos of cadavers being cut open—their brain tissue exposed, was shocking until I looked to my left and saw a portion of an actual brain floating in a jar. The museum has a collection of every tool needed for the dissection process from the primitive days of medicine to the present. Mortician instruments like the trocar and jugular drainage tubes are displayed in glass cases next to the body bag and coffin collection. Personally, I was fascinated by the photos of an exhumed body in full decay—the bones, the connective tissue still red with bloodlines, and the lifeless eyes not yet consumed by the maggots and worms of the earth.
Full disclosure: I’m a total wimp when it comes to anything scary, and nothing is scarier to me than crazy-ass people chopping other people up. Basically if there is a likelihood that whatever scary movie I’m watching could feasibly happen in reality, I don’t want to see it. It’s like Jason vs Freddie Krueger for me. I’m way more frightened by some nut job in a ski mask stabbing people to death in the woods or in a home invasion than a burn victim monster-man who haunts peoples’ dreams on Elm Street. Jason might as well be the lead story for the 11 o’clock news on a weekly basis. It hits closer to home in the terror department because stuff like that happens everyday. So it was particularly hard for me to stomach the sick and twisted (oh yes…that’s judgment you’re reading) photos of the smiling naked couple taking the 1970s equivalent of a selfie as they made physical contact with severed heads and mangled bodies.
It was creepy to watch the Heaven’s Gate recruitment videos outlining Marshall Applewhite’s religious philosophy while seeing photos taken at the compound where the largest mass suicide in US history claimed the lives of 39 people in 1997. Top that off with footage of Waco, the insane world of Charles Manson and disturbing photos of the sexually defiled and butchered Black Dahlia and I was ready to exit through the gift shop.
If you’re interested in the details of death and looking for something fun to do on Halloween or any other day of the year, I recommend paying the MOD a visit.
Location: 6031 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood, CA 90028
Hours of Operation: Sun-Thurs 11AM to 8PM, Friday 11AM to 9PM, Saturday 11AM to 10PM
They offer a fair warning:
“There is no age limit for the Museum of Death, because WE ALL DIE, but we STRONGLY recommend MATURE AUDIENCES! There have been a number of falling down ovations (people passing out) at the museum (mostly men)... so we stress that you should be prepared for a good dose of reality!”