AshEdit—News About Books & Writers

April 22, 2009

A Visit to the Museum of Death

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 5:18 am

I’d been meaning to go for ages. A mmuseum-of-deathuseum devoted to death is a must-see for a crime editor. As well, I reasoned, Buddhist monks often meditate in graveyards to attain spiritual clarity. An hour devoted to the subject of death might have more benefits than meet the eye. In retrospect, I’m glad I stopped for lunch beforehand.

The staff, all wearing Museum of Death t-shirts, were upbeat and friendly, with penetrating glances that directly met and held my eyes. Those folks can spot on sight the people destined for a “falling ovation,” which means you keel over, out cold, from viewing the contents of the museum. I was deemed a suitable candiate for viewing, and allowed to open the vintage jail-cell door that marks the entrance to a small vestibule. If you can handle the enormous, framed color photographs of dismembered hands and feet with chunks of flesh missing to partially expose bones, you’re probably good to go on inside.

From a tasteful exhibit of funereal fans, to complete crime scene photos of car accidents, murders and serial-killer rampages, the museum displays death and depravity in full color, full frontal detail. (Silly me, I wasn’t expecting so much nudity.) As well, original letters, drawings, painting and cards are on display, hand made by David Horowitz (the Son of Sam cannibal), John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson and others. Macabre but funny at the same time, Horowitz drew a picture of a meatball sandwich, with little human faces drawn on the meatballs.

I was getting dizzy after viewing an exceptionally clear and close-up video of an embalmer digging around for the carotid artery in a corpse, and decided perhaps I’d had enough. On the way out, the cheerful staff asked if I had any questions and  bid me, “Have a great life!” 

I sat in my car for at least 20 minutes, composing myself, reflecting on how fragile life is, and how happy I felt to be alive. I also wondered  if I was really living life to the fullest. I think the results of my visit bordered on the “Buddhist monk” experience, a positive thing.

Can’t wait to go again in a few months, when some of the exhibits change. If you’re planning a trip to Hollywood, CA a stop here is recommended for crime writers. Eat lunch beforehand. Leave the sensitive and easily ill back at the hotel pool. $15. admission.

Read more about the museum here, scroll down for article:


  1. Interesting. I can see how this could spark a writer.

    Comment by Travis Erwin — April 22, 2009 @ 5:30 am

  2. Hi Travis, thanks for the comment. I just had an idea that it might be of interest to go back to the museum and detail one exhibit more closely, and perhaps interview the curator. As I said above, the staff is very friendly and helpful. I’ll see if there’s interest and take it from there.

    Comment by ashedit — April 22, 2009 @ 5:35 am

  3. Yes do visit again and do that intreview. It all looks rather fascinating.

    Comment by gary dobbs — April 22, 2009 @ 6:27 am

  4. Gulp. Every once in a while I reflect on the fact that the many ways out of this life are mostly unpleasant. That’s something crime writers should keep in mind, lest we write too blithely about murder.

    Comment by Al Tucher — April 22, 2009 @ 6:49 am

  5. Hi Gary! Let’s see, things to be examined in more depth are: serial killers, crimes of passion, the embalming process, vintage death and burial preparation tools and processes such as the old “cooling board” on display, serial-killer letters and artwork, massacres such as Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate, death and religion, cannibalism, serial killers and their Mommy/Daddy relationships, sex and death. I suppose more will some to me. Perhaps I should have a poll.

    Comment by ashedit — April 22, 2009 @ 6:49 am

  6. Can you get me one of those T-Shirts?
    I’ve always wanted to visit the Black Museum – but you have to be a copper to do that.
    Just out of interest – how did your visit to the Museum of Death make you feel?

    Comment by Ray — April 22, 2009 @ 9:17 am

  7. Hi Ray! If you google the museum, they have a myspace page and you mail be able to order a t-shirt.

    After my visit I was glad to be alive. Please tell is about the Black Museum.

    Comment by ashedit — April 22, 2009 @ 9:58 am

  8. Wow.

    Sounds very interesting, although in a warped way, I used to expirience the same thing a little more cheaper.

    When I used to work at the state library, to kill time, I used to go tip-toeing through the county medical examiners records. Fascinating stuff, although not on the large scale that you visited.

    But it did give me a different perspective on the world around me.

    Comment by G — April 22, 2009 @ 11:41 am

  9. Scotland Yard’s Black Museum contains things like the bath that George Smith used to dispose of his ‘Brides in the bath’ murders. Relics from 10 Rillington Place Christie’s residence. A museum that is constantly up dated but only members of the police force are allowed to visit it.
    My one brush with murder was when curiosity took me the trial of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley – The Moors Murderers. I happened to be there on business so was allowed into the public gallery. It was the day that they played a tape that Brady and Hindley had made when they tortured little Lesley Ann Downey. Brady and Hindley showed no remorse – rather the opposite.

    Comment by Ray — April 22, 2009 @ 12:11 pm

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