Whatever someone's proclivity, there are others who share a mutual fascination… no matter if it's downright bizarre. One such place is the Museum of Death in Hollywood. It foregoes the usual art collection for an assemblage of gory artifacts, mental terrors and eclectic bric-a-brac. This house of horrors is worth visiting at least once and is an easy way to kill a couple of hours (pun intended).
The name says it all although the focus is not solely on death in the natural sense but on a wide variety of homicides, manmade killing machines, cults, assassinations and cultural rites. It's a trip through the worst aspects of human nature complete with graphic photos and related items.
Catherine Shultz and J.D. Healy have been avid collectors of morbidity for over twenty years. They first opened their museum in San Diego but saw a bigger need to fill in the heart of Hollywood. Located in a deceptively small house painted with a white skull amid flowery vines, the self-guided tour through death's notorious parts of history lasts about 45 minutes for those who can stomach the offerings such as a mummified head of an ill-famed murderer, Henri Landru from France. It's real and spectacularly haunting especially while reading his biography.
This isn't for the faint of heart or those who are squeamish at the sight of blood. There is enough however to gaze upon that is less grisly than crime scene photos of car accidents or the graphic depiction of a couple who proudly posed nude with the murdered corpse of the woman's husband in foul glee. (They were caught when they had their photos developed). Mortuary science and funeral traditions pepper the macabre world, issuing a palpable reverence and awe.
For all that is fascinating and disturbing, perhaps the only drawback is the vast scale of the collection itself. There's a lot to take in on the outset but by the end of the tour, one is either mentally worn out or desensitized by the shocking exhibits. Blunting the tour is the impressive amass of trivial pieces competing with the more harrowing objects. A small JFK section is lost amid the Heaven's Gate recreated room and a taxidermy den. Plan to stay well over an hour for those who wish to plunder into the deeper recesses and nuances of all the rooms and displays.
Surprisingly, what one walks away from this experience is a better appreciation for life, which is Shultz and Healey's aim. Death is a universal phenomenon presented in this museum specifically on how man confronts, embraces and incites it. There is no judgment or moralizing. Visitors will take away from it what they are willing to examine and ponder long after the tour.