If seeing the homes of the stars and the fabulous attractions on the Hollywood Walk of Fame have you up in the clouds, then head east a few steps past where the stars end and step into the Museum of Death. It will have you facing the ugliest reality of life of earth to be had.
Yep, we have a museum that celebrates death… or a place to make you glad to be alive according to the curators… right off the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The museum started in a building that was once the city’s first mortuary down in San Diego in 1995. This was an outgrowth of the founders J. D. Healy and Catherine Shultz hobby of writing serial killers they were interested in, and then showing off the artwork their pen pals had created once a year at a show. After a few years of the exhibitions, the collection, and many other materials, were made into the San Diego Museum of Death.
In 1999, the couple began working to acquire a large amount of materials from the Heaven’s Gate cult suicides and re-create the scene. This led to considerable media attention resulting in an eviction by their landlord and the move to its current location at 6031 Hollywood Blvd..
Like so many buildings in Hollywood, the building the museum is currently located in has a rather storied past. Prior to becoming a museum, the building was the home of Westbeach Recorders, and prior to that, Producers Studio, where Pink Floyd and others major bands recorded. The walls included sound deadening agents to help with recordings, which now lend an even more erie atmosphere to the macabre exhibits.
As its name implies, the museum displays a wide variety of art and artifacts surrounding the subject of death. Baby coffins are in one section, letters and artwork from various serial killers in another. There are graphic photos of crime victims including the Charles Manson crime scenes and morgue photos for the Black Dahlia murder. The museum’s recreation of the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide includes the original beds. However, the most notable item at the museum is the head of Henri Landru, a serial killer who was convicted of murdering 11 wealthy widows and burning their bodies. He was guillotined to death in 1922 in Versailles.
Once a year, the museum holds a Black Dahlia look-alike competition, where contestants have to dress as both pre and post-mortem Dahlia.
Now the owners of the museum might not be as gruesome as you would think after reading this. The couple realized a void in death education in this country and decided to make death their life’s work. They state the goal of the museum is to make people happy to be alive.
However, realizing just how glad you are to be alive might not happen until after you have passed out first! According to the Museum of Death’s Website, “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!”