Museum of Death
As humans, most do everything in our power to avoid death. Many try to eat healthy to prolong life, get routine checkups to make sure the doctors aren't missing a life-threatening illness, and wear seat belts whenever in a motor vehicle to avoid going head-first through the windshield in the chance of an accident.
Therefore, it seems perplexing that anyone would want to devote a museum to the sole purpose of viewing and examining death. However, JD Healy, the owner and creator of The Museum of Death, paints the museum in a positive light rather than a sinister one.
"No one wants to look at death," said Healy. "I wanted to hold a mirror up to society and let them see it for what is, and have people leave appreciating life more.'
The Museum of Death originated as The Rita Dean Gallery, founded by Healy and his wife Cathy Shultz in 1988. Occupying a San Diego mortuary, The Rita Dean Gallery was no stranger to controversial material itself, boasting the first Serial Killer Art Show in 1992.
Healy decided to create what is now The Museum of Death in 1995, housing it in the basement of the gallery. The couple quickly discovered that there are large amounts of people interested in viewing any and all aspects of death. With its growing success, the museum took on a life of its own, moving to its current location in Hollywood.
For over 19 years, the Museum of Death has been horrifying, intriguing, and exposing its viewers to numerous aspects of death. Before even entering the museum, guests are greeted by the words "death's only hard on the living" and a gruesome photo of a car accident in the lobby.
According to Healy, if you can handle that image without losing your lunch or developing a close relationship with the ground you're cleared to go.
With a Funeral Mortician Room, The Serial Killers Archive, Suicide Hall, The Cannibalism Niche, and a California Murders Room being only a few of your stops along the pathway of death, it is no surprise that numerous attendees faint, or as Healy refers to them as "Falling Down Ovations", on a regular basis. Healy provides a thorough explanation of where the restroom is in the building, in the likelihood that a viewer will get sick from the graphic material.
All of the rooms contain countless artifacts and photos from murders, suicides, and anything morbid that can be imagined. Even baby coffins and torture devices are not off limits. Even the decapitated head of Henri Landru, the Blue Beard of Paris, is on display for viewing. Landru was guillotined in 1922 for the murder of 11 women.
The first stop on the museum's killer tour is the Serial Killer Archive. This room is home to art pieces created by various serial killers, some of which paint the men in a very different light than the typical killer many might imagine.
Colorful works created by the murderers themselves cover the walls, many depicting scenes of a provocative nature, murder, and brutality, but also images of loved ones and flowers. Bio reviews filled out by men such as The Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez, and the Killer Clown, John Wayne Gacy, are also scattered among the artwork, allowing people to get to know the men behind the serial killer stigma.
As observers reach the back of the museum, they are greeted by horrifying displays exhibiting the infamous Black Dahlia and Charles Manson murders. Actual crime scene and autopsy photos of Elizabeth Short, the "Black Dahlia", grace the walls, illuminated by the bright lights behind them, and abruptly demand all the attention in the room, exposing her naked body that had been sliced in half and mutilated almost beyond the point of recognition.
Photographs display the seditious way Charles Manson and his family brutalized and murdered Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, and Abigail Folger in what has come to be known as The Tate Murders. Interviews with the Manson family can be heard playing on a TV in the corner, echoing the thoughts of the disturbed bunch.
With Halloween around the corner, it would be assumed that the number of attendees might fluctuate. "Not at all," says Healy. "We are always super busy."
Healy attempts to educate museum goers on matters of death, while emphasizing a new found respect and appreciation for life. Leaving the haunted feeling of death behind, Healy encourages individuals to "get out there and live your lives."