Hollywood’s Museum of Death

by A-Badgero
The Hollywood Museum of Death is open to the public

From the severed head of a serial killer to mortuary artifacts, Hollywood’s Museum of Death has all the interesting and gory details surrounding death.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…” Psalm 23:4

A museum is an institution that cares for a collection of artifacts of historical, scientific or artistic importance and makes them available to the public through exhibits that encourage learning.

The Museum of Death located on Hollywood Boulevard boasts the largest collection in the world of artwork and letters by notorious serial killers, Victorian mourning items, antique mortuary equipment, souvenirs from crime/death scenes, photography and videos of actual deaths, execution tools and even taxidermied animals.

A visit to the Museum of Death will most likely leave you shocked, disturbed and grateful to be alive.

Due to the extremely graphic content within, owners Cathee Shultz and JD Healy suggest visitors take a look at their “test photo”, an image of a victim in a truck and motorcycle crash, before paying the $15 entry fee.  If you remain conscious after viewing that photo you are welcome to continue on through the large prison cell doors and past the guillotine to begin your self guided tour.

Cathee and JD got their start in the death business when they opened an art studio named Tohubohu (extreme disorder or chaos) where they focused on taboo subjects such as sex, death, religion and money.  They moved their gallery to an old mortuary so they decided to take that theme and expand on it.  Their business became a museum and as visitors came through the doors so did all their curious questions.  “We wanted to be responsible museum curators so in order to know the answers we started our life long quest of Death,” said Cathee.

A large portion of their serial killer pieces were acquired directly from the sources. In 1992, before opening the museum the couple purchased the artwork of well-known murderers such as John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson and Ottis Toole  and held an art exhibit called “The Death Row Art Show”. Wanting to gain greater insight into their minds Cathee began writing to the imprisoned killers, sending them pens and paper and a $10 money order. Everyone whom she had written to responded to her questions, “They really don’t have anything else to do,” said Cathee and this is how they accumulated much of their collection.

Other items offered by people just seemed to walk through the front door which was exactly the case for obtaining their instructional embalming videos that depict the process on a real subject. One day a neurologist watched a segment about The Museum of Death on the History Channel and came to the museum with the head of French serial killer Henri Landru who killed 11 of his wives/mistresses.  The only items not welcome at the Museum Of Death are those that have been acquired through questionable circumstances.

One of the first rooms you will enter is dedicated to funerary customs, in this room you will find walls covered with promotional items from funeral homes, mostly matchbooks and fans but also some odd items like ice tongs and even a jack knife from Butcher’s Funeral Home. Shelves are filled with empty vintage embalming containers while an instructional video on how to embalm a body runs on a constant loop.

There are hallways filled with gruesome crime scene and morgue photos as well as old newspaper stories detailing murderous rampages and cannibalism; a collection of execution devices and an assortment of body bags and coffins.

A window in the hall leads you to a peculiar bedroom scene with two figures in a bunk bed covered in purple shrouds while wearing sneakers. This is the Heaven’s Gate room, the bunk bed, shroud and pairs of running shoes are authentic objects recovered from the 1997 mass suicide in Rancho Santa Fe where over 30 people poisoned themselves in hopes of catching an alien ship on their way to heaven.

The serial killer room displays newspaper clippings of infamous murders as well as the artwork and letters from criminals on death row with whom Cathee has been in contact. However, it must be noted that just because they display the works of these criminals does not mean they support or condone their actions in any way, Cathee admits to getting angry and kicking out guests who proclaimed Charles Manson to be “so cool”.  They show these items because they want people to realize this really happened and to reflect on the tragedy of these events.

Cathee and JD understand it is a fine line they walk and there will always be some one who gets offended by their displays. However they say their favorite type of reaction is the “The falling down ovation” where some visitors will actually pass right out at the gruesomeness of the displays. “We try to create a respectful image of death,” says Cathee, “when people die it’s not always pretty but these things do happen and they are a part of history.”

Surrounded by death as they are on a daily basis, they each have a favorite display.  While JD is partial to the severed head of Henri Landru, Cathee says one of her favorites is the taxidermied body of their former pet pig, Chaos. His body is joined by the likes of the nine foot neck of a giraffe and its skull and more in the taxidermy room.

The Museum of Death is open every day and there is further information online.

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