The Museum of Death, a showcase of just that, was originally founded in San Diego in June, 1995, when James Healy and Cathee Shultz decided to fill the void in death education in this country and made death their life’s work. It began as a hobby of the founders: they would write to serial killers they were interested in, and then show off the artwork their pen pals had created once a year at a specialist show. In 1995, after a few years of exhibitions, the collection, and many other materials, were turned into a museum.
It was originally located in San Diego’s 1st mortuary. In late 1999, the couple attempted to acquire a large amount of materials from the Heaven’s Gate cult suicides. Although they had been able to purchase many items prior to the main police auction, their interest in buying enough merchandise to recreate the scene in its entirety, led to enormous press interest and publicity. They were subsequently evicted, and and in 2000 moved the museum to its current location to Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles.
It was moved and expanded to what is now the largest collection of serial murderer artwork, photos of the crime scenes, original photos from the different murders, and other such relics of what is violent, fatal and macabre.
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.
Other exhibits in the museum include the guillotine, a body bag and coffin collection, full size replicas of execution devices, mortician and autopsy instruments (and pictures and video of such in use) and taxidermy showcases.
The museum’s recreation of the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide includes the original beds. Heaven’s Gate was an American UFO religious millenarian cult based near San Diego, California.
On March 26, 1997, members of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department discovered the bodies of 39 members of the group in a house in the San Diego suburb of Rancho Santa Fe. They had participated in a mass suicide, a coordinated series of ritual suicides, in order to reach what they believed was an extraterrestrial spacecraft following Comet Hale–Bopp.
Probably the most notable item at the museum is the head of the French serial killer Henri Landru.
In 2014 the museum also acquired Thanatron, one of the original suicide machines built by Jack Kevorkian.
Jack Kevorkian (May 26, 1928 – June 3, 2011) was an American pathologist and euthanasia proponent. He is best known for publicly championing a terminal patient’s right to die by physician-assisted suicide, and he claimed to have assisted at least 130 patients to that end. He was often portrayed in the media with the name of “Dr. Death”. He said that “Dying is not a crime”.
Once a year, the museum holds a Black Dahlia look-alike competition, where contestants have to dress as both pre and post-mortem Dahlia.
Elizabeth Short (July 29, 1924 – January 14 or 15, 1947), known posthumously as the “Black Dahlia,” was an American woman who was found murdered in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. Her case became popular due to her corpse mutilated and bisected at the waist.
If you’ve read this as far with curiosity, then the Museum of Death just might be a must-see destination if you are in California. The museum is a self-guided tour that lasts about an hour, but, of course, you’re welcome to stay as long as you like, as there are hundreds of items on display.
“I think it shocks people, but its a good shock,” said Healy. “Seeing all these artifacts of death in one place reminds people how precious life is.”
The sources are Wikipedia (different pages), and me. Images from web.