Il sinistro museo di Los Angeles che fa paura agli italiani

Il Museo della Morte (Museum of Death) non è adatto ai deboli di cuore, ma la sua collezione di serial killer lo ha reso una calamita per gli appassionati del genere true crime.

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Nella lista dei luoghi da visitare a Los Angeles, California, c'è un museo non adatto a chi si impressiona facilmente: il Museum of Death. La sua vasta collezione di oggetti legati alla morte e ai serial killer attira un pubblico molto eclettico, che va dai fanatici del genere true crime agli appassionati di curiosi artefatti storici. Scoprilo in stile Speak Up: nella lingua originale. Metti in pratica la tua comprensione della lettura (reading) e dell'ascolto (listening) in inglese e impara nuovi vocaboli mentre ti immergi nell'universo di quello che è senza dubbio uno dei musei più macabri al mondo.

The Museum of Death: Getting to Know Mortality

Everybody dies. But most people don’t like talking or thinking about death. Two people committed encouragingto a healthier relationship with our own mortality are J. D. Healy and Cathee Shultz, who have been collecting death-related memorabilia since the early 1990s. They now have a Museum of Death in Hollywood, California, and another in New Orleans, Louisiana.

serial killers

Healy and Schultz have been writing to and receiving letters from serial killers in prison for about twenty-five years. Originally, they had an exhibition once a year where they displayed the artwork that they received from the inmates. Then, in 1995, they established their first museum in San Diego, in the former location of the city’s first mortuary.

Charles Manson

HEAVEN’S GATE

Four years on, Healy and Shultz received a lot of negative publicity when they tried to obtain artifacts from the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide. This was a notorious incident in 1997 when thirty-nine members of a Californian cult killed themselves, believing an extraterrestrial spacecraft following the Hale–Bopp comet would rescue them. Healy and Shultz intended to recreate the scene in their museum. Unfortunately, their evictedlandlord them. The couple moved to Hollywood and opened their museum there instead.

LIFELESS BUT LIVELY

Both the museums in Hollywood and that in New Orleans, which opened in 2014, show a wide variety of fascinating artifacts related to death. They include artwork and letters from serial killers, including Charles Manson, Aileen Wuornos and John Wayne Gacy, baby coffins and postmortem photos from Victorian times, taxidermy of animals and graphic photos and films from autopsy and crime scenes.

Museum od Death

THE POSTMORTEM EXPERIENCE

Founded in 1995, the Museum of Death is much more than a morbid set of curiosities aimed at those with an interest in the macabre. Now located in Hollywood, California and New Orleans, Louisiana, each museum displays a wide range of artifacts that help visitors come closer to and make peace with this universal human experience. Eric Stuart is an assistant curator and merchandiser at the California museum. He met with Speak Up and we asked him about its philosophy:

Eric Stuart (Southern American accent): The Museum of Death is a museum dedicated to all things [related to] death and dying, not to be collected in a morbid way but more to let people experience something that, especially in America, society has sort of pushed to the edges. Any talk of death or dying is deemed morbid and shushed. People die behind closed doors. Bodies are prepared behind closed doors. Most of us are never going to have any contact with a corpse or any of the death or dying process. Because of that, we are so far removed from it that it’s almost like we don’t acknowledge that death is a real thing. Our goal mainly is to put these ideas of death and dying out in a historical way, in a legitimate museum, so that people can acknowledge their mortality and plan for it . We all die. That’s something that happens regardless of what you think and it’s something that for the sake of everybody around us, we need to be prepared for and talk about and be comfortable with.

Museum of Death

eternal life

Stuart then suggested why death may be such a taboo subject in the western world.

Eric Stuart: We want to try to be immortal. Medicine is so advanced that [our] lifespan has increased hugely over the last one hundred years. Sciences [have] improved and we understand things a little bit better. Over the last hundred years, all of these things have been pushed to the fringes, and when things get pushed to the fringes, people stop acknowledging them and talking about them.

RESPECT FOR THE DEAD

Whatever their attitude when they enter the museum, most visitors leave respecting and understanding what it is trying to do, says Stuart.

Eric Stuart: There’s not a specific crowd. I thought that we would get a lot of so-called Goth kids and people that dress in black all the time and that are naturally into these macabre things. But it’s not been like that. A majority of our visitors are women. For some reason, and I haven’t been able to understand it yet, women are more drawn to not necessarily the macabre, but specifically serial killer culture, true crime sort of things. I still can’t figure it out. We find that a lot of people that come in are hesitant to enter at first, when they come out the other side, they actually get it. They understand what we’re doing, and they have a new respect for some of the stuff and they understand that we’re not trying to be gory or morbid for the sake of being morbid.

HUMANISING ‘EVIL’

The serial killer section of the museum is particularly interesting. Stuart says that it helps us accept that such murderers are human beings, even though what they have done is unforgivable.

Eric Stuart: They’re fascinating! What I found about them since working here, and since I do engage some of these people and write letters to a lot of them myself, I found that if you can take the heinous acts that they’ve done and sort of push it to the side for a minute and look at them as a human being and not a monster as society would try to make them be, they want the same things that we want. They want to be talked to like they’re a real human being. They have dreams. They have desires. They have needs. On one hand, they can be just like us. But on the other hand, they’ve done things that we can’t imagine doing. So, in a psychological way, we’re drawn to that because they’ve done something that we can’t wrap our heads around.  

THE DEATH MACHINE

And Stuart’s favourite exhibit brings up an important social issue.  

Eric Stuart: If I had to pick something that I think is incredible, it’s probably the Dr. Jack Kevorkian death machine. You’re never going to see anything like that, anywhere else. That guy went to Home Depot and bought a bunch of stuff and built it at his kitchen table because he believed that people had the right to die if they wanted to. And that’s a powerful message that we’re only just really now starting to be able to actually talk about. 

NEWLY SENSITISED

People may worry that contact with death-related artifacts may desensitize them. But Stuart points out that the museum may help us become less tolerant of violence by focusing on its victims.

Eric Stuart: I don’t think that it’s necessarily a desensitization. I think it needs to be acknowledged because when somebody goes into a club in Florida and shoots forty-seven people and we don’t do anything about it, that’s desensitized. People go into schools, movie theatres, clubs and kill people and we’re just like, whatever, moving on to the next day. They need to see it. People who are supporting more guns, they need to see what the things they’re supporting are causing because they don’t have to look at the dead bodies. They don’t have to see the grieving families. Elsewhere, they do see it and elsewhere in the world, they have far less gun violence. America is extremely unique in that. We love guns and, because of that, people die.

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