When Joe and I went to New Orleans last fall, we had a blast! It was my first visit (and Joe’s second) and we did so many cool things, from riding on the only paddlewheel steamboat in the city, to having our own second line parade, to enjoying jazz at Preservation Hall, to touring the place where they make Mardi Gras parade floats, that were so much fun!
Now, if there’s one thing about Joe and I, it’s that we’re honest. Sometimes, especially for me, brutally so (an ex-boss once said to me during a particularly painful staff meeting, “You know, when you roll your eyes like that, people can see you.”). So if there’s a travel-related item or place that we don’t like, we’re going to tell you, in the hopes that you don’t make the same mistake we made.
This is one of those times.
Some background information on me – I’ve always had a “thing” for the macabre. It started with a near-obsession with Halloween as a kid, and I guess working in health care for twenty-something years only fanned my inner fires of a dark sense of humor and interests. I was never a goth, and I’m not like my friend Michael who just bought a used hearse, but my interests in death are, I admit, more than what would be considered typical.
So when I found out there was a Museum of Death in New Orleans, I was intrigued.
According to their website, the original Museum of Death is in Hollywood and has been around since 1995. The New Orleans version opened in 2014.
I *had* to go.
But I’m kinda sorry we did.
When you pay your admission to enter ($15 per person), you can see an enlarged picture of a dismembered woman. By this point you’ve already gone past a few signs that say the place is for mature audiences and it’s not for the faint of heart, so for someone who doesn’t have a weak stomach, the photo itself (which, it’s been suggested, is there to help weed out the squeamish) isn’t so bad.
But the $15 entry fee is.
You see, the “museum” strikes me more as a storefront (it kind of looks like a former clothing store) for someone’s “collection” of death-related items, photos, videos and newspaper clippings (there are hundreds of those). Even on their website, they say they have on display:
- Body bags, coffins & skull collection
- Theatre of Death
- Antique mortician apparatuses
- Manson Family photos
- Crime & morgue scene photos
- Artworks & letters from infamous serial murderers
- Graphic car accident photos
- And much more!
In fact, according to Wikipedia, they even tried to get an actual electric chair, but it didn’t work out.
Frankly, I could deal with the photos, videos and ephemera surrounding point blank gunshots, 9/11, car accidents, autopsies, fatal diseases and serial killers. I really didn’t mind the taxidermy, death masks, shrunken heads and bottled cyclops and conjoined twins. In fact, in my sense of lifelong morbid curiosity, I found them kind of interesting.
The main issue for me was that the whole set up was crap.
It felt like they had taken this storefront, put up some portable walls, brought in some glass cases they usually use in jewelry stores, and loaded the space up with death stuff. Don’t get me wrong – everything on the self-guided tour was in its own special “place” so the Charles Manson/O.J. Simpson/Jim Jones stuff was in one section while the 19th century/early 20th century death masks, Victorian post-mortem photography and antique morticians’ equipment was in another, and both were separate from Jack Kevorkian’s suicide machine, which was separate from the full-sized example of a funeral parlor that included a non-stop, unedited video of people being murdered. So the stuff was divided into sections. The whole setup just reminded me of someone showing off his/her death collection moreso than any sort of “museum.”
If all you wanted to do was look at the “stuff,” you could probably be in and out in less than 10 or 15 minutes, which is hardly worth the $15 entry fee. But if you wanted to read the (again, hundreds) of newspaper clippings, death-related advertisements and magazine articles, you’d have to wait until you were directly in front of the case, since more often than not, they were the actual, original clippings – very little larger print for multiple people to see at the same time. So it made for frustrating bottlenecks and backups on the narrow walkways, even when the place wasn’t super duper crowded.
You’ll notice I included no photographs, other than the storefront. That’s because The Museum of Death has a “no photography” policy, which I totally respect. But you weren’t even allows to take your phone out of your pocket to look something up or to reply to a text message, because a museum employee would immediately tell you to put your phone away. I found it annoying and intrusive – not all cell phone use immediately suggests camera use.
As someone with an interest in death-related topics, I did enjoy my time there. I just don’t think it was worth anywhere near $15. $5? Yes. $10 would be pushing it. $15? Not at all. But that’s me. Your Mileage May Vary.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary