15 of the Spookiest, Creepiest Museums Ever
It's time to embrace your inner Don Wildman and visit these monstrously scary museums—if you dare. You'll encounter legendary creatures that stalk the night (or swim the seas), tales of notorious killers, shocking psychiatric treatments, and mummies mouthing silent screams. A word of warning: you may not sleep well after you visit. This is the stuff of nightmares.
Jack the Ripper Museum, London, EnglandTake the official "Jack the Ripper Walk" at this museum, and you’ll be following in the footsteps, so to speak, of the infamous serial killer. Visitors can view recreated scenes from his crimes on six different levels, propelling them back to 1888, when Jack launched his killing spree. As you explore the exhibits, created from the prespective of the women who were his victims, you’ll be able to use actual clues from that era, so you can try to solve the mystery of Jack’s true identity. Steel yourself to read old newspaper accounts of the murders and to see original autopsy photos and knives like the ones that were probably used in his gruesome mutilations.
Jack stalked his victims through darkened streets and winding alleyways. Keep that in mind when you leave the Jack the Ripper Museum and walk home alone. 960 1280
The Mutter Museum, Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaDon’t visit this museum, named for an early 19th-century physician, if you’re going to the doctor anytime soon. Considered America’s finest museum of medical history, this is a collection of medical instruments and preserved anatomical specimens. The Mutter Museum wants visitors to appreciate both the beauty and the mysterious elements of their own bodies—but some of these exhibitions from the past may send you running for the door.
There’s the Soap Lady, for example, a woman whose body was exhumed in 1875. She’s encased in a fatty substance which sometimes forms in certain alkaline, airless and warm conditions—such as being buried. It’s thought that she died during a yellow fever epidemic, which is frightening enough. But it’s her toothless mouth, open as if she’s screaming, that’s the most disturbing. Other exhibits feature instruments used for bleeding patients, removing excess bodily fluids, slides cut from Einstein's brain and more. The excellent museum has significant educational and historical value. It’s also pretty creepy. 960 1280
Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition, Drumnadrochit ScotlandWalk through 500 million years of history with the multi-media presentations at Scotland’s Loch Ness Centre. Is Nessie, the seldom-seen sea monster, real, a hoax, or a product of fevered imaginations? The exhibits are arranged in seven themed areas, so you can decide for yourself as you explore the famous legend and view underwater films and photos shot by serious researchers. A digital display with lasers and special effects takes you through Scotland’s past, weaving in folklore surrounding the monster, and updates you on current efforts to find it.
Unsightly remains of some kind of creature washed up on the shores of Loch Ness earlier this year. But they look pretty suspicious, so the search goes on. 960 1280
The Mothman Museum, Point Pleasant, W.V.
Is the large, man-like creature with wings and red eyes a myth, legend, or a real monster? Since 1966, witnesses have claimed they've seen the Mothman. Whatever he is—or was—he inspired a book about his threatening appearances in 1975, and a supernatural/horror movie, The Mothman Prophecies, in 2002.
Visitors to the Mothman Museum can view documents written by eyewitnesses as well as photos of West Virginia's Silver Bridge, which collapsed under rush-hour traffic and killed 46 people; many people linked the bridge disaster to the reported sightings.
Before you leave, make a selfie with the 12-foot-tall, stainless steel Mothman statue standing next to the museum. It already has red eyes, so you won’t have to worry about a reflection from your flash.
International Cryptozoology Museum, Portland, MaineNamed one of the world’s 10 weirdest museums by Time, the International Cryptozoology Museum at Thompson's Point, in Portland, Maine, may make you believe in creatures you never believed in before, like Bigfoot and the Yeti (sometimes known as the Abominable Snowman, although some people claim they're different beasts). It also houses a replica of a rare, carnivorous marsupial and exhibits of legendary monsters like the Jersey Devil, the Dover Demon, and the Napes/Skunk Apes. At least, we hope they’re legends. We’re sleeping with the lights on, just in case. 960 1280
Museum of Vampires and Legendary Creatures, Paris, FranceTry not to shiver when you pass the vampire killing kit, macabre works of art (like this portrait of the so-called Blood Countess of Hungary, by artist Stephanie Clement), stacks of old books, spooky movie props and occult items at this small, private museum in Paris. Owned by historian Jacques Sirgent, the Museum of Vampires and Legendary Creatures focuses on the fanged undead and their place in folklore, as well as in the modern world. Call ahead; you'll probably need an appointment to get in. Before you arrive, hang some garlic around your neck and tuck a wooden stake into your pocket. 960 1280
Museum of The Mummies, Guanajuato, MexicoThe bodies in Mexico's Museum of the Mummies may have been buried after an outbreak of cholera in the 1830s. It's thought they were disinterred, beginning in the 1860s, after their families were unwillling or unable to pay a local tax to ensure permanent burials. Some of the bodies may have been embalmed, while the climate may have naturally mummified others. After the bodies were removed and stored in a nearby building, tourists began coming to see them, and the official museum was born. The 111 mummies of men, women and children may make you shiver as you wonder who they were in life. 960 1280
Morbid Anatomy Museum, Brooklyn, N.Y.Creepy takes on a new twist at the Morbid Anatomy Museum, which houses a display of taxidermied kittens dressed for a wedding. You can expect to see a mix of high culture and low-brow exhibits here rarely found elsewhere. The museum's library is filled with research books, images, art and just plain quirky items relating to medical history, death, anatomical art and more.
This October, the museum will host a mind reader, a lecturer debating whether absinthe is a “divine spirit or a sinful fiend,” and, on Halloween, a beginners' entomology workshop. The day before, Oct. 29, the museum will present an anthropomorphic mouse taxidermy class. We bet visitors are dying to come. 960 1280
Museum of Death, Hollywood California and New Orleans, LouisianaYou could say California’s Museum of Death has a deadly past; it was orignally located in San Diego’s first mortuary. It was later moved to Hollywood, and a simiar museum opened in New Orleans. A self-guided tour takes 45 minutes or so, but as the website says, “those who can stomach it stay as long as they like.” This place isn’t for the faint of heart. There are videos of autopsies, footage of real deaths, photos of the Charles Mansion crimes, images from the horrific Black Dahlia murder and more gore. Look (if you dare) for collections of coffins and autopsy instruments. Be forewarned: visitors sometimes pass out, so you may want to bring an unflappable friend with a bottle of smelling salts. 960 1280
The Salem Witch Museum, Salem, MassachusettsSome of America’s most unjust trials were conducted in Salem in 1692, when a daughter’s testimony about seeing her mother fly through the trees, or the accusation that an innocent birthmark or mole was a witch’s mark, was enough to send people to the gallows, or cause them to be crushed under heavy stones. The Salem Witch Memorial, with commemorative stones like the one shown here, is nearby.
At the museum itself, look for documents from the trials and life-size sets and figures illuminated by atmospheric lightning. A spine-tingling narrative takes you through the timeline of events. The Salem Witch Museum offers “haunted happenings” each Halloween, and you can stay until its extended closing time, at midnight, this October 28, 29 and 31. If you're not afraid, that is. 960 1280
Edgar Allan Poe Museum, Richmond, VirginiaHere’s where you’ll find the world’s best collection of author Edgar Allan Poe’s manuscripts, first editions, letters and other memorabilia. The atmosphere evokes early 19th-century Richmond, where Poe penned much of his macabre work about cats and humans sealed up in walls, castles invaded by plague and brutal murders committed in locked rooms. Poe died after being found in a Baltimore public house in 1849, drifting in and out of consciousness. The cause of his death is unknown. When will we know what happened to this master of the darkness? We suspect the answer is "Nevermore". 960 1280
Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast, Fall River, MassachusettsCan you sleep in the house where Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother were brutally murdered in 1892?
No? Well, maybe a day tour wouldn’t be as chilling.
Located about 50 miles south of Boston, the former home of the Bordens now allows guests to book overnight and stay for breakfast the next morning. We hear you can even request the same (last) meal the Bordens ate. The house is now outfitted with ghost cams to capture paranormal activity. Some visitors have reported strange happenings, like camera malfunctions, or the feeling that someone is sitting on the edge of the beds at night.
Lizzie was tried and ultimately acquitted for the deaths; her peers must have found it hard to believe that a woman in that era would wield a hatchet or axe against her own relatives. She spent the rest of her life in Fall River, although the townspeople continued to gossip about her—an unkind cut, indeed. 960 1280
Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, Boscasatle, Cornwall, U.K.Are you brave enough to tour the U.K.'s Museum of Witchcraft and Magic by candlelight? If you miss one of the special, lantern-lit evening events, or you're leery of mysterious, spooky artifacts half-hidden in the shadows, never fear. You can see the glass spirit bottles, skulls, witches' charms and other pagan artifacts during the day, too. Book ahead to take a witches' workshop and explore magic throughout history with a practicing priestess/witch, or take a Folklore and Magic Walk (check the website for dates and times). Don't miss the Glitter and Graveyard Dust exhibit, offered through January 2017; you'll learn about the history, customs, costumes and magic of Halloween from ancient times to today. 960 1280
Glore Psychiatric Museum, St. Joseph, MissouriJust because the Glore Psychiatric Museum has won awards for its medical history collections, don't think it won't creep you out. The museum covers 130 years of mental health treatments and features old surgical tools, nurses’ uniforms, electroshock equipment, hospital furnishings and much more. You’ll see artwork created by a mute schizophrenic and other mentally ill patients, along with 453 nails retrieved from the stomach of a truly disturbed individual.
The museum, founded in 1874 as St. Joseph’s State Lunatic Asylum No. 2, is arguably the best place in the U.S. to see how mental health care has evolved. An inactive blog about the museum still invites visitors to “psych out.” 960 1280
American Museum of Natural History, New York, N.Y.Imagine a time when meat-eating dinosaurs dominated the Earth with their terrible teeth and talons. Your heart may pound harder when you walk in the shadow of the fossilized remains and replicas of these ancient beasts at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. Or float on over to the Opulent Oceans exhibit to see reproductions of rare, scientific illustrations, like the Vampire Squid. The museum is recognized as one of the finest cultural and scientific institutions in the world, but it'll make you think twice before you go swimming again. 960 1280
Betty Hill DressUniversity of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
In 1961, Betty and Barney Hill were allegedly abducted by aliens. This vintage, torn dress worn by Betty that strange fall night still carries a stain of an otherworldly nature. I’m afraid to ask. 960 1280
The Mars Spirit RoverNew Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Albuquerque, NM
It’s 2004 and our robot representative moves along on the Martian surface hobbled by a malfunctioning wheel. But the broken wheel scrapes away soil, leading to a major discovery: silica. Proof there once was water on the Red Planet. 960 1280
Sheet MusicCircus World Museum, Baraboo, WI
July 6, 1944. A terrible fire consumes a Ringling Brothers’ circus tent, killing 168 people. The investigation turns up the problem: the tent was waterproofed using paraffin and gasoline. What were they thinking? 960 1280
The Flying CarMuseum of Flight, Seattle, WA
The initial test flight of this machine must have been a terror. After all, cars should be driven, not flown (just one man’s opinion). 960 1280
Credit Card MachineValdez Museum, Valdez, AK
On March 27, 1964 the second-largest earthquake in recorded history strikes Valdez, Alaska. Fifty years later this credit card machine from a gas station along the destroyed waterfront turns up in the weeds, a card still intact. 960 1280
Cher Ami, Hero PigeonUS Army Signal Corps Museum, Fort Gordon, GA
In 1918, a homing pigeon named Cher Ami saved the lives of 194 US soldiers under a deadly barrage of friendly fire -- and this pigeon did it flying 25 miles after taking a bullet from a German sniper. 960 1280
Kittenger's JumpsuitNational Museum of the US Air Force, Dayton, OH
In 1958, Capt. Joseph Kittenger wore this jumpsuit to test a new parachute system designed to save the lives of ejecting US pilots. But he would have to risk his own life, jumping from more than 20 miles above the earth! 960 1280
Pullman Car Lighting BracketsSeattle Museum of History and Industry, Seattle, WA
A devastating avalanche destroys a Great Northern Railway car stopped in the Cascade Mountains en route to Seattle. Decades later, these bent pieces of metal turn up, evidence of a tragedy that killed more than 100 passengers. 960 1280
Einstein's Stolen BrainMutter Museum, Philadelphia, PA
When Albert Einstein dies in 1955, his brain is illegally preserved and dissected by the doctor who performs his autopsy. He mounts specimens of the brain on microscope slides -- and makes a valuable discovery. 960 1280
Spanish TreasureMcLarty Treasure Museum, Sebastian, FL
In 1961, after a decade of searching, Kip Wagner realizes his dream and discovers buried Spanish treasure at the bottom of the sea -- worth about 20 million bucks then and a whole lot more today. 960 1280