Looking for some distraction during quarantine?
Want to shift the plot of your nightmares away from masks and hand sanitizer and back into the familiar world of taxidermied animals and locks of hair? You are not alone. Fortunately, museums—those gigantic musty houses full of ancient art and glass cases—are stepping forward, offering their awful attractions for our perusal.
A recent viral Twitter thread is exposing some of the spookiest objects of all. Yorkshire Museum, agent of chaos, posted a call asking for curators to share the worst things in their collection with everyone, and things… escalated.
SMT Collections kindly offered a pigeon's heart stuck full of pins, which is apparently a charm that was once used to exorcise a witch.
Hieronymous Bosch couldn't have dreamt up the York Castle Museum's horrible Victorian dioramas, which feature people who have...claws instead of heads.
Naturally, there were plenty of dead objects preserved in jars.
Apparently, this weird painting of a "thunder beast" fell down on the city of Hiroshima during a storm, according to Japan's Mononoke Museum.
These horrifying kids' costumes from the Red Lake Heritage Center will feed your nightmares for decades.
There are a lot of genuinely creepy museums around the world, and in some ways, none of these objects should be particularly surprising if you've ever explored the dread depths of an actual museum.
For example, the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft houses a collection of necropants—AKA pants made from human skin, AKA ancient Icelandic good-luck charms.
There are several cockroach museums across the U.S. and Canada, featuring roaches dressed up as famous people like Elvis and Santa Claus.
Wisconsin has its own clown hall of fame and California and New Orleans have their Museums of Death, which are full of serial killer artwork, Manson family possessions, and the like. Every nation seems to have its own torture museum. New York City's Morbid Anatomy museum was a gem during its heyday, and it's certainly not the only spooky museum of its kind.
If paranormal spooks are more your style, you have plenty of options as well. The Vent Haven Museum in Kentucky has its own collection of ventriloquist dummies, Roswell, New Mexico has a collection of UFO-related objects, and West Virginia has a museum dedicated exclusively to the Mothman, its legendary cryptid. No museum is more rife with cursed objects than Ed and Lorraine Warren's Museum of the Occult in Monroe, Connecticut, which features a number of altars, shrunken heads, and the infamously cursed Annabel doll, among others.
These are only a few of the many, many terrifying museums that fill the world, just waiting to be explored the moment we can all go outside again.
Why are museums (and museum curators) so damn eerie? Perhaps the problem is not with museums, but with life itself. Life is just plain creepy, bizarre, and surreal—perhaps that's what makes its beauty so vivid.
Of course, beauty is subjective, ugliness is often constructed out of fear—often of a manufactured "other" (which is really a fear of our internal subconscious minds).
Many people, therefore, might find these objects immensely beautiful, if only in their uniqueness. If you're one of those folks, sweet dreams. The rest of us will be up all night, though perhaps for once not because of pandemic-related anxieties.