Some of us enjoy a little sun on vacation. Others want a bit of culture, or art, or history. But if you like to be scared, grossed out, and generally horrified, then you need to put these creepy museums on your bucket list.
1. Museum of Death – Los Angeles, California
The Museum of Death in Hollywood claims to house the world’s largest collection of artwork by serial killers. The museum also boasts a severed head it says once belonged to the notorious French serial killer Henri Landru (more commonly known as France's real-life Bluebeard) who was guillotined in 1922. There are crime scene photos of the Manson Family murders and morgue photos of the unidentified Los Angeles murder victim called the Black Dahlia. Still not satisfied? Sit down to watch an autopsy video or take a tour of the many execution devices.
2. The National Museum of Health and Medicine – Washington, D.C.
Founded by the U.S. Army during the Civil War, The National Museum of Health and Medicine may have “Health and Medicine” in its moniker, but “Sick and Twisted” is a more accurate descriptor. With an expansive collection of more than 24 million specimens—including brains, organs, bone fragments, and pieces of Abraham Lincoln’s skull—you can count on a couple of dry heaves here. Speaking of gag reflex: There is an entire exhibit dedicated to hairballs. The most disturbing chunk might be the one pulled from the stomach of a 12-year-old girl who secretly consumed human hair for six years. Pretty sure there’s a no-food policy here, and good thing, too.
3. Vent Haven Museum – Fort Mitchell, Kentucky
Ever see James Wan’s demonic doll doozie, Dead Silence? Then you understand why Kentucky’s Vent Haven Museum is the stuff of nightmares. Founded by a man named—no joke—William Shakespeare Berger, the Vent Haven was born after the collector’s dummy stash got so big he could no longer fit it in his garage. Today the museum contains more than 800 figurines. That’s 1,600 glassy doll eyes observing your every step you take as you navigate the museum. Yikes.
Related: The 5 Scariest Haunted Dolls
4. The House on the Rock – Spring Green, Wisconsin
The House of the Rock will be familiar to fans of sci-fi writer Neil Gaiman, who used the site as the gateway to another reality in his fantasy novel, American Gods. The architectural gem began as one man’s dream to build a rugged retreat as awe-inspiring as its view. Today, however, the structure is more of a bizarre house of horrors: its dark and dusty rooms are packed with carny monstrosities, rotting mannequins, and a 200-foot sea monster. We don’t even want to think about what happens around Halloween, when the staff breaks out their Dark Side.
5. Museum of Shadows – Plattsmouth, Nebraska
The Museum of Shadows has earned a reputation as being one of the most haunted museums in the nation. Located in a three-story building that was once a saloon and brothel, the Museum of Shadows is packed with over 1,000 allegedly haunted objects from around the world. Visitors report a variety of paranormal experiences, from phantom touches to witnessing apparitions and hearing disembodied laughter. In addition to daily visits, the Museum of Shadows also hosts ghost hunts for those brave enough to explore the facility after hours.
6. Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum – Fall River, Massachusetts
Sing it with us: Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks. We all know the creepy nursery rhyme of the Borden family murders. Yet the fact remains: Someone hacked Andrew Borden and his wife Abby to death in their home in 1892. Now more than a 100 years later, you can step inside the infamous crime scene at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum! This gallery of gore is an overnight museum, complete with gruesome crime scene photos decorating the respective rooms in which each body was found, and an a.m. meal to celebrate making it out alive.
7. New Orleans Pharmacy Museum – New Orleans, Louisiana
This New Orleans favorite is filled with the macabre, magical, and strange you expect from the Big Easy. Whether you’re intrigued by the historical or the eccentric, you’ll find plenty to marvel at within these walls. From remnants of the days of leeches and bloodletting to opium-soaked feminine products, every item in the Pharmacy Museum tells a very particular story.
8. The Mütter Museum – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Make no bones about it: the Mütter Museum will send shivers down your spine. Look no further than the Hyrtl Skull Collection, a wall of 139 craniums complete with details of how each owner bit the big one. The museum gets its name from Dr. Thomas Mütter, the revolutionary American medical inventor whose 1858 donation got things off the ground. What began as a sort-of gross out Ripley’s Believe It or Not is now home to medical oddities, an expansive Civil War amputation kit, and a nine-foot-long human colon that once contained more than 40 pounds of you-know-what.
9. Glore Psychiatric Museum – St. Joseph, Missouri
Once a functioning psychiatric hospital, Glore now houses a number of relics from its near decade of attempting to treat mental illness. Many of these items are utterly horrifying to modern eyes, like the “bath of surprise”, where patients would be submerged into ice water, the “lunatic box”, in which unruly patients would be confined until they calmed down, and more. Other fascinatingly creepy exhibits include over 1,000 objects swallowed by a patient during her stay and a variety of paintings made by inmates.
Honorable Mention: Museum of the Occult – Monroe, Connecticut
Connecticut’s Museum of the Occult is the personal collection of Ed and Lorraine Warren. Now a Hollywood name, the paranormal investigators began their haunted hoarding some 60 years ago. The evil goods live in their basement, which was opened for public to peruse at their risk. Relics, case files, and shrunken heads share the space with freaky possessed toys, vampire coffins, and satanic altars—all acquired from the investigations conducted by this controversial ghost-busting couple. And, yes, Annabelle’s there. While the infamous doll has been exorcised and is caged safely in a glass box, word is she still contains evil. Alas, the Warrens’ Museum of the Occult is currently closed, but it is looking for a new home.
Featured photo: istolethetv / Flickr (CC); Additional photos: MilitaryHealth / Flickr (CC); 5chw4r7z / Flickr (CC); Joseph Kranak / Flickr (CC); Museum of Shadows / Facebook; istolethetv / Flickr (CC)