10 Most Chilling & Sinister Museums of the World

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Glore Psychiatric Museum

It’s no secret that treatment of mental illness has come a long way, and the Glore Psychiatric Museum is a startling reminder of just how far that is.

Located in Saint Joseph, Missouri, the museum chronicles the life of not only the St. Joseph State Hospital, but the mental health division that was once called State Lunatic Asylum No. 2. Developed by former employee George Glore (Glore passed away in 2010), the museum showcases nothing short of torture devices once used in the treatment of the mentally ill not only at the asylum, but throughout history.

Some of the older pieces include the Lunatic Box, which was exactly that – a large box where people would be forced to stand, for hours in darkness and isolation, until they were deemed calm enough to be released back into the general population. Just as nightmarish is the Tranquilizer Chair, where patients were strapped in order to allow the doctors to perform their treatments with relative ease.

There’s the Bath of Surprise, which dumps a patient into ice water, there are bleeding knives that were once used to drain blood from patients to cure a variety of illnesses, and there’s even a giant treadmill, which is little more than a hamster wheel for patients who needed a little more exercise than normal to release their pent-up energy. Artwork done by patients over the years gives visitors a look into the more intimate thoughts of the people who were being held at the hospital, and another creepy piece of artwork is made up of nearly 1,500 items extracted from the stomach of a patient – including nails, spoons and the tops of salt and pepper shakers.

Some of the artifacts on display were used fairly recently, including tools for performing lobotomies and fever cabinets, where patients would be confined to sweat, a treatment particularly used for those with syphilis. There’s electroshock therapy equipment, straightjackets, and even cages used to confine people.

Tragically, the museum is also the site of the asylum’s old cemetery, and according to curators, one of the things families were instructed to bring with their loved ones as they were admitting them was the clothes that they wanted them to be buried in.

Hohenschonhausen Memorial Museum

The Hohenschonhausen Memorial Museum in Berlin stands tribute to the countless individuals once held there against their will. The building was home to the Stasi, and was a secret prison for the notorious East German police. Many who were held there had been accused of crimes such as protesting and trying to flee the country; now, the prison has been turned into a memorial to all those who lost their lives or suffered under the oppressive East German government.

Today, the museum is staffed by people who were once held there, making it all the more eerie to hear the stories from those who lived through it. Much of the torment was psychological, with prisoners kept in almost completely isolation. For many, the only people they talked to were their interrogators and their captors, meaning that many looked forward to seeing the people who were keeping them there. One of the former prisoners, now acting a tour guide, remembers making up stories to tell the guards that would secure his conviction as a spy… because he wanted so badly to talk to someone.

The museum itself is beige and heartless, with wood paneling, beige walls, off-white ceilings and beige floors. Everything looks strange, sterile and soulless. At the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was estimated that there were nearly 200,000 Stasi collaborators working in East Germany, ensuring the rooms of the prison were never empty. Those who walk the halls now say that there’s still a remnant of the old feelings there, an uncomfortable feeling that permeates everything.

You can still see old duty rosters, and read old reports of incidents in the prison. It’s a museum that’s not terrifying for its gore or its shock value, but because of the reminder of the horror and oppression visited on so many people.

New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum

Every one of the world’s religious has a certain feel, a certain stigma, a certain sort of vibe felt by those who are outside of the practice. And, largely thanks to its portrayal in pop culture, Voodoo is creepy.

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to Voodoo, and many people don’t know about the parallels it has with Christianity, and what things like voodoo dolls are really about. Stop by the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum, and you’ll find out all about it.

A pretty powerful reaction usually happens right when people walk in the door, as it’s not uncommon for visitors to be greeted by a man wearing an albino python around his neck. Snakes are sacred, after all, and closely connected to the loa, the spirits of the Voodoo world.

There are a couple different kinds of Voodoo, and the museum that occupies the appropriately darkened building in the French Quarter of New Orleans is dedicated to the religion that shaped the area. There are altars and voodoo dolls, the bones of animals and a few human skulls that officially came from medical schools…. and unofficially, the museum isn’t saying more. There’s beautiful artwork depicting scenes from an ancient religion, there are talismans and candles, grotesque masks and beautiful masks, Mardi Gras beads and alligator heads. There’s even a “govi” jar, which is used to store souls, and a few artifacts said to belong to the legendary Voodoo queen herself, Marie Laveau.

Many of the artifacts aren’t labeled, but that’s all right – everyone there has a close relationship with the practice, and, unlike most museums, they welcome not only questions but photographs as well.

The Warren Occult Museum

Ed and Lorraine Warren are some of the most well-known names in paranormal research in America. Ed spent his childhood in a haunted house, and not long after they were married, they found themselves drawn to some of the most haunted locations across America. They’re perhaps most noted for winning a court case for a woman and child who claimed their house was haunted and uninhabitable – something that hadn’t been disclosed at the time they signed the lease. The Warrens found proof for her that held up in court, and their museum holds almost countless other examples of their work.

Many of the artifacts that made their way into their possession are on display in the museum, and this is one place that you definitely, absolutely, 100 per cent for sure don’t want to touch anything… because you might be taking home more than you came with. You can see Satanic idols, conjuring mirrors, real shrunken heads, masks, instruments that are said to play themselves, and not a few possessed items.

According to the Warrens, the doll named Annabelle is one of their most potent artifacts. There have been exorcisms performed on her several times, and every time, they’re unsuccessful in driving the spirit out of the inexplicably creepy doll. She’s known for nodding at people as they walk by her glass case, mounted safely on the wall…. where no one can touch her.

All the items that are on display in their Connecticut museum were collected over 50 years of research into the paranormal. Sadly, Ed passed away in 2006, but the rest of his family – including Lorraine and her son-in-law – are carrying on the family name.

The Panacea Museum

This is the sort of eerie that holds onto your imagination and whispers to you after the sun sets.

Joanna Southcott was born in 1750, and was a deeply pious woman. For her entire life, she held onto her religious beliefs; by the early 1800s, she had become convinced that she was something of a prophet. The regular clergy turned down her attempts to get them to take her work seriously, so she struck out on her own. Part of her belief system was that she was going to be the virgin mother of the messiah, who would be named Shiloh. She died before giving birth, although according to doctors she was showing signs of pregnancy and according to believers, Shiloh was taken away before being presented to the masses.

Southcott left behind a box. Sealed and only to be opened during a time of great tribulation by 24 bishops, the box was the target of a number of forgeries that were made, then opened in an attempt to end her popularity. Finally, a woman named Mabel Barltrop, who claimed to be Shiloh, established the Panacea Society to be caretakers of the real box and to promote the same ideals that Southcott had written of. The Society itself dissolved in 2012 and became a charitable trust, and their museum in Bedford, England details the strange journey of their organization.

Exhibits include baby clothes that had been given to Southcott for Shiloh, along with a crib and other baby furniture. There are original documents from her followers, and a replica of the box. While a number of supposed boxes have been opened, the society says that they’re still in possession of the one and only real Southcott box, which – even thought they’re no longer a religious organization – they intend on keeping until her wishes for its opening can be fulfilled… so we’ll have to wait to find out just what the prophetess knew.

Eyam Museum

In 1665, a tailor in the small village of Eyam, England, unwittingly brought one of the most devastating killers into their small town. He ordered some fabric from London, a harmless enough thing to do, and one that he’d probably done countless times before. This time, though, the wagon brought more than just fabric. It brought the plague.

The Eyam Museum tells of a heartbreaking sacrifice made in the face of one of the most gruesome diseases that’s ever swept across Europe. When the villagers realized that the plague had left London and had come to their peaceful, picturesque little village, they decided not to flee and not to risk infecting their neighbors. Instead, they shut their doors and confined themselves to their town. The museum tells the story of their terrifying plight, and of their amazing will to stay and care for their neighbors, and their powerful refusal to flee and risk carrying the plague with them.

The plague claimed its last victim from Eyam in November of 1666, and the list of victims included the wife of the man who had first insisted they quarantine themselves, Rev. William Mompesson, who did survive. The museum pays tribute to the selfless acts of the villagers, who were successful in keeping the plague from spreading at the cost of at least 260 of their own.

The H.R. Giger Museum

This one’s a whole different kind of terrifying. The work of H.R. Giger is unmistakable, and when he passed away in 2014, it left a void that the art world will never be able to fill. Fortunately, his work will continue to speak for him, and those who are interested in fully immersing themselves in his artwork can do exactly that at the H.R. Giger Museum in Switzerland.

Walking into the Giger Museum is, indeed, exactly like walking into one of his works. The walls seem to be only pausing between breaths, all bones and spines. It’s also home to the first of the Giger bars, which took almost three years to complete and now, visitors can sit in the eerie bone-like chairs, completing the sensation of having been swallowed by a massive, terrifying creature. Installed in an already Gothic space, there’s no way the museum won’t inspire thoughts of the dark and the fantastic…. and probably a few nightmares once you get home.

The Alcatraz Museum

Alcatraz is one of the most notorious prisons in the world. Once home to inmates like Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and some of the convicted associates of Bonnie and Clyde, the island prison was inescapable.

No longer a working prison, those interested in getting a first-hand look at where so many notorious criminals served out their days can visit the Alcatraz Museum. Getting to the museum means taking a ferry to the island, just off the coast of California. Once you’re there, you’ll be treated to an unsettling history lesson about the island’s use as a military fort and prison that once held army deserters and Confederate sympathizers. It only became a federal prison in 1934, when it became known as the place to put people who were too dangerous to go anywhere else. The prison, closed in 1963, was for good reason as notorious as its inmates.

Among the most intimate items on display at the museum are drawings done by some of the inmates. As one of the few things that they could do to pass the time, many turned to art in order to express what they were going through and what they’d been though.

The Museum of Witchcraft

In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that long ago that people of all ages could be condemned to death by an accusation of witchcraft. The Museum of Witchcraft, located in Boscastle, Cornwall, has a variety of items related to the history of this ancient practice – and accusation.

There’s a doll – made from real hair, and made to resemble the person – that’s thought to have been used in an attempt to curse someone and end a pregnancy. There are mirrors used in divination spells, bones used in spells, boxes and figures used to curse people, incense burners, roots and herbs, pans, bowls and other tools, and cups once used for fortune telling. There are also bellarmine jars, which were used to place occasionally a curse but more often a protection spell on a person, sometimes used to break a frightening outside force that’s acting on an individual or a home. Each item comes with a story, and many have even been connected to their previous owners.

There are also examples of some of the horrific methods used to get an accused witch to confess to her crimes. The witch’s bridle is exactly that, placed over the head of the accused so sharp pieces of metal pierce her mouth. Shackles and other torture devices make it frighteningly clear just what kind of fate waited for the women who oftentimes did nothing more wrong than anger a neighbour.

The United States Holocaust Museum

There are a number of different museums to the Holocaust in the United States, including ones in Illinois, Texas and Florida. The official museum to the war that changed the face of the world is located in Washington, DC and continues to grow and expand. The planned Collections and Conservation Center was begun with a $15 million gift from David and Fela Shapell – Holocaust survivors themselves.

The museum was designed to not only teach visitors about the horrific tragedies of World War II, but as a repository for documents, photographs and archives that are still being unearthed. The sheer number of people who lost their lives during the Holocaust is unimaginable, making it an overwhelming task to compile the information about those who need to not be forgotten. Part of the museum is devoted to archives about the individual lives that were lost in World War II Germany, along with recording the testimonies of those who survived.

In a heartbreaking tribute to the victims whose names are known, the museum hands out ID cards to visitors. Cards are printed with the names and photos of victims, and tell the story of their suffering.

The cards can be browsed on their web site. Picking one at random gives us the story of Mina Beker, born in Lithuania in 1902 and mother of two sons and two daughters. Mina’s husband passed away while away on business in 1937; she and her remaining family lived as prisoners in the Nazi-controlled city of Kovno from 1941 to 1943. In 1943, they were moved to execution grounds…. then back to the city, being told they were low on bullets. A week later, Mina and her daughters were sent to a concentration camp. Mina died in the gas chamber at Stutthof in late 1944 or early 1945.
The museum is making sure that Mina – and others that shared her fate – aren’t forgotten.


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