Museums are some of the most-visited places in the world. There are said to be over 55,000 museums around the world in as many as 202 countries. If you’re reading this you’ve probably visited at least a few museums in your lifetime. Maybe you’ve had to visit a few of them against your will, and some of them you may have even found to be pretty boring. The museums on this list are anything but boring.
These aren’t your typical museums filled with dinosaur bones, iconic sculptures, antique cars, archaeological finds or famous paintings. However, they could be great places to visit if you want to be shocked and even horrified. Humans have a fascination for the weird, strange, bizarre and even grotesque, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that any of these museums exist. Some of these strange museums around the world are very niche, but some of them see hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
If the Louvre in Paris, France or the Natural History Museum in London, England aren’t to your taste then maybe you should consider making the trek to see some of these shocking museums around the world. While some of these museums are new and expanding, some of them have been around for years. Most of the museums we’re looking at focus on taboo topics like death and sex, but a few are more quirky than horrific. Despite their controversial nature, most of the museums on this list allow children to visit them; so if you’re in need of a field trip idea (or if you want to scare your kids into silence) then you should keep reading. Here’s a rundown of some of the most shocking, controversial and extreme museums you can visit.
10. Meguro Parasitological Museum in Tokyo, Japan
If you’ve ever wondered how a tapeworm lives, how it functions, or even if you have one inside you, then this is the museum for you. Located in the Meguro district of Tokyo, this tiny museum features numerous preserved parasites. In fact, here you can take a look at over 45,000 species of creepy crawlers that live off other animals. The museum’s most interesting artifact is a tapeworm that measure an astounding 8.8 metres. The museum also serves as a research facility and sells parasites to educational institutions. The museum consists of two floors; the first floor is an overview of the species of parasites in Japan and the second floor has the exhibition hall with the preserved specimens. You’re certain to leave this one feeling a bit itchy.
9. Abashiri Prison Museum in Hokkaido, Japan
In the far north of Japan on the island of Hokkaido you will find this museum, which opened in 1985, that showcases buildings and structures which were once a part of an actual prison. Visitors can learn the inner workings of the Japanese prison system of the late 1800s. If you get hungry while touring the law courts or torture room you can partake in the prisoners lunch which is the same menu served to prisoners at the actual Abashiri prison which is still in operation. It’s not slop you eat though; you get to eat fried mackerel, miso soup, and barley and rice. This one speaks to our curious nature; we can’t help but be fascinated by the sort of unmentionable horrors a prison holds, horrors which we’d normally prefer would remain a mystery.
8. Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, California
Easily the most famous museum on this list, Alcatraz sees over 1 million visitors every year. Often referred to as “The Rock,” the famous tourist attraction features numerous museum exhibits filled with artifacts. Visitors can see materials used in escape attempts, artwork created by inmates, and materials from both the federal penitentiary and military penitentiary eras of Alcatraz. Staff at Alcatraz can teach guests about the escapes, historical facts, and the American Indian occupation of the island. Audio tours are available in numerous languages. The site is also home to the Alcatraz island light, which is the first lighthouse on the American west coast. If you have a slightly morbid interest in places with a distressing, dark history then this is the tourist site for you.
7. Museum of Death in Hollywood, California
This museum is all about the macabre, and it’s a bizarrely proud homage to some of the more infamous violent crimes that marked California’s history. Founded in 1995, the museum was previously located in San Diego, Calif. in a mortuary. Today the museum is located in Hollywood – fitting, since the museum features crime scene photos of the Black Dahlia murder. Other famous crime scene photos are on display including the Charles Manson murders. A large collection of coffins, autopsy tools and execution devices are on display. This museum is not for the faint of heart or those not aware of their own mortality; there have been reports of guests fainting at the site of some of the exhibits.
6. Criminals Hall of Fame Wax Museum in Niagara Falls, Ontario
Famous criminals with horrific pasts are displayed as realistic wax statues at this frightening museum. When the wax museum opened in 1977 it housed 18 wax replicas. The popularity of the attraction grew, and now the museum has 40 wax replicas. Here you’ll be able to see gangsters like Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly in their “natural habitats.” Also featured are serial killers like John Wayne Gacy and Jeffery Dahmer. The figures you’ll be able to see up close and personal are not limited to real life criminals; the museum also has wax figures of horror icons like Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and Leatherface.
5. The Black Museum at New Scotland Yard in London, England
Located in the base of operations for London’s police force, the Black Museum is a collection of criminal artifacts that has been around since 1874 when it was housed in the original Scotland Yard. The collection was moved to New Scotland Yard in the 1980s. The closest you’re going to get to seeing these artifacts is if you watch them on a DVD tour because the museum is not open to the public. Police have used this memorabilia to study criminals and their activities and motives. Case files at the museum include Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in the U.K., and Dennis Nilsen who was a serial killer and necrophiliac often referred to as the ‘Kindly Killer.’
4. Torture Museums in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Other museums may feature torture devices, but this museum is devoted to them entirely. Located in Amsterdam near Singel Canal, the Torture Museum features a disturbing collection of torture devices including examples of “hanging cages,” “torture masks,” “skull crackers,” “heretic forks,” “guillotines” and “racks.” Due to its small size and increasing popularity, another torture museum called the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments was opened in Amsterdam. The second museum is located Damrak near central station and the red light district. Over 100 torture devices from the middle ages are on display with wax figures being used to demonstrate how some of the devices were used.
3. Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavik, Iceland
Sigurour Hjartarson, founder of the Icelandic Phallological Museum, was fascinated by the anatomy of the male from an early age. When he was a child he was given the penis of a bull which he used as a cattle whip. In 1974, a friend of his gave him four new specimens and that’s how the collection began. The majority of the penises on display are from whales including the largest one: a 67-inch tip of a blue whale penis. Of the 280 penises on display the most bizarre is undoubtedly that of a 95-year-old human male. The Icelandic man wanted to preserve the sexual exploits of his youth and donated his penis to the museum after his death. Removal of the penis was problematic and Hjartarson is looking for more human penises that aren’t so shrivelled and small.
2. Mr. Toilet House in Suwon, South Korea
This museum not only features toilets as exhibits, but it’s shaped like one, too. Built to celebrate the life of World Toilet Association founder Sim Jae Duck, the museum building was completed in 2007 and served as his house while he was in ailing health. After his death in 2009, the building was transformed into a museum. You can learn about the history of toilets from around the world at the museum, and you can learn about Duck – a man who was literally born in a toilet. Duck’s mother gave birth to him in an outhouse, and his life was devoted to the crapper.
1. Siriraj Medical Museum in Bangkok, Thailand
Fair warning; graphic descriptions to follow: This museum in Bangkok, Thailand is actually multiple museums in one. The most disturbing of these medical museums is the Forensic Medicine Museum. Found inside Siriraj Hospital, the exhibits are known for their gruesome depiction of numerous dead babies with various congenital defects that are preserved in formaldehyde. Other disturbing sights include grisly photos of suicides and horrific accidents such as a young boy who had an airplane propeller slice through his head. The mummified corpse of the first known Thai serial killer in modern history, Si Ouey Sae Urng, is on display in this museum which could prove sickening to even the hardiest horror fan.