Global Nightmare Fuel: 7 of the Creepiest Objects from Museums Around the World

Shrieking babies. Deformed clowns. Severed heads. We’re said it before and we’ll say it again: Museums are just warehouses of horror teeming with creepy junk.

Our Art of Darkness Scavenger Hunts are full of stuff like this, which makes for a creepy good time at Halloween. But for an extra dose of weird, we’ve pulled together some of our favorite freaky junk from museums around the world.

1. Clowning ArAAAHH!

Clowns are creepy enough on their own. Marionette clowns are even worse. Now imagine a whole exhibit of the things…and you’re in the middle of it, all alone. That actually happened to us once. We don’t like to talk about it. It was… Let’s move on, shall we?  [Puppet Theater & Fairground Attractions, Münchner Stadtmuseum, Germany]

2. Pop Goes the Pope

Francis Bacon is known for his, um, challenging work. His “1949 Head” series is no exception, as it depicts six gruesome variations on the head of Pope Innocent X melting, exploding, and otherwise being gross. In this last of the series, Head VI, the pope’s basically screaming so hard—probably because most of his skull is evaporating—that the skin around his mouth is peeling off. Bacon must have been fun at parties.  [Head VI, Francis Bacon]

3. Cradle of Pain

You wouldn’t expect a museum dedicated to torture instruments to be a laugh factory, but some of this stuff is worse than others. Thumb screws? A crude machine to squeeze people to death? OK, sure, those’ll ruin your birthday. But the Judas Cradle is on a level all its own. Maybe you can guess its function by looking at it, but it’s so bad we won’t even explain it. Go read about it if you dare, but have some soap handy to wash those mental images outta your brain afterward.  [Judas Cradle, Torture Museum, Amsterdam]

4. Mad Props

More torture? Sort of, but at least this thing’s purely fictional. The man behind such flicks as Scanners and The Fly, director David Cronenberg pioneered the concept of “body horror”—so much so that grotesque films are often described as Cronenbergian. This fun doohickey is a dilator for operating on mutant women, just one in a line of props from Dead Ringers. Mutant women need better health care, clearly.  [Instrument for operating on mutant women, Virtual Museum, Canada]

5. This Is a Bit Munch

The murder of French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat inspired numerous depictions, but leave it to Mr. Scream to paint the most disturbing. Edvard Munch’s Death of Marat is a brutal, bloody tableau that makes you wonder who his dead-eyed killer is after next.  [Death of Marat I, Edvard Munch, Munch Museum, Oslo, Norway]

6. Basically Everything in the Museum of Mummies

El Museo de las Momias is a storage facility-turned-museum housing a collection of some 111 mummified remains of people who died of cholera in 1833. As people died of the outbreak, they were buried and mostly mummified naturally (as opposed to being embalmed)—then they were dug up decades later because people didn’t want to pay a tax on “perpetual burial.” A literal death tax lead to the creation of a museum of mummies stored haphazardly in glass cases mere inches from your nose.  [Museum of Mummies, Guanajuato, Mexico]

7. Please Stop Screaming

Maybe it’s the realistic rage on this kid’s face. Maybe it’s the creepily cherubic proportions. Maybe it’s the enormous bug crawling across the face of his disembodied head. Whatever it is, this thing sucks. Just look at it and you can feel it shrieking at you.  [Screaming Child, Hendrick de Keyser, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam]

8. Self-Explanatory

Seriously. Just look at that thing. [The Face of War, Salvador Dalí, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam]

For More Creepy Stuff…

And plenty of beautiful, not-at-all-terrifying art, join a Watson Adventures scavenger hunt. For more information, check out our public hunts in seven cities around the country, or ask us about private events.