1. The National Museum of Health and Medicine
Here the bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln is mounted under glass like a precious gem, and the president’s shattered skull fragments are encased nearby. Care to see the brains of yet another assassin? The man who killed President Garfield had his scooped out and put in a drawer here, next to a section of Garfield’s spine, also on display. Things pulled out of presidents seems to be a theme here, as you can also gawk at a jar containing Dwight Eisenhower’s gall stones. And don’t miss the amputated leg of a man who suffered from Elephantiasis—it’s floating in a giant jar like a huge mutated pickle.
2. Charles Manson Murder Tour
I’m from LA, so thanks to Charles Manson I grew up thinking hippies were gonna gut me in my sleep. Today, I haven’t exactly abandoned that fear, but at least now I can face it in a fairly sterile environment via LA’s narrated Helter Skelter Tragical History Tour hosted by Dearly Departed. You’ll visit where starlet Sharon Tate and her unborn child were butchered along with several of her houseguests by the crazed Manson Family members. You’ll see where the Tate group had their last final meal before being slaughtered. You’ll visit the locations where the killers ditched their blood-soaked clothes and murder weapons and even where they hosed themselves off before continuing on with their day. I think a nice final touch would be to let you hose yourself off as well, but alas that is not included in the tour.
3. The Villisca Axe Murder House
A family of eight was axe-hacked to death in their beds over a century ago, the killer was never caught, and today the farmhouse where it happened is a tourist destination. You and up to five of your friends can spend the night in the actual murder scene for just $428. It’s a small price to pay to lay your head where a 5-year-old took his last breath before having his head split open.
4. The Salem Witch Museum
In 1692 Massachusetts, 27 people were hanged, crushed or otherwise rotted to death behind iron bars because of allegations of witchcraft. This museum contains actual trial documents that contain terrifying transcripts of detained “witches,” the gist of which is fairly uniform and can be summarized by the following: “Are you a witch?” “No.” “GUILTY!”
5. The Museum of Death in New Orleans
I love New Orleans, but why settle for amazing food and rampant alcohol-soaked debauchery when right there on Dauphine Street there’s hideously awful exhibits to eyeball? At the Museum of Death you’re free to peruse not just body bags and antique autopsy equipment, but actual photographs of graphic car crashes, morgue studies and murder scenes. The websites also touts cannibalism on display, but I’m unsure if that’s a live exhibit or not. Whatever the case, I would try not to look tasty while visiting there if I were you.
Hollis Gillespie writes a weekly travel column for Paste. She is a writing instructor, travel expert and author of We Will be Crashing Shortly, which will be on bookstore shelves July 22. Follow her on Twitter.