Museums are places of historical, scientific, artistic and cultural education that can be delivered to the masses through various means, but many might have preconceived notions about these sacred halls. Some could find them eerie and perhaps even frightening. Dark, cold rooms sitting in silence. Artifacts of old, holding mysteries untold. I suppose that would serve as a perfect backdrop for a memorable haunting, wouldn’t it?
I say this Halloween we should live up to the hype and map out your Halloween movie marathon by pairing our halls with a similarly categorized film. For example, the Morian Hall of Paleontology would best be matched with the likes of the sci-fi thriller Jurassic Park franchise, of course. Some might not consider this a horror film, but if the flashlight were in my hand, my overwhelming fear might stand in the way of common sense, too.
I digress. Let’s start off nice and easy with a story of science, chemistry to be exact..
The Fly (1999)
Now any relation to the unexpected rising star of the 2020 election is purely coincidental. The Chemistry Hall is currently under renovation, but the foundation of all life is a recurring theme of a science museum, isn’t it? I’m referring to the film, starring Jeff Goldblum as a scientist whose experiment with atom transferals goes horribly wrong. This is a pretty good version, but my favorite is the original from 1958. “Help me, help me,” echoes like a distant whisper, tickling the eardrums. If you can find a copy, listen closely for the famous “Help me!” line at the end of the film. Sad, but memorable.
Stream it on Hulu and Amazon Prime
Tucked into the corner of the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals lies a hidden gem of our own, Fabergé: The Art of Presentation. The room is rich with history told through gifts and antique trinkets. I wonder, sometimes, if there are little known stories much too dark to relay to guests who stroll through from day to day. We know that many of these items belonged to members of the Romanov family during troubled times. Do grudges cling to these beautiful pieces? Have curses been held pristine and locked inside these coveted eggs? In the movie Oculus, it is a mirror that proves to be the catalyst of this very idea. A brother and sister find themselves in a nightmare of confusion and torturous realizations of their family history as each hour passes. With a collection this size, the nightmares would play out for months.
Stream it on Amazon Prime, Youtube and Google Play
Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
The Cabinet of Curiosities pays homage to the personal collections that birthed the idea of the museum. These objects were to have held significant meaning to those who housed them. Keepsakes. Trophies. Walking through this hallway filled with such objects can come with a weighted eeriness, peering from treasure to treasure. The setting is very reminiscent of the Artifacts Room, a private collection of objects from various paranormal investigations performed by Ed and Lorraine Warren throughout their career. The room makes many appearances throughout The Conjuring franchise, but in this particular film the spirit of Annabelle allows for a closer look into this curated collection of jump scares.
Stream it on HBO Max and Amazon Prime
Only a few steps further and the sounds of nature swallow the room. The dioramas of The Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife take guests on a scenic journey through the diverse biomes within the state. Various birds, reptiles, etc. standing their ground with eyes glazed over yet very much alive, in a way. They stare almost like a peeping Tom would. Well no one would argue that this exhibit would be the favorite of everyone’s favorite serial killer Norman Bates. Taxidermy was both his hobby and obsession. The A&E series Bates Motel stands as the best of the various other adaptations, but nothing truly tops the genius of Alfred Hitchcock.
Stream it on Amazon Prime and Youtube
The Forest (2016)
“Stay on the path.” Those are the words of warning museum staff deliver before entrance into the Cockrell Butterfly Center. Oddly enough, those are the same words spoken to Sara before she ventures into a mysterious wooded area in search for her twin sister who’s gone missing. Our reimagining of an Amazonian rainforest is a beautiful setting for meditation and sometimes proposals of love, but what if something more sinister lurked amongst the butterflies and friendly iguana.
Stream it on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Cinemax
The Outing (1987)
Our tour never left the second floor and there are already too many images to recover from. HMNS is beautiful and inspiring, but also, with a bit of imagination, one could see much further beyond the obvious. I like to believe this is exactly the sentiment the producers behind the film The Outing had as they chose these very halls as the backdrop to their 80s horror flick. Here, we are able to see just how this place we hold so dear can turn hauntingly deceiving with proper lighting, fun effects and a murderous genie on the loose.
Find more detailed information on The Outing and an HMNS curated adventure box designed for a night of adult only fun, click here.
Don’t flee from the building with thoughts of ghosts and goblins in your head, none of these instances are real. They’re all products of the mind for entertainment’s purposes. Simple anecdotes that can easily be attached to different artifacts within our halls. Unless…
DISCLAIMER: These movies are NOT recommended for children. These films have scenes of violence, nudity, sexual assault, inappropriate racial language, etc. that may not be suitable for everyone. These do not reflect the attitude and views of the Houston Museum of Natural Science.