Special October Post: Spooky Suggestions for Halloween!

I don’t like to play favourites (actually, I don’t know why I said that, because I totally do), but Halloween is probably my most beloved holiday…at least in terms of atmosphere and decor.  With that in mind, I do write about a lot of weird/creepy places on here, so I thought I’d link you to some of them in one central location, in case you’re looking for places to visit in October.  Like the content of the blog itself, most of the places are in the UK or Ohio, but there are some options for Continental Europeans as well!


Mansfield Reformatory in Ohio is the subject of one of my most popular posts (right after the Arnold Museum, of course), and it is a really cool place – it’s so dilapidated and dark inside, you feel as though you’re trespassing, even though you’re not.  In the month of October they are open for special ghost events and their haunted house, but I do think it’s also well worth visiting during their summer season, when you’re left on your own to explore.


On the subject of jails (or gaols), the Cork County Gaol in Ireland is another cool one.  They not only have audio tours on Walkmans (in the colour of your choosing!) but also have wax figures, and re-created cells.  The whole building is damp and cold, as if you can still feel the misery of the prisoners held here.


Kelvedon Hatch in Essex is creepy in a nuclear apocalypse sense – we were the only visitors on the day we went, and there’s not even an admissions desk, so we were really able to get the experience of being the last survivors of a nuclear holocaust.  Plus, you’re trapped underground, and you’ve no idea what might be waiting at the other end of the tunnel!


Eyam, in Derbyshire, is a village that was completely decimated by the 1665 plague, carried here from London via fleas in a box of cloth.  Most of the original plague houses remain, and the village is home to a nice little museum all about the epidemic.  It’s also quite near to Bakewell, so you can stop for a seasonally appropriate tea afterwards.


The Dr. Guislain Museum in Gent, Belgium, is housed in a still working mental institution.  Need I say more?  Well, the extremely excellent museum includes art done by the mentally ill, and horrible torture devices used to “treat” mental patients of yore.  A must-see if you’re in Belgium!


I also adore the Royal London Hospital Museum in Whitechapel.  I’m really interested in Joseph Merrick’s life, and the museum is THE place to see his skeleton and some of his possessions.  Lots of other medical stuff too, and the museum is free!


If you’re creeped out by dolls, then Pollock’s Toy Museum in London is not the place for you (unless you’re trying to scare yourself, which I guess is pretty much the point of this whole post, so never mind).  Split between a Victorian and a Georgian house, which are side by side, Pollock’s involves a journey up narrow, winding staircases to view cases crammed with sad-eyed Victorian toys.   Just watch out for the doll room!


Even though almost nothing is in English, the Police Museum of Copenhagen is still incredible (and incredibly gory).  The wall of murder weapons is not to be missed, even if it raises more questions than it answers (what IS the deal with that meat grinder?!).

Finally, here’s some other places I LOVE (some of which can be found in my Favourite Places page), but haven’t got around to blogging about yet:

Mutter Museum, Philadelphia: The best medical museum I’ve seen yet (and I’ve seen a lot, as you’ve probably gathered).  There’s a giant colon, a lady whose fat turned to soap, and the liver from the original Siamese twins.

Thackray Museum, Leeds: Love the Thackray! They are the gold standard in authentic smells, and wax figures, and what I’ve compared every “street of yesteryear” to since (most of the other ones have been found lacking).  Oh yeah, did I mention it’s a medical museum?

Hunterian Museum, London: Yet another medical museum (sorry, I know I have a problem), this one excels at stuff in jars.  And has some cool war medicine stuff.

Museum Vrolik, Amsterdam: This is the last medical museum (for now), I promise!  Museum Vrolik specialises in weird fetuses, including cyclopes, all manner of conjoined twins, and genetic abnormalities you never knew existed.

Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle: I probably shouldn’t be putting this museum in a Halloween roundup, because they aim to distance themselves from old stereotypes of witches, but this place is awesome, and I wanted to give it a mention.  Lots of witchy paraphernalia in a very picturesque village.

Hever Castle, Kent: This was Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, and even though the interior hasn’t been done any favours by the owners since, the exterior is still lovely, as are the gardens,  They have a yew maze, and do some autumnal decorating, but I am pretty much including it here because I spotted ghost cupcakes in their tearoom, and cheesy Halloween touches like that are hard to find in England.

Hampton Court, Surrey: This is meant to be one of the most haunted places in Britain, if not in the world.  I’ve never seen any ghosts, but that hasn’t stopped me from making many return visits to gawk at the rooms Henry VIII (and his many wives) inhabited.

Hellfire Caves, Buckinghamshire: These man-made caves are where members of the Georgian Hellfire club met, and, if the rumours are to be believed, took part in orgies and/or satanic rituals.  Even if the stories aren’t true, the caves are full of mannequins and spooky sound effects, and make an excellent day trip from London.

Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland: I couldn’t end this list without including a place from my hometown, and Lakeview is probably my favourite cemetery in the world.  Splendid Victorian monuments abound, including Garfield’s tomb (you can see his and his wife’s coffins in the crypt), and the Haserot angel, which is guaranteed to give nightmares to Doctor Who fans. Cleveland’s Little Italy, which is just a street over, grew up around it because so many Italian stonemasons were hired to help build it, which should give you an idea of its size.  And that means you can get cavatelli and strawberry cassata cake after your visit.  What more excuse do you need?

Roskilde, Denmark: Viking Ship Museum (Vikingeskibsmuseet)

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Even though the Vikings aren’t really my thing, I couldn’t leave Denmark without visiting at least one Viking-related attraction.  Enter the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, with its collection of (you guessed it!) Viking ships, both originals and re-creations.  Like every other museum (and everything else) in Denmark, it is eye-wateringly expensive at DKK 115 (I mean really, 14 quid to look at a handful of ships?!) but we were so accustomed to high prices at this point that we didn’t even question it.  In fairness to them, the paper wristband was a lovely shade of blue that complemented my eyes, so I did get something for my money.

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The Vikingeskibsmuseet (the Danish sounds way cooler than Viking Ship Museum) is mostly outside, which I suppose is why they offer a discount during the long Scandinavian winter months. They seemed to offer a lot of outdoor activities for children, but for adults, there wasn’t much to do other than wander around looking at the workshops and reading the signs explaining how the ships were constructed.  Regular readers will know that I love a pun, but I’m also partial to a good simile.  Therefore, I was happy as a sandboy to learn the expression “like larch on oak” which is apparently so commonly used in Denmark that they didn’t bother to offer an English equivalent, so I simply throw it into conversation whenever it seems appropriate (example: macaroni and cheese go together like larch on oak).  Anyway, I discovered larch on oak via a sign attached to an oak tree, one of many small potted trees sitting around to demonstrate the types of wood used in Viking ship construction.

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I did clamber aboard one of the ships in the harbour, which was no easy task as there were no steps, and the edge was quite high.  From May-September, you can actually ride aboard one, but it costs DKK 80 more, and I think they only offer one trip a day.  I got my fill of pretending to be a Viking simply by sitting on the boat, and at least that way, I didn’t have to help row (as you do on the boat trips) which is probably for the best as I am rubbish at that sort of thing (I reached this conclusion after spending an afternoon at camp constantly bumping into the side of the lake in my canoe.  This was the same three day camp where I realised I hated horse riding.).

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We’d killed all the time we could outside, so it was time to head into the building where the five original ships were kept.  The Skuldelev ships date back to the 11th century, when they were used to form a blockade in a channel of Roskilde Fjord (Roskilde was then the capital of Denmark).  They were excavated in 1962, and have been preserved and re-assembled in the museum; by studying them, historians have been able to reproduce the modern versions of them that are found in the museum’s harbour.

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All this is very well, and the history behind them is interesting, but when you get down to it, you are just staring at the skeletons of ships.  This is probably why I could never get into ancient history – I like stuff that still looks like something.  Though once again, my lack of cultural appreciation is not really the Viking Ship Museum’s fault.  The hall they’re displayed in is slightly too spartan and barrack-like for my tastes, but I was fascinated by the posters at the back of the museum, which included an incredibly brutal description of human sacrifice and gang rape (basically, you did NOT want to be a slave girl in Viking culture).  A gallery downstairs told the story of reconstructing the ships, but it was so packed with people that there was scarcely room to look around.

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I am, however, inclined to invest in a Viking cape, which I found in a room at the end of the ship hall, as I think I looked rather fetching (and ’twas very warm, so could provide a stylish alternative to my ratty old bathrobe). In addition to trying on Viking clothing, you could also practice writing your name in runes, or watch an interminable video of ship life, seemingly guaranteed to induce sea sickness (hey, maybe that’s the secret of the sea sickness you can experience at the Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre!).  They had some cute Vikingy knick-knacks in the shop, but alas, no suitable capes.

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Though I wasn’t completely enamoured with the Viking Ship Museum, it did do what it said on the tin – albeit at an inflated admission price.  I think it may be slightly more entertaining for children (assuming they’re fluent in Danish) as they did seem to have a lot of interactive things going for them.  Probably best for people who are into the Vikings, or ships, obviously.  2.5/5

Grenen, Denmark: The Place Betwixt Two Seas, and the Skagens Museum


First of all, I’m excited to announce that I’ve written a guest post over on the Smitten by Britain blog on some of my favourite offbeat museums in London, so please go over and check it out (it has the added benefit of being much more concise than my usual posts)!  And now, Grenen.  Ever since I learned that there was somewhere I could stick my feet in two seas, I’ve wanted to do it.  I’m not at all a fan of swimming, but I love wading in ankle-deep water and letting my sore feet enjoy the soft sand and the gentle lap of waves, or in the case of English beaches, sharp, uneven pebbles and freezing cold water laced with rubbishy detritus (my feet are inevitably always sore because all my shoes are uncomfortable).  But Grenen was indeed the dream, with a perfect beach of fine white sand, and reasonably warmish water.

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Grenen is at the northernmost tip of mainland Denmark, and as such was a fair drive away from anything else we were visiting, though it is only 3 km down the road from the touristy seaside town of Skagen (of watch fame). There isn’t a lot there besides a tourist shack selling postcards and other tat, a cafe serving up the ever-present Danish hotdogs and ice cream (with flavoured sprinkles for the latter, woot!), and a few small museums.  So, ice creams in hand, we clambered over a rocky hill and found ourselves on the aforementioned sandy beach, taking that as our cue to promptly remove our shoes and head down to the edge of the water.

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The bit where the North and Baltic Seas meet is a long walk down the beach, which I undertook with rare pleasure, savouring the texture of the firm, moist grains underfoot, but for those less inclined to struggle through the shifting sands, there is Sandormen.  No, it’s not a Danish superhero (superheroes?), but the name of a tractor vehicle that tows tourists up to the edge of the sea.


There’s not much to say about the actual experience, other than you have to queue for your turn to straddle Denmark, but once you get your moment in the spotlight, you stand there grinning like an idiot whilst the waves crash into your legs with surprising ferocity.  It was just a brilliant experience that I am uncharacteristically not going to be cynical about (as you can probably tell from my big shit-eating grin at the start of the post), though you do need to watch out for dead jellyfish on the walk along the coast, as stepping on one would spoil a good mood pretty quickly.  5/5, and probably one of the best times you can have whilst standing in four inches of water.

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And then there was the Skagens Museum.  For some reason, we didn’t realise it was an art museum until after we paid the DKK 90 admission, which I personally thought was a really high price considering the size and subject matter of the museum. Had I known it wasn’t a local history museum, I definitely would have spent the afternoon at the charmingly random Teddy Bear Museum (also in Skagen) instead.  It’s not that it was bad, I’m just disinclined to spend over a tenner to look at art, especially when there were other things I would have rather be doing.

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Once I got over my initial disappointment, I have to admit that it was a rather nice little museum, even though I’d never heard of any of the artists, who were all Danish.  An entire room was about to P.S. Krøyer and his relationship with his wife Marie, who was also a painter.  His former studio was inside a hut in the museum’s gardens, which you can visit.  Apparently Skagen had quite the art scene from the 1870s-1900s, with painters flocking in from all over Denmark to paint the beaches and other scenery. There was a special exhibition on them which detailed the character of each beach/region around Skagen, with a display of paintings of that area, which I quite enjoyed.

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The upstairs gallery was devoted to charcoal sketches, and broke down the composition of some famous seaside paintings by Krøyer.  We then wandered out to look round the garden, and to peek inside the painter’s huts, which were filled with interactive screens that appeared to only be in Danish.  The set-up of the museum was a little odd, because like every other Danish museum, they forced you to put your bags in a locker (which was something that annoyed me throughout the trip, am I really going to stuff a massive painting into my purse?), which was to the right of the admissions desk, but you had to exit through the gardens to the left and back of the museum, which meant walking back through part of the museum and a gift shop to leave, after picking up your bags (and rendered forcing people to store their bags pointless).  A minor quibble, I know, but I do like to air grievances when I can (actually, it’s probably 80% of the reason why I have a blog!).

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I did enjoy the statue of the manly men above though.  It looks as though it could be Lenin and Trotsky, but it was actually Krøyer and some other painter.  I wasn’t super keen on the Skagens Museum overall, but that’s mainly due to my lack of interest in landscapes and Danish art.  If you are an art fan, then I’m sure you’ll like it, as it did seem nicely put together, and there was quite a lot of information on the painters within. I’ll give it a 3/5 because my lack of artistic refinement is not the Skagens Museum’s fault, but I’m still slightly salty about skipping the Teddy Bear Museum.

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Denmark: Silkeborg Museum


I’m going to be brutally honest here: no one is going to Silkeborg Museum because they’re desperately keen to see an exhibition on the colour blue, or some antique tables.  If Silkeborg is on your itinerary at all, it’s because you want to see Tollund Man.  And why not?  He is the best preserved bog body that’s ever been discovered, so if you’re into that kind of thing, this is the place to come.  My boyfriend and I had a busy day ahead of us, so upon arriving shortly after they opened, we paid our DKK 50 admission, and headed directly over to Tollund Man, who is kept in the new museum building, across a courtyard from the old one.


I’ve seen other bog bodies at the National Museum of Ireland, but those were just sort of shrivelly things wrapped in cloth, with half the body missing in most of the cases.  To be honest, they kind of looked like people who’d been crushed by steamrollers.  Not Tollund Man, though.  As you can tell from the picture at the start of this post, he is superb (and positively plump by bog men standards!).  According to a sign in the museum, his body had to be reconstructed because the condition deteriorated, but the head is original, and the detail is incredible, especially considering he died, oh, about 2400 years ago.  Tollund Man gets his own special room, one of those ones where the light slowly flickers on when you walk in, which adds to the anticipation.  The Silkeborg Museum is also home to Elling Woman, but she’s one of those smashed-looking bog bodies, and as such is thrown in with the rest of the Iron Age collection, which, in a bizarrely literal interpretation of the term “Iron Age” also includes a set of chain mail that you’re welcome to try on if you can lift it off its hanger.  I was afraid I’d fall over if I did manage to get it over my head, so I left it.

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As I stated at the beginning, the rest of Silkeborg Museum wasn’t terribly memorable.  I did in fact go have a look at the blue things (blue is my favourite colour after all), which mostly consisted of fabric and blue kitchenware (seemingly quite common in Denmark, and I totally want some). The rest of the museum appeared to be devoted to local history, and the only English to be found was in the form of a laminated sheet of paper that briefly described the theme of each room.

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I’m struggling to recall what else was in there;  I think the obligatory mention of Vikings, and some stuff on local crafts and trade, and the history of Silkeborg Castle.  To be fair, the museum was under construction when we visited, so I think a couple of rooms were closed off.  I do remember the glass collection (largely because I have the picture of it) and a few rooms done up Victorian style – I think one of them had a table owned by Hans Christian Andersen in it.


So to sum up (and so quickly today too!), Tollund Man is fabulous, and well worth seeing if you’re nearby (but probably not worth a significant detour), but I don’t think you need to spend more than about half an hour at the rest of Silkeborg Museum.  The main attraction is Tollund Man, and I think they know it – whilst the Iron Age gallery was fairly informative, and appeared reasonably thoughtfully put together, everything else just kind of seemed like an afterthought.  2/5 for the museum as a whole, but Tollund Man gets 5/5.

Odense, Denmark: Hans Christian Andersen Museum


Compared to the blocky ’70s architecture that dominates much of Copenhagen, the part of Odense where the Hans Christian Andersen Museum is located is downright lovely, full of cobblestone streets and low, colourful old homes closely packed together.  I was a great fan of fairy tales as a child, and though my particular favourite was Hansel and Gretel (as told by my grandmother), I also loved the works of Hans Christian Andersen, so I was keen to see his museum and childhood home.  In life, he was fairly peripatetic, and when he wasn’t travelling, tended to base himself in Copenhagen.  However, Odense is where he was born into poverty, and spent the first 14 years of his life, and it is thus home to his museum.

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Admission to the museum is DKK 85, which seemed positively modest after Egeskov (although apparently, if you also visited Egeskov, you can get a discount at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum and the toll bridge over from Zealand, which no one bothered to tell us, but I’ll be nice enough to give you the heads up).  The idea is that you follow footprints around the museum, which will take you chronologically through his life story.  The footprints were pretty big, so may have been based on Hans’ actual feet.

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The opening gallery offered a brief overview of Danish and world history during Andersen’s lifetime, which covered most of the 19th century (and the gallery dwelt a fair bit on the American Civil War).  After reading physical descriptions of Andersen given by his contemporaries, which were downright mean, and examining some of his clothes, we progressed into a temporary exhibition about his failures in love.  I was already beginning to feel quite sorry for Hans, what with everyone mocking his big nose and gawky frame (I can certainly relate to the former problem), and the unrequited love gallery only served to intensify my pity.

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In addition to two failed relationships with women in his youth (where each professed love, but ran off to marry another man), Andersen was infatuated in his later years with Jenny Lind, known as the Swedish Nightingale.  I’d heard of Lind before, as I’ve read quite a bit about PT Barnum and the various acts who worked for him (he hired her to perform concerts in his museum), but I wasn’t aware of her relationship with Andersen.  Apparently, after he declared his love, she publicly announced that she thought of him as a brother.  Kind of harsh, Jenny.  Andersen also had a close friendship with a man (probably platonic, but maybe something more), but even that went awry when the other man refused to let Andersen address him as “du” instead of “de.” As far as I could tell, this is somewhat akin to the use of tu over vous in French, where tu would denote a closer relationship than vous, but the “du” relationship in Danish is even more intimate.  According to the museum, the main problem with Andersen was not so much his looks as his lack of prospects and poor income when he was a young man.  Andersen’s paper cuttings in this section attest to his mood at the time, one of them depicting lovers hanged from a love noose.

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We next carried on through an attractive rotunda full of mosaic scenes on Andersen’s life, and then to the biographical gallery that surrounds it.  Here, I learned more about his childhood with a cobbler father who died young and an alcoholic mother, and how he moved to Copenhagen on the strength of his singing voice.  After his voice broke, he turned to acting, and then ultimately, to writing, surviving some pretty horrible experiences along the way, like an abusive schoolmaster, who was also his landlord, and having to attend school in his 20s with a bunch of children, as he was too poor to receive a proper education as a child.  This section also talked more about his writing and adult life, right up until his death from liver cancer, which was all surprisingly interesting, though the museum did assume a working knowledge of most of his fairy tales on the part of the visitor (fair enough I suppose, as why else would you want to visit it in the first place?).  My favourite objects in all of this were the aforementioned paper cuttings, which he was incredibly skilled at, and frequently included in notes to friends.

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It was then time to head into the replica of his childhood home, which is inside a small yellow cottage that you pass on your way into the museum (I believe his actual childhood home is several blocks away, though I’m actually quite confused about this.  His home is listed as a separate museum with its own admission fee, but inside the replica, there was a plaque saying Andersen was born in that room, so I have no idea what was going on).  It was full of tools and simple furniture, as would befit the family of a cobbler.  Back in the museum, there was a re-creation of Andersen’s sitting room in Copenhagen, which was much nicer and packed with Victorian knickknacks.

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When I saw a sign directing me downstairs to the Cabinet of Curiosities, I HAD to venture in.  It was primarily a collection of Andersen’s possessions, ranging from his shaving set and hat to a rope he carried everywhere with him in case he had to escape from a fire via a hotel room window.  Now, that’s the kind of paranoia I can relate to!  Like Jane Carlyle, and pretty much every other Victorian with time on their hands, Andersen also made a decoupage screen, which was displayed here.  I really must take up decoupaging one of these days…

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Throughout the museum, we found anecdotes from people who knew him, most of which were pretty harsh.  Dickens hated him after Andersen came for a month-long visit, and one of Dickens’ daughters referred to him “that bony bore.” Someone else remarked that he was almost impossible to shave in his latter years as he’d lost all his teeth, and his mouth never stopped making chewing motions.  I just spent the whole time feeling sorrier and sorrier for Andersen, though I guess at least children liked him, which is probably more than I’ve got going for myself.

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The museum also housed a library full of his titles published in over a hundred different languages, many of which I’d never even heard of (the languages, that is).  The final hallway held a collection of illustrations to his fairy tales done by modern artists, some of which were quite good, though I was disappointed no one had tried their hand at the dog with eyes as big as tea cups (or the dog with eyes as big as towers, for that matter!).

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Aside from his fairy tales, and that terribly inaccurate film from the 1950s (with Danny Kaye,”I’m Hans Christian Andersen, Andersen that’s who,” which I still get stuck in my head now and again), I didn’t know much about Hans Christian Andersen prior to visiting his museum. I have to admit that I didn’t go in expecting much, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality, and definitely recommend it to anyone passing through Odense.  I’m glad I got the chance to learn about Andersen’s fascinating life, as I now see him as a very sympathetic character who even seemed to share some of my quirks (which will perhaps give a new dimension to his fairy tales). 4.5/5

Island of Funen, Denmark: Egeskov Castle (Slot)


I have been completely dreading writing this post simply because Egeskov Castle is properly huge, at least, once you count all the gardens and outbuildings.  I think I said the same thing about the National Museum of Denmark, but at least that was just a museum.  Egeskov Castle is not only  a castle, but has museums, games, and other attractions – similar to Osborne House, which I loved, but really, Egeskov puts Osborne House to shame (although it doesn’t have the bed Victoria died in).

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We were greeted at Egeskov (which is the sort of place you need a car to visit, as it appears to be miles from anywhere) by signs featuring the current owner of the castle – the eccentric Count Michael who has an apparent love for Segways and armour.  Ain’t nothing wrong with that, though the admission is a pricy DKK 180 per person (about 22 quid, but sometimes it’s best not to think about the conversion rate), presumably so he can afford the finest Segways money can buy.  (I kid, I’m sure he’s already wealthy, plus there’s undoubtedly a fair amount of upkeep involved).

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Unsure of the best place to start, we did the only sensible thing and headed straight for Dracula’s Crypt.  As far as I can tell, there’s no actual connection between Egeskov and Dracula, Bram Stoker, or anyone else relevant, so the whole Dracula’s Crypt is essentially just a hokey tourist trap, but I don’t have a huge problem with that.  It was full of drunken Germans when we arrived, and is basically just a dark room with a coffin that I believe is motion activated, though we managed to avoid tripping it.  The Crypt is incongruously plunked in the middle of a motorcycle museum that we pretty much skipped over, because I feel pretty meh towards motorcycles.

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In addition to motorcycles and cars, there was also a big Falck Museum.  I initially hoped Falck was Danish for folk or something, but it turns out it is a brand of trucks (?) that seems to have a virtual monopoly over emergency vehicles in Denmark.  Or maybe it just is the Danish name for an emergency vehicle?  I think I definitely missed something in translation, but there were some great mannequins in this section.

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The pink car shown here is a lady’s car that was driven by Woodrow Wilson.  It’s not particularly relevant to anything, I just feel like it’s the sort of thing you might want to know (assuming you’re anything like me).

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We could spy the castle across the water at this point, but it proved to be surprisingly difficult to get to, which is perhaps the point of a moat.  It involved going through a barn/museum, which gave a history of the castle starting in the 1800s, but it was difficult to focus on reading in the midst of wax figures with mustaches bigger than their faces.  From there, we had to cross over a ravine, but were still on the wrong side of the castle which gave us the chance (forced us to) walk through the extensive gardens.  There was an old hedge maze which looked amazing, but is not open to the public, and a random giant gold ball, but I was most charmed by the squirrel topiaries.  I mean really, squirrel topiaries!  Delightful.

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Before the entrance to the castle (which was finally in sight), we came upon the old Gate House, which now houses the dress collection of one of the 19th century Countesses of Egeskov.  I adore old dresses, and was more than happy to spend some time perusing her collection, especially as it involved going up spiral staircases.

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The highlight of the collection was undoubtedly the (partial) gown once owned by Marie Antoinette, which they wisely chose to display in a room with a mock guillotine and severed head.  I like the way this Count Michael (or probably the curator) thinks!

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Having at last made our way over the drawbridge into the castle, we were rewarded with an eclectic collection of taxidermy and other miscellany from around the world, including a “magical” foot stool (on top of the cabinet to the right).

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Most of the rooms were decorated as they would have been in the late 19th century, but the Great Hall is noteworthy for containing a pair of portraits with the kind of eyes that follow you around the room, and Count Michael’s suit of armour, which was only made recently, but is based on medieval armour.

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I’ve talked about my fascination with dollhouses quite a lot on here lately, but the one at Egeskov makes most other doll houses look like a pile of puke (just like Lil’ Lisa!).  Titania’s Palace (as it’s called) was created by a British artist and craftsman who built it for his small daughter so the fairies in the garden would have somewhere to live.  As it took him 15 years to complete it, presumably his daughter was no longer little nor believed in fairies by the time it was finished, but it’s still a nice story, and a gorgeous dollhouse.  The rooms are almost unbelievably intricate, and full of literary references.  In case you can’t study it in enough detail through the glass over the rooms, the video in the adjoining room gives an even closer look.  There was an older British lady in there watching it with me, and we both kept emitting little awed gasps throughout.

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The attic is home to more toys, though none so impressive as the dollhouse, as well as some pottery, and a curious little wooden man who sleeps under the rafters, as there’s some sort of legend that if you disturb him, bad shit will happen (I’m sure it’s more poetic than that, but you get the idea).


There were many more gardens that we could have strolled through, but we had a long day ahead of us, so we headed straight to the Yew Maze (I think.  There’s also a Larch Maze, which is presumably like larch on oak to get out of).  I don’t think I ever actually found the centre, I just ended up wandering back out again after a while.  If you are wearing a skirt or dress as I was, might I advise you avoid exiting via slide?  Just like the super fun happy slide in Mr. Burns’s mansion, this slide also had a dark side, as it was really really slippery and caused my dress to ride up, which resulted in terrible thigh burning that lingered for days (too much information? I’m only trying to be helpful!)

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There are quite a few other activities at Egeskov that we didn’t partake in, as some of them cost extra.  There’s a playground for children, and some kind of Tree-Top Walk, which would presumably have resulted in me clinging to a tree in terror, and…a Segway jousting course!  You get to wear a breastplate and carry a lance, which you can aim at various obstacles in the course.  It wasn’t so much the cost that deterred me as the fact that everyone who went on it had a crowd of people standing around gawping at them, and I don’t do well with attention from strangers.  I’ve no doubt it’s a grand time if you’re not shy though!


We saw a number of cafes around the place, most of them serving hot dogs (ick), and even chips mixed with chunks of hot dog, a concoction known as Pølsemix.  Fortunately, you could get chips sans meat, as well as a variety of exciting looking ice creams.  Although there were several gift shops, only the one at the exit was open during our visit.

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Overall, whilst I was disappointed that there wasn’t more information on the history of the castle (I’m still ignorant as to why and by whom it was built), it was nonetheless a pretty great attraction.  I don’t know if Count Michael is to thank for all the quirky touches, but if it is, he seems to be the sort of person I would get along with (which is saying something, as I hate most people).  I’d love to see more history and relevant information on the castle, but I’m still going to give it 4.5/5.


Copenhagen, Denmark: Tivoli Gardens

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The first time I heard of Tivoli Gardens was whilst watching Passport to Europe with Samantha Brown (which was one of my favourite pastimes before I moved to London when I wanted to feel more discontented than usual) a year or two before I’d ever even been to Europe. As soon as I saw her eating a massive candy floss (cotton candy) I was sold on the place, and have been keeping it in the back of my mind for a good seven years, until at long last I found myself in Copenhagen.

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Due to my unfortunate tendency towards motion sickness, pretty much the only rides I can manage are straightforward wooden coasters, with no loops or anything, and even then, I have to be drugged up on Dramamine.  But I do love a good old-fashioned amusement park of the sort that are in increasingly short supply, with promenades, gardens, and a surplus of greasy/sugary food coupled with a modest admission price.  Admission to Tivoli, without a ride pass, is DKK 95, about 12 quid, which is a bit pricy considering all it buys you is the right to walk around the premises, but still better than dropping £40+ on somewhere in the UK or USA.  If you want to go on the rides, it’s an extra DKK 355 for unlimited rides, or alternatively, you can buy individual tickets, which will end up with each ride costing the equivalent of £4-9, so not the best deal. We just skipped them altogether, allowing me to pig out without risk of puking.

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The first clue that Tivoli is cooler than your average amusement park comes when you learn that the theme is based on Tycho Brahe.  The only thing I remember from 9th grade astronomy is the story of Tycho Brahe – I mean, the man had a silver nose, and possibly died from holding in his wee too long at a banquet, that’s memorable stuff.  You’ll find an amazing Tycho Brahe fountain hidden in a quiet corner of the park next to a self-serve ice creamery, but the main way the theme manifests itself is through a few rides featuring steampunky looking rockets.  Everything else seems to be based on either the sea, or world landmarks, a bit like a slightly less commercialised version of Epcot.

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The other main theme is a scary-ass clown, who pops up through the park (though fortunately, we never saw the real thing).  They seem to love clowns on the Continent, and this one is over-the-top terrifying.  Be careful about turning your back on him, as he may have the ability to eat your soul.

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As you can see, Tivoli is otherwise quite lovely, with loads of gardens and fountains interspersed with rides and game stalls.  It’s especially pretty after dark, when everything is lit up, including the fake Taj Mahal, and there’s a special light show over one of the fountains.  There’s also various musical acts performing at different times throughout the park, so there is entertainment to be had outside of the rides and carnival games.

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Tivoli is ringed by restaurants and cafes, most of which you can eat at without entering the park, though if you want proper carnival food, you really need to go inside.  Since we weren’t riding the rides, most of what we did was eat.  I had to get the giant, made to order candy floss, but I also had an ice cream with Tycho, and delicious it was too.  There’s also lots of fried things, and of course the ubiquitous Danish hot dogs, but I definitely gave those a miss.

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I suppose there’s not really much more to say about Tivoli.  I’d highly recommend it if you’re in Copenhagen, as it does have a really nice atmosphere, reminiscent of a smaller version of Conneaut Lake Park as I remember it, admittedly through the golden glow of childhood.  The rides probably aren’t the most thrilling, but if you spent as many hours as I did mooning over pictures of old Victorian amusement parks as I did as a child, you’ll love it, though you’ll probably wish, as I did, that they at least had a funhouse or Laff-in-the-Dark ride for the nausea-inclined amongst us to enjoy.  And now I’ll leave you with a few more random pictures from around the park.

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Copenhagen, Denmark: National Museum of Denmark (Nationalmuseet)

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I think the National Museum of Denmark was way too big for me to thoroughly review it without stretching into 5000+ words, so I’m going to do my best to give an overview, and some highlights (and still go way over 1000 words, nuts to brevity!).  The Nationalmuseet is on a scale similar to that of the National Museum of Scotland, and probably most other national museums in countries where the collections aren’t divided up into individual museums for art, antiquities, social history, etc.  Really we should have allowed two days for it, but all the museums in Denmark are closed on Mondays, and Tuesday was our last day in Copenhagen, so we had no choice but to cram it all into one exhausting afternoon.

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The first thing we noticed, thanks to the banners hanging outside, was that there was a temporary viking exhibition on (they always have viking stuff, but this particular exhibit is only on until November).  Entrance to the museum, and Viking (as the exhibition is so eloquently called, which makes me want to insert an exclamation mark after it) is free, but admittance to is by timed ticket, so be sure to pick one at the admissions desk when you arrive to ensure you get a slot. We had about 45 minutes to kill before Viking(!) so thought we’d pop into the Middle Ages and Renaissance collections, not realising that the gallery just went on and on and on, and once you got sucked in, it was a long way back to the exit.

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Most of it was the sort of stuff you’d expect: religious art (see Sad Jesus being sad above), suits of armour, and fancy furniture, but a few things stood out.  The tiny coffin above was pretty awesome; there was even a wax worm crawling out of the corpse’s nose!  I really liked the replicas of typical rooms in various kinds of early modern households.  They also had a few remaining artefacts from the Kunstkammer belonging to one of the King Christians (I have no recollection of which one it was, sorry!) which the catalyst for the foundation of the Nationalmuseet.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to give most of the galleries more than a cursory glance, as it was past time to enter Viking(!), which was in an extremely dark room on the second floor.  I didn’t get to play the Viking(!) game, as the guide was taking forever to explain it to the people in front of me, and I got sick of waiting, so I don’t know whether that would have enhanced my experience, but I wasn’t that impressed.  It was basically just a random scattering of objects with descriptions that I didn’t really get to read, as the other people in there were hogging the touchscreens (and I always get slightly annoyed when signs are all on a special screen, instead of having a plaque on each object). The best part was writing a message on a special “rock” with runes (it is my Viking name, which I have decided is Jessica the Surly.  You’ll probably agree it’s apt), but I still much preferred the permanent collections, and ended up wishing we had skipped Viking(!) and devoted more time to them.  Oh well.

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The Nationalmuseet had a tonne of ethnographic collections, but it seemed similar to stuff I could see at the British Museum, and my feet were killing me, so we skipped it in favour of Danish history.  “Stories of Denmark,” which dominates the second floor, seemingly contains something on every aspect of post-1600 Danish history.  It was another giant gallery, with maze-like hallways that wound off in random directions, so I’m  not convinced we saw the entire thing, but that didn’t seem possible without backtracking.  I don’t know much about Danish history, but this exhibit made it seem similar to much of the rest of Northern Europe, except most of the kings were called Christian, and one of them seemed to have abnormally huge eyes, or a terrible portraitist.

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There was a small collection of torture implements hidden in one corner, and other interesting bits strewn throughout, though as I said, I was genuinely quite glad to have the opportunity to learn more about Danish history anyway.  For example, I learned that they had a revolution of sorts in 1848, which led to the creation of their first constitution, and also influenced the production the excellent chamberpot shown below.  Not that I condone violence against the nobility, but the verse under the picture translates to, “Both traitors to be sure, so on you Danish piss we pour.” Ok, it’s not the most amazing rhyme (it probably sounds better in Danish), but it’s funny nonetheless.

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It was quite gratifying to see an Aebleskiver pan amongst the collections.  I know they’re a big thing in certain parts of America (not Cleveland though, we’re not really known for our Danish population), but Americans have a knack for taking the best, most fattening dishes from other countries, that are only eaten on special occasions in their country of origin, and turning them into everyday things (I’m not knocking it, it is what it is, and American paczki are FAR superior to Polish ones), so it was nice to see that Danish people do actually eat aebleskiver, even just at Christmas.  Wasn’t really helpful on my quest to eat some, but still.

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Though they’re best known as the inventors of Lego, the Danes do seem to love all toys, and the museum had a special toy gallery, with a rather good dollhouse collection. They were all open at the back, so you could peek behind to see the interiors.  The toys only took up two rooms, and then we found ourselves back into Danish social history, this time 20th century.  I put some Elvis on the jukebox as a nice soundtrack for walking around the rest of the gallery, which included a mock hashish hut like the ones you’ll find in Christiania (with authentic smells!).  I’m pretty positive we took a picture of it, but now I can’t find it.  Sorry.

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I was incredibly hungry and cranky at this point, as I’d only had two small cinnamon rolls for breakfast, but my boyfriend had heard they had a noteworthy longship in the permanent Viking collections, so we trudged through the entire ground floor to get to it (turns out we could have gone in from the opposite direction, but we didn’t realise that until after).  I saw a lot of Viking ships on this trip, so I don’t think it particularly stood out, but I was SUPER cranky.  (In fairness to me, it was my birthday, so I think I was entitled to be a bit of a brat.  I don’t know what my excuse is the rest of the time.)  We totally skipped over Danish pre-history and classical antiquities, so I can’t comment on them.

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I think the moral of the story here may be that if you want to take advantage of all the Nationalmuseet has to offer, give yourself at least two afternoons there, and take snack breaks!  Even though I wasn’t in the best mood, it was undeniably a very nice museum, and everything had an English caption in addition to the Danish one.  If you only have a short time to spend there, I think “Stories of Denmark” or the Renaissance galleries are the way to go, depending on your interests (I’m sure the Viking gallery is good as well, but there are loads of Viking museums all throughout Denmark, so I preferred to devote my time to lesser known eras of Danish history).  4/5


Kali…Kali Ma!!!!



Copenhagen, Denmark: The Police Museum (Politimuseet)

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I’ve long wanted to go to the infamous Black Museum in London, but as I’m unlikely to join the police force any time soon, it’s probably not a practical option.  However, Copenhagen has a police museum that is open to the public, so it seemed the obvious place to visit on my birthday.  In case you couldn’t tell from the opening picture, this post has some slightly gory themes/musings towards the end. If you’re unusually squeamish or delicate, consider yourself warned.  Now, onto the museum!

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The museum is located in what is evidently the Nørrebro quarter – all I know is that it was a fair walk from our hotel near Tivoli.  Some information that is possibly more helpful is that the museum is only open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays from 11-4, so plan accordingly.  I missed out on seeing the Medical Museum due to their similarly limited opening hours.  Admission is DKK 40, which I think is about 5 quid, so positively cheap by Danish standards!  (Seriously, everything in Denmark was insanely expensive.)

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None of the captions or signs are in English, though the man working there kindly let us borrow a couple of the English guidebooks from the shop, and gave us a bit of background information on the museum.  It is housed in a former police station (circa 1884), and has been open to the public since 1993; it has been a museum since 1904, but was only used for training officers prior to 1993, rather like the Black Museum.

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The museum opened with a room holding a collection of old police and watchmen’s uniforms, and detailing the evolution of the police force in Denmark.  There was a most intriguing picture depicting all the forms of punishment under early modern law, which included various modes of execution and torture.  Unfortunately, we quickly realised that though the museum was absolutely packed with informational signs, the guidebook only bothered to translate about 10% of them, in addition to providing a brief overview of each room, rife with typos.  I did try to puzzle through the Danish, in hope of cognates, but it was just too bizarre to make anything of it.  Because of this, I couldn’t help but feel I was missing out, a feeling which would only intensify as I made my way through the museum.

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Other rooms on the ground floor included a replica police station, one with a chair set up for mug shots (which I really wanted to sit in, but I didn’t know if the sign said, “Please sit down” or “Don’t sit here under any circumstances!” as it was in Danish, so I stayed away), a motorcycle room, and one filled with riot gear.  I’m pretty sure you could sit on one of the motorcycles, as some Danish youths were doing it when we passed by.

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Another wing housed the old jail cells, most of which are now filled with displays, though there was a soiled mattress in one for that “authentic” prison experience.  There was a pretty neat collection in here of things the prisoners made, many of them composed of partially masticated bread, as I suppose they haven’t got many other building materials.  I enjoyed the jumping jack, and the bread flowers, as well as the story of a famous Danish escape artist who rather stupidly sent a postcard to the warden from a post office near the barn where he was hiding and was subsequently re-arrested.

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Having finished with the ground floor, we made our way upstairs, which was where they were hiding all the really good stuff.  There was a section on prostitution, sex crimes, and, a bit oddly, gambling.  Highlights here included a homemade wooden penis that some man forced his wife to use, and some kind of tube-like masturbatory device (which can be seen in the right picture at the top of this post, toward the lower right of the case).  I don’t know, perhaps I’m coming across as too flippant, but finding homemade sex toys in a case devoid of context since I couldn’t read most of the information makes it difficult for me to take them too seriously. There was also a collection of special coins given out to Danish prostitutes that they could redeem for medical care, and some illegal gambling machines from the years before casinos were legalised in Denmark.

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Another room was I think mostly on bank robbers, and possibly on assassination attempts, but it’s hard to say as the guidebook didn’t offer much help.  However, the best was yet to come, in the form of the murder room, which even had a special warning outside the door about the grisly nature of things.  The space was dominated by a case running the length of the wall full of various apparatuses used in sensational murder cases, and the drawers beneath held fairly gory pictures of the victims.  Everything was numbered, so you had to match up the numbers on the drawers with the ones on the objects to find out what was used for each murder, which I did whilst providing a running commentary for my boyfriend on the methods chosen.  I feel like my obvious delight in this is making me seem like a horrible person, but I think most of us must be interested in the seamier side of life, or places like this wouldn’t even exist.  That said, I can’t even watch horror movies unless they’re cheesy ones like the original Evil Dead because I get too freaked out, so I’m not sure why stuff like this doesn’t bother me, but somehow just looking at pictures after the fact makes it less horrible.

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Once again, due to the scanty info in the guidebook, I was left with more questions than answers.  The one that plagues me the most has to do with the sausage grinder in the case. The accompanying crime scene photo showed a woman lying bloodied on her kitchen floor near the grinder, and the grinder was circled in the picture, but as the guidebook didn’t discuss this crime at all, I have no idea if the grinder was actually a murder weapon, an attempt to dispose of the body, or just happened to be in the room at the time.  I don’t know why this bothers me so much, but it does.  I even googled “Danish sausage murder” but it just took me to a bunch of Danish cooking blogs (Danish food is gross, but it’s not THAT gross, though I suppose Pølsemix is borderline…).  There was a 19th century sausage maker in Chicago who dissolved his wife’s body in an empty sausage vat, and a Serbian serial killer who ground up one of his victims to try to dispose of the body, but even they didn’t actually turn their victims into proper sausages.  I need to know, especially since every Danish kitchen seems to have a meat grinder knocking around in it, due to their inexplicable love of hotdogs.

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The last room was dedicated to forensics, but again, the guidebook didn’t have much to say about it, and I was so fixated on the role of the sausage grinder at this point that I couldn’t pay proper attention to it anyway.  I suppose I should have asked the man at the admissions desk about the grinder, but I didn’t know if my weirdness would translate well, and I didn’t want him to think I was some kind of psychopath (though I apparently have no issue with coming across as a goon on my blog).

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So, because I wasn’t able to read about 90% of the museum’s contents, I’m only going to give it a 3/5.  I thought the things I was able to learn about were fascinating, and I obviously enjoyed (if enjoyed is the right word) the murder room, but I was honestly sad that I couldn’t learn about everything there.  I don’t want to sound like an obnoxious American tourist, but I wish they would have some English captions, or at least a more professionally put-together and comprehensive guidebook (I’m even willing to offer my editing/proofreading skills, which are obviously excellent), because I think then it would easily score a 4 or maybe even a 5. Despite this, I am very glad they are open to the general public, and it’s still worth seeing if you share my sick fascination with the darker side of humanity!