Now You Can Smell Famous Death Scenes

Museum puts you in a morgue-like box to explore storytelling through scent
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2014 8:11 AM CST
Now You Can Smell Famous Death Scenes
In this Feb. 7, 2009, file photo, singer Whitney Houston performs at the Clive Davis pre-Grammy party in Beverly Hills, Calif.   (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg, file)

If you've ever wondered what it was like at the scene of someone's death, scientists in the Netherlands are taking you one morbid step closer. They've created a new and unusual museum exhibit that pipes the sounds and smells of four famous death scenes into boxes, like those found in morgues, that visitors immerse themselves in for five minutes. The scenes? The deaths of John F. Kennedy (1963), Princess Diana (1997), Moammar Gadhafi (2011), and Whitney Houston (2012). "We all have seen the images of JFK's assassination, but what did it smell like?" asks one researcher.

"Smell is rarely used in communication, and we wanted to explore its uses," the researcher tells "It's a very powerful means of communication." In the case of Whitney Houston's death, visitors hear a soundtrack of splashing water and the singer's voice, then the smell of a generic bathtub cleaner, the olive oil she used during her bath, and a strong chemical odor resembling cocaine before a rush of water cuts off into silence. Those witnessing Gadhafi's final moments find them considerably less peaceful. "I almost felt myself being hunted," says one man. While the scientists weren't after historical accuracy, they relied on publicly available information about the nature of each death to help re-create a sense of place, reports (Meanwhile, your sense of smell may predict longevity.)

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