Horror, thriller and fantasy in the Wax Museum

by Victor Grigore, Webphoto.ro

The Wax Museum in Barcelona contains some exhibits inspired from horror or action movies, supposed to give the visitor a thrilling experience, accompanied by light effects and audio recordings. It’s the more commercial side of this museum, some may say even kitschy, but it always works well with the kids. Nevertheless, this wax museum holds some more valuable exhibits in other sections, that include statues of famous political leaders, great writers and painters or famous explorers.

Movie fans may be glad to meet with characters from Star Wars, Frankenstein or from classical gangster movies. But don’t think that shocking images didn’t exist before Hollywood. In fact, those were “the real thing”. How about the recreation of the suicide of Roman thinker and statesman Seneca? Though he was a wise man, Seneca, who was an adviser of emperor Nero, didn’t object when the mental emperor plotted to have his own mother, Agrippina, murdered, so he would get absolute power. Many years later, Seneca himself fell under suspicion of taking part in a plot against Nero. So Seneca was granted the privilege of carrying himself his own death penalty, in a less painful way. Unfortunately for him, Seneca didn’t prove as skilful in these deadly matters as he was with words. So after he cut his wrists, the blood pored so slowly, that even after several hours he was still capable of having conversations and dictating poems to his companions. So he was laid in a hot bath and eventually suffocated.

Japan, a culture as old as the Ancient Greece, has a tradition of suicide for reasons of honor, called harakiri or seppuku. This brutal way of killing oneself, is still practiced in some rare cases, but it comes from the military code of honor of a samurai. When defeated or in danger of losing his honor, a Japanese soldier had to take his own life, by sticking a samurai sword into his belly. Usually, his friends were around, finishing the ritual by cutting his head with a single sword blow, to quicken the suffering.

For many centuries, no one felt the need for violent fantasies because of the reality of constant wars and of torture. Prisons are a quite recent invention, used for the first time by the Arabs. As holding someone in a confined place required supplementary costs, the condemned were usually given a physical punishment, many times a capital one. Without mass media and literacy, many of the punishments were carried out in public, so the message would get to the rest of the people. Such was the case with stoning, flogging or hanging. The Middle Ages brought the extensive usage of fire as a painful way of dying, that was suppose to purify the perpetrator. Such was the case with the French heroine Jeanne D’Arc. A partly real, partly mythical character, Jeanne D’Arc lead the French army against the British in several battles, after claiming to have had some divine visions. She was captured and burnt at the stake for heresy, in a political trial, orchestrated by allies of the British king.

Closer to our times, horror stories made it into literature, as was the case with the Jewish myth of the Golem, a creature created through magic, that gets out of the control of its creator. Replacing the magic part with science, this myth was popularized in books and movies as Frankenstein, the monster that turns against the mad scientist that created it. The silver screen proved an endless ground for fantasies, sometimes involving time traveling, like with the bizarre machine presented in the Back to The Future series. With a gadget like that, modern viewers would get a pretext of encountering other frightening or fascinating times, like those in which the cave men of the Neanderthal lived.

But many times the future proved to be just as passionate as the past. George Lucas created an entire universe in his Star Wars series, and some say even a cult of fanatics. The complete interior of the star-ship is recreated here, with Luke Skywalker, princess Leia and the robots that accompany them. Among them is introduced ET, the extraterrestrial invented by Steven Spielberg, in one of the most touching movies in history, that manage to make even the aliens look human and friendly.

Another movie scene that is excellently reproduced in the wax museum is that of a bank robbery from the 20s and 30s. The most famous of those bank robbers was John Dillinger. Before moving to banks, Dillinger robbed a local store, and didn’t seemed so dangerous, that the locals signed a petition made by his father for his release. The sums of money he got from banks with his gang, at gunpoint, don’t sound too spectacular, ranging from 3000 to 75.000 dollars, but we have to take into account the inflation. However, the series of some twelve successful bank heist made Dillinger an urban legend, and a ten million dollar price was put on his head by the FBI. Dillinger didn’t get to prison, but was gunned down by the Federal agents, after a tip. Other legendary bank robbers include Butch Cassidy and the couple Bonnie and Clyde.

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