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Natural History of Horror

The Science of Scary

Natural History of Horror

General Info

- Free with paid museum admission
Free for Members

We have a strange curiosity for mysterious, eerie, and grotesque monsters. We love the thrill of intense, heart-pounding bursts of adrenaline that only horror movies can provide. In our new exhibition Natural History of Horror, explore the scientific inspiration for classic monsters from DraculaFrankensteinThe Mummy, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Get a glimpse of rare movie props, film footage, hands-on activities, and museum specimens.  

Dracula the vampire leans over a woman sleeping in a bed

Courtesy of Universal Studios Licensing LLC.

The vampire legend might have started as a way to explain the spread of disease. The myth took flight in the 1931 film Dracula.

Frankenstein stares off into the distance

Courtesy of Universal Studios Licensing LLC.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein came to life in the 1931 film. The shocking science in the story was inspired by the work of Luigi Galvani—a real 19th-century scientist who studied “animal electricity.”

The Creature from the Black Lagoon, a fish like man, reached with his outstretched webbed fingers.

Courtesy of Universal Studios Licensing LLC.

The fishy fiend from 1954 film The Creature From The Black Lagoon was modeled after a Brazilian myth of a half-man, half-fish creature living in the Amazon River and the discovery of a live coelacanth in 1938 (it was thought to be extinct for more than 65 million years).

A prop case from the horror movie The Mummy

An uncommon prop vase from 1932's The Mummy was directly inspired by one found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun.

A wrapped mummy lies in a coffin with arms crossed

Courtesy of Universal Studios Licensing LLC.

The 1932 film The Mummy was inspired by the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.

A prop bat from Dracula stretched out on a stand

Terrifying at the time but kind of cute today this vampire bat prop appeared in Dracula films.

Chains and ball that were used to restrain Frankenstein's monster

These chains restrained Frankenstein’s monster in a scene deemed too graphic by censors of the day.

Coelacanth

The discovery of a live coelacanth inspired the character design of the Creature From The Black Lagoon

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The vampire legend might have started as a way to explain the spread of disease. The myth took flight in the 1931 film Dracula.

Courtesy of Universal Studios Licensing LLC.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein came to life in the 1931 film. The shocking science in the story was inspired by the work of Luigi Galvani—a real 19th-century scientist who studied “animal electricity.”

Courtesy of Universal Studios Licensing LLC.

The fishy fiend from 1954 film The Creature From The Black Lagoon was modeled after a Brazilian myth of a half-man, half-fish creature living in the Amazon River and the discovery of a live coelacanth in 1938 (it was thought to be extinct for more than 65 million years).

Courtesy of Universal Studios Licensing LLC.

An uncommon prop vase from 1932's The Mummy was directly inspired by one found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun.

The 1932 film The Mummy was inspired by the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.

Courtesy of Universal Studios Licensing LLC.

Terrifying at the time but kind of cute today this vampire bat prop appeared in Dracula films.

These chains restrained Frankenstein’s monster in a scene deemed too graphic by censors of the day.

The discovery of a live coelacanth inspired the character design of the Creature From The Black Lagoon

ALONG THE WAY, YOU’LL:

  • Discover 17 objects from NHM’s collections and four early Universal movie monsters.
  • Explore the scientific inspiration for each of these classic monsters.
  • Get a glimpse of rare movie props, film footage, hands-on activities, and museum specimens.