Step into the depths of hell at Haw Par Villa’s Hell’s Museum, a bizarre but educational gallery dedicated to death and the afterlife, when it opens Friday.
A cultural theme park that’s been running over 80 years is launching the new hell-raising experience to open up conversations and remove the stigma from the taboo topic of death. An expansion to its long-running Buddhist hell park, the museum adds more cultural takes on the life hereafter with colorful – and less gory – displays to wander through.
The original park, formerly the Tiger Balm Garden, was built in 1937 by Aw Boon Haw, the founder of the titular heat rub and later converted into an American-style theme park before settling into the museum format of today.
The park’s newest 3,800-sqm attraction is a prelude to its renowned Ten Courts of Hell, where statues and dioramas vividly show the punishments in the afterlife according to Taoist and Buddhist beliefs – a place parents bring delinquent children to scare them straight. The new areas incorporate more insights into what happens when people cross over to the other side viewed across various religions, cultures and the ages.
Looking past the spiked heads and sawed-apart bodies, the park’s purpose is for visitors to “live their lives meaningfully,” according to Jeya Ayadurai, chairman of the park’s management company.
While most are likely to visit Hell’s Museum for its trippy, graphic set pieces, its goal is to share the broader story and mass perspectives on death, including how Singapore handles and manages the deceased, and for visitors to witness death through a less frightful lens.
It is divided into two parts with a total of 10 stations including the history of religions and mock-ups of different burial sites. Six are indoors and four in an open-air sculpture garden that includes the Ten Courts of Hell.
This opening weekend places it smack in the path of Halloween, and that means a series of events and activities including a talk and workshop on hypnotherapy, guided park tours and Halloween-themed picnics.
A limited-edition souvenir will be given to those who come dressed for Halloween.
Many Singaporeans can relate to being thrown into the park as a child for the purpose of being traumatized, but the addition of educational cues has toned down the horrifying themes. Still, both park and museum may be too much for children 9 and under.
Tickets are priced at S$18 for adults and S$10 for children 7 to 12, whose parents don’t give a damn. It will stay open two hours later than usual until 8pm this opening weekend.
262 Pasir Panjang Road
10am to 6pm Tuesday to Sunday; closed Monday
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This article, Go to Hell! Haw Par Villa ‘Hell’s Museum’ opens just in time for Halloween, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.