AMERICAN TIMES: HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA: The doyenne of death heads for Tinseltown

CATHEE SHULTZ does not have a normal healthy interest in death. She is, you might say, a little obsessed. She corresponds with serial killers. She collects autopsy photographs of car-crash victims. She has a dead Afghan for a pet dog (stuffed, of course).

For the past three years, death has also - if you will pardon the expression - been her livelihood. With her artist husband, J D Healy, she has run a creepy little outfit called the Museum of Death, a showcase for such spoils as antique morticians' tools, Charles Manson's baseball bat, an electric chair built for a cover photo on Death Row Magazine and a montage of body bags in every colour of the rainbow.

"The overall thing is to make people happy to be alive," Ms Shultz likes to say.

Until Hallowe'en this year, the museum was in a former mortuary in downtown San Diego - an offbeat attraction among the trendy bars and restaurants of the city's heavily renovated Gaslamp Quarter. It was a particularly creepy mortuary, one that coexisted for a long time with a brothel up on the next floor, and one where a former employee, still believed to haunt the premises, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head, the bullet popping out of an eye and lodging in the roof beams.

Until Hallowe'en, Ms Shultz and Mr Healy went about their business as only they knew how. They were in negotiations to buy a Bible belonging to Andrew Cunanan, the gay serial killer best known for bumping off Gianni Versace in July 1997. They kept an eye out for possible additions to their Freak Farm, a display of deformed animals, living and dead, including an eight-legged piglet and a two-headed turtle that they call Heckle and Jeckle.

Then something a little unexpected happened. Not quite a bump in the night, although there certainly were a few knocks on the door. Something that some of the more uneasy members of the San Diego community might have said they had coming to them. Or maybe it was sheer bad luck.

For much of the autumn, Ms Shultz had been looking forward to an auction of items from the Heaven's Gate suicide cult, the 39 people who became convinced that the Hale-Bopp comet, when it appeared a couple of years ago, was calling them to heaven and promptly did away with themselves in a large house in the San Diego suburbs by overdosing on barbiturates sweetened with vodka and apple sauce.

Ms Shultz and Mr Healy already owned a few choice items from the cult - Nike training shoes, a collection of purple shrouds, a bottle of phenobarbital and a small container of apple sauce. They wanted to bid for one of the 19 bunk beds in which the cult members died - they eventually bought a white one for $130 (pounds 80).

In her enthusiasm, Ms Shultz talked to journalists about her plans for a Heaven's Gate exhibit complete with male and female mannequins wearing the cult's black uniforms and "Away Team" patches. That was where the problem began.

The publicity reached the ears of the museum building's proprietors just as they were contemplating selling to capitalise on the Gaslamp Quarter's rising prices. They were not at all sure whether a Museum of Death generated the right kind of publicity.

John Day, a partner in the company that owns the building, said: "I've had a number of comments from various different people that this occupancy in the building was detracting from its value."

Ms Shultz and Mr Healy were evicted. But they are positive, forward-thinking people, and it was not long before they had an alternative plan. To where could a self-respecting Museum of Death move? There was, of course, only one answer: Hollywood.

And so, on 1 January, in a defunct Mexican restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard, the museum will be resurrected. Being in Hollywood, it will naturally be bigger and better than ever. Ms Shultz is friends with Kenneth Anger, author of the definitive scandal catalogue Hollywood Babylon, and she hopes to raise the celebrity death element considerably.

Whatever one may think of the taste of it all, the ghoulish couple cannot be accused of lacking a sense of humour. Although still in their mid-thirties, they have plans for their own demise. Ms Shultz wants to be mummified and displayed in her own museum. Mr Healy wants to be pickled in a jar of formaldehyde.

As Ms Shultz said: "You need to shock people to get their attention in our society. Death isn't bad. We all do it."

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam