Human Interest

Where death is celebrated, funeral is fun with laughter

By Clara Antón

Vienna, July 15 (EFE).- Death may never tickle someone’s funny bone, let alone in a cemetery. However, an intriguing twist awaits those in the Austrian capital.

The Central Cemetery in Vienna, the second largest in Europe by area, is more than just a final resting place for the deceased.

It houses a creepy yet fascinating museum that approaches death with humor and irony. It is the burial site for music geniuses such as Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert, Ludwig van Beethoven, Falco and Udo Jürgens.

It houses a creepy but fascinating museum that treats death with humor and irony, besides being a site of graves of honor of music geniuses such as Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert, Ludwig van Beethoven, as well as Falco and Udo Jürgens.

At the entrance of the graveyard museum stands a mascot holding a scythe, welcoming visitors with a friendly yet somewhat childish face that offers a glimpse into the realm of death, which awaits during this sombre visit.

The museum features around 250 original objects and images, including a corpse transport carriage from 1900 and a folding wooden coffin from 1784 – similar to those Emperor Joseph II recycled to save money.

Visitors can watch one of the 13 videos projected on monitors, showcasing the funeral of Emperor Franz Joseph in 1916.

The sensory experience of the museum extends beyond sight as funeral songs reverberate in the background. Dim lighting and an immersive ambiance take visitors to an ancient, dark, and unknown world of funeral traditions from the 18th century to the present.

However, the ceremonial atmosphere starkly contrasts with the items available for purchase at the museum’s shop, offering merchandising with black humor.

For smokers, there is a tobacco case that humorously declares, “smoking (ensures) job security.” A summer “pack” includes a coffin-shaped beach mat, a fabric bag, and a towel, priced just under 100 euros.

Cornelia Fassl, the designer of the beach mat, shared the genesis of the idea. “We came up with this idea in January of this year. We were sitting at the reception table, eating, and suddenly, bam! The idea came up. The mind is stupid. These are silly things that come out of our heads.”

This unique approach to death is characteristic of Vienna and sparks curiosity in other places.

Fassl said the museum already sent around 600 summer packs to Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and America.

“Viennese jokes are always about death,” Fassl admitted, acknowledging that this sense of humor occasionally offends some people.

T-shirts on sale feature a hearse in the center with the text, “The last car is always a station wagon.”

An apron reads, “I eat sweets until the ashes,” quoting an ironic German rhyme.

The most expensive item in the shop is a death-themed LEGO mourning room, priced at 499 euros. It includes 12 dolls mourning a body, a coffin, a cross, flowers, and candles. However, this item can only be purchased by placing an advance order.

Visitors can also purchase USB drives in the shape of a hearse, a coffin, or the famous death figure for 10 euros, along with a sleep mask that humorously reads, “I’m not dead, just sleeping.”

One of the more peculiar attractions on display is a bell attached to a corpse by a string. This concept dates back to time when people feared being mistakenly buried alive.

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