Urban Legends Investigated: Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors

Madame Tussaud’s is obviously a real place. In fact, it’s a famous tourist attraction. Whatever makes people intrigued by wax museums, I’ll probably never know as I don’t care about it in the slightest. Just no my thing. Maybe I watched too many horror movies about people being turned into wax figures, but I find wax museums creepy.

Now, making wax figures is an art, one that Marie Grosholtz (as Madame Tussaud was really called) knew like no other. I’m certainly impressed by the skill that is required to make a figure look so lifelike. But sometimes truth is more horrifying than art. Especially the gruesome exhibit in the Chamber of Horrors… One could think the exhibition is so gruesome, the blood so horrifying, the wounds so realistic, that it might be real men and women being subjected to these terrors, rather than wax figures.

But that’s just an urban legend, right?


The French Revolution

To give some background about Madame Tussaud’s history: by her late teens, she was already quite famous as a wax sculptor. She resided in Paris at the time and she did hang around with the high society of the day, including the royal family who had even hired her to teach art.

All seemed to be going well for Marie Grosholtz, until the French Revolution broke out. Suddenly, the people she was friends with, the royal family who had hired her… They became enemies of the people.

Marie undertook the no doubt arduous and upsetting task of modelling the severed heads of the people subjected to the guillotine, both for propaganda and record-keeping purposes. Some of these people she had known personally. As a royalist, Marie wasn’t safe for the French Revolution either, and she was eventually arrested but managed to escape.

Exhibition in London

In 1802, Marie had married and taken the surname Tussaud, from her husband. She left France with one of her sons and headed to England. She began to display wax figures in a touring exhibition. A major part of her exhibition featured figures of the French Revolution depicted as they had been at the moments of their deaths… Gruesome, to say the least.

It is a horrible sight nowadays to think about, but one can only imagine the spectacle it must’ve made in the 1800s when the events of the French Revolution were still just recent history.

Marie’s first permanent exhibition was set up in 1835, and like in her exhibition, she stationed the French Revolution wax figures in a seperate room. Over time, this room would gain its most famous name: The Chamber of Horrors.

The Verdict

So, did the Chamber of Horrors ever house the remnants of actual dead people? Nope. It’s just wax figures, but they’re so realistic because they’re based on the actual death masks that Madame Tussaud saw during the French Revolution. And in my book, that’s already creepy enough.

Urban Legends Investigated

Previously in this series:

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