Ever Wanted to Smell a Celebrity’s Death? Well, Now You Can.

Famous Deaths, IDFA International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam. Photo by Nichon Glerom. Source: We Make Money Not Art

Step into the Famous Deaths Smell Machine and find out what your favorite celebrities were smelling before they died…you know…in case you ever actually wondered.

Panel-goers at SXSW recently got a peek of the fascinating and bizarre Famous Deaths installation from the Sense of Smell project, which will, according to The Next Web, be making its way to New York in the next few months.

As described on SXSW’s Panelpicker site, the Famous Deaths installation “recreates the final moments in the lives of celebrities through sound and scents. Positioned in one of four mortuary freezers, visitors experience the events leading up to the deaths of J.F.K, Whitney Houston, Lady Di and Gaddafi in first person perspective.”

Yes, they said mortuary freezers. As in, a morgue chamber. A body box.


From the Famous Deaths website:

“Can you experience someone’s death up close and personal? Famous people who have died tragic deaths can leave ineradicable scars to our collective memory. J.F. Kennedy, Lady Diana…  Till this day, the way they died still toys with our imagination. Many theories about the exact cause of death still revolve around the deaths of J.F. Kennedy and Lady Diana. Wouldn’t we like to have been there?”

Um, if you say so…

For those wishing to take part, the “intimate” experience involves being locked inside a mortuary freezer, then being exposed to sounds and a series of smells that are pumped in via a “smell printer.” Such smells might include Jackie Kennedy’s perfume, the dinner Whitney Houston had the night she died, and even the smell of the pipe found next to her bathtub.


With the recent rise of VR and the immersive entertainment movement, projects like Famous Deaths offer a glimpse of the new and different types of immersive experiences that we may be seeing in the near future and beyond. Considering that the sense of smell can have a powerful connection to human emotion, incorporating scents as part of an overall immersion experience makes a lot of, well, sense.

As to whether or not getting into the Famous Deaths smell machine is something worthwhile, we’ll leave that up to you to decide.

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Famous Deaths / YouTube

Although current technology limits us from sharing the smells with you, here’s a video peek at what the experience looks like. Would you try it?


***Update** *

Since publishing this piece, we discovered another great article from We Make Money Not Art, in which the author interviewed the two men behind the Famous Deaths and Sense of Smell projects, Frederik Duerinck and Marcel Brakel, during the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam.

It turns out that one of them is a filmmaker and the other, a theater manager — and they had a lot of fascinating things to say about their projects and the use of virtual reality and smell in storytelling. Check it out here:  http://we-make-money-not-art.com/famous-deaths-step-inside-a-mortuary-chest-and-experience-of-the-final-moments-of-jfk/

You can read more on Famous Deaths and Sense of Smell here:






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