Arts & Entertainment

Gruesome Discoveries: Sydney’s Museum of Horrors for Halloween

Emma Court, Jade Twist and Palorchestes azael. Photo: Chris Peken

BY ALANNAH MAHER

Are you hunting down an unconventional event to kick off your Halloween weekend? While disgruntled people shake their fists at jack o’ lanterns and argue about whether Halloween should even be acknowledged and celebrated in Australia––the fun seekers, macabre lovers and science fans among us can zombie-march down to the Australian Museum this Friday evening, where Sydney’s favourite prehistoric party will be unleashing a world of delightful horrors.

Stepping things up a few notches from the traditional haunted house, this special Halloween edition of Jurassic Lounge will overtake the Museum with a plethora of gruesome delights including performances from seasoned contortionist Jade Twist, a silent disco spinning classic Halloween tracks, comedians running riot with improvised recreations of their favourite classic horror scenes, horror make-up tutorials from The Makeup Wardrobe and many more somewhat sinister pleasures.

“You get a chance to check out the collections and exhibitions but you also get to discover all kinds of great talent and take part in interesting, fun activities,” explained Jurassic Lounge organiser, Mathieu Ravier.

In addition to the visiting performers and attractions, event goers will get after-hours access to the existing exhibitions and the latest additions, including the Crystal Hall main entrance and the Wild Planet gallery exhibition showcasing biodiversity and over 400 animals.

Visitors will also have exclusive access to ‘pick the brains’ (metaphorically speaking) of the knowledgeable resident scientists, who will be conducting three-to-five minute ‘speed talks’ detailing their first hand discoveries of amazingly gruesome animals including vampire squid, deep sea isopods, bot flies and screw worms.

Leading amphibian biologist Dr Jodi Rowley will be chatting about the brick red ‘Vampire Frogs’ she came across in a remote mountain rainforest in Vietnam. “They have an amazing adaptation that I didn’t realise until I got some tadpoles back to the Australian museum,” explained Dr Rowley. “They looked like normal boring tadpoles, but when I turned them over and looked at them under the microscope…they had these two black fangs sticking out and I knew that was not meant to be in a tadpole’s mouth!”

These foreboding offspring are laid in remote holes in cloudy rainforest trees, with no food around for them, “the mother comes back and lays unfertilised eggs for the babies to eat and they use the fangs to scoop the eggs into their belly.”

Having participated in previous Jurassic Lounge events, Dr Rowley is more than keen to meet and greet the crowd, describing them as a refreshing change from usual scientific audiences: “It’s a really great way to get our stuff out there and chat to people. It definitely doesn’t feel like work, it feels like you’re at a party but people actually probably care more about what you have to say…”

There will be live native frogs and reptiles roaming the crowds on Friday night, but if living and breathing slimy and scaly creatures aren’t quite creepy enough for you––an actual taxidermist will be quite literally ‘picking the brains’ (and other organs) of a recently departed creature, with a live taxidermy workshop happening over the course of the evening.

“The taxidermist will be doing the work that she normally carries out behind the scenes, but this time in a very public environment, talking to us about the process as she does it,” said Mathieu. “It’s a great insight into how that really interesting but confrontational process happens…not for the faint hearted!”

Making onlookers squeamish in a whole other way, Jade Twist will be ‘bending her bones’ with her popular contortionist act. Jade discovered her passion for contortion at the tender age of four, her parents may have laughed it off when she said she wanted to “run away with the circus” at age 10, but she certainly surprised them when she kept her word at age 18. Nowadays, Twist likes to shakes things up, incorporating burlesque, dance, tumbling and hand balancing into her act.

After performing for a Jurassic Lounge event some time ago, she is excited to return to the immersive space and embrace the Halloween spirit. “It’s a really different atmosphere…the audience are roaming around you,” said Jade. “It’s just a really unique event, the last time I did Jurassic Lounge there was a dinosaur walking around that was twice my height!”

“I definitely don’t think anyone could have an awkward date with a lack of conversation coming into Jurassic Lounge,” commented Dr Rowley.

With such a banquet of attractions, including a ‘Monster Mash’ dance lesson led by Diesel Darling, Jurassic Lounge is not only a great way to rediscover your Halloween spirit as an adult, but also the Australian Museum itself.

Creativity with Halloween outfits is encouraged, with prizes for the best dressed. If you’re racing straight from work, why not have your look gruesomed-up by the talented ladies from The MakeUp Wardrobe?

If a few hours of discovery isn’t enough to satiate your appetite for spooky shenanigans, you can continue your Halloween expedition into the city (luckily, lock out laws won’t be keeping out ‘trick or treaters’ by the time this sideshow packs in).

If you’re thirsty for a nightcap, Mathieu Ravier recommends Kubrick’s Bar on Stanley Street for an appropriately kooky kick on (yes, the bar is inspired by cult film director Stanley Kubrick).

 

Friday Oct 30, 6.30–9.30pm. Australian Museum, 6 College St, Sydney. $19 pre-sale, $22 on the door. Tickets & info: jurassiclounge.com. This is an 18+ event.

 Learn more about Mathieu and upcoming events at thefestivalists.com

 Discover more about Dr Jodi Rowley and her conservation work at australianmuseum.net.au/science-direct-dr-jodi-rowley

 Find out more about Jade Twist on her Facebook page.

 

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