Russia Tried to Scare People Off Drugs with an Insane Junkie Waxwork Horror Show

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Russia Tried to Scare People Off Drugs with an Insane Junkie Waxwork Horror Show

Russians are serious about their drug education. Terrifyingly serious.
March 2, 2015, 6:20pm

A tableaux of despair and filth

When I was in St. Petersburg one night in 2005, I stumbled upon the entrance to a dingy building that could have been a theatre or cultural centre. What drew my attention was a six-foot-tall wax figure of Freddie Mercury, fist raised in triumph amidst the chilly Russian air. What could this portend? An animatronic waxwork Queen tribute plunked bizarrely beside a rail yard? Closer inspection revealed the show had more to do with Mercury's fondness for cocaine than his unimpeachable fashion sense.

A sandwich board had been placed in the entrance featuring a lurid illustration of a young beauty, her face split down the middle so that one side revealed the visage of a skeleton, surrounded by roses and hypodermic needles obviously pilfered from a stock photo site. The text on the board read:

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The Wax Person Museum
Presents: A Stunning New Project
"On The Verge"
Illustrating the effects of narcotics on the human organism

The bottom of the poster revealed the project was presented in association with a government agency. The pieces fell into place: this was an anti-drug version of the "hell tours" they take to state fairs in the southern US warning teens about the perfidy of heavy petting. I paid a 50 ruble entrance fee (about $2) to be treated to one of the most heavy-handed cautionary tales of my life.

The exhibition begins chronologically, with a look at the sinister ancient cultural influences that begat the current epidemic of drug abuse. The evil Chinaman, resplendent among his silk sheets, confounds his senses with smooth opium smoke. Russia’s own, cheap version of opium, called krokodil, is a deadly killer. Its addicts have a lifespan of two or three years as their flesh falls off the bone in chunks.

Also important in the legacy of drugs is marijuana, or zelonaya babushka (green grandma). This character, clad in the universal stoner garb of a satiny vest, offers us a hit of his jazz cigarette. Given the state of his eyes, that weed may be mostly PCP.

A tableaux of despair and filth. Just five minutes off the horse would be long enough to notice that rusty crate could fetch a handsome price at a reclaimed furniture boutique.

Despair and Filth, Part Deux. Hey, look, it's that corpse from Se7en who wakes up screaming when the cop gets too close.

Close-up of Mister Dead and Bloated, just to really hammer the point home. You’ve got to give credit to the makeup artist: they’ve mastered that glossy decay look.

To be fair, this kind of looks like my garbage can right now, except with fewer syringes and more old chicken.

“I apologize, Olga Sergeyevna, but your son has reams of snot streaming down his face because he’s been hoovering cocaine. Clearly, he’s no longer capable of participating in our strong and productive Russian society.”

The moment of sober realization that dumping two liters of vodka into yourself every weekend while at the dacha with Sergei was not the best choice for your fledgling son’s precious first days of life.

Never had I seen a stillborn baby fashioned from wax, vaseline, PVC tubing, and red paint.

“As a doctor in modern Russia, I make a few hundred dollars a month. I don’t do it for the money—that’s obvious. But do I really need to see this shit every day?”

More stillborn artistry. The level of technical sophistication is pretty stunning. You could never say that Russian wax craftsmanship is spotty.

A wasted life, surrounded by the high priests of wasted life, including: Marilyn Manson, the guy from The Prodigy, and Queen’s Brian May. Brian fucking May, the only stadium-playing guitarist with a PhD in Astrophysics in history, didn’t deserve this.

The main course of the whole show, really. Mom, clad in an electric-blue Belarusian nightgown is so faced on vodka she can muster nary a glance as her aunt/sister/mother-in-law, clad in high-waisted mom jeans, hurls herself out the window in a fit of drug psychosis.

The kid seems surprisingly well-adjusted, despite the madness around her. Dare we read anything into the potential positive influence of Disney heroines?

A faces-of-death gallery highlighting the connection between drug use and disfigurement. It covers the gamut from gangrene-induced-by-heroin-laziness to getting your scnhozz blown off in a freebasing situation.

The sandwich board welcoming you into the narcotic nightmare.

The show’s glamorous ambassador, Freddie Mercury.