The Henkermuseum – Sissach, Switzerland - Atlas Obscura
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Sissach, Switzerland

The Henkermuseum

Extensive private collection of authentic Medieval devices used for human torture and execution. 

The Henkermuseum, or Hangman’s Museum, is one of the most unusual privately owned museums in all of Switzerland. Curator Guido Varesi has researched instruments of torture and execution for a quarter century. As he researched, Varesi slowly built an incredible collection by obtaining pieces from private collectors, auction houses, and other museums.

Spread across three floors of a unique building that used to be a jailhouse that contained 3 cells, Guido Varesi’s collection includes many original devices that represent the early days of dark justice, devices used for penal execution in days long since passed.

One of the most famous pieces in the Henkermuseum’s collection is the blade from the Senegal Guillotine and a model of said guillotine, a painted oak, steel, and brass model based on the only known photograph of the instrument used by the French in their African colony of Senegal. Another is a full-size replica of the French Berger guillotine built by the museum. The full size Berger machine is not on display inside the museum as it is too large.

Of particular note is the large collection of authentic Medieval execution swords on display within the museum. Visitors can also see a very rare Swiss beheading axe with a proven history of removing many heads in times past.

Also on display in the museum are props and equipment used by the famous Swiss escape artist Pius Buser. These include his original solid leather straitjacket and his lethal electric chair escape which he used to thrill audiences in the 1920’s

Of interest, The Henkermuseum also has a “sister” museum in Canada. This is the large Medieval torture, restraint, and execution collection of Canadian extreme escape artist Steve Santini. Santini’s collection is known as The Dark Justice Museum and at the time of this writing it is a private collection with the hopes of one day being available to the general public in the form of a permanent public museum.