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The National Museum of Funeral History – A Haven for Historic Funeral Car Enthusiasts

Discussing historic and otherwise noteworthy funeral cars is one of my favorite topics on this blog.  Looking at the modes of transportation used throughout history as well as the evolution of funeral traditions and practices brings it all together for me.  But writing and reading about these cars is one thing, seeing them in person is quite another.  That’s why I’m adding the National Museum of Funeral History onto my summer road trip Wish List.

Location
You might expect a museum dedicated to funerals to be housed in a picturesque Victorian manor house, perhaps surrounded by a white picket fence and a few tombstones.  But you’d be wrong.  So pack some sun screen and be sure to keep an eye out for a nondescript building.  It turns out, the museum is located in what appears to be an old industrial park. A bustling town home community of young families constitutes the area today, located in a largely shade-free area of Houston.

What the building lacks in curb appeal, it makes up for once you step inside.  The building is enormous, with a display room easily large enough to park an airplane. There are meeting rooms and classrooms as well, although these are off-limits to the public.

The Collection

The permanent collection at the museum is impressive to say the least.  The museum covers the most obvious base first with their impressive collection of antique and custom coffins which includes everything from a casket provigil adorned with real money (who says you can’t take it with you?) to Fantasy Coffins from Ghana.  A Victorian funeral parlor, embalming exhibits and the largest collection of Ghanaian caskets outside of Africa are just a few of the many rare treasures you will find.

Of course, when it comes to impressive size, the hearses and funeral cars take the cake.  The collection takes up a great deal of the display space as well as attractive plenty of visitors.  Here you will find authentic antiques sharing space with high quality replicas, although the signage does a great job of letting you know which is which.

Merchandise
Of course, no roadside attraction visit would be complete without the obligatory gift shop stop.  The gift shop in the museum is impressive but it’s the one thing you don’t have to travel to Houston to appreciate.  Their website offers the same merchandise shipped direct from the museum.  You can choose from books about the funeral industry and Day of the Dead merchandise to leather hearse coasters and Undertakers Root Beer.

The National Museum of Funeral History is an interesting place. Part tourist trap, part fascinating historical museum, it is a must-see for any true fan of funeral cars and related memorabilia. If you are interested in the funeral vehicles of today, be sure to visit our convenient dealership. We would be happy to assist you in finding the right car for you.


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Check Out This Horse-Drawn Carriage Collection

In Winnipeg, Canada, RolanCleggHearse02d Emmerson “Rollie” Clegg bought his first horse-drawn carriage to appease his new bride. In those days, the motorized car was quite a new invention, and Clegg’s wife, Gladys, had a disastrous first driving lesson. She wanted nothing to do with the new contraption. A few years later, Clegg was able to talk her into riding in a car, but she continued to drive her buggy on shopping trips until midway through the 1940s.

 

In the 1960s, Rollie, a blacksmith, welder and farmer, began rescuing abandoned buggies from around his area. He lovingly restored the vehicles, eventually developing an impressive collection. His carriages include several extremely rare pieces, such as Canada’s only known surviving ambulance carriage from the First World War.CleggHearse

For many years, Rollie has loaned out his buggies for weddings. The only payment he would accept was a photograph of the happy couple. The carriages have also been featured in films and starred in numerous parades.  His collection was also featured in movies including The Assassination of Jesse James and the Canadian television series Pioneer Quest.

Rollie’s collection also includes two horse-drawn hearses, a black and a white. They have been used in several funerals. One of Rollie’s hearses was used in the funeral of a 104 year old aboriginal woman. It is said that her last request was a horse-drawn funeral carriage.

Clegg passed away in 2012 and his collection has become part of a museum.  His landmark and internationally known collection of nearly 100 carriages has a new home at the Prairie Mountain Regional Museum in Shoal Lake.

If you prefer more modern hearses for sale, we look forward to speaking with you at our dealership. We would be happy to answer any questions you have.Victorian_Horse-Drawn_Hearse


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Funeral Car Enthusiast? Plan Now for Next Year’s HAuNTcon

If you are into funeral cars, the chances are good that you are also interested in Halloween and itsHAuNTcon associated events. Perhaps you have a favorite haunt that you make an annual trek to each year. Or maybe you prefer to do as my father and I did last year, making the rounds of a section of the country to visit as many different haunts as possible. Either way, have you ever wondered what goes into the behind the scenes creation of a haunted attraction? HAuNTcon is your chance to find out.

This annual event takes place each spring at a carefully selected location somewhere in the United States.   In 2016, it was held in Birmingham, Alabama at the end of January. While the venue changes, the attractions and guests feature many familiar faces.  The convention is filled to the brim with owners, designers, actors, makeup artists and others who are dedicated to perfecting the art of the scare.   The the general public is invited to attend for a rare behind the scenes look at the creation of these Halloween masterpieces.

A funeral car rally is always part of the festivities, allowing those who own hearses and other funeral cars the chance to show off their babies. Costume contests, dinners and both lights-on and lights-off tours of local haunted attraction are just a few of the regular events.

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The convention also offers numerous classes on topics that are hard to find elsewhere. This year’s lineup included classes entitled “Monster Mouths Made Easy,” “Styrofoam Masonry IV,” and “Airbrush Makeup for Haunts,” among many others. No experience is required for these hands-on seminars, and you need not be affiliated with a haunt to attend.

If you are still in the market for the perfect funeral car, we invite you to visit our convenient dealership for hearse sales. We will be happy to help you select a car that you will be proud to take HAuNTcon.


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Looking for Some Creepy Fun? Try a Funeral Car Convention

Many cars today elicit strong emotional responses. Exotic car fans may stop in their tracks at the sight of a Ferrari or Lamborghini. Muscle car buffs feel a strong connection to the vehicles they restore. Funeral cars, however, elicit a decidedly mixed response.

Many people feel creeped out or afraid at the sight of a hearse or other funeral car. The connection to death, which is heavily feared by many, draws a strongly negative feeling from many people. However, to others it is just the opposite. Whether they are drawn to funeral cars precisely because of their morbid connections or because of their beauty and power, there is a large contingent of funeral car enthusiasts around the world.

Funeral car lovers, like those who enjoy any particular type of car, love to get together and show off their vehicles. While some of these meetings are private, most are open to the public. Public funeral car rallies are often held near Halloween, playing up the spookiness that many feel is associated with the vehicles.

A funeral car convention can be an exciting event. There may be music, games, movies, celebrity appearances and numerous other activities. Some of the cars have been customized and are nothing short of spectacular.  Local communities will often host these gatherings and advertise them through local groups and online listings.  There are also some which garner national attention, such as the Halloween Classic Car Show hosted by the National Museum of Funeral History.

Whether you are a funeral car enthusiast or not, a funeral car rally is a great way to get the family together for some unusual entertainment that you are sure to remember for years to come. You can easily find a show in your area with a simple internet search. Should your rally experience inspire you to find a used hearse for sale, be sure to visit our friendly dealership, where we will help you find the car of your dreams.


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“Ever Drive a Hearse, Harold?” Funeral Cars in the Movies

Funeral car collectors may seem odd to those who are on the outside looking in. After all, who would want to drive around in such an obvious symbol of death? That same confusion or distaste does not, however, seem to carry over to film. A surprising number of films from cult classics to beloved Disney movies feature funeral cars as supporting characters. Here is a brief guide to some of the more popular funeral car films.

Harold and Maude – This 1971 cult classic is possibly the greatest funeral car film of all time. It ranked #45 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Funniest Movies of All Time. Harold and Maude are possibly the unlikeliest pair of all time, and their hilarious exploits in a stolen hearse will not soon be forgotten.

Munster Go Home – Who doesn’t love the Munsters? As would seem appropriate for this unusual family, Herman travels with his carpool in a 1950s limo style hearse.

Some Like It Hot – This classic film features a scene in which a funeral car is pursued by Chicago police officers. After a great deal of gunplay, the hearse arrives at The Funeral Parlor. The funeral parlor turns out to be a speakeasy, and the deceased is a case of bootleg liquor.

The Brave Little Toaster – Even kids movies are in on the trend.  This cute kids’ movie features a singing hearse and limo duet.

A Goofy Movie – Disney doesn’t shy away from themes of death either.  This 1995 Disney film features a scene of a hearse complete with singing corpse.

Of course, the above are just a few of the many movies in which hearses and funeral cars are prominently featured. Funeral cars have played an important role in film history, and the Hollywood ties are one of many reasons that collectors value these fascinating vehicles. If you are in the market for a new or old funeral car, why not stop by our friendly dealership? We can answer any question that you may have.


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The Pink Funeral Car from the UK That Made Headlines in the Cross-Europe Road Rally

As a general rule, funeral car enthusiasts love to fix up their cars and show them off. Some prefer to restore their vehicles to their original condition, others soup them up for racing purposes. Another group, however, prefers to turn their funeral cars into showpiece works of art. A British pair has done just that and then entered their car into a cross-Europe road rally.

The car in question is a 15 year old Ford Dorchester mourners’ car that was purchased for 100 pounds. The three man

team has customized the vehicle around a disco theme, complete with disco ball, pink paint and flashing lights. They entered their modified macabre masterpiece in the 2008 Ramshackle Rally. The Rally crosses central Europe and ends in Krakow, Poland.

The rally is a popular see and be seen event, which the team entered in order to raise money for charity. Their charity of choice was the Cauldwell Charitable Trust, a group organized by friends of one of the team members that helps sick and disadvantaged children.

The trio will drove approximately 3,000 km in four days from the city of Calais, France to the finish line in Krakow. None have ever competed in an event on this scale, but all were eager to get started and excited about the prospect of making the 2008 Rally one to remember.

If you are a funeral car enthusiast, you probably enjoy taking your car out and showing it off. A road rally is a great place to meet others who share your interest in unusual vehicles. Rallies take place around the world on a fairly regular basis, and are easy to find online. If you are still in the market for the perfect funeral car, be sure to stop by our friendly dealership.


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Drunk Driving Programs Are Increasingly Realistic

Drunk driving awareness programs have been extremely popular in recent years. Groups like SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions, formerly Students Against Drunk Driving) and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) regularly stage scenarios that attempt to shock teens with the stark realities of possible drunk driving consequences. These scenarios usually take place around prom season, as groups attempt to ensure that teens will make wise choices on prom night.

In decades past, these demonstrations have largely consisted of static displays placed on school lawns.

A student production of a staged accident.

Wrecked cars and funeral cars are generally a part of the display.   Newer versions of this type of real life display also include plays or demonstrations that include local police, fire department and medical workers in order to lend some authenticity to the recreation.  If a student has recently been involved in a non-fatal accident, his or her car may be used to help bring realism.

In recent years, these static displays have been supplanted or reinforced by live demonstrations. These demonstrations are often sponsored by police and fire departments, and may include ambulances, police cars and even funeral cars. Live actors play the roles of the injured and dead.

A group in Dracut, Massachusetts recently staged a noteworthy and realistic display in 2008.  The promotion valium created an impact that made headlines in the local paper, the Valley Dispatch. Held on school DrunkDriving03grounds, the scenario placed three students in cars that had just been involved in a head-on collision. A fourth student lay on the pavement, the victim of a gushing head wound. As the girl was declared dead, her mother rushed onto the scene, screaming in agony. One of the drivers, a popular student, was arrested for vehicular homicide as liquor bottles were pulled from the car. The girl was zipped into a body bag and loaded into a funeral car as her mother was physically restrained.

Later, students filing into an assembly were met with an open coffin bearing a mirror inside. A chilling note read “This could be you.” The mother of a student killed in a drunk driving accident then addressed the somber group.

Although demonstrations like the above could be considered too graphic for students, proponents believe that these programs make a difference. Student drinking statistics are down, and some groups partially attribute this to these realistic anti-drinking and driving displays.

If you would like to donate your funeral car for use in a school display, contact your local chapter of SADD or MADD for more information.


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Funeral Car Enthusiast? Check Out These Hearse Clubs

If you are a funeral car collector or enthusiast, you may want to consider joining the Professional Car Society . This international society was founded in 1976 to encourage the restoration and preservation of professional cars. A professional car can be virtually any customized vehicle that is based on a passenger car and used in livery, funeral or rescue services. Special attention is given to dual-function vehicles such as hearse/ambulances and invalid coaches.

The society is a gold mine of information for anyone attempting to restore, maintain or preserve a car that fits within its guidelines. A quarterly magazine, The Professional Car, is distributed free of charge to members. The magazine carries numerous articles and advertisements that are of particular interest to professional car enthusiasts. Each issue also provides a free Classifieds section, which can be quite helpful in obtaining needed parts for your funeral car.

An international meet is held each summer, always in a colorful and interesting location. This is wonderful opportunity to meet and mingle with others who share your hobby, and to trade valuable information and tips.  The society also maintains a significant web presence. Here you can find information on your local chapter, learn about the society’s history and plans for the future, submit details about your car for possible display at future events, and keep up with ongoing events.

There are also clubs that focus on hearses specifically.  These clubs offer local chapters so it may take some digging to find one in your neck of the woods.  But many are active online as well, making it a bit easier to network even if you don’t find one locally.  The Nightmare Cruisers, Phantom Coaches and Just Hearse N’ Around Hearse Clubs all maintain updated web pages and social media options.  The Denver Hearse Club even hosts an annual convention – HearseCon – devoted to fans of hearses.

If this piqued your morbid curiosity and you’re in the market for the perfect funeral car , we invite you to visit our convenient dealership. We can help you find the funeral car that is right for you.


Ever Wonder About the Harold and Maude Funeral Car?

Funeral car enthusiasts and cult movie lovers alike are extremely familiar with the 1959 Cadillac Superior hearse featured in the film Harold and Maude. Over the decades, the fate of that funeral car has been widely debated. Numerous people have come forward claiming to be the current owner, from celebrities to funeral car collectors. However, the popular funeral car club Grim Rides appears to have located the actual owner.

So Who Owns the Car?
The gentleman who currently owns the Harold and Maude funeral car has decided to remain anonymous. However, he met with the owner of Grim Rides and provided documentation that proves that his car is the one from the film. The letter that the current owner received from the Department of Motor Vehicles, giving the car’s history, is posted on the club’s website.

How Did He Get the Car?
The owner’s account of the story is also available on Grim Rides’ website. According to that account, some scenes from the film were shot in his hometown. He had the opportunity to view the funeral car up close on several occasions. After the film was released, he became an enormous pharmacy-no-rx.net fan. In 1974, he decided to track down the vehicle. He read the license plate from the movie screen and had a friend’s police officer father locate the owner. He then called the owner.

As it turns out, the owner was also a major fan of the movie. The pair stayed in touch over the next months, and when the owner was ready to sell, he offered the car to the gentleman in question. He was not yet old enough to drive, nor did he have the money for the car. However, his father came through and purchased the vehicle for him.

He drove the car regularly until 1977, and has had it in storage since 1979. At last, the mystery has been solved. As for the Jag hearse that was driven off a cliff at the end of the film? It was destroyed during filming of that scene.

If you would like a funeral car of your own, we invite you to visit our friendly dealership to find new and used hearses for sale. We will be happy to help you find the car that is right for you.


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Check out This One-Stop Online Funeral Car Reference

Funeral car clubs are surprisingly common, both in person and online. Some groups consist of average workaday people whose interest in the macabre does not extend beyond their car collections. Others are more gothic types whose interest in hearses and funeral cars is symbolic of their larger interest in all things dark and spooky.GrimRides01

No matter which group you fall into, your interest in these fascinating vehicles is likely to extend beyond your own car. You may be interested in historic funeral cars, hearses in the movies or other funeral car-related topics.

If you are looking for a one-stop internet resource (besides this blog!) to help you find funeral car information, you can’t do better than the Grim Rides Funeral Car Club. Although the club’s membership is limited to those who live in the Northern California area, the website resources are available to everyone.  They have moved much of their content to various social media outlets and they continue to maintain their standalone domain.

If you are looking for a funeral car club in your area, Grim Rides acts as a hub for clubs and fans all over the country.   There are also links to funeral car pictures online, as well as a detailed list of funeral cars in the movies.

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If you are still in the market for a funeral car, why not visit our friendly dealership? Once you have your new or used hearse, drop by Grim Rides to get in contact with others who share your hobby. The site is a lot of fun, even for non-funeral car owners like me.