Experience what Whitney Houston and JFK would have smelled as they died

Dutch scientists are recreating the deaths of some of the world’s most famous personalities by reconstructing their last moments using scents and sounds. From the sweet smell of Jacqueline Kennedy’s perfume mingled with the scent of John F. Kennedy’s blood to Whitney Houston’s last drug-fuelled moments in a Beverly Hills bathtub, scientists at Breda University say they offer visitors a unique, if somewhat macabre, historical snapshot. “We all have seen the images of JFK’s assassination, but what did it smell like?” said Frederik Duerinck of the communication and multimedia design faculty of Breda’s Avans University of applied sciences.

Smell is rarely used in communication and we wanted to explore its uses. It’s a very powerful means of communication.

Frederik Duerinck of Breda’s Avans University

To find out, visitors with a sense of the morbid are invited to lie in a series of four silver metal boxes similar to those found in a morgue. The boxes, which are pitch-dark inside, are rigged with pipes leading to bottles containing pressurised smells. A soundtrack is played and on queue different scents are released into the box to recreate a specific “final moment.” For around five minutes, visitors can relive the smells and sounds believed to have surrounded four people whose deaths are etched into the world’s collective memory: Kennedy (1963); Princess Diana (1997); Moamer Kadhafi (2011) and Whitney Houston (2012).

You can watch the pictures as many times as you want, it’s just not the same thing.

Riks Soepenberg