Mysterious ‘House of Wax’ bar has Brooklyn buzzing

At the New Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Downtown Brooklyn

October 27, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Vanessa Brown, whose official title is “director of fun,” gave the Brooklyn Eagle a tour of the House of Wax on Wednesday. Eagle photos by Mary Frost
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Curious, macabre, odd and even a bit disturbing. These words are not typically used to describe a bar, but House of Wax, a standalone lounge housed in the new Alamo Drafthouse cinema at City Point on the edge of Fulton Mall, is not your typical Brooklyn watering hole.

House of Wax is Brooklyn’s first museum/cocktail bar, Vanessa Brown, director of fun at the Alamo Drafthouse cinema, told the Brooklyn Eagle during a live stream interview on Periscope Wednesday. You can watch this live video tour of House of Wax from our Wednesday live stream.

Besides directing fun, Brown also serves as the museum’s docent.

“It’s a 19th-century wax panopticum from Germany, which loosely translates to a ‘show of everything,’” Brown said. “Think of it as a precursor to the circus.”

In wooden display cases lining the establishment, House of Wax exhibits a jaw-dropping selection of original, mostly German waxwork sculptures, including death masks of the famous and the forgotten, life-size displays of human medical anomalies and animal oddities.

The bar has just opened, but the reaction has been over the top, with articles appearing in a slew of publications and on social media.

“Everybody loves it,” Brown said. “They adore the body modification and also the [wax model of a] serial killer — the ‘Butcher of Hanover.’ He was convicted of 24 out of 27 counts of murder. He brutalized children and his calling card was to bite their jugular.

“In their day, they didn’t have TV, they didn’t have movies, so they really sort of ‘celebritized’ these infamous characters,” Brown said.

Some of the most graphic content is hidden behind a velvet curtain next to a stage at the rear of the bar.

“They used it to sell sex in the guise of science,” Brown said. (Some of this content can be seen in the Eagle’s livestream.)

House of Wax’s originator Ryan Matthew Cohn wants to expose the objects to as many people as possible so they can understand the past, and through that, the present, Brown said.

The bar itself serves nearly 40 New York state draft beers along with wine and themed cocktails named after the exhibits, such as the “Napoleon Death Mask,” composed of Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac, Cardamaro, Cynar, rhubarb bitters, bacon and salt. (Napoleon’s actual death mask, cast directly from the emperor’s face, is displayed with others near the front entrance.)

House of Wax also showcases soundtrack releases from Alamo Drafthouse record labels Mondo and Death Waltz Records, and will present specialty programming ranging from trivia to competitive karaoke and games like Dungeons and Dragons.

“We’re going to be doing so, so much, so pay attention to the calendar on the website (,” Brown said.

While the House of Wax is already in full operation, the Alamo Drafthouse cinema opens today with programs featuring special guests, collaborations, first run features and a new signature screening series. A number of the opening shows are already sold out, Brown said. (See for the full lineup.)

The theater at 445 Albee Square West features seven screens with a total of 796 seats, as well as a full-service bar and kitchen, in-theater dining and a “strictly enforced” no-talking/no-texting policy.

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