'Fear Experiment: Science in "Haunted House" '

by Mio Yamada

National Museum of Emerging Science

Closes May 31

A haunted house is not something you would expect to find at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan), but this latest special exhibition begins with just that — an experience that spooks visitors with dank passageways, glowing fireball spirits, eerie floating ghosts and noisy poltergeists.

Why? So they can offer explanations of what scares us, of course. But before we get to lessons, the creators of “Fear Experiment” obviously want to have a bit of fun first.

The haunted house itself is less terrifying than entertaining, and any strange occurrences will have the skeptics looking for the wires, sensors and other fun-fair tricks. That doesn’t stop it from being amusing, though. While the props and panels, which are in English and Japanese, may be aimed primarily at kids, adults will likely get a nostalgic kick out of the exhibition. And without giving too much away, it does have a few surprises.

The science behind the “phenomena” isn’t revealed until you emerge from “the house” to find out that its four rooms have been strategically set up to illustrate different themes: Change in Structure of Matter; Electricity and Magnetism; Mountain Monsters and Sea Creatures; Light and Mirrors; Sound, Power and Kinetic Energy; The Brain; and Life. Large wall panels offer simple explanations, such as refraction of light, fireflies, tricks of the brain, electrical storms and other natural or man-made occurrences that have often been mistaken for paranormal manifestations.

Admittedly, the truth is not quite as exciting as the unexplained, but before the haunted house is completely debunked into the mundane, there is a final section to the exhibition that does explain your own personal experience in the house. And that will have the kids, and adults, squealing in delight.

The National Museum of Emerging Science (Miraikan) is open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; admission ¥700 (for “Fear Experiment” only). For more information visit,