by Walter Brasch
AR Senior Correspondent
March 24, 2011
GOV. TOM CORBETT: PENNSYLVANIA'S SAVIOR
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- It was bound to happen someday. In the 1950s, we were given 3-D glasses to make movies "come to life." In the '80s and '90s, it was Surround Sound that put us "in the middle of the action." And in the 21st Century, odor is the Next Big Thing that will make entertainment and education more realistic.
But we have to draw the line somewhere.
A few years ago at the Dewa Roman Experience in Chester, England, museum officials thought adding certain odors ("odours" if you're English) to the exhibit would make it more interesting to visitors (not "visitours"). So they added the appropriate smell to their reconstruction of a Roman latrine.
Unfortunately, the "pong" (that's British for odor) was so realistic that several children from visiting school groups became sick, and four of them vomited on the spot. The product was diluted and returned, but two more children got sick the next week.
Needless to say, the staff exchanged the original smell for a less vomit-inducing one.
The original smell, Flatulence, was created by Dale Air, an aroma manufacturing company in Lancashire, England.
"The smell was disgusting. It was like very strong boiled cabbage, sweet and sickly," supervisor Christine Turner said in an interview on the BBC's children's website.
Dale Air also makes Boiled Cabbage aroma.
In fact, Dale Air makes nearly 200 different odors, both food and non-food related. They have wonderful smells like Coffee, Eucalyptus, and Lavender.
But they also have a few that will wrinkle your nose, like Dinosaur, Mustard Gas, Sweaty Feet, or my personal favorite, Old Drifter.
Surprisingly, Dale Air does not make Vomit aroma, although I'm sure they could. They also don't make Stale Air, which would rhyme nicely with Dale Air, don't you think?
The center already uses different aromas to add realism to the exhibit of Roman life in Brittania, including Fish Market and Public Bath, also produced by Dale Air.
And while I applaud the Dewa Roman Experience and Dale Air for creating realistic historical displays, the big question is why would you want to exhibit a Roman latrine in the first place? Or more importantly, why would you want a realistic smell for it?
One website on English culture describes the latrine experience: "We look through a window into a small dark room and jump with alarm as a voice rudely shouts 'Who do you think you are looking at?' to discover a Roman soldier sitting on a Roman toilet."
Now I'm a big fan of the total educational experience. I love visiting the World Showcase at Disney's Epcot Center. I enjoy recreations of historic battles, events, and everyday life. And it would help me understand the life of the Romans in Brittania if I smelled Roman fish markets, public baths, and horse stables.
But do we really need to know about the Ancient Romans' toilet habits? Definitely not.
I like to think of the Roman soldiers as historical figures who fought epic battles and oppressed entire cultures, not ill-mannered brutes who perched on toilets and shouted at bystanders. So how did an idea for something like this develop?
Museum Administrator #1: Attendance is down this month. We need something to bring more visitors to the center.
Museum Administrator #2: How about life as a Roman horse groomer?
Museum Administrator #1: No, we've already done that.
Museum Administrator #2: What about a Roman latrine, complete with realistic poo smell?
Museum Administrator #1: That's brilliant!
And so with the proper marketing and advertising campaign ("Now With 67% More Poo Smell!"), the Dewa Roman Center seeks to become an educational stop on any British family vacation.
British Mother: Children, where would you like to go on holiday this year? Euro Disney or the Roman Latrine exhibit in Chester?
British Children: Roman latrines, Mummy, Roman latrines!!
British Mother: But children, you could meet Mickey Mouse.
British Children: Yes, but the Roman latrines have Realistic Poo Smell!
But Dale Air says theme-based aromas are the wave of the future, and they're bringing them to the world. They provide realistic odors to places like the smell of horses at Scott's Hut in New Zealand, coal-fire smells in the Tenement Museum in New York, and even the smells of a swamp and the breath of a Tyrannosaurus Rex at London's Natural History Museum.
And now their next big venture is movies, where they "aim to change the theatre experience." No longer are you limited to just seeing and hearing car chases - you'll smell the gasoline and burning tires. You'll smell the ocean as the "Titanic" theme plays in the background. And you'll be overwhelmed by panic sweat - although it may be your own - anytime you watch a Seth Rogen movie.
But if they ever odorize anything with Marilyn Monroe, I'm never watching movies again.
AR Humor Writer Erik Deckers of Indiana publishes his humor column and other humorous articles at his Laughing Stalk blog. Portions of this column ran in AR in 2003.