Have a Bloody Good Time at the Vancouver Police Museum’s Forensics Workshops

The Vancouver Police Museum's new series of workshops introduces the art of forensic detection

Credit: Dan Anderson

An ax-wielding Chris Mathieson, executive director of the Vancouver Police Museum, demonstrates blood spattering at its best

Looking for an evening of suspense, mystery and gore? Enjoy an “arresting experience” at the Vancouver Police Museum.

Neither a self-described Dexter fan nor CSI junkie, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d fit in at the Vancouver Police Museum’s blood spatter workshop.

The second in a new series of “forensics for adults” workshops (other topics including forensic pathology and ballistics), the blood spatter workshop was advertised as an opportunity to learn to read a bloody crime scene. I was hoping to get a little messy, have some fun – and not to lose my lunch in the process.

How to Read a Crime Scene

On a Tuesday evening, Chris Mathieson, the museum’s executive director and resident blood expert, led a group of 25 of us around the back of the museum. The workshop’s locale – a shadowy parking lot enclosed by a chain link fence – certainly amped up the creep factor. Two tables with bloodied white sheets, vials of fake blood, and a variety of tools (including chisels, an ax, and a beat up mannequin head!) awaited us.

The workshop unfolded a little like a high school science class, with Mathieson as our charming and nutty professor. During the hour, he led a series of hands-on exercises to identify types of blood spatter, and what could be learned from those types. 

As a warm up, I used a straw to drip and goop blood that smelled suspiciously like a mix of cocoa and raspberries. I then examined the size and shape of droplets I made on a sheet of paper to determine the angle the droplets came from.

More risqué manoeuvres quickly followed – one involving the wielding of a bloody at at paper hung on a fence, to test out what a splatter might look like after being thrown at different velocities. Though some participants took to the task with more than just a little glee, no one’s lives were put in peril.

Nonetheless, I was glad to have donned the protective plastic white apron and goggles to protect my clothing and eyes from the more vigorous (and anger management challenged?) blood tossers.

Forensics for the Rest of Us

Afterwards, chatting with my classmates, most seemed quite relaxed about learning forensics, and many were regulars at Police Museum events. I encountered a couple of crime writers and one security officer who told me he thought at $12 a pop these workshops were excellent and highly affordable professional development opportunities.

I had to agree – though I wasn’t any closer to becoming Catherine Willows from CSI: Las Vegas, the workshop certainly left me with a greater appreciation for the art of forensic detection, and was a fun (and cost effective!) evening of education and entertainment.

To find out more about the Vancouver Police Museum’s programs visit their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.

Alex Samur is a Vancouver-based writer and editor.