Humans have always had a strange fascination with the creepy, the morbid, and the macabre. We are simulateously disgusted and intrigued by the repulsive, there is something about it that we can't look away from. From a museum of mutants to a feet-long tapeworm, here are eight gruesome museums of various medical fascinations.
Elegance meets eerie in this “cabinet museum” of anatomical specimens and medical paraphernalia from times past. The Museum’s mission is to “help visitors understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body and appreciate the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease. Upon first glance at the wall lined with human skulls, though, one might easily think they stepped into a museum of the macabre as opposed to medical history. Permanent exhibits include pieces of Albert Einstein’s brain, Dr. Chevalier Jackson’s collection of 2,374 foreign objects removed from human airways, and the exhumed corpse of the Soap Lady.
For the Paris tourist who thinks the Eiffel Tower and Mona Lisa just aren’t all they're hyped up to be, this gallery of flayed human and animal cadavers might just spark your interest. Located in the École Nationale Vétérinaire de Maisons-Alfort, one of France’s oldest museums, the Musee Fragonard offerings, which include a 10-legged sheep and a two-headed calf seem more reminiscent of Ripley’s Believe It or Not as opposed to a gallery in the elegant “City of Lights”. Just in case you do still want a decent dose of Parisian arts and culture, the museum’s most famous exhibits feature flayed figures posing in staged scenes such as “The Horseman of the Apocolypse,” and “The Man with a Mandible,” inspired classic art and biblical stories.
This museum, located at the University of Zurich, houses the world’s largest collection of plaster casts. A showcase of molded, individual body parts may not seem that weird, or interesting for that matter. However, deformed, disfigured and diseased body parts certainly are. 3-D wax appendages and organs ailing from the likes of syphilis, leprosy and more, are the main focus here. The lifeless, emaciated wax faces are said to be especially unnerving.
Chronicling the 130-year old history of St. Joseph’s State Lunatic Asylum No. 2., this unsettling tribute to asylum artifacts and mental health treatments of the past makes it clear that its exhibits “may not be appropriate for young children.” This award-winning Missouri museum houses the typical artifacts, such as medical equipment, nurse uniforms and doctors’ notes. However, the glimpse into the life and minds of asylum patients is what really makes the museum stand out. Needlework-stitched words of a mute schizophrenic and artwork made by patients are just some of the oddities that can be found. If that isn’t enough to creep you out, it’s worth mentioning that the late lunatic asylum is said to be haunted by past patients.
What began as the private teratological collection of Professor Gerardus Vrolik in the 18th Century, Museum Vrolik now houses one of the largest collections of human deformities in the world. Located at the University of Amsterdam, the “museum of mutants” most famously features jars and jars of preserved anatomical specimens, from conjoined twin fetuses, embryos, skulls, and even artifacts labeled as “mermaid fetuses.”
With an otherworldly feel reminiscent of a potion shop straight out of Harry Potter, this collection of historic pharmaceuticals and healthcare oddities focuses on the medicinal techniques used to treat the many epidemics and diseases that plagued New Orleans in the 19th Century. Marked on the National Register of Historic Places, in the Vieux Carre Historic District, the museum features showcases everything from surgical instruments, to love powders, to the medicinal use of opium and leeches, and even voodoo treatment methods.
Although the museum itself closed in 2002, its collection and spirit live on as the “Questionable Medical Device” collection in the Science Museum of Minnesota. The original proprietor, Bob McCoy made a name for himself as an expert on the “world’s most inane and useless information about how to cure and/or comprehend what may ail or puzzle you. Inane and useless (as well as ridiculous) perfectly describes this collection of historical equipment and and techniques the medical community would probably like to forget. A machine that removes hairs with x-rays, and a foot-powered breast enlarger are just two of the contraptions found in this “quackery hall of fame.”
Originally established in 1953 out of the medical funds of Dr. Satoru Kamegai, this museum and research facility puts parasites front and center. Despite it’s small size of only two rooms, the museums boasts an exhibit of over 300 parasitic specimens and materials. And it’s real claim to fame? The 8.8 metre-long tapeworm!
Aptly named, Enclothed Cognition is the official Medelita blog for medical professionals interested in topics relevant to a discerning and inquisitive audience. Medelita was founded by a licensed clinician who felt strongly about the connection between focus, poise and appearance.