An unassuming visitor to scenic Philadelphia, Pennsylvania may be surprised, and quite understandbly so, when encountered by the world's biggest colon; but that visitor need not be afraid...for a quick moment's research will reveal that they are simply inside: The Mutter Museum.

This darkly lit, two floor chamber of horrors was conceived in the 19th century by Dr. Thomas Mütter, to house thousands of pathological specimens and medical illustrations for study by doctors and future doctors...or...people like me, who just want to see AN ACTUAL JARBABY. Rather than a place to simply freak out or scare the public, it is a way of looking at the human form and all it's varieties, as well as old medical instruments and procedures like an iron lung from the early twentieth century, or the basic tools that a physician would use in a standard 1875 checkup.

But all that aside, how can you resist the informative, if not frighteningly extensive exhibit of Items Swallowed and Removed or the cross section of a human head, complete with slice of face STILL ATTACHED? And as you saunter past a shelf full of ghostly white skulls, like the corpses of a maudlin church choir, what about The Collection of Human Horn Growths? All of these are available for your subtle, rather than circus freak like perusal and ponderance, thanks to the Philadelphia College of Physicians, and for only $8, it's a great Halloween Haunt. Or perhaps for Thanksgiving, so you can realize just how lucky you are NOT to have your skeleton growing OUTSIDE your body.

The College Physicians of Philadelphia's Mütter Museum.

Where learning is fun--and really, really sick.

In 1849, Dr. Isaac Parrish decided the medical college needed a museum of pathological anatomy as a way to preserve medical oddities which would otherwise be lost to time and private collectors. Dr. Parrish collected objects until his death in 1852, when the project died, until 1856, when Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter donated his own large, personal collection. Dr. Mütter himself was a physician at Jefferson Medical College (also in Philadlephia), and so was able to oversea how the College Physicians were handling his specimines.

The museum has over 20,000 objects, from a wall of skulls (with various designations, from "thief" to my favorite, "idiot") to deformed babies. It also holds various special displays throughout the year; last year, the focus was on the journey of Lewis and Clark, and what medical treatment they could expect while exploring.

Other Interesting Objects:

  • a full-scale model of the first successful heart-lung machine, designed and used in Philadelphia by Dr. John H. Gibbon Jr. in 1953.
  • a plaster death-cast of Chang and Eng Bunker, the eponymous Siamese Twins.
  • "The Soap Lady": a woman who died in the 1800s, her body underwent saponification--the rare chemical conversion of fat into adipocere. Reports that she was a victim of yellow fever in 1792 are apparently false. She is really terrifying to look at--she's just this human-shaped lump of black stuff, and her mouth hangs open and her eyes are just sockets--it's like she's screaming. I almost threw up.
  • The skeleton of a Kentucky giant paired with the skeleton of a midgit prostitute.
  • A giant colon. No, really--a giant, bloated colon. It contained around 40lbs of, em, matter, when it was removed (after the man died from from serious constipation).
  • A large collection of "obsolete instruments", particularly painful-looking gynecological items.

Should I Go?

Oh hell yeah. We live in an age without freak shows, where the scariest thing you see is a slasher flick. You want frightening? Go see some weird medical stuff.

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