Have you ever seen a tumor so large that it actually made a woman appear as though she had two heads? Well, in the spirit of Halloween, freaks, ghouls, terror, and the outright disgusting, the Mutter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia now offers you the opportunity to see one.
Halloween is rapidly approaching, and as it does, it brings with it the opportunity to get in touch with your morbid side. While this holiday does represent playful costumes and candies to some, it also represents a time to be completed mortified and grossed out by images of the dead, the undead, ghosts and ghouls, and all of the nastiness that occurs in between. This nastiness is what the Mutter specializes in.
Opened in 1859 by Dr. Thomas Dent Mutter of the College of Physicians, the Mutter Museum was originally intended to preserve artifacts of pathological anatomy that might get lost with the development of new technology. It did not gain notoriety, however, until 1874, when the college was host to the autopsy of the famous Siamese twins Chang and Eng. Although their bodies were returned to their home in North Carolina following the autopsy, the museum was allowed to keep and preserve their conjoined liver, which it has displayed to this day. Thus began the legacy of the Mutter Museum and its oddities.
Michael Rigmaiden, a security guard in Pressor Hall, warned that you must remember what the place is all about. He refers to it as “a Museum of death,” reminding visitors that all of the pathological artifacts are in fact from dead real people. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” Rigamaiden said.
With a collection of over 20,000 objects, this can be true. The collections consist of wax molds of small pox infected skin and open lesions, so-called wet specimens of conjoined fetus and a tumor removed from President Grover Cleveland’s jam, the bones of victims of unsolved murders, and medical instruments from the more rudimentary era of medical practice. Some of it can get a bit nauseating if you forget to keep it in perspective.
Eugene Martin, a professor in the Broadcasting Television and Multi-media Department at Temple, has been a frequent visitor of the Mutter.
“I’ve been their lots of times,” Martin, said. “It’s not that scary. It can be at first, but then you get used to what you are looking at.”
Martin also suggested that you dig a bit deeper while you are there, if you can stomach it.
“The real cool stuff is in the basement. If you’re not on a special tour, ask them if they will take you down and show you the stuff in storage.”
The best part of the Mutter is that it is relatively inexpensive. General admission is $10, but if you visit www.collphyphil.org/muttcopn.htm, you can print a coupon for $2 off. Student admission is $7.
There are great eats nearby as well. Located at 22nd and Market streets, there are a million cafes in the neighborhood. Jen Hall, a junior at Temple told me about a café inside of the building. “They have the best chicken parm.,” Hall said.
The Mutter Museum is located inside of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia at 19 S. 22nd St.
Access to the Mutter is easy:
Broad Street Subway to City Hall
Free Interchange to Trolley 13
Exit 22nd Street.
Cheryl Ellis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.