A man who died with 40 lbs of feces in his colon; a boy whose body slowly turned to bone; the world’s largest collection of skulls; and “The Soap Lady” whose corpse turned itself into a soapy substance after burial seems like one of the world’s most well-attended circus sideshows. But, these are only four examples of the medical mysteries and oddities filling the infamous Mutter Museum in Philadelphia.
Turned onto the location by one of our favorite travel guides Roadside America, the Mutter Museum didn’t disappoint.
The museum was founded in 1858 by Dr. Thomas Dent Mutter for the medical research and education of students attending the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. But, thanks to a number of appearances on David Letterman, the museum has gathered a cult following and is today widely considered one of the best collections of medical oddities anywhere in the US.
The tour begins upstairs in their newest exhibit exploring the Lincoln Assassination and the subsequent injury and death of assassin John Wilkes Booth, and continues into an exploration of Civil War Medicine. All pretty standard stuff though the detail and medical lingo is pretty heavy.
But, the real fun (and gross-out factor) begins in the area surrounding and below the main hall where you’ll find all the items I mentioned above as well as life-sized models of Cheng and Eng Bunker (the original “Siamese” twins) and perhaps most disturbing, one of the country’s most extensive assortments of preserved fetal samples.
The Mutter Museum is one of the most interesting museum’s we’ve ever visited, but photographs are not available, so we’ve picked out a collection of our favorite “What’s on the Curator’s Desk?” episodes – an online series of “what the heck is that” promotional videos well-produced by the Museum’s staff.
Check out the website here, and the sample videos below: