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Graphic Medical Oddities and Preserved Human Specimens

The Siriraj Medical Museum in Bangkok,Thailand abounds with medical curiosities. The Siriraj is actually comprised of six different museums: a museum of pathology, a forensics museum, a museum of the history of Thai medicine, a parasitology museum, an anatomical museum, and a prehistoric museum.

The Siriraj’s incredible holdings include: Bones, preserved organs, pathological fetuses, the mummified corpse of a notorious serial killer, a traditional Thai medicine shop, parasitic worms, a two-and-a-half-foot-wide scrotum removed from a man afflicted with elephantiasis, rows of skulls, the standing wax-filled remains of a cannibal, a delicately dissected nervous system, and the skeleton of the museum’s founder.

What Beautiful Muscles You Have

Antonio Cattani created these engravings in the 1780s based on sculptures by Ercole Lelli, who examined at least 50 cadavers in preparation. The sculptures were created for the “anatomical theater” of the medical school at the University of Bologna, a room dedicated to the teaching of anatomy through dissections of human bodies. The engravings helped art students master the parts of the body.

More on these life-size engravings, new in the collection.

Anatomical Figures, 1780 (left) and 1781 (right), Antonio Cattani. The Getty Research Institute

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For a while, serial killer Ed Gein lived alone in his farm house (Above) with his mother Augusta, until she died in 1945 after a stroke. Lonely and disconnected from society, Gein boarded up the rooms that had been used by her, including the upstairs, the downstairs parlor and living room. He spent all his time in a single small room connecting to the kitchen and became obsessed with reading death-cult magazines and adventure stories. Some years later, he started visiting the cemetery near his house. He dug up corpses, and took them to his farm where he made various odd things, including cutlery made out of bones and a mask made of human skin. Eventually, he began targeting the living in hopes of producing ‘human artifacts’ that would be preserved for longer.