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


Living in complete squalor and disrepair, Ed Gein would snatch bodies from the local cemetery, take them back to his house, and make various pieces of “furniture” from them. Later on, he turned to killing because he believed the flesh might last longer. Despite inheriting such a large home, he only ever lived in one single room (pictured above) where he would lie in bed all day and read gory magazines and books. After his arrest, the house was seen as a symbol of evil and depravity to the residents of Plainfield. None of them would dare set foot on the property, as legend started to arise about it’s cursed walls and bad luck charm. 

Just as things seemed to be settling down, it was announced that the house and the farm were to be sold. However, the locals were angry- they wanted to see it destroyed for good. On the night of March 20th, 1958, the home was set ablaze by a mystery arsonist and it burned to the ground. When Gein, who was locked up at the Central State Hospital, was told about the fate of his house of horrors, he responded indifferently: “Just as well,” he said.