I Learned Something About Myself at the Mutter Museum or Really? That Bothers You?

We are vacationing in the DC area for a family event, so we spent some time in Philadelphia. Neither The Mrs nor I had spent any time in the city of brotherly love, plus it gave us some time to visit some places we had been looking forward to seeing.1

As noted in the previous
post, one of the places we visited was The Mutter Museum. While the website gives you some sense of the items on display, it does not do the museum justice. Unfortunately, because the majority of the display use actual human remains, photography is not permitted inside the museum itself.2

I went in to the museum expecting to learn quite a bit, but I did not expect to learn something about myself. It was kind of a fascinating experience.

Honestly, I did not think that anything there would bother me. Remember, I’ve been reading, writing, and watching horror books and movies for the better part of five decades now. I’ve studied forensic science and criminal justice. I have textbooks full of images that other people would find disturbing. I’ve worked in the medical field, literally awash in blood. My wife is a nurse, as are many of my friends and relatives.

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across something that actually bothered me.

There were lots of exhibits, both wet and dry. I found the bones especially fascinating. There is a wall of skulls from around the world which visitors can compare with each other. There is the skeleton of a 7’6” man next to the skeleton of a woman of much shorter stature. There is a garden full of medicinal plants. There is an exhibit on Civil War injuries as well as one comparing aspects of
Through the Looking Glass with actual medical diagnoses.

Then there were the odder exhibits like the the jars full of skin flakes and the bracelet made of gallstones. Chang and Eng’s liver is there as are slides of Einstein’s brain. There is a giant colon and a case full of items that have been found in people’s stomachs.

None of this bothered me.

Then I reached the area with the conjoined twin fetuses.

There were a number of various conjoined twins and triplets on exhibit there. I have always found the visage of the underdeveloped a little off putting. There is something unworldly, almost alien about the look of a fetus. When looking at the conjoined fetuses, however, I felt something I haven’t felt in a long time. There was a tightness in my chest, a visceral almost atavistic sense of dread.

It was very strange to find something that actually bothered me to this degree. One part of me was a little ashamed that something which occurs naturally (if rarely).

To be honest, another part of me is wondering how to recreate this feeling among others.

1 For The Mrs it was the Liberty Bell and some of the old architecture. For me, well, just look at

2 Otherwise there would have been sooooooo many pictures.

3 If you think that forensic science textbooks are disturbing, try coming down to find a nursing text lying open to the injuries and diseases of the scrotum.