Morbid Medical Antiques at Musée Dupuytren
Maybe I’ve been watching too many re-runs of “Oddities,” but there’s something really great about ogling gross, old medical samples and morbid doctoring equipment – if only for the spine-tingling “eeeew!” that they often illicit. Paris’ Musée Dupuytren is like mecca for connoisseurs of creepy curiosities and antiques. Established in 1835 by “the father of toxicology,” Mathieu Orfila, the collection of weird wax figures and diseased body parts was originally compiled in an unused wing of the old Cordeliers Convent, intended for use by medical students and faculty at the University of Paris. Accumulating most of their pieces between 1836 and 1842, the collection was reported to house over six thousand samples by the end of the 19th century. Tragically, financial strife closed its doors in the 1930s, and the collection sat rotting for thirty years.
Luckily, a restoration process began in 1967 and the museum eventually reopened. The collection, though somewhat haggard compared to its former glory, is still pretty dazzling, both in scope and yuckiness. Extremely rare specimens of conjoined animal fetuses dating back to the 17th century, a few still-born babies, sickly skin samples and old anatomical literature are all on proud display for medical researchers, science historians and run-of-the-mill freaks off the sidewalk. The crowning gem of the catalog: actual diseased brains studied by famed neuropathologist, Paul Broca (a whole section of your brain is named after him. Google it.).
I haven’t been there myself, but I imagine the experience of wandering its myriad display cases is about as close as you can get to a real-life House of Horrors. I wouldn’t be half surprised to hear that the twins from THE SHINING work there as tour guides.