13 Super Weird And Disgusting Things On Display At The Mütter Museum

Voting Rules
Vote up the strangest, most unbelievable biological objects on display at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia.

Do you consider yourself a connoisseur of the macabre? Do you often find yourself laying awake late into the night, staring at your ceiling, wondering what's the nastiest display at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia? If so, it's time to get dirty with this list all about the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, also known as the museum of medical oddities.

The Mütter Museum opened in 1858, after surgeon Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter donated $30,000 and 1,700 medicine-related objects and specimens to the college, on the condition that his collection be expanded upon and curated. And thus, the weird displays at the Mutter Museum came into being. 

Housed in an unassuming brick building with white stone columns, the two-story museum is home to over 25,000 medical models of infectious diseases, osteological (bone & skeleton) specimens, cysts, tumors, organs, and old surgical instruments that wouldn't look out of place in a Saw movie. Hence why you may have heard all about some seriously gross Mütter Museum display objects. 

Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

  • 1
    3,065 VOTES

    Genital Warts Necklace

    In 1813, a physician named HF Nordeman said, “Nothing is more satisfactory than the treatment of venereal warts." The genital warts on display at the Mutter Museum are helpfully strung like a necklace to make studying them easier.

    In the 21st century, lasers and liquid nitrogen are used to remove and freeze genital warts; doctors numb the area with a local anesthetic before hand. Warts in the early 19th century were burned off with nitric acid. The local anesthetic used? A shot in the groin with an eight-percent solution of cocaine.

    3,065 votes
  • 2
    3,071 VOTES

    Two Jars Filled With Human Skin

    Two Jars Filled With Human Skin
    Photo: Mutter Museum / Creative Commons

    The Mütter received a special gift from a 23 year-old woman in 2009: two jars filled with skin pickings and peelings from her feet. Her identity is unknown, but it's clear she suffers from Dermatillomania, the obsessive-compulsive need to pick, peel, and scratch at one’s own skin, which can lead to scarring, discoloration, and in extreme cases, tissue damage. 

    3,071 votes
  • 3
    2,992 VOTES

    40 Pound Colon

    Hirschsprung’s Disease (a congenital condition resulting in undeveloped nerves in the colon) caused this man’s colon to grow to eight-and-a-half feet long, stretch two-and-a-half feet in diameter, and fill with 40 pounds of feces at time of death. Corrective surgery was uncommon in the 19th century, and deemed too risky.

    Making the most of his situation, the owner of this swollen colon man dubbed himself “Balloon Man” and “Windbag,” and performed in freak shows, charging a dime a peek. Balloon Man passed in 1892, at age 29, after nine years of appearing in freak shows. By age 16, Windbag was defecating as little as once a month. 

    2,992 votes
  • 4
    2,854 VOTES

    Syphilis Face Wax Figure

    Syphilis Face Wax Figure
    Photo: Mutter Museum / Creative Commons

    In the 19th century, only criminals’ remains were disseminated and publicly displayed. Since most regular folks didn't want to associate themselves with that element, it wasn't fashionable to donate your body to science. Thus, grave robbing was popular, as were moulages, or wax sculptures, such as the one pictured above, which depicts someone with late-stage syphilis.

    How would this patient be treated? They’d be locked in a box with mercury fumes, which usually ended the patient before the syphilis did.

    2,854 votes
  • 5
    2,368 VOTES

    Human Horn Growing Out Of A Woman's Forehead

    Human Horn Growing Out Of A Woman's Forehead
    Photo: Mutter Museum / Creative Commons

    The horn growing from a woman's forehead on display at the Mutter is a moulage; a medical sculpture, made using techniques dating back to the Renaissance. Moulages led to a number of important developments in medicine.

    The woman on whom the Mutter's human horn moulage is based had her protuberance removed after six years of growth. 

    2,368 votes
  • 6
    2,278 VOTES

    Fairy Tale Deformities

    Fairy Tale Deformities
    Photo: The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library / Creative Commons

    The Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella was quite gruesome — the stepsisters cut off their toes and heels to fit their feet into a slipper. In 2012, on the 200th anniversary of the publication of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Mütter celebrated with rare illustrated volumes of the book and a skeletal bound foot, to explore the medical aspects of this and other gory stories.

    2,278 votes