Spooky. Probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Boston…
Confusing to drive through? YES.
Spooky? Nope…Salem gets that crown.
But never fear, Boston has two really unique spooky spots that not a lot of people know about if you are willing to search them out off the beaten path.
Years ago, putting skeletons and casts of genetic oddities on display was thought of as the normal thing to do. Much like naturalists did with animals, doctors would go around and get casts or the bones of people who were considered odd. Many of these items ended up at places like the Warren Anatomical Museum which holds around 15,000 items including two very unique pieces.
Three (well, 2 ½) of these pieces are on display in the small museum on the Harvard Medical Campus. Nestled in a display case, there are two pieces of skull and a long metal rod. All of these items belonged to a man named Phineas Gage.
Born in 1823, Gage made medical news and history when a 3 plus foot tamping iron was shot through his head due to a work-accident. The iron traveled through his jaws, behind his eye, through his brain, and eventually out his skull. The explosion caused the iron to land 80 feet away covered in blood and brains (eewww!) While that didn’t kill Gage, it did change his life forever until his death in 1860. 6 years later, one of his previous doctors asked the family to exhume Gage’s body and send him the skull, they also sent the iron that caused the injury. These and other intriguing items are on display inside 4 book cases at the Museum.
You can stop by and see Gage’s skull between 9 am and 5 pm, Monday through Friday.
Located on the campus of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), the Ether Dome was used as an operating theater beginning in 1821. Located on the top floor, the windows allowed for greater light to enter into the room and its remote location helped to keep the screams of patients away from the other floors. Surgery in the 1800s was horrific. This began to change in 1846 with the first successful demonstrated use of ether as an anesthesia during an operation. Hiding in the corner of the room, tucked in among the doctors and observers of that operation was a very different visitor though.
Known as MGH’s oldest patient, Padihershef arrived in Boston on April 26, 1823 and was eventually gifted to the Hospital. Soon after his arrival, Padihershef was put on display to help raise money for MGH. Visitors could pay 25 cents to see the first complete Egyptian mummy in the United States. After touring the country for a year, the mummy was placed in the Ether Dome where he still is to this day.
It wasn’t until 1960 that his true identity was discovered when a curator from the Museum of Fine Arts examined the hieroglyphics on the coffin which came with Padihershef. From these hieroglyphics, they finally learned his name and birthplace (Thebes).
Padihershef is on display year-round in the Ether Dome, which can be visited weekdays from 8 am to 5 pm.
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