Monday, October 27, 2014

Happy (Almost) Halloween with Some of Our Favorite Macabre Videos!

Above: "Dry Bones," The Lennon Sisters, The Lawrence Welk Show, 1965
Center: "The Skeleton Dance," Disney Silly Symphonies, 1929
Below: "You're Always Welcome at our House," lyrics by Shel Silverstein, performed by Marisa Berenson, star of Cabaret; The Muppet Show, 1978

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Happy Halloween and Day of the Dead from Morbid Anatomy: Events, Products and News
We at the Morbid Anatomy Museum are celebrating our favorite time of the year with scores of terrific events and new seasonal products. Following is a list of events taking place this week and those newly announced; for a list of all upcoming events, click here.

New in The Morbid Anatomy Online Gift Shop: We are delighted to be offering a special limited, edition signed sugar skull screen print (seen above) by former Artist and Anatomist in Residence Emily Evans! To commemorate Day of the Dead, she is offering free delivery until November 3rd! To find out more--and order a copy of your own!--click here. 

In the News: National Geographic just posted a thoughtful and intelligent video about our popular anthropomorphic mouse taxidermy class and its teacher, Taxidermist in Residence Divya Anantharaman; you can check that out here. The Museum also got a shout out in the Ted blog as one of ten surprising and strange New York attractions; more on that here.

In addition, The New York Times just published another nice piece about death and mourning in New York exhibitions which featured The Morbid Anatomy Museum, which you can read here. And, fans of romantic ballet might enjoy this brief article on the uncanny allure of the artform by our museum's director in this month's Royal Academy of Dance's Dance Gazette.

We at Morbid Anatomy are committed to making all of our events affordable, but to do this, we need you support. If you are a fan of what we do, please consider becoming a member (with all the benefits that entails!) by clicking here, or making a donation by clicking here. To sign up for our mailer and get these alerts sent weekly directly to your inbox, click here.

Thanks, and hope to see you at one of these great upcoming events!

  • Halloween: The Curious Story of America’s Most Horrible HolidayTONIGHT Sunday, October 26th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here

  • Spirits and Ghosts I Have Known and Loved: An Illustrated Presentation with Dr. Stanley Krippner
    Tuesday, October 28th, 8pm, $12, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Death and the Idea of Mexico: An Illustrated Lecture by Claudio Lomnitz
    Wednesday, October 29, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Monsters on the Brain: A Natural History of Horror: Illustrated lecture with Professor Stephen T. Asma
    Thursday, October 30, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Anthropomorphic Mouse (One or Two Headed!) Taxidermy Class with Divya Anantharaman
    Saturday November 1st, 12pm - 5pm, $110 - $125, sold out (but more info) here
  • Bat Skeleton in a Dome Workshop with Wilder Duncan
    Sunday, November 2nd, 1pm - 6pm, $200, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Christmas Special Anthropomorphic Mouse Taxidermy Class with Divya Anantharaman
    Saturday December 13th, 12pm - 5pm, $110 - $125, Tickets (and more info) here

  • The French Pantheon and its Dead: The Grateful Fatherland. An Illustrated talk by Mitch Abidor
    Wednesday December 17th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here

Thursday, October 23, 2014

An Official Guide for Demon Hunters: Helpful Advice from Theologians and Witch-Hunters: Guest Post by Stephen T. Asma, PhD
Following is a very helpful guest post for the demon hunters among you by friend of Morbid Anatomy Stephen T. Asma, PhD. Dr. Asma might already be known to some of you as the author of Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads, the book which inspired me take to the road to photograph medical museums on a trip which led to the founding of this blog. He is also the author of the equally thoughtful On Monsters.

Next Thursday, October 30th, we hope you'll join us for a lecture by Dr. Asma at The Morbid Anatomy Museum entitled "Monsters on the Brain: A Natural History of Horror;" The after party will feature music by our DJ in residence Friese Undine. More information and tickets are available here.

And now, without further ado: "An Official Guide for Demon Hunters: Helpful Advice from Theologians and Witch-Hunters," compliments of the illustrious Dr. Stephen Asma:
Saint Anthony
The story of Saint Anthony of the Desert (c.251-356) had a huge impact on the development of demonology. He is sometimes referred to as the Father of Monks, having created a desert monasticism that drew Christian ascetics far away from the urban centers. But his famous fight with demons in the Egyptian desert also laid the groundwork for all subsequent thinking about demons and possession.(1) 

Questing after spiritual purification, Anthony left the pleasures of domestic life and moved to live in a tomb outside his village, where he was attacked by a “multitude of demons” who sliced him into a bloody mess. “For he affirmed that the torture had been so excessive that no blows inflicted by man could ever have caused him such torment.” But his faith revitalized him and he rallied back. After throwing off the temptations of the flesh, Anthony was revisited by the devil many times –but the devil always shape-shifted to appear as some creature. “Changes of form for evil are easy for the devil,” Anthony explained, “so in the night they make such a din that the whole of that place seemed to be shaken by an earthquake, and the demons as if breaking the four walls of the dwelling seemed to enter through them, coming in the likeness of beasts and creeping things.”

But most demons, Anthony assures us, have no real power in the physical world. They only seem to be causally efficacious. The trick is to acknowledge that you are having a frightening experience, but realize that the frightener is like a hallucination rather than a material creature. In fact, reading St. Anthony is like reading an early self-help treatise for schizophrenics.

In addition to demons who shape-shift into frightening phantasms –which are easily banished by a resolute sign-of-the-cross –Anthony acknowledges the phenomenon of real human possession. This is somewhat difficult to square with his persistent claim that demons have no real power. In the last half of the Life of Anthony, Athanasius tells of many terrible cases of people who have come into the custody of demon spirits. A man named Fronto, for example, had a madness that involved biting his own tongue and injuring his own eyes, a woman from Busiris had mucus fall from her nose that immediately turned into worms once it hit the ground, and “another, a person of rank, came to him, possessed by a demon; and…he even ate the excreta from his own body.” And this young man actually attacked Anthony, but the sage said, “Be not angry with the young man, for it is not he, but the demon which is in him.”

Anthony cured all these cases and many more, but it is unlikely that the man eating his own excrement would have agreed with Anthony’s refrain that demons are powerless. And, for that matter, if they are truly powerless, why would anyone need Anthony’s exorcising acumen? The logic here can be reconstructed perhaps by saying that demons do not have real power unless you become afraid of them, in which case you grant them entry into the cause-and-effect world. Our response to demon attack can either give them causal traction in our world or banish them from it. We are instrumental in the outcome of the encounter.

Saint Augustine
Anthony’s demonology was further refined by many Church Fathers, including Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas. Augustine, for example, took pains in his City of God to distinguish earlier positive uses of the term “demon” (by pagans like Socrates), from the only truly positive spirit beings –the “angels.” The pagans, he argued, were aware of angels and demons, but not as such. Heathens lacked the Christian truth and therefore misinterpreted their occasional encounters with the spirit realm –imagining a pagan theology where they should have seen a monotheism. But more interestingly, Augustine delved into the psychology or epistemology of the demon mind –arguing that demons have knowledge but their knowledge is not sanctified by a sense of charity. Citing Corinthians, Augustine says “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity buildeth up,” and he uses this point to connect demonic psychology with pride.(2)  In a tour de force of hermeneutics, he further shows that this is why human pride is empty of charity and indistinguishable (except perhaps by degree) from demonic psychology. Demons, he says, are capable of getting the outward shell of Christ’s message, but not the inner meaning. Demons have knowledge, but it is sterile. And the important difference between demonic and angelic knowledge is spelled out. “The good angels, therefore, hold cheap all that knowledge of material and transitory things which the demons are so proud of possessing.”(3)  Perhaps the good news for humans in this picture is that because demons focus, like humans, on the transitory changing world, they can be deceived. They, like us, live in the world of shadows, and passions can agitate them as well. That means their own emotions can be used against them, by the clever demon hunter. Angels on the other hand (and Saints), behold, in the wisdom of God, the eternal “cardinal causes” of things, and so they are never deceived.

Augustine instructs us about the imperfect minds of demons, but also offers some insight into their mysterious bodies. He asks the Christian reader not to feel envy about the demon’s amazing “aerial bodies” –capable of becoming invisible, floating, flying, shape-shifting, and even passing through walls. He points out that many animals too have greater bodily powers of strength, perception, and speed, but humans are more than compensated with the infinitely important faculties of rationality and virtue.  Okay, demons have really impressive magical bodies, but “divine providence gave to them bodies of a better quality than ours, that that in which we excel them might in this way be commended to us as deserving to be far more cared for than the body, and that we should learn to despise the bodily.”(4)

Saint Aquinas
Writing almost nine-hundred years later, Aquinas is still refining Christian demonology and giving nuance to the ideas first formed by St. Anthony. In his Summa Contra Gentiles, Aquinas considers whether demons are inherently evil. He offers some standard theological and scriptural ways of thinking about demons and monsters. “Nothing can exist unless it has existence from the first being, and the first being is the sovereign good. But since every being, as such, acts to the production of its own likeness, all things that come of the first being must be good.” And he caps this theological claim with some scripture –“This is also confirmed by the authority of Holy Scripture: for it is said, Every creature is good (1 Tim. iv, 4): God saw all things that he had made, and they were very good (Gen. I, 31).”(5)  This means demons are not intrinsically evil, and Aquinas gives a philosophical argument for this surprising view.(6)

He starts from an old premise about the way that conscious beings make decisions and act. Conscious beings, which would include humans but also aerial-bodied demons, and even angels (but not lower animals), always act for the sake of some perceived good. They may be wrong about it, but at least they are moving in a direction that seems beneficial to them in some way. Imagine, for example, that you’re late for an important event. You are pushing a crowd of people in the street in order to get to your destination, and some people are injured in the scuffle. Their suffering is not your intended goal or motivation. Their suffering is an unfortunate but unintended consequence of your over-zealous sense of punctuality. You are not guilty of knowingly and willfully hurting other people –but you are guilty of being careless and thoughtless about the safety of others. You’re not excused for the harm you’ve done, but you’re not an inherently harmful or intrinsically evil person either.

Aquinas thinks this point extends to the demons as well. The wider popular culture believes demons to be inherently evil beings that intentionally seek the pain and suffering of others as their only real goal and purpose. But Aquinas thinks demons are confused and weak-willed --accidentally evil, not essentially evil.(7)  When those demons tortured St. Anthony, for example, they were motivated by their (admittedly selfish and wrongheaded) sense of good. Like other cases of evil and sin, the suffering of St. Anthony is the result of a “false judgment” rather than a “bad will.” The only other way, theoretically, for a demon’s will to be truly bad would be if it were tied to a faulty faculty of understanding --one that would always misjudge, always make a false judgment. But, according to Aquinas, “false judgments” (e.g. thinking heroin might be good for one’s children, or thinking hemlock would make a good snack, etc.) are actually freakish occurrences, not the norm. “False judgments in acts of the understanding” he says, “are like monsters in the physical universe, which are not according to nature, but out of the way of nature: for the good of the understanding and its natural end is the knowledge of truth.”

One suspects that Anthony, and other victims of demon torture, would have found this nuanced theory to be cold-comfort. This more sophisticated view of conscious agency hardly takes the sting out of the demon’s venom. A demon’s victim might retort: So, if they’re not intrinsically evil, then why are they causing me so much pain and misery? In fact, more crucially, if there’s no real “bad will,” then whence comes sin? The answers are interesting. With impressive consistency, Aquinas claims that the demon’s volitions are still only good (by definition), but the demon has failed to submit his own personal good to the higher, superior good (God’s will). The demon’s sin is the failure to restrict his own agenda of perceived personal goods to the cosmic perfect good of God’s benevolence.

Aquinas analyzes the fall of the prince of demons himself, Lucifer, and finds a perfect illustration of his general theory. Even the devil is not naturally or essentially evil. Referring to Isaiah (chapter xiv), Aquinas says that the devil did not properly impose the Higher Good upon his own. Lucifer’s will “was not regulated by any higher will, a position of independence proper to God alone. In this sense we must understand the saying that he aimed at equality with God, not that he ever expected his goodness to equal the divine goodness: such a thought could never have occurred to his mind. But to wish to rule others, and not to have one’s own will ruled by any superior, is to wish to be in power and cease to be a subject; and that is the sin of pride.”(8)
Now we know what makes demons tick, so to speak. There is no evil “force” or “power” skulking about in the shadows of our world. Demons are not, contrary to popular opinion, embodiments of this imaginary evil energy.(9)  They are instead, aerial-bodied agents with conscious volition who confusedly seek their own self-aggrandizement –in other words, they are meaner versions of ourselves, who can also shape-shift and turn invisible. Strangely, the issue of sadism (actually taking pleasure in another’s pain) does not seem to have occurred to Aquinas. At least he prefers to analyze demonic deeds in the context of prideful power struggles for recognition –the torture techniques of demons are just their means to the end of “conversion to the dark side” or their coercive attempts to get reverence, and other similar sins of pride. Aquinas does not seriously entertain the idea that the misery of the tortured human is the pleasurable end goal of the demon’s activity.(10)  

The Witch-Hunter, Institoris
In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII gave Dominican inquisitor Heinrich Institoris wide ranging legal powers to pursue and eradicate witches (Papal Bull Summis desiderantes affectibus). The Bull was used as a justificational preface for Institoris’ famous demon hunting guide Malleus Maleficarum.

The Malleus Malificarum argues throughout for a “middle-way” position between witchcraft that’s too real (and therefore in violation of God’s goodness and power) and that which is not real enough (purely imaginative and fictional). Earlier demonologists, like Aquinas and the authors of the influential Canon Episcopi,(11)  argued that the frightening visions and shape-shifting episodes associated with witchcraft were really just quasi-dream-like phantasms. If any mischievous manipulation is occurring to a man who thinks he’s a werewolf, or experiences aerial lift-off on a broom, then the cause would have to sneak in, according to these more skeptical demonologists, at the physiological juncture where his “imaginative faculty” meets his “interior senses.” The imaginative faculty is described as a “treasure house” in each person that stores or preserves visible shapes, like the images of animals for example. It’s a treasure house of memories. If some evil spirit were to trigger this storage faculty just right, then it would flood the perceptual senses and give the person the illusory experience of real external stimuli outside the body. A mundane version of this happens all the time, when bodily humors trigger the “treasure house” in sleep and we subsequently dream.

Institoris breaks with this more benign version of witchcraft, and offers a clever way to get demons back in their threatening positions. Works of evil, according to Institoris, are not just indigestion-like fabrications of the body. They are real and they are happening in the external world; children really are being eaten by demonic were-wolves, the witches are actually taking flight. But how is it done, if only God has true creative power like this?

Demons according to Institoris do not make something from nothing when they enact their transgressions –that would truly violate a cardinal notion of the monotheistic God. It may seem that demons and their witches conjure monsters and terrors from thin air, but they do not really create in such an absolute manner. Instead, the demons have an amazing understanding of the Book of Nature. They grasp the first principles, fundamental springs, and material trajectories of physical nature itself. Demons are manipulative “scientists” long before this term even existed. They are the ultimate alchemists.(12)  

When demons do shape-shifting and other seemingly supernatural marvels, they are not “creating” so much as “altering” nature. According to Institoris, the evil ones sift the matter of nature to find the seeds (semina) of transformation, and then use these micro-agents as catalysts for their own nefarious inventions.(13)  Demons transform nature more by chemistry than by magic. Just as the form of the oak tree exists like a germ in the acorn, so too all of nature is filled with micro-seeds that when triggered alter the perceivable world in significant ways. Demons understand these mechanisms, which are invisible to humans, and they engineer outcomes in ways that look miraculous to us. By this subtle knowledge of nature, witches appear to predict the future, but they cannot really see the future (as God can). (14)  In this way, Institoris explains how demons and witches “create” mayhem in the world, but he avoids the heresy regarding ex nihilo creation. Demons simply alter nature in ways that scare and frighten us, and seem supernatural.(15)  But now we see why “God’s acquiescence” is frequently intoned in the Malleus explanation of witchcraft. The logic is this. Even if witchcraft is only altering nature, rather than “creating” it, it’s still doing significant damage in the world. Nature is being altered by demons in ways that allow witches to kill their neighbors with effigies and pins. And letting insignificant chump-demons and their paltry witch covens undo the beautiful divine cosmic plan would reflect very badly on God, unless God was actually giving his permission for this suffering. Why God gives His permission to let demons and witches turn someone against his neighbor is really beyond the speculative power of the demonologist. Institoris doesn’t really need to understand his target, he only needs to punish him.

Those who were possessed, however, were considered differently than witches. In the case of possession, the person afflicted was not considered to be evil or malicious, but rather set-upon (not entirely responsible for their actions). In these cases, their demonic behavior could be exorcised and they could be restored to fully human status. Interestingly, Institoris notes that when exorcism fails after multiple attempts, then the victim may have been misdiagnosed and probably deserves their condition as a divine punishment.

If your demon hunting catches a possessed person, a typical exorcism is outlined by Institoris.(16)  It’s best if a cleric performs the function but anyone of good character can do it if necessary. First, make the afflicted person give a confession. Next do a careful search of the home to detect any magical implements (e.g., amulets, effigies, etc.) and burn these. It’s important to get the afflicted into a church at this point, and make he/she hold a blessed candle while righteous witnesses pray over her. This should be sustained three times a week to restore grace, and the victim should receive the holy sacrament. In stubborn cases, you should write the beginning phrases of John’s Gospel on a tablet and hang it around the person’s neck --holy water should be applied liberally. If exorcism ultimately fails, then either the person is being punished by God and has to be surrendered, or your faith, as the exorcist, is not strong enough (and new administrators should be brought in).

    In closing then, always remember to employ the three tried-and-true weapons of the demon hunting arsenal; prayer, fasting, and faith. Anthony first recommended these low-tech strategies, and they remain the bread-and-butter of demon hunting. But new armaments, especially the antipsychotic Clozapine, have also proven themselves crucial in 21st century demon management. Go forth and mollify.

  1. Anthony’s marvelous episodes have also fueled the pictorial tradition, from the medieval period to the present. Paintings by Heironymus Bosch, Matthias Grunewald, and Salvadore Dali, for example, have helped to keep Anthony’s tribulations in the popular imagination. Anthony’s battle with monsters comes to us via his famous biographer Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373). Athanasius chronicled Anthony’s life in a work titled simply Vita Antonii, or Life of Anthony. The book was eventually translated into Latin and set the template for subsequent medieval monastic biographies. Athanasius is revered in all the major sects of Christianity as the first Church Doctor. He served under Alexander of Alexandria, until succeeding him as Patriarch of Alexandria, and may have accompanied Alexander to the First Council of Nicea in 325. Athanasius was adamant to stamp out the popular theory about Christ, called Arianism, named after another Alexandrian theologian named Arius (c.250-336). Arians believed that God created Christ –Christ is not the same substance as God. This was anathematized by the Nicene Creed, which makes Christ, and the Holy Spirit, consubstantial with God the Father. Athanasius’ position, that the holy trinity is the same being (homoousia in Greek, or essentia in Latin) and all are eternal, became the orthodox theology for Christianity. But this orthodoxy was not established until after a sustained attack on Arianism as heresy, some of which occupies the later sections of the Life of Anthony.
  2. See I Corinthians, Chapter 8, 1.
  3. See Book IX, 22.
  4. See Book VIII, 15.
  5. See Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles, Chapter CVII. Quotations are drawn from Joseph Rickaby’s, translation (London: Burns and Oates, 1905).
  6. The starting premise of this argument, indeed this entire way of looking at agency, is derived from Aristotle’s (and even Socrates’) view that conscious action is always teleologically arranged toward the perceived good of the actor. Aquinas, and most Christian theologians adopt this starting point, but also add unique considerations (that did not trouble the ancients) about the relevant mechanisms of sin.
  7. To get the full sense of Aquinas’ argument we have to understand his rather different notion of “causality” and the old essential/accidental distinction. Causes produce effects that are similar in kind to their causes. Conscious goals are causes of actions/effects. Since a conscious goal is by definition a kind of “good” (a perceived good at the very least), and since such goals are causes, then Aquinas thinks it follows that a person’s intentions can only cause evil “accidentally.” The cause is essentially good, and therefore no evil can flow from it –so any evil that results is incidental. Finally, he thinks, this proves that evil (which is always caused incidentally) is not a real metaphysical presence in the world (a real causal force), but only a kind of unpleasant epiphenomenon. “For no agent acts except with some intention of good: evil therefore cannot be the effect of any cause except incidentally. But what is caused incidentally only cannot be by nature, since every nature has a regular and definite mode of coming into being.” (Chapter CVII).
  8. See Chapter CIX.
  9. Here Aquinas tows a line first laid out by Augustine against the Manicheans. The Persian notion of evil is this idea of a cosmic metaphysical force or power –something outside of God and His control. In silencing this heresy, Augustine redefined “evil” to mean a “privation” or “lack” of a good. Evil is not a positive reality, but a purely negative adjective that people mistake for a “thing.” The word “evil” might be considered more like the word “shadow” in the sense that it picks out something particular, but in reality a shadow is just the absence of light. It is nothing in itself.
  10. Aquinas can counter the sadism point (and maybe even the more difficult masochism issue) by pointing out that the true telos (end goal) is the pleasure enjoyed, not the harm. But the modern mind finds this protest somewhat naïve in the sense that sadism means that a certain kind of pleasure is only attainable in the harming. To use his own lingo, there may be an essential causation between the harm and pleasure.
  11. The Canon Episcopi is probably a ninth century Frankish document (sometimes thought to originate in the fourth-century), and its short text on witches had become Canon Law by the time of the Malleus. It characterizes the more “psychological” theory that I’ve been sketching, and that Institoris was reacting against. Roughly speaking, witches are just very confused about their own powers and experiences (delusions), but this still makes them dangerous heretics because they tend to infect other innocents with their promises of Satanic power and that betrayal is still real (even if the magical powers are imaginary). The Canon Episcopi famously formulated the scenario of groups of women (hallucinating themselves to be) riding through the air for great distances.
  12. Alchemy had been a positive part of Islamic scientia for centuries, but when the texts and ideas flowed into Europe (after the Moor expulsion) it came to be seen as a threatening alternative knowledge base (with infidel origins). Alchemy became associated with the black arts and heresy, but ironically many of the “research programs” of alchemy (e.g., the transformation of natural substances) became the foundations of later chemistry. Dominicans like Aquinas and Albertus Magnus, together with Franciscan Roger Bacon, originally tolerated alchemy, trying to submit its claims to rational criteria. But by the fourteenth-century alchemy was outlawed in many places. See Chapter One of Roslynn D. Haynes’ From Faust to Strangelove (Johns Hopkins University, 1994).
  13. The idea that nature is filled with invisible seeds of transformation (rationes seminales) was very useful to theologians like Augustine, who used the concept whenever he needed to explain natural growth, development, or evolution in a monotheistic paradigm of “fiat creationism” that precluded such transformation. Ecclesiasticus 18:1 states that all things were created by God simultaneously (qui vivit in aeternum creavit omnia simul), but Genesis gives us a staggered creation over time. Augustine’s idea of “germs” of forms existing within other forms helped to make consistent the unrolling of creation and the simultaneous miracle of creation. Institoris seems to be drawing on this tradition to help him explain demon “creative” power.
  14. Institoris, in defense of his demonology, cites a gloss on Exodus 7 (when Pharao’s magicians also made serpents from staffs), which says, “When workers of harmful magic try to do something by chanting [the names] of evil spirits, they [the spirits] run off in different directions through the world, and in a very short time bring back the seeds of those things with which they stimulate this [process], and in this way, with God’s permission, produce new forms from these.”
  15. Institoris points out that such demonic “alterations” of nature can never violate the ways of nature (e.g., bring a dead man to life), but only speed-up, slow-down, mix or otherwise mutate changes that could happen anyway (theoretically).
  16. See Chapter 6, Part II.
  1. Attributed as copy by the young Michelangelo after an engraving by Martin Schongauer around 1487-9, The Torment of Saint Anthony. Oil and tempera on panel. One of many artistic depictions of Saint Anthony's trials in the desert. Via Wikipedia

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"The Eternal Vigil" New Illustrated Photo Book on the Palermo Catacombs: Guest Post by Bizzarro Bazar

Following is a guest post by the creators of the Bizzarro Bazar blog, who have a new heavily illustrated book just out on the Palermo Catacombs. You can find out more about the book--and order a copy of your own--by clicking here. Following is the guest post:

Over the years, the writers of Bizzarro Bazar have extensively delved into wunderkammern, anatomical museums and collections, sideshow and carnival history, antique and weird science, strange history, photography, classic and modern art, music, literature, but also anthropology, thanatology, psychology, sexuality, humor, and so on. Now we are thrilled to announce that the blog is landing in bookstores, and not with a single book but with an entire series: the Bizzarro Bazar Collection has been conceived by the publisher, Logos Edizioni, with the specific object of exploring Italy’s hidden wonders through a series of monographs, both in English and Italian.

“Wonders," “marvels:” even our occasional followers are aware by now that we're interested above all in the etymological meaning of the word, mirabilia, namely all the things that arouse astonishment and curiosity, but which often show some kind of disturbing element. In this sense, Italy is a huge wunderkammer, overflowing with astounding places and collections. Hoping to arouse reflection on Italy’s anthropological and cultural heritage, we are going to explore the unusual side of our peninsula, the least known and celebrated one – in search for awe and amazement.

A leading role in this journey will be played by Carlo Vannini’s photographs, an artist who deserves a few words. One of Italy's most renowned art photographers, Carlo has enthusiastically accepted to participate in this project, well aware that beauty does not only lie in classical proportions. His images do not simply embellish the book pages: they are the real focus of the series. Carlo has an unmatched ability to set the details in full light (and he uses light to paint his photographs), those details that our eyes can’t catch. His pictures are offered to the reader as a perfect visual guide.

The first volume of the series, entitled The Eternal Vigil, is dedicated to the world-famous Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo. Not a hidden and unknown place, for sure, but a necessary starting point to deal with Italy’s “alternative” wonders. The Capuchin Catacombs host the largest collection of spontaneous and artificial mummies in the world. The book traces the history of this unique place that has always fascinated poets and intellectuals and analyses its anthropological and thanatological relevance. It also explains the techniques and procedures through which the friars were able to perfectly preserve corpses.

In this volume, you will find: the history of the Catacombs, how they became an unequalled site in terms of the number of mummies it hosts; an exact description of the methods (thanatometamorphosis) used by the friars to preserve corpses; many bizarre anecdotes concerning how the people in Palermo related to death; the influence of the Catacombs on literature; a meticulous investigation of the anthropological context within which this place was created, and its ethical, religious and philosophical implications.

This book is the result of several months of hard work, and of the enthusiasm of all the professionals involved in its creation. To my knowledge, in all sincerity, Carlo Vannini’s photographs look absolutely unparalleled, and I believe such meaningful pictures of the Catacombs have never been taken throughout the whole history of this extraordinary cemetery.

Below is a booktrailer which will give you a better sense of the book. Again, you can find out more--and order a copy of your own--by clicking here.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Viktor Wynd Museum: A New Museum of Curiosities in London Needs Your Help!

Victor Wynd--friend, host of Morbid Anatomy's UK lecture series, and author of the upcoming Viktor Wynd's Cabinet of Wonders--is founding a new museum of curiosities in London, and he needs your help. Following is a guest post by Wynd himself (seen above, hugging bear) explaining his grand project; you can support it--and win such awards as an oyster feast around the sarcophagus!--by clicking here. You can also watch his Kickstarter video above.
I don't like the museums of today - they used to be towering treasure houses designed to fill their visitors with wonder and awe. Visitors weren't supposed to understand or be educated by what they saw - they were meant merely as the cerebral equivalents of today's amusement parks, people were supposed to be amused, shocked, delighted and filled with wonder, to go slowly in awe and speedily in joy.
When I  first became interested in Cabinets of Curiosity some fifteen years ago, I was astonished to discover that there weren't really any left. The remnants of once mighty Victorian Museums were swiftly transforming into interactive educational establishments guided by a misguided search for an always effervescent knowledge. London's Natural History Museum, which had so charmed and awed me as a child, was busy hiding all their dead animals and bringing in plastic moving and talking dinosaurs and flashy interactive noisy electronic panels, and the junk shops of my distant youth had disappeared. I started modestly - I thought if there weren't any curiosity shops I'd better open one. I was convinced I was onto a good thing; I would create the Woolworths of my generation, open a branch on every high street in very country of the world, where we would fight the modernist look and bury Ikea below an enormous pile of exquisite clutter.
Well, the shop failed, but I think that has more to do with my lack of commercial savvy and preference for buying rather than selling things... with the shop overflowing and losing money, and unable to get far beyond the front door of my home, I decided to turn the shop into the museum of my dreams. I am now almost there, and just need to raise a little more money to be able to open the doors - please, please pledge your support and I will be eternally grateful and post you kisses and all sorts of other treats - with over 40 rewards including a copy of my book Viktor Wynd's Cabinet of Wonders; the opportunity to have your (un)loved ones name inside the lavatory bowl; or come and join me sometime for tea or a cocktail in the Spare Room (dedicated to the Occultist and Crowley associate) Austin Osman Spare.
The Last Tuesday Society presents the first all encompassing museum to open in London since the Horniman Museum in 1901. The museum focuses on the per-enlightenment origins of the museum as Wunderkabinett – a mirror to a world so suffused with miracles and beauty that any attempt at categorization is bound to fail. Where contemporary museumology hides 90% of a collection, attempts to educate and explain, to put the world into neat little labeled drawers dictated by an obscurantist elite establishment this museum will merely display everything that has glittered and caught the eye of it’s founder – from rare priceless marvels of the natural and scientific worlds like Dodo Bones or speculum to the intriguing beauty of McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys, from old master etchings to prison inmates and women’s doodles, occultists paintings and pop art prints, the horrors and wonders of nature, two headed kittens and living coral. By placing the rare and the beautiful on the same plane as the commonplace, banal  and amusing this museum seeks not to educate but to subvert, to show the world not in a grain of sand, but in a Hackney basement. The Museum has no overreaching aim beyond the theft of it’s visitors time and the hope that it will provide amusement by return and hopes to fill the vacuum between what the establishment elite believes is worthy of worship and what exists in the world.

A place for the wraiths and strays of London’s forgotten bohemian world to gather amongst the dead and the beautiful on deep crimson velvet banquettes, sip absinthe and encage in lively and languorous intellectual debate.

The Museum will be divided into two parts – The Upper Galleries with up to two art exhibitions a year and The Wunderkabinett displaying high (and low) lights from the permanent collection in a double vaulted basement, arranged as a gesumskunstwerk in custom built and salvaged museum and jewelry cases. The Lion Room is available for private hire for dinners and intimate encounters for up to ten people.

The museum will show work and objects both from The Viktor Wynd Collection and from private and institutional loans including…

  • Curiosities: Shrunken Head, Tin Toys, a bullet and piece of bone from a boys foot, Napoleon’s Death Mask, a casket containing some of the original darkness Moses called down upon earth, French 19th Century water colours and outsider porn, silly books, stone axes
  • Natural History: animal, bird and fish skulls - from a mouse to an elephant to an extinct Auroch, dodo bones, giant ant eater skeleton, Taxidermied dogs skeletons from a Giant Anteater and Lion to a mole, squirrels, sparrow and swan, Japanese Spider, every single British Butterfly, a large living coral reef aquarium
  • Fine Art: Alastair Mackie, Tessa Farmer, Kate MccGwire, Mat Killick, Theatre of Dolls, Paul Hazleton, Stephen Wright, Magnus Irvin, Shez Dawood, Eleanor Crook, Ed Kluz, in depth collection of Austin Osman Spare, Stephen Tennant, Leonora Carrington (graphic works), Mervyn Peake and Gunter Grass. Loans from the IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art), Tate Liverpool, The Lowry, and Kendal Museum and Kelvingrove; Dandies: an in depth collection (much on loan from the estate) relating to the Dandies Sebastian Horsley and Stephen Tennant, ranging from Sebastian Horsley’s nails from his crucifixion to the 1920s scrap books of Stephen Tenant.

Cocktail Bar, Café and Restaurant
The ground floor will host a tiny café/bar/restaurant run by Clapton’s Bonneville under chef Oly Launcy serving light bites as well as an extensive evening cocktail menu. The Lion room in the Wunderkabinett will be available for private.

  • The Infected Museum November 2014-May 2015
  • The Return of The Fairies – Tessa Farmer May 2015- November 2015
  • Surreal England October 2014-April 2015
  • Mervyn Peake, Alasdair Gray and Gunter Grass May 2015-November 2015
  • Austin Osman Spare February 2016 – August 2016

The Lecture Series
The Society runs London’s longest running independent literary salon and has hosted over 500 lectures since 2005 from household names to unpublished obsessives. Mark Pilkington and Amber Butchart will join Viktor Wynd as curators, organizing a wide variety of talks and workshops

The Origins of The Collection
In common with many children Viktor Wynd was filled with an insatiable desire to possess things and collected everything he could – from stones to snakes and stamps. Unfortunately he has never grown out of the habit, the opening of his vastly successful curiosity shop “Viktor Wynd’s Little Shop of Horrors” and eponymous gallery in 2009 gave him both an insatiable appetite for stuff and the means to find and buy more. Always keener on buying than selling the collection grew and grew.


Viktor Wynd
Is an artist and ‘pataphysicist working in the field of Relational Aesthetics, after being the awarded The Rosenquist Fellowship in Fine Arts and pursuing a M.F.A. at The University of South Florida in the early noughties he exhibited for a while through the commercial gallery and fair system before founding The Last Tuesday Society in 2005 to pursue his projects – including “Loss; an Evening of Exquisite Misery”. Over the last ten years it has put on a bewildering array of events including over 500 literary Salons, vast Masquerade Balls with over 300 performers and 3000 guests, Séances, art exhibitions, Wyndstock – a Midsummer Night’s Ball at Houghton Hall, selling over 75,000 tickets. The Viktor Wynd Museum is the society’s biggest and most ambitious project to date.

Art Director
Mat is responsible for turning Wynd’s vague dreams into a physical museum and reinterpreting them in a practical and affordable light. As an art director and independent curator he has worked extensively internationally for numerous clients for the last 14 years. For the last ten years he has worked closely with Bryan Adams and is currently curating his exhibition at Somerset House. He is an accomplished artist creating strange almost abstract oil paintings as Matthew Killick. His work is held in many private. His most recent and current exhibition of vast lightboxes on Great eastern Street.

Literary Director
Mark Pilkington founded and runs Strange Attractor, which has been shining a spotlight on adventurous and intelligent alternative culture since 2001. As Strange Attractor, Mark has programmed and hosted countless events in venues all over London and the UK and has curated three exhibitions. Meanwhile, Strange Attractor's publishing arm has published over 30 books, including four editions of its acclaimed Journal, London's Lost Rivers, Austin Osman Spare, and Welcome to Mars.

Fashion Director
Amber Butchart is a fashion historian  on a quest to reveal the secrets of our sartorial past and place the semiotics of style in a wider cultural, political and social sphere. She has contributed to productions for the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky Arts. She presents a regular ‘In Conversation’ series at the V and A museum looking at issues concerning the clothed body in fashion and performance. As the red-haired half of the Broken Hearts DJ duo she has played at The Society’s Parties and co-hosts a weekly swing radio show on Jazz FM. A former Research Fellow at the University of the Arts London, Amber has an extensive speaking career and she is an Associate Lecturer in Cultural and Historical Studies at London College of Fashion. She has an upcoming book on the history of nautical style, to be published by Thames and Hudson. Amber Jane Butchart's Fashion Miscellany, her compilation of vestimentary oddities, is out now.

The Viktor Wynd Museum and The Last Tuesday Society is proud to not be in receipt of any government funding whatever believing that not only does the government have better things to spend it’s money on, like health, education and meaningless foreign wars but that the funding often has a stultifying effect (besides even looking at an arts council form brings on a headache)
Again, you can donate to this worthy cause by clicking here!
All above images by Oskar Proctor

Friday, October 17, 2014

Schwendeman Taxidermy Studio Flash Sale, Sunday October 19, 11-5, Milltown, New Jersey

This just in from our pal Bruce Schwendeman, the man behind the legendary Schwendeman Taxidery Studio--as seen in above photos--in Milltown New Jersey:
Schwendeman Taxidermy Studio   
119 S Main St, Milltown, NJ 08505  732-853-6737 or text to 570-351-2760

The Schwendeman's have been in business for almost 100 years at the historic above location.  We have acquired many antiquities and items of great interest in that time.  However, the time has come to move our main location.  But before that we are having a couple of FLASH SALES--- THIS THE FIRST- thus you get the best  chance to purchase the best at our first sale- 

Sunday,  October 19,  2014
11:00 am till 5:00pm

You will see great finds--- taxidermy, specimens, books, skins, bones, teeth, forms, body parts, accessories of all kinds and ages at great prices. 

THIS FLASH SALE is a once in a lifetime sale.... The Schwendeman's lifetime.      

The early birds gets the worm- so plan to get there early for the best deals.  The Schwendeman's started  in 1915 expanding to the studio in 1921. The sale will be first come first served.

So great prices, all original pieces and good company.

Sincerely David Bruce Schwendeman
                BS Wildlife Biology 
                MS   Zoology

Monday, October 13, 2014

Anatomy Boutique at The Morbid Anatomy Giftshop

We at Morbid Anatomy were delighted to host London-based Emily Evans as our first Anatomist and Artist in residence at the newly opened Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn this past July. Emily teaches human anatomy and dissection at Cambridge University; she also creates medical illustrations for textbooks and, over the past few years, has been developing a variety of exquisite products inspired by her love of the beauty of anatomy under the banner of "Anatomy Boutique." We are delighted to be featuring her gorgeous work on our Morbid Anatomy online giftshop.

When asked to describe her work, Emily says:
I am interested in the relationship that humans have with their bodies, their lack of knowledge of it’s structure coupled with a squeamish response to visceral imagery.

By taking traditional imagery and re-imagining it through modern interpretation and contemporary design, I hope people can develop a new relationship with anatomy.

It is important for me to design everyday objects that people can own and live with that they see as beautiful.

I have spent nearly 20 years reinterpreting anatomy by teaching or drawing it in a way that people can access the information, Anatomy Boutique is an extension of this practice.
You can see all of Emily's pieces in our giftshop by clicking here; You can find out more about the products pictures above--with links to find out more and purchase--below, in order of appearance:
  1. Anatomy of Digestion: Fine china decorated with patterns associated with the anatomy and histology of human digestion- human teeth, stomach mucosa, arteries of the intestines and lobules of liver tissue. More here.
  2. Teeth Cup and Saucer from Anatomy of Digestion. More here.
  3. Day of the Dead Sugar Skull Wallpaper: This iconic image representing memento mori has been given a sophisticated twist by replicating it in gold on a rich dark charcoal wallpaper. More here.
  4. Day of the Dead Sugar Skull Wallpaper detail in situ. More here.
  5. Day of the Dead cushions. More here.
  6. Cardiac wallpaper: Human hearts are entwined with one another in this decadent wallpaper reminiscent of the arts and crafts movement. More here.
  7. Scalp Histology Scarf: decorated with the actual images of prepared human tissue sections. Available in a range of different tissue types. More here.
  8. Histology plates: decorated with the actual images of prepared human tissue sections. Available in a range of different tissue types. More here.
  9. Histology cups and saucers: decorated with the actual images of prepared human tissue sections. Available in a range of different tissue types. More here.
  10. Epidermis leather goods: Leather phone cases, wallets and purses embossed with the microscopic pattern of the epidermis of human skin tissue. More here.

From Pharaohs to iPads: A Brief History of Dissection: Guest Post by Grace Costantino, Biodiversity Heritage Library

Following is a guest post written by Grace Costantino, outreach and communications manager of one my favorite projects: the Biodiversity Heritage Library, an open access digital library which makes available a dizzyingly rich array of literature and imagery related to biodiversity. You can learn more about this wonderful project here.

From Pharaohs to iPads: A Brief History of Dissection
 If you went to high school in the United States, chances are you’ve dissected a frog. As early as 1988, an estimated 75-80% of American high school students had performed a frog dissection, and today’s estimates indicate that six million vertebrates are dissected annually in U.S. high school classes.

Dissection has been used as an educational tool for understanding the function of organs and the structure of muscular and skeletal systems for millennia. The study of anatomy dates back to at least 1600 BC, when the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus of Egypt, one of the oldest known medical papyri, identified key organs and asserted that blood vessels emanate from the heart.

Scientists such as Alcmaeon, Aristotle, and Galen propelled the field of anatomy forward through animal dissection. In the 5th century BC, Alcmaeon provided a foundation for anatomical science that was expanded by Aristotle in the 4th century BC through the advent of comparative anatomy.  While Greek physicians Herophilos and Erasistratos reportedly pioneered the systematic dissection of human bodies in the 3rd century BC, Roman law at the time forbade such practices. Thus, Galen relied on animal dissections to infer knowledge about human anatomy in the 2nd century AD. While his insights proved useful, they also contributed to centuries of misconceptions. His declarations about the functioning of the human uterus were based on that of dogs, of kidneys on that of pigs, and of the brain on those of cows and goats.

The development of the printing press in the 1400s spurred conversations about anatomy and kindled a re-examination of Galen’s teachings. Anatomical drawings and even dissection studies were published, many by celebrated artists. In the 1500s, Andreas Vesalius, considered the founder of modern human anatomy, fiercely challenged Galen’s work in his own publication and emphasized the need for dissection as a teaching and research tool.

Ethical and religious dilemmas over human dissection, as well as supply and decomposition challenges, fed the continued dissection of animals as a means of understanding the body and its systems. Numerous books circulated in the 18th-20th centuries illustrating animal anatomy. Jules Philippe Louis Anglas published a series of book on dissection in the early 1900s entitled Les Animaux de Laboratoire. His unit on La Grenouille presented the frog’s anatomy as a series of flaps that could be opened to reveal underlying  structures.

The use of human cadavers in medical classrooms became prevalent in the 19th century, representing a shift from the previous arena of anatomical theaters. In the early 1900s, animal dissections in biology classes became common, with frog dissection integrated into college courses and, by the 1920s, high school curricula as well. In the 1960s, the federally-funded Biological Sciences Curriculum Study implemented elementary and secondary science curricula with advanced courses involving cat, mink, and fetal pig dissection.

Animal rights activism, and high profile anti-dissection cases like Jenifer Graham’s, have fueled interest in viable alternatives to physical dissections. Twenty-first century technological advances have opened the door to a wide range of possibilities. Much as Anglas’ book did for early twentieth century audiences, computer apps and simulations allow students to examine anatomical intricacies scalpel-free. Innovative medical classrooms also utilize synthetic cadavers to enhance student experiences, sometimes in lieu of the real thing. And while MythBusters may have featured “Syndavers” as fabulous alternatives to pigs for their experiments, these intricate tools represent a whole new (albeit expensive – each Syndaver averages $40,000 USD) era in anatomical study. 

From animals and cadavers to interactive books and revolutionary technological innovations, one can’t help but wonder what an anatomy classroom will look like in one hundred years. What the Pharaohs would have given to have an Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus app….

Images, top to bottom:
  1. Levi W., pub. Yaggy. Yaggy's anatomical study. 1885. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries:
  2. Plates vi & vii of the Edwin Smith Papyrus at the Rare Book Room, New York Academy of Medicine.
  3. Engraving of an Autopsy. Joannes de Ketham, Fasciculus Medicine, 15 Oct. 1495. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.
  4. Portrait of Andreas Vesalius, performing a dissection. Andreas Vesalius. De Humani Corporis Fabrica ,1543. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries:
  5. The anatomy of a man. Andreas Vesalius. De Humani Corporis Fabrica, 1543. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries:
  6. Anatomy of a Frog. Jules Anglas. Les Animaux de Laboratoire: La Grenouille. 1901. Digitized for the Biodiversity Heritage Library by the Field Museum.
  7. Anatomy of a Snake. Alfred Edmund Brehm. Allgemeine kunde des Tierreichs, v. 1. 1920. Digitized for the Biodiversity Heritage Library by Harvard University, MCZ, Ernst Mayr Library.
  8. Anatomy of a Turtle. Ludwig Heinrich Bojanus. Anatome testudinis Europaeae, v. 2. 1819-21. Digitized for the Biodiversity Heritage Library by Harvard University, MCZ, Ernst Mayr Library.
  9. Anatomy of the Male Blowfly. Benjamin Thompson Lowne. The anatomy, physiology, morphology and development of the blow-fly (Calliphora erythrocephala). v. 1. 1890-92. Digitized for the Biodiversity Heritage Library by MBLWHOI Library.
  10. Skeleton of a Seal. Christian Heinrich Pander. Die vergleichende Osteologie. 1821-38. Digitized for the Biodiversity Heritage Library by Smithsonian Libraries.
  11. Virtual Frog Dissection app from Punflay, demoed on an iPad.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Carving of Guy of Gaunt: A Modern Day Transi Tomb Sculpture: Guest Post by Sculptor Eleanor Crook

Friend of Morbid Anatomy and future Artist in Residence Eleanor Crook--an amazing sculptor and waxworker--is currently crowdsourcing a project to carve a new wooden "transi," or type of tomb sculpture popular in late Medieval Europe which depicts the rotting body cadaver in the grave below. She is doing this project in tandem with Dr. Christina Welch of Winchester University in England, a researcher and cataloger of historical transi.

Following, in Eleanor's own words, is a brief history of the transi, and a description of her proposed project; to find out more, watch the video above or click here. You can support this very worthy project by clicking here. For a recent post on one of the most famous historical transis--that of René de Chalon--click here.

The Carving of Guy of Gaunt: A Modern Day Medieval Cadaver Tomb and a Transi for Everyone 
Guest Post by Sculptor Eleanor Crook

The most morbid and anatomical tomb statues  ever made were the Transi tombs of late Medieval Europe. (“Transi” in Latin means “I have passed over.”) Wealthy aristocrats and high-ranking churchmen arranged for their grave monuments to show them in death as an emaciated, naked corpse in a funeral shroud, with a skeletal grimace leering in the face of mortality (see image above).

The exact meaning of so graphic an image of death on the monuments of the powerful has been shrouded (sorry) in mystery for five centuries, but is now the subject of a scholarly study by Dr Christina Welch of Winchester University in England. She has visited, photographed and catalogued the Transis and compared them with what is known about late Medieval Catholic beliefs about the Afterlife, and will shortly be publishing her fascinating findings. She has invited me, an anatomical and morbid sculptor (known to some of you in Morbid Anatomy through my workshops and exhibitions over the last few years)  to join in the research by carving a new Transi in wood, a Transi for today and for us all.

The physical presence of the Transis is amazing; they are neither altogether alive nor altogether dead, and their anatomy is surprisingly accurate and lovingly carved, given a society where nakedness was shameful and clothing far from revealing. Their racked ribs heave upwards as though for a last breath; the veins stand out on their harrowed limbs, necks and temples. Their hollow eyes are often partly open, their mouths agape in a final agony. Although they depict specific historical figures, they stand in for any of us with our mortal body, our fear of what comes after, our vulnerable and failing flesh. Speaking as one who has worked in medical museums and dissection rooms, I truly believe they were carved from first hand observation of deceased persons by the sculptors as nothing else explains the astonishing realism – at a time when the sculptures of the living were still rather formalised and generalised. More lifelike than the living?  I would say so.

Some of the Transi tombs are like bunk beds – the idealised person shown laid in state above, the shrivelled corpse lying directly below like a bad conscience, raising questions about the soul, purgatory and the idea of bodily resurrection on the Day of Judgement.

They were often painted in lifelike ( deathlike) colours with blue veins and coloured skin. Some patrons commissioned them while they were still alive: one well known Bishop delivered his sermons from a pulpit right above his own completed Transi, which must have been a sobering experience for his flock and for him too.

British Transis are rare: Originating in late 14th century France, the first monument in England was that of Archbishop Henry Chichele (c.1364-1443), which was constructed around 1425 (almost twenty years before his death) and is in Canterbury Cathedral. The English carved cadaver memorials date from between c1425 to 1558. However, in art history they have not received the attention they deserve, inexplicably passed over despite their powerful appeal. Readers of the Morbid Anatomy Blog will be surprised to hear that many Transis are tucked away , forgotten and dusty in their local churches and cathedrals, their true meaning a mystery to most and their uncompromising gruesomeness  out of step with contemporary church sensibilities, given the British tendency to brush death under the carpet. Christina plans to publish a book on these neglected and little known monuments to mortality, with photographs and a chapter on techniques , and reinstate them as an important contribution to the art of the memorial.

And my Transi wood carving? I have long been fascinated with the matter of the body and how it can support life one moment and then become an inanimate object, a corpse, the next. I have had experience of dissection and autopsy, studied anatomy and drawn skeletons and specimens for years, all leading up to the  point where I can hew a universal image of bodily mortality from real sources and using the accumulated knowledge and fascination I  - and all readers of this blog no doubt - have. I learned wood carving at a traditional school in the Austrian Alps where the Catholic Church still requires wooden painted saints. Bellow is my carving of the head of St. Edmund , an early Christian martyr who lost his head to Vikings (but the head kept calling out to his faithful followers!)

If you would like to be involved in the new Cadaver Tomb, you can , by contributing to our Crowdfunding appeal to pay for the seasoned prepared block of suitable wood and transport of a two – meter high block to my studio and to the exhibitions (I am donating my time and strong right arm for free) -  in return for prints of Christina’s photos of Transis or prints of my drawings of them, depending on contribution. Our appeal is 74% funded at time of writing and I have been overjoyed at the collective excitement at the idea of a new Transi carving, the first in over 500 years: I will be carving it in honour of all of those of us who are bold and proud in facing the mortality of the body and the mystery of the human condition.
Eleanor Crook, Sculptor

To support the carving of Guy the  Gaunt please pledge at

For more information on the Carved Cadaver memorials please visit 

For more information on Eleanor Crook please visit

Images, top to bottom:
  1. Archbishop Henry Chichele c.1364-1443, Canterbury Cathedral
  2. Detail of image 1
  3. Transi Tomb of John FitzAlan, 14th Earl of Arundel, at Arundel Castle chapel
  4. Unidentified Transi, Hemingbrough, UK
  5. Eleanor Crook's carving of St. Edmund
  6. Transi of William Parkhouse, Exeter Cathedral