I stayed in Philadelphia two nights so I could catch my free flight to Israel (via Birthright). So I had a full day to see what there was to see. And seeing as I am not a normal blog I wanted to see some weird, creepy and strange things in my 24 hours.
First off, I landed and had dinner with my lovely cousin, Zoe, who I was staying with. Her apartment is close to the Mutter Museum which was the first thing on my list. The Mutter Museum is a medical museum mostly known for their oddity collection. The motto of the museum is, “Disturbingly informative.” While it’s only two stories and about four rooms, the amount of information and sights was overwhelming. And sadly, no photos are allowed but I’ll try to describe you it you as best I can.
There’s several famous exhibits but I’m going to highlight three. First off and most famous, Albert Einstein’s brains with the collection of brain scans and neurological analysis on display. Einstein actually didn’t donate his brain to science but Thomas Harvey decided to take it. He kept in a beer cooler… that’s right a BEER COOLER! Of course, the family was unhappy but finally the family agreed to let it be studied. The great minds of the world couldn’t wait to examine the brain of the brilliant physicist to unlock what made him tick. There are several abnormalities in Einstein’s brain. It weighs 2.7 lbs versus the average 3 lbs, it lacks a Sylvian fissure (separates frontal and parietal lobes from the temporal lobe), degeneration was very low for his age (76) and the inferior parietal part of the brain (probably has to do with spoken and written words, helps brain classify, helps form abstract concepts) is 15% larger than the average person. The source of his genius is still not known.
Hyrtl Skull Collection is a collection of 139 skulls from anatomist Joseph Hyrtl. He examined the skulls from all over the world for evidence of personality, racial differences and cranial features. The skulls range from a variety of places and each description was a bit strange. For example, “Tomb of Kings Sakkareth, Egypt. Prominent zygomatic bones; Linz, Austria. Simon Juhran age 19; suicide by hanging because of an unhappy lover affair. Frontal grooves; Constantine Anesku age 32. Gunshot in Bucharest, Romania. It pretty interesting to look at all the interesting differences from skull to skull.
One exhibit I was so excited to see was the death cast of Chang and Eng Bunker. I had watched The Mystery at the Museum about this piece(Season 2 Episode 1). The conjoined twins were born in Thailand in 1811. They came to America to work in the freak show. The two had very interesting personalities and managed to coexist. The two were conjoined by a small piece of flesh between their stomachs but the technology to separate them was not available. Upon their death the autopsy showed that they in fact shared a liver and with Chang as an alcoholic, he killed himself and his sober brother. The liver is also on display under their death cast.
There are many more permanent and temporary exhibits that were fascinating, sometimes terrifying and mind-blowing. It took me about 2.5 hours to go through but I was also taking a lot of notes the whole time.
19 S 22nd St Philadelphia, PA 19103
Next I went to The Magic Gardens and this place was amazing. It’s like 5 dollars with a student ID. It’s a building with mosaicked art. It’s like an open air gallery and there’s also an indoor gallery. Isaiah Zagar is the creator of this giant artwork and he devotes much of his talent to beautifying the South Street neighborhood in the late 1960’s. It’s really a fun place to explore. It is small though. It only takes less than an hour to get through.
1020 South St. Philadelphia, PA 19147
After that I wanted to see one of Philadelphia’s famous oddity stores called Professor Ouch’s Bizarre Bazaar and Odditorium but I’m a little bitter. It was closed because the store hours are erratic so even on a Wednesday afternoon it was closed. I would have probably bought the Bride of Frankenstein snapback but c’est la vie, their loss. However the store front was cool and then the thrift store next door had so many great things but I managed to resist the urge to buy and believe me it was a struggle.
750 S 5th St Philadelphia, PA 19146
Luckily, I had time, energy and I was close to the famous tourist trap, The Liberty Bell. So I took my obligatory selfie by the bell.
6th St & Market St Philadelphia, PA 19106
Then my cousin and I met up with some of her wonderful and hilarious friends to enjoy the Spirits of 76 Ghost Tour. It was so much fun! We went to neighborhoods in Philadelphia where we heard stories of a witch woman that supposedly cries at night, and stories of orphans surviving the plague in Philadelphia and a man losing his three children to an illness because of improper water filtration and he wander the halls trying to find his children. We had a wonderfully animated guide.