Over the past generation Detroit has suffered economically worse than any other of the major American cities and its rampant urban decay is now glaringly apparent during this current recession.
Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre documented this disintegration, showcasing structures that were formerly a source of civic pride, and which now stand as monuments to the city’s fall from grace.
Yves Marchand's and Romain Meffre's pictures do a nice job of capturing the surreal atmosphere clinging to these architectural remnants.
Here is an excerpt from their book that is being released in August 2010:
“Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes, small pieces of history in suspension. The state of ruin is temporary by nature, the volatile result of the end of an era and the fall of empires. This fragility, the time elapsed but even so running fast, lead us to watch them one very last time: being dismayed, or admiring, wondering about the permanence of things. Photography appeared to us as a modest way to keep a little bit of this ephemeral state.”
Josephene Myrtle Corbin, the Four-Legged Woman, was born in Lincoln County, Tennessee in 1868. She was known in her day as the "Four Legged Woman from Texas."
This remarkable woman had a rare form of conjoined twinning known as dipygus, which gave her two complete bodies from the waist down;
One hers, and the other belonging to her dipygus twin sister, who was smaller, mal-formed and had three toes on each foot.
Myrtle became an exhibit in the sideshow circut at thirteen.
Her first promotional pamphlet (Biography of Myrtle Corbin, 1881) describes her as “gentle of disposition as the summer sunshine and as happy as the day is long.” She toured with P.T Barnum and later the Ringling Brothers.
She was an extremely popular attraction on Coney Island, earning sometimes $450 a week.
As part of her act, Myrtle would dress her second set of legs in matching socks and shoes to the other set, thus creating a surreal spectacle for her audience.
Myrtle’s younger sister, Willie Ann, married Hiram Locke Bicknell in 1885. Hiram’s brother Dr. James Clinton Bicknell proposed to Myrtle shortly afterward, and the two were wed in June 1886.
Upon their marriage James Bicknell insisted that Myrtle leave show business, which she did. She would go on to be blessed with five healthy children.
Myrtle had two small pelves side-by-side, and each of her smaller inner legs was paired with one of her outer legs. She could move the smaller legs but was unable to use them for walking.
Both lower bodies were fully developed sexually; both vaginas would menstruate simultaneously, and Myrtle even successfully delivered three children on the right side, and two on her left side. Myrtle had three other children who were stillborn. The surviving Bicknell children were Nancy Estelle, Francis Clinton, Ruby, and Lillian J.
From Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle:
Wells a describes Mrs. B., aged twenty, still alive and healthy. The duplication in this case begins just above the waist, the spinal column dividing at the third lumbar vertebra, below this point everything being double.
Micturition and defecation occur at different times, but menstruation occurs simultaneously. She was married at nineteen, and became pregnant a year later on the left side, but abortion was induced at the fourth month on account of persistent nausea and the expectation of impossible delivery.
Whaley, in speaking of this case, said Mrs. B. utilized her outside legs for walking; he also remarks that when he informed her that she was pregnant on the left side she replied, "I think you are mistaken; if it had been on my right side I would come nearer believing it;"--and after further questioning he found, from the patient's observation, that her right genitals were almost invariably used for coitus.
Little is known about the specifics of the Bicknell family’s economic situation, but it seems to have deteriorated severely.
Show-people like Myrtle came out of retirement simply because they needed the money. Just so, the Four-Legged Girl from Cleburne, TX was back in the business appearing at Huber’s Museum in New York in 1909 at age 41.
The family no doubt intended this new turn of events to be temporary. But then 1910 turned into 1915: Dreamland Circus Sideshow, Coney Island. Riverview Park, Chicago. Myrtle worked the circuit and Myrtle made money.
James, Myrtle & daughter Lillian in 1915.
It had been more than 20 years since she last exhibited. She appears to have finally stopped exhibiting around 1915.
In 1928 Myrtle developed a skin infection on her right leg. When it failed to heal she finally went to a doctor in Cleburne. He diagnosed her as having erysipilas – a streptococcal skin infection.
On May 6, less than a week after being diagnosed, Josephine Myrtle Corbin-Bicknell was dead at age 60.
husband Clinton Bicknell and daughter (Mannix Bicknell)
Atlanta Medical Journal, ca. 1888
Woodcut of Myrtle from a photograph taken in Nashville, Tenn., June 16, 1868. From the Journal of the American Medical Association Contributions to Teratology, Investigation of the Four-Legged Child, J. Myrtle Corban, October 20, 1888.
http://www.appalachianhistory.net/2009/05/she-had-one-husband-four-children-and.html, Posted by Dave Tabler | May 6, 2009
Drimmer, Frederick. Very Special People. Repr. New York: Citadel Press, 1991.
While compiling a U.S must-see list, I've come across this gem, the Muetter Museum in Philadelphia. It's an old brick building on a lovely tree-lined street down town. There is a medicinal herb garden surrounding it that was created in 1797.
It houses a fascinating and disturbing collection of 19th century medical specimens.
Gretchen Worden (1947–2004) remains perhaps the best known person associated with the Mütter Museum. She joined the museum staff as a curatorial assistant in 1975, became the museum's curator in 1982 and its director in 1988.
Worden was a frequent guest on the Late Show with David Letterman, "displaying a mischievous glee as she frightened him with human hairballs and wicked-looking Victorian surgical tools, only to disarm him with her antic laugh" and appeared in numerous PBS, BBC and cable television documentaries (including an episode of Errol Morris' show First Person) as well as NPR's "Fresh Air with Terry Gross" on the museum's behalf.
She was also instrumental in the creation of numerous Mütter Museum projects, including the popular Mütter Museum calendars and the book, The Mütter Museum: Of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
During Worden's tenure, the visitorship of the museum grew from several hundred visitors each year to, at the time of her death, more than 60,000 tourists annually.
After her death, the Mütter Museum opened a gallery in her memory. In an article written about the gallery's September 30, 2005 opening, the New York Times described the "Gretchen Worden Room":
“ There are jars of preserved human kidneys and livers, and a man's skull so eaten away by tertiary syphilis that it looks like pounded rock. There are dried severed hands shiny as lacquered wood, showing their veins like leaves; a distended ovary larger than a soccer ball; spines and leg bones so twisted by rickets they're painful just to see; the skeleton of a dwarf who stood 3 feet 6 inches small, next to that of a giant who towered seven and a half feet. And "Jim and Joe," the green-tinted corpse of a two-headed baby, sleeping in a bath of formaldehyde. ”
Although Worden was known for using humor and shock factor to garner interest in the museum, she nonetheless was respectful of museum's artifacts. In the foreword of The Mütter Museum: Of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, she wrote "While these bodies may be ugly, there is a terrifying beauty in the spirits of those forced to endure these afflictions."
Here is a review of the place by Anne D. Bernstien:
"On a recent trip to Philadelphia I had the opportunity to revisit The Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, to see what’s changed since last exploring this mecca of medical oddities and squirm-inducing equipment in 2004.
Piece of John Wilkes Booth's thorax.The Mütter likes to downplay its freak show side with a sober, respectful and academic presentation of its holdings. There’s dark wooden cabinetry, discreet explanatory cards, understated lighting. But really, when your most popular must-see items include a giant colon, a plaster cast of the torso of Siamese twins Chang and Eng, and a withered waxy “Soap Lady”…who are you kidding?
I’ve always been struck by how many families consider the Mütter to be an acceptable and fun outing for the kiddies.
I know that my own childhood psyche would have been seriously disturbed by the sight of wax models of skin diseases and that ever-haunting display of deformed fetuses floating in jars.
But I have to admit, the kids I saw seemed to be having a grand old time pointing, squealing and making “I’m gonna puke” faces. Maybe the family that goes “yuck” together stays stuck together.
The Mütter justifies our interest in the extreme and gory by putting it in an educational context, giving us permission to indulge our attraction to the entertainingly gruesome.
So what’s new? Well, the “Soap Lady” has lost her prominent placement in the main gallery and has been shuffled off to a side room. She appears to scream in protest (Actually, she’s always looked like that.)
She currently shares the space with an exhibit about Presidential death and a display of shrunken human heads (both real and fake) from the Jivaro Tribe. I would have appreciated more information on the actual process of head-shrinking (a rare occasion where the Mutter staff passed on an opportunity to be deeply disgusting).
Dwarf and giant skeleton.A more spare and brightly-lit back gallery showcases The Mütter’s new nod to artiness. The current exhibit is “Corporeal Manifestations”: a collection of “ceramic figurative work” which explores the “psychology of our biological existence.”
I’d really prefer that the Mutter abandon attempts at promoting creative expression to make room for more sliced-up body parts and photographs of singing conjoined twins. Anyway, no human hand can possibly top the aesthetic perfection of their existing collection of delicate ossicles and labyrinths of the ear!
The Mütter is a conventional museum in one sense: there’s a gift shop! You can pick up your own copy of their famous calendar, along with T-shirts, books, shot glasses and other reminders of your horrifying visit.
As there is a strict “no photography” policy, a wider array of postcards would be appreciated. The giant colon postcard is the only truly weird one I found in stock.
All in all, The Mütter is our nation’s most perfectly realized medical museum, striking a skillful balance between information and titillation. It’s a wonderfully stimulating reminder of the myriad ways our fleshy incarnations can go horribly, horribly wrong.
Madame Tussauds' waxworks are known worldwide today, attracting patrons who will stand in line for hours to get inside and catch a glimpse of these lifelike wax models.
Anne Marie Tussaud was the child of a widowed housekeeper.
From her first permanent wax exhibition in the Baker Street Bazaar in 1835 where people would pay sixpence to get in, her wax museums have grown into an incredibly successful worldwide chain, with branches in Amsterdam, Bangkok, Berlin, Dubai, Hamburg, Hollywood, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Moscow, New York City, Shanghai, Vienna and Washington, D.C.
Tussaud was born in 1761, and moved with her mother from Strasbourg after the death of her father, who was a soldier in the Seven Years War. They went to Berne to work from Dr. Philippe Curtius doing housekeeping.
Curtius was a physician and used wax modeling to illustrate anatomy, he would also do death masks and portraits. Tussuad assisted him in this work and he taught her the skill. Tussaud called him uncle.
When Curtius moved to Paris in 1765 the Tussauds moved with him, and it was there they set up a Cabinet de Cire or a Wax Exhibition. It was wildly successful and attracted huge crowds.
Tussaud was very talented at the art of wax modeling and created models of famous people for this cabinet, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin.
In Paris, Tussaud became involved in the French Revolution and met many of its important figures, including Napoleon Bonaparte and Robespierre.
On 12 July 1789, wax heads of Jacques Necker and the duc d'Orléans made by Curtius were carried in a protest march two days before the attack on the Bastille.
Tussaud was arrested during the Reign of Terror her head was shaved in preparation for execution by guillotine. But thanks to Collot d'Herbois's support for Curtius and his household, she was released.
Tussaud would search around among the decapitated heads behind the guillotine for famous figures in order to make death masks. Among others, she made death masks of Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Marat, and Robespierre.
burlesque dancer Josephine Baker
On his deathbed, Curtius left his collection of waxworks to Marie. In 1795, she married François Tussaud. They had two children, Joseph and François.
In 1802, Marie Tussaud and her family went to London. As a result of the Napoleonic Wars, she was unable to return to France, so she traveled with her collection throughout Great Britain and Ireland.
Madame Tussauds self portrait
In 1835, she established her first permanent exhibition in Baker Street, on the "Baker Street Bazaar". In 1838, she wrote her memoirs. In 1842, she made a self-portrait which is now on display at the entrance of her museum.
Some of the sculptures done by Tussaud herself still exist. although most of them perished in a fire in 1925, or under German Bombing in1941. Many of the original casts remained however and were re-cast.
Snoop Dog with his Wax likeness.
Historically the "Chamber of Horrors" portion of the museum has been wildly popular, as people can satisfy their curiosity as to what Jack the Ripper looked like, or Guy Fawkes.
Today you can see the likes of Hitler, or Amy Winehouse, as well as human marvels like Robert Wadlow.
In July 2008, Madame Tussauds' Berlin branch became embroiled in controversy when a 41-year old German man brushed past two guards and decapitated a wax figure depicting Adolf Hitler.
This was believed to be an act of protest against showing the ruthless dictator alongside sports heroes, movie stars, and other historical figures.
However, the statue has since been repaired and the perpetrator has admitted he attacked the statue to win a bet.
The original model of Hitler, unveiled in Madame Tussauds London in April 1933 was frequently vandalised and a replacement in 1936 had to be carefully guarded.
Marie Tussauds' legacy is alive and well and her unique wax-sculpting and cast-taking techniques are still used; each figure takes about six months and up to $250,000.
"One name that should never be omitted from the records of curious history is Sandwina, a woman who at her peak was perhaps the most physically powerful person walking the planet earth.
The mighty Sandwina was born as Kate Brumbach in 1884 in Vienna, Austria to Bavarian parents. Her parents were circus strength performers of rather hearty proportions in their own right.
Her father Philippe was said to possess a barrel chest of 56 inches and her mother Johanna had muscle laden biceps measuring over 15 inches. Together the pair of prodigious physical prodigies sired fourteen children.
Kate’s three sisters Barbara, Eugenia and Marie possessed great physical strength and performed alongside their parents in power demonstrations. Kate, however, was gifted with strength unparalleled by her siblings and would be the only one to go on to spectacular fame.
Kate’s natural strength came from her lineage and physical proportions. In adolescence Kate stood just over six feet tall and weighed 187 pounds. She honed her natural abilities through intensive exercise and in her heyday was known for her bulging 17 inch biceps and 26 ½ inch thighs.
Kate initially displayed her muscular girth to the paying patrons of the circuses her father contracted with. She was initially a wrestler of men and famously offered 100 marks to any man who could best her.
According to legend, she never lost her bet and even gained a husband after soundly thrashing a young man by the name of Max Heymann.
Heymann thought tussling with a woman would be a rather delightful way to earn 100 marks. But by his own account he recalled only entering the ring, a blue sky and being carried away from the ring by Kate like a prize.
The couple remained married for 52 years.Kate appeared on the world stage quite suddenly while visiting New York. In a promotional stunt and after boasting of her strength, Kate made an open challenge daring anyone to lift more weight than she.
To her surprise, and to the surprise of those assembled, none other than the father of powerlifing and bodybuilding Eugene Sandow took Kate up on her challenge.
Sandow was a man carved of granite. Indeed, he had sculpted his body to resemble the statues of the old gods he saw as a child. He was considered the most physically gifted man in the world and Kate was certain that she had made a grave error in judgement.
Still the contest began as Kate began lifting increasingly heavy weights and Sandow, subsequently, lifted those she was done with. This went on for some time, until Kate hoisted the unholy sum of 300 pounds above her head with one hand. Sandow could only raise the weight to his chest and Kate was declared the winner. It was shortly thereafter that Kate adopted the name Sandwina – a feminine derivative of ‘Sandow.'
From then on Sandwina was known exclusively for her feats of strength. She was known to routinely juggle 30 pound iron spheres and press her 165 pound husband above her head using one arm. Some of her more famous feats involved lifting horses, maintaining carousels of 14 persons on her shoulders and carrying a half ton of cannons on her back. In between all of that, she also bore a son, Theodore Sandwina. Sandwina did the bulk of her touring in the United States and was still performing with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus at the age of 57 in 1941. At the age of 64, Sandwina retired from touring and opened a restaurant with her husband in New York.
On occasion she was still known to delight patrons by breaking horseshoes, bending steel bars and on the rare occurrence by hoisting her husband skyward. Her son Theodore had inherited his mother’s formable strength and grew to 6 foot 2 and 200 pounds. He used his impressive strength and size to become a champion boxer and retired with a record of 46 wins -38 of those by knockout.
On January 21, 1952, Sandwina lost her first and only wrestling bout to cancer. While cancer won and claimed her life, it could not take away her mark on history or her title of Strongest Woman in the World."
The National Museum of Health and Medicine is located in Washington D.C and has made it to the top five of my American roadtrip destinations list.
This curious government-owned institution houses a vast collection of freakish delights.
Here is a review of the Museum from the team at roadsideamerica.com. "The teenagers get it. Squeals of "EEYOUUU!" and "YUCK" echo among the tall glass displays as yet another generation discovers a giant tumor or the stomach-shaped hairball. Just a typical day at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, America's oldest taxpayer-funded Cabinet of Curiosities.
The museum is northwest of Washington DC, deep in government property, hidden behind the Walter Reed Army Medical Center -- the way one might hide a hideously deformed relative. It's a national treasure where each plastinated organ, skeleton and bone fragment has a tale to tell.
We often think of the Museum as an imperfectly preserved pathological specimen. Parts are great, showing off items that have been in the collection since the Civil War. Where else can you see pieces of Abraham Lincoln's skull? But half of the floor space has been eaten away by modern health awareness displays about AIDs [June 2006 - no longer on exhibit], or the development of the microscope. Much of the old collection sits in storage, a small percentage occasionally seen by the public as exhibits rotate.
Things have changed a bit since our last visit. The chorus line of baby skeletons is still visible from across the lobby, part of a gallery on fetal development and birth defects (though the specimens are less graphic than what you find at the Mutter Museum).
But gone is the interactive computer terminal that let you play Lincoln's deathbed doctor ("Congratulations! You've scored an 84 out of a possible 100. The nation applauds your effort as a doctor and as a responsible member of society. Unfortunately, the President is dead."). A museum employee told us that it frequently broke down.
The Presidential display includes the bullet that killed Lincoln, and bits and pieces of the assassinated President, and the "life mask" plaster molds of his head and hands (there's another set on display in the basement of Ford's Theater). There are medical education oddities, such as the hopelessly inaccurate 18th century anatomical models from Japan. An area on Civil War medicine photographically chronicles early attempts at plastic surgery on soldiers who had lost half their faces to bullet and shrapnel wounds. A wax head of a 19th century sailor with a barnacle-encrusted nose demands your attention. "Sailor addicted to excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco," reads the sign. "Rhynophyma," colloquially known as "brandy nose." It's really disgusting.
The mummified head of a Kentucky girl -- an image that will chase you into fitful dreams -- is out of "storage" and back on display in an exhibit titled "Research Matters: Environmental and Toxicological Effects of Arsenic."
The two most popular exhibits are the hairball and the leg bone. The hairball is a crowd pleaser -- a 12-year old girl compulsively ate her own hair; fortunately, someone had presence of mind to preserve the gastronomic mess.
The leg bone is that of Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles, displayed along with the 12-pound cannonball similar to the one that shattered it at Gettysburg in 1863. "For many years he visited the museum on the anniversary of its amputation." [part of our "Hello to Arms" tour]
It's almost impossible for a place like this, with skimpy federal funding and a terminal desire for social relevancy, to stay in touch with the public.
But connections are made. A complete brain and spine, suspended in liquid in an eerily lit glass cylinder, is barely explained.
A way to give physiological context to the human mind? A homage to the human trophies in the Predator films? No one cares -- it just looks scary and cool.
The museum is popular with school groups, as well as sailors and doctors dragging along their horrified families. But like all medical museums, it will never be a must-see for vacationers.
Items in storage that we've seen on previous visits (or this time maybe we didn't look hard enough.):
•A piece of John Wilkes Booth's spine
•the brain and skeleton of President Garfield's assassin
•our favorite -- the colon of a soldier who had diarrhea for four months National Museum of Health and Medicine:
Address: 6900 Georgia Avenue, Washington, DC
Directions: NW corner of Washington DC. 495 beltway west to exit 31B Georgia Ave. south 2.5 miles. Look for black wrought-iron fence on right. Through Walter Reed Army Medical Center gate at Elder St. Show picture ID. Make immediate right onto service road past loading docks, road makes sharp right turn stop sign, go 500 feet. U-shaped driveway on right. Bldg. 54 (facing Dahlia).
Admission: Free. Picture ID rqd.
Hours: M-F 10 am - 5:30 pm, Sa, Su, Hol (Call to verify)
The world most pierced man is 79 year old John Lynch , or "Prince Albert" from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, UK.
He has been photographed by David Bailey and the London College of Fashion, and appeared on TV and in films.When at home in Apsley, however, he enjoys "a quiet life" listening to music and watching films from the 1920s.
He was found to have 241 piercings including 151 in the head and neck when examined in London on the 17th of October 2008 for the world record. After working as a Barclay's Bank manager for over 30 years, Lynch retired, and gave up his conventional life style in the late 1990's after reading a book on piercings.
His first piercing was in his nose. Lynch hated the conformity of the work place and developed an interest in extreme body modification as a way of standing out from the crowd. Although the piercing came after he left the bank, Lynch got his first tattoo when he was in his 40's.
His nickname of "Prince Albert" will give a clue as to where some of those piercings are. However, this is something of a manufactured record. Rather than simply having the piercings and then seeing if he had made the record, he made sure that he had more piercings in order to gain the record.
He said: "I never thought about breaking the record. I've always just done it because I like it but it is quite an achievement.
"I was actually a few short so had 20 or so popped into my arms to up the numbers and if somebody beats me I could always find space for a few more."
John Lynch is a unique character whose story is just as interesting as his visible appearance. He is known for having the most piercings of anyone in the UK where he resides. You may recognize him from tattoo and piercing sites, tattoo conventions, and magazines.
He was married for over 20 years and has a daughter and two grandchildren. He eventually admitted he was gay and left his marriage. He went from a banking career to managing a gay porn book shop. You might say this was the turning point of John’s life as well as a major career change.
Now John is almost 80 years old and still loves his freakiness.
He enjoys the people he meets who are curious about his appearance and he has no problem with people taking his picture. And as if his many piercings, facial tattoos and face paint weren’t enough to catch your eye, John is known for wearing mini-skirts. He also sports trans-dermal implant horns on his head.
John’s advice to young people is to never get tattoo or piercings that would interfere with their employment prospects. He followed his own advice and seems to have made up for lost time.
Here I am with Prince Albert at Camden markets in London.
Although it's been very hot here lately, I can't get autumn off my mind. Where I grew up there was never a very clear cut autumn, summer just sort of melted into winter in a long and gradual way.
Now that I am in the Northwest, autumn makes itself heard and I can never take it for granted. Here are some images by the amazing Kelly that I find both haunting and beautiful. I adore her blending of "outside" and "in." Enjoy!