The Anatomy of Death Museum, Michigan

You should know by now that when I add a warning/disclaimer it’s going to be a creepy one. So here it is…

This post is not going to be for everyone. If you don’t like bones/taxidermy/preservation/death or anything related to these things, then this post is not for you. I won’t be offended if you go ahead and skip this one. If you look on my homepage, I have more than plenty other posts to choose from. Some of them are in places a lot sunnier!

With that out of the way, let’s get creepy!

I was aiming to post this for Halloween but I’ve been so busy lately, I haven’t been able to write… Or do much of anything to be honest. Hopefully I’m now back on top of things… Key word there being hopefully.

Decorated human skull once belonging to a Buddhist Monk, this was used to eat and drink from
Last rites kit and children’s rental coffin

Found in Mount Clemens, the Anatomy of Death Museum is the only one of it’s kind in Michigan. This museum holds a varied collection of death and what happens when we are ushered into the beyond. Collected and displayed by Todd LaRosa, the word impressive would be an understatement when describing his collection.

Giving a new meaning to “shut your mouth”

As we entered the museum we were warmly welcomed by Todd and after checking we weren’t going to pass out (this apparently happens sometimes), we were handed two guides and gestured to the entrance.

As I pushed through the hanging body bags used as curtains, the atmosphere had a noticeable change. The lighting dimmed, eerie music played and I was was confronted by a towering skeleton (not a real one of course he he).

Skull on the right from a 90 year old male with original silver tooth, France

Although the Anatomy of Death Museum may appear small from the outside, the collection is anything but. This museum holds over 30 real human skulls and skeletons and funeral and death related antiques.

Burial shoes for easy slip on and off

A lot of the collection was previously used for medical purposes and by funeral homes. This makes for an unnerving viewing when you think of the tools’ history and who the items originally belonged to.

Memorial piece made with human hair
Human hair braids

Out of all of the items here, I found the human hair braids the most unsettling. The hair once belonged to three sisters who were all sadly killed in a car accident. The hair was removed from the girls by the family after the funeral to make the memorial pieces. This was in 1957 so I would hazard a guess that the girls would be in their 60 – 70s today. If you look closely you can see the photos of the girls with their hair in braids. See what I mean by unsettling?

Tribal skulls

In the image above you will see a trophy skull (top) and two memorial skulls (bottom). The trophy skull is from the Naga tribe and would of been from someone who had been head hunted (literally) and the hunter kept the skull as a trophy. The skulls would be decorated and hung up around the hut of the collector. The Naga people are made up of 60 different tribes and are associated to the North Eastern part of India and North Western part of Myanmar (Burma).

The other two skulls date back to the mid 20th century and are from the Sepik tribe. When a family member passed away, the skull would be removed from the body, cleaned and clay would be moulded to resemble the deceased’s face. Shells and specific patterns would then be added and often the real hair of the deceased would also be used. Once complete, the skulls would be placed in a sacred area to watch over and protect the living. The Sepik people are associated with the Sandaun Province in Papua New Guinea.

Personally I prefer the memorial pieces than the trophies!

Many of the skeletons and skulls were originally used in medical schools. These pieces would of been donated by those who wanted their bodies to be used for scientific and educational purposes. Some of these pieces date all the way back to the 1880s which is incredible when you think of how well preserved they are. I expect the original donator would of had no idea how long their “donation” was put to use!

Drainage plug on a mortician’s table dating back to the 1920s which was used up until 2019
An interesting one for those of you with hip replacements!
Paper mache skeleton used by the Odd Fellows for ceremonies when real skeletons were not available.
Original horse drawn hearse and coffin 1884
Funeral home advertisements, letter openers were clearly a popular choice
University of Michigan Medicine and Surgery class of 1920
Predominantly men but there are a few women in there

With so much to see we spent over an hour in this museum and to be honest, could of easily spent longer. We then got talking to Todd LaRosa who is incredibly interesting and friendly. His passion for his museum is amazing and it was a great place to satisfy our morbid curiosities. If you’re reading this Todd, thanks again for having us and we’ll see you again when we have our motorbikes!

A mortician’s facial reconstruction kit 1930s

As I left the museum I couldn’t help but wonder, what is this all about? Death is something we all have in common, but why do we make such an effort for something that’s so final? Do we really need ushering into the afterlife – is there even an afterlife? What about those who don’t have the loved ones around them for this? Or is this all just done as a comfort to the living, so they know that they and their loved ones are taken care of all the way up until their final resting place. There is only one way to find the answers but until then we can only speculate.

If you have your own theories on this, I’d love to hear them in the comment section.

As always thank you for reading!

4 Comments

  1. Weird place indeed! Parts of the Science Museum in London have a similar vibe. And yeah – I find it odd when people plan their funerals. It’s like they don’t quite understand the concept of “being dead”!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m pleased to learn about this museum. I live in Michigan, so I might get to go someday. The place looks mad creepy but I’d visit it even if it horrified me. I was recently at the Dennos Museum in Traverse City. It’s not a creepy exhibit except for this Tibetan trumpet made from a human femur. That gave me pause as I wondered what sound it made.

    Like

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