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FORTY

Where have I been... I'll tell you where I've been. I've been looking at dead bodies in Las Vegas and it SPOOKED ME OUT.

I missed Bodies...The Exhibition when it was in San Francisco a while back. Last week we were at the NAA convention in Las Vegas, and Burns tells me the bodies exhibition is at the Tropicana. I had to go. I'd read about the crazy process where they take cadavers and fill the veins and stuff with plastic and turn the bodies into life-sized, real models of themselves or something. So Burns and I take a hike up there from Mandalay Bay one day before our show.

Tolles wouldn't come, he was too creeped out.

The exhibition was amazing, even better than I expected.

Imagine a person's circulatory system, filled with plastic, holding its shape, with the the rest of the person dissolved away so only the red-colored blood vessels remain, hanging 3D in space.

The fetus room had its own special warning, so you could go around and skip that part if you wanted to. Rightly so. Yuugh.

The respiratory system room had a big plexiglass box with a hole in the top of it. The box was filled with hundreds of packs of cigarettes. Next to the box was a case with two preserved lungs, a healthy lung and a black-tarred smoker's lung. A sign over the plexiglass box said "Quit now." While Burns and I watched a woman dropped her pack into the box. I wonder if she'll really quit. It's hard.

Spending an hour looking at partially-dissected cadavers really started to haunt me about my own mortality. I was wondering who all these exhibited cadavers belonged too. I mean who were these people that their bodies ended up in a traveling show in Las Vegas with a bunch of people gawking at them. This isn't just Hamlet holding his buddy's skull, it's surreal on a modern scale.

The last time I felt this way was in Paris, when I visited the catacombs. Apparently in the 18th century the dead of Paris were overflowing the cemetaries, so monks dug up all the bodies, cleaned off the bones, and neatly stacked them in various ..patterns.. against the walls in a network of tunnels buried beneath the city. You can take a tour. (Take a close look at that picture. Those skulls are arranged in the shape of a heart. What were the monks thinking?)

The place is genuinely creepy, all wet-dripping stuff from the ceiling and skulls and plaques with ominous messages of doom every few paces.

While I was there a girl from a high school tour group freaked out and ran past me screaming "I have to get out of here!" She was going the wrong way.

That was ten years ago. I think it would be even more spooky to me now. You don't see any old people touring the catacombs.

Comments (4)

Mike:

"I've been looking at dead bodies in Las Vegas and it SPOOKED ME OUT."

That's not a very nice thing to say about the NAA attendees...:)

I can't find the link but there was a big controversy while the exhibit was in San Francisco. Apparently a few of those corpses were Chinese political prisoners. Frightening especially in light of the fact that China doesn't have a good history of treating prisoners well.

Did you hear that they're not harvesting organs of fulun gong practitioners?

http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/10/eeed1dbf-7691-465f-b892-1961267a5022.html

Interesting emailed comments from a pal:

I just saw your blog entry about the Tropicana exhibit. When I saw this last September I wondered why everyone was so small. It turns out that all of the bodies are from China and are of questionable origin. They don't tell you this unless you ask one of the people answering questions at the end of the exhibit.

There's also a 2nd show like this which includes a horse and some other animals, and from what I can tell it's considered the better exhibit.

When I went to Paris I headed straight for the Catacombs also. It's pretty unreal, and all the water dripping from the ceiling makes it even stranger.

Ruth vallejo:

i saw the body exibit at the utc mall a couple months ago... back in november..
as a walked in i didnt think much of it... it wasnt as graphic at the begining.... i saw brains skulls and much more...
the thing that really freaked me out the most was a head i saw cut fight down the middle i looked at it an it made me cringe... i looked into her eyes and i couldnt believe that some one would have the guts to cut someones head off and then cut it once more down the middle....
then looking at the babys...
many deformed or aaborted... or in plastic jars....
the babys didnt make such an impact on me as much as the adult bodys....
for the next couple days i couldnt look at someone without the image of a skinned body popping up in my head.... i always thought to myself and pictured that person being skinned or cut for their body parts.... going to the body exibit was a very extremely traumatizing event for me lol =] lol as lame as that sounds!! i was 16 when i saw it!
i remember going to bed and closing my eyes then the womens face would come to mind....

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