Ah, December. That time of year when mistletoe springs up magically in entrance halls and doorways, driving unsuspecting individuals into an awkward embrace before they make a mad dash for the booze. Today, we associate mistletoe with smooching; however, this wasn’t always the case. In fact, the poisonous, parastic plant has a long association with medicine, and in the past would have been recognized by doctors as a vital ingredient in the treatment of various disorders. One of the first records of mistletoe being used medicinally comes from Hippocrates (460 - 377 BC) who used the plant to treat diseases [...]
My article on our the history of tooth decay and our endless battle to prevent it is out in The Guardian today, featuring a fascinating photo of George Washington's dentures from the New York Academy of Medicine. Check it out by clicking HERE.
’Tis the season for overeating! Mince pies, buttery rolls, homemade stuffing, turkey joints…all topped off with a dollop of cranberry sauce. In January, we’ll all heave a collective groan as we step onto the scales for the first time and face the consequences of our gluttony.
To most people, Sweeney Todd needs no introduction, thanks in part to Tim Burton’s 2007 adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical, starring Johnny Depp as the throat-slashing barber of Fleet Street. In the movie, Todd dumps the bodies of his victims into the basement, where their bones are stripped of flesh and made into pies by his wicked accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, played in Burton’s film by Helena Bonham Carter. Those familiar with the movie know how the story ends. But what they may not know is that this tale is nearly 170 years old. The story of Sweeney Todd first appeared [...]
I'm excited to announce that I will be appearing on VAMPIRE LEGENDS on PBS tonight (October 27th) at 9 pm EST. This show will also air as BRITAIN'S MEDIEVAL VAMPIRES on More 4 this Halloween at 9 pm GMT. I'll be discussing medical conditions which may have contributed to vampire myths in the past. I hope you enjoy it!
My article on "dark tourism" and our desire to visit places associated with death is out in The Guardian today, featuring some stunning photos by Dr. Paul Koudounaris. Check it out by clicking here.
I'm thrilled to announce that I'll be working with FSG-Scientific American (an imprint of Macmillan) on a book project. The Butchering Art will take readers on a gruesome journey into the world of pre-antiseptic surgery. Further details in the press release below! Thanks to everyone who has supported and nurtured my dreams as a writer. I couldn't have gotten to this exciting stage without you.
I'm excited to announce that my article on "Scary Sexual Devices from the Past" is featured in PENTHOUSE this month, no doubt killing the mood of readers everywhere! It's a three-page spread which has been brilliantly illustrated by British cartoonist, Adrian Teal. In it, I discuss everything from testicle tasters, to radium condoms, molly dolls, and more. If you're too shy to buy a copy in the store, you can download it digitally here. Enjoy!
Aurora, Illinois. 16 February 1914. It was a cold, wintery night when Theresa Hollander’s father discovered her broken and bloodied body near a shed in St. Nicholas’s Cemetery. The 20-year-old (pictured below) had been brutally beaten to death with a wooden club, which had been discarded along with the girl’s corpse amongst the tombstones. Much to her father’s horror, Theresa’s eyes were wide open, her hands clutched in frozen agony.
Thomas Holmes—the “Father of Modern Embalming”—had an unusual way of advertising his services throughout the American Civil War. During one of his many excursions to the front, the surgeon plucked the body of an unknown soldier from the battlefield and brought it back to Washington D.C. There, he washed the corpse and injected it with his patented “safe” embalming fluid, which he claimed was free from toxins. He then dressed the soldier in a fine set of clothes and put him on display in his shop window for all to see.