International Museum of Surgical Science Review – A Spooky Place for Halloween

Surgical Hall at the International Museum of Surgical Science -Learn about the history of operating theatres and how they used to get cadavers

The website for the International Museum of Surgical Science greets you with the following passage:


“The International Museum of Surgical Science, a division of the International College of Surgeons (ICS), maintains over 10,000 square feet of public galleries committed to the history of surgery, and an exquisite permanent collection of art and artifacts from the history of Medicine. The Museum supports its Mission through medically thematized exhibitions and programs, in addition to a strong contemporary art exhibition program.”


Welcome to the Hall of Immortals

Within these halls and rooms that make up the the Inner Lake Shore Drive mansion that was constructed in 1917 to replicate Le Petit Trianon of Versailles, France; with its own twist, it’s now home to some of the most unique specimens and historical artifacts dedicated to the surgical sciences.


During the month of October, for one Halloween night, at 6 p.m. sharp, the museum gets transformed into a guided experience called, “Morbid Curiosities” $20 for adults, $10 for members.


Poe’s poetry could have been echoing in the Hall of Murals

When you first walk into the museum, you are greeted in the reception hallway, true to modern classical design, you could walk up the double staircase, turn left to the pallor/guest area, or North to the quaint, but well-curated gift shop. This reporter had a hard time not purchasing one of everything. I will begin by saying, I will attempt to not give away much because I enjoyed the exhibit and space without a shadow of doubt.


Learn about the books early-modern doctors would use

The tour begins with a guide from the Surgical Sciences Museum explaining the history behind the home, turned museum. We walked up the double staircase and first laid eyes on the Hall of Immortals and learned about the grandfathers of modern medical science.


This library might have dead things on its shelf

From there, we toured the library which may have books bound with human skin. Yes, real human skin. As you can imagine, this tour is going to get really interesting and is not for the faint of heart.


Alternative View – Hall of Immortals

While entering the Hall of Murals to take some photographs while the tour group I was with and listening to the Ophthalmology exhibit, I kept looking over my shoulder and above the fireplace for a Raven to quote, “Nevermore”.


I won’t say much more about the tour except that it was an entirely enjoyable experience.


Forewarning kind soul, this tour does end with an optional, 10 minute video archive of a live trepanation done in 1962 by a Dr. Francisco Graña, who was a member of the International College of Surgeons.

Trepanation doesn’t always kill you and might actually make you stronger

If you want to celebrate Spooky Halloween, this is a great place to start your All Hallow’s Eve and this reporter will be back for more events at this wonderful and historical mansion now home to many great curiosities and dear artifacts, that are more than willing to reveal their story.

The International Museum of Surgical Science is located at:
1524 N. Lake Shore Drive – Chicago, IL 60610

For additional information go to the imss website

Photo credit: Samantha Miller

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