Morbid Anatomy Baltimore Field-Trip Featuring The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death with Tour Guide Robert Marbury

Interior shot of one of the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

Date: Saturday, March 29th
Cost: $100 (includes luxury ground transportation in Baltimore and all museum admissions.
Location: Baltimore, MD (see below for specific meeting locations)
Tickets can be found by clicking here
Please note: This price DOES NOT cover bus transportation between New York and Baltimore, or meals. please email morbidanatomylibrary [at] with questions.

Today, join Morbid Anatomy for a day of wondrous frolics in “Charm City” with special tour guide-and rogue taxidermist!-Robert Marbury, whose Baltimore credentials include a star turn as Ricky Lake’s “Angelic Boyfriend” in John Waters’ Cry-Baby.

Our first stop will be The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Baltimore, where assistant to the examiner Bruce Golfarb will lead us on a special tour of The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, a collection of obsessively detailed miniature dioramic death scenes, hand-crafted in the 1940s and still used to train police in the methods of forensic death investigation.* The tour will also include a visit to what is called by some “the most violent room in Baltimore”: Scarpetta House, a full-sized furnished room donated by mystery novelist Patricia Cornwell in which death scenes are staged to train forensic investigators. We will also visit the Great Blacks in Wax Museum and the grave of Edgar Allan Poe, where we will engage in a traditional Cognac toast. Throughout the day, our delightful guide will also share with us his favorite Baltimore sights, and regale us with stories of the secret, fascinating, bizarre and sometimes tragic history of the city known affectionately as “Mobtown.”

Also: Although this is only a day trip, we highly recommend that all attendees stay over night and make a weekend of it. If you can do so, please join us for a Saturday night dinner at the Owl Pub. Every participants will also receive by email our Morbid Anatomy Guide to Baltimore (thanks to  Rachel Ridout!) with our favorites museums and collections, Antique stores and affordable hotels!

* To learn more about The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, join us on Thursday January 27th in Brooklyn for an illustrated lecture on their history by Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland Bruce Goldfarb; More on that here.

More about our destinations and tour guides:

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death
This is an extraordinary collection of miniature dioramic death scenes, hand-crafted in the 1940s in obsessive detail by Frances Glessner Lee. They were — and still are — used to train police in the methods of forensic death investigation. Lee, a wealthy socialite with no formal education who in middle age was commissioned by the New Hampshire State Police, is considered the mother of modern, scientific death investigation; she is also said to be the inspiration for the character of Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote. To learn more, come to “Death in a Nutshell: Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” at Observatory on Thursday January 27th. More on that here.

Scarpetta House
Donated by mystery novelist Patricia Cornwell and called by some “the most violent room in Baltimore,” Scarpetta House where death scenes are staged to train forensic investigators.

Great Blacks in Wax Museum
Celebrated both as an Historical Institution and a roadside attraction, The Great Blacks in Wax is the first wax museum of the City of Baltimore and the only to presents such an uncanny journey through African-American History.

The Poe Toaster (From Wikipedia)
Poe died at the age of 40 in Baltimore on October 7, 1849 under mysterious circumstances. The Poe Toaster tradition may have begun as early as the 1930s, according to witnesses, and continued annually until 2009. Each year, in the early hours of the morning of January 19 a black-clad figure (presumed male), face obscured by a scarf or hood, carrying a silver-tipped cane, would enter the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground in Baltimore. At the site of Poe’s original grave, which is marked with a commemorative stone, he would raise a cognac toast and place three red roses on the monument in a distinctive configuration, along with the unfinished bottle of Martell cognac. The roses were believed to represent Poe, his wife Virginia, and his mother-in-law Maria Clemm, all three of whom were originally interred at the site.

Robert Marbury is a multi-disciplinary artist working in fabric, photography and fur. Marbury practices “creativity as meditation” and explores social order and the liminal spaces in contemporary culture. Marbury is a co-founder of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists and lectures internationally about alternative taxidermy. He has developed his Urban Beast Project since 2000 in order to investigate the ferine nature of animals and their interaction with humans in the urban environment. Marbury received his BA in Anthropology from Connecticut College and a post-Bac from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He has played a drape in John Waters’ Cry-Baby, been held up by pirates in Indonesia, and served on the Minneapolis Arts Commission. Marbury lives in Baltimore, MD and has a book coming out in the fall 2014.

Bruce Goldfarb, a former paramedic and a nursing school drop-out, is an award-winning journalist and author of eight medical reference books. He now serves as executive assistant to the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland.

Logistical details:
Our bus will pick us up at 12.45pm at the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Baltimore ( 2110 Haines St, Baltimore, MD 21230 )
One drop off at 7.00pm at Greyhound Bus Terminal
Last drop off around 7.30pm in downtown Baltimore ( At the Owl Bar, 1 East Chase Street, Baltimore, MD 21202 )

Field Trip: Excursion to the Abandoned Ruins of Bannerman Island

Bannerman Castle

Bannerman Castle

Join us for a guided tour of Bannerman Castle, the former arsenal built by eccentric entrepreneur Frank Bannerman VI.

***SOLD OUT***

Date: Sunday, July 22nd

Time: 1:30

Admission: $50

Presented by Atlas Obscura

Built between 1901 and 1918, the property was modeled after Scottish baronial castles and sits on a tiny, rugged island in Hudson Valley. Frank Bannerman became a surplus munitions dealer as a teenager and a few decades later his collection was so vast that he needed to buy the island for storage space. Some of his most notable purchases include 90% of the army surplus from the Spanish-American War, cannons from the Battle of Yorktown and equipment from Admiral Perry’s expedition to the Arctic Circle.

We will be meeting at the Beacon Ferry Dock in Beacon, New York. The tour will last approximately 2.5 hours: 1/2 hour each way on the shuttle boat and about 1.5 hours touring the island (rain or shine). Some of the paths and trails are steep and there is a lot of walking, including 72 stairs. There is no running water on the island, but there are porta potties. Bottled water will be available for purchase on the boat.

IMPORTANT NOTE: For those taking Metro-North, take the Hudson line from Grand Central Station to Beacon. You can board the 10:50am train or the 11:45am; get on any later trains and you will miss the boat. If you would like to ride up to Beacon with us, we will be in the first two cars of the 11:45. Meet us at the clock in the center of the Main Concourse of Grand Central by 11:20.

Details/special instructions.

  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Neither the boat or the island is handicapped accessible
  • Strollers are not permitted
  • Due to safety issues we cannot go inside any of the buildings
  • Tickets are non-refundable

Metro-North train directions:

  • Take the Hudson line from Grand Central Station to Beacon
  • Get on the 10:50am train or the 11:45am
  • Metro-North tickets are NOT INCLUDED in the price of the tour
  • Information about Metro-North tickets available here:
  • The Beacon Ferry Dock is just down the hill from the Beacon Train Station

Driving directions to Beacon Ferry Dock:

  • Take Rt 84 to Exit 11
  • Take 9D South
  • Make a right onto Beekman Street (approx .65 miles)
  • Make a right onto bridge over train tracks (.4 miles)
  • Dock is down hill on left


Congress for Curious Peoples 2 Day Symposium, in Conjunction with The Coney Island Museum

2012_congress_adDate: Saturday April 21st and Sunday April 22nd
ADMISSION: $30 for full weekend admission; tickets here
* Location: Coney Island Museum, 1208 Surf Ave. Brooklyn (please note changed location!)
Presented by The Morbid Anatomy Library with The Coney Island Museum

The Congress for Curious Peoples is a 2-day scholarly-yet-popular symposium that is part of the larger, 10-day Congress of Curious Peoples This year’s iteration will feature panel discussions on such topics as pre-cinematic immersive amusements and religion as spectacle, with featured speakers including Sara Velas of The Velaslavasay Panorama; Paul Koudounaris of Empire of Death; an as-of-yet unnamed representative of the amazing Sleep No More; and Colin Dickey, author of Cranioklepty. Also featured will be stand-alone lectures on the 17th century artist of fetal skeleton tableaux Frederik Ruysch and the phenomenon of ethnographic displays called “human zoos,” a screening of an over-the-top early 1970s TV Evangelist Christmas spectacular, and introductory lectures by myself and Coney Island Museum director Aaron Beebe. Full schedule follows; hope to see you there!


11:00 – 12:00: Keynote Addresses

  • Joanna Ebenstein, Morbid Anatomy Library
  • Aaron Beebe, Coney Island Museum

12:00 – 1:00: Lunch

1:00 – 3:30: Immersive Amusements: Cosmoramas, Cycloramas and Panoramic Illusions: Panel discussion moderated and introduced by Aaron Beebe, The Coney Island Museum

  • Suzanne Wray
  • Sara Velas, The Velaslavasay Panorama
  • Jessica Routhier, The Saco Museum
  • Errki Huhtamo, UCLA
  • Russell Potter, Rhode Island College
  • Denise Blake Oleksijczuk, Simon Fraser University

4:00 – 5:00: The Business of the Dead: Frederik Ruysch as an Entrepreneurial Anatomist, Lecture by Daniel Margocsy, Hunter College

5:00: Christmas in America: Miss Velma and the Evangelist Spectacle: Screening of “Christmas in America,” an early 1970s television special by Miss Velma, early TV evangelist, introduced by Daniel Paul


11:00 – 1:00: Religion and Spectacle: A panel with discussion moderated and introduced by Joanna Ebenstein, Morbid Anatomy Library

  • Paul Koudounaris, author of Empire of Death
  • Shannon Taggart, Photographer
  • Salvador Olguín
  • The Venerable Tsering Phunstok
  • Colin Dickey, author of Cranioklepty

1:00 – 2:30: Lunch and Sideshow Visit

2:30 – 3:30: Traveling Ethnographic Shows and Human Zoos, a lecture by Elizabeth Bradley

3:30 – 5:30: Theater Rethunk: An Alternative History of the Theatrical: A panel with discussion moderated and introduced by Chris Muller

  • Amy Herzog, Queens College
  • An as-of-yet unnamed representative of Sleep No More
  • Chris Muller, New York University
  • Dick Zigun, Founder of Coney Island USA

Field Trip: A Day of Brains in Jars, Old Libraries, and Underground Crypts in New Haven, Connecticut

img_01921A chartered bus field trip to New Haven, Connecticut with guided tours of The Cushing Brain Collection, The Institute Library, and The Center Church Crypt and an unguided visit to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Date: Saturday, July 16th
Time: 10:00 AM- 7 PM
Admission: $60
Presented by Morbid Anatomy

*** 28 Person Limit; MUST RSVP to morbidanatomy [at]

On Saturday, July 16th join Observatory and Morbid Anatomy for a special field trip to New Haven, Connecticut. Our first stop will be the amazing Cushing Collection, with its over 500 human brains in glass jars and haunting pre- and post-operative photographs amassed by “father of modern neurosurgery” Dr. Harvey Cushing. We will be introduced to this collection- newly open to the public-via a guided tour by Terry Dagradi, curator of the collection. Our next stop will be the historic and lovely Institute Library (founded 1826), Connecticut’s oldest living independent literary institution and one of the last remaining membership libraries in North America, where director Will Baker will give us a tour followed by an opportunity for unguided exploration and lunch. Next, we will be treated to a special after-hours tour of the Center Church Crypt, an underground cemetery featuring 137 grave stones of New Haven’s founders and earliest citizens going back to 1687. Our final stop will be an unguided visit to the incredible Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library before hopping on the bus for our return home.

Trip Details: The $60 event cost of this event includes round trip transportation on a special chartered bus from Observatory to New Haven and back again as well as tour costs. Please bring your lunch, which we will have an opportunity to eat at our second stop. The bus will pick up and drop off in front of the 543 Union Street (at Nevins Street) entrance to Observatory. Pick up is 10:00 AM sharp and drop off approximately 7:00 PM depending on traffic.