My Gout, and Jules Baretta’s Wax Museum of Incredible Diseases

The Bangalore doctor frowned at the printouts of my blood tests.

“Do you eat innards? You know, like brains, liver, kidneys?”

Well, dear reader, if you know me, you know the answer is yes.

“And red meat?” I nodded. “And herring and mackerel?” Oh yes! “Well, you must stop. Your urea levels are dangerously high. You are at risk of gout.”

I didn’t tell him about the trip to Paris. And here I am, doing my best to bring this gout on.

Foie gras, smoked salmon, and plates and plates of steak tartare. Fromage–chèvre, bleu, roquefort, some spicy little thing–and islands of egg white floating in a sweet cream sauce. My gout isn’t near. It’s probably already got me.

And that’s one of the reasons we stopped at Paris’ Musée de Moulages de l’Hôpital Saint-Louis, or–as it should have been called–Jules Baretta’s Wax Museum of Sweetly Incredible Diseases for the Edification of Les Students.


Oh yes, there was gout in this late 19th century collection of wax replicas. There was also lupus and lichen, syphilis, psoriasis, and even elephantitis of the balls. Well, would you believe Bender was telling the truth!

“Are you a doctor,” asked the curator.

“No, not really,” I said with a smile, suddenly wishing I was.


This crazy collection started with drawings and watercolors — grotesque watercolors! — but then moved on to cardboard reproductions and photos as technologies advanced, and finally turned into a wax museum. We’d just watched that great ’70s horror flick Tourist Trap, and I couldn’t help wondering if these came alive at night* as well.

Behind us, a one-eyed cyclops baby hung near a woman with no nose. A wall of tongues sat beside a gaggle of heavily-diseased cocks. “What is that,” Michelle asked at one cabinet, and then gagged as she read the caption.


It was gross. And so absolutely beautiful, too. And I knew it was time for some more foie. And that was beautiful as well.

La Musée des Moulages, Building 14
Hôpital Saint-Louis, Goncourt, Paris, France

*avoiding spoilers here.

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