Lorne Jackson gets under the skin of a new city exhibition revealing our inner selves.
Once again Halloween is just round the corner.
And it’s not just any old corner, of course. This is a shadow-lurky, fog-murky, monster-smirky sort of a corner, where anything can happen... as long as it is diabolical in nature.
Meanwhile, flights over Birmingham International Airport will be prevented from taking off and landing because of the large number of broomsticks whizzing through the air, cackle-crazed crones balanced precariously on top.
And, of course, the dead will rise and scare us all a treat. No, really – this time I’m not kidding. Corpses are making the kind of come back only the Spice Girls have attempted in the past. And not just for Halloween.
Brace yourself for gore, gore... then a little bit more (gore).
Something hideous is heading towards Brum.
Mutilated human corpses will be frozen to the spot, like an army of massacred mannequins. Their skin will be torn from the muscle, while jagged bones slice through vein and artery. Eyeballs will ooze and ogle, with hearts and kidneys breaking free from the solitary confinement of the ribcage.
Get ready for a festival of flayed flesh.
But don’t be mistaken. This is no scary flick. It definitely isn’t part of the Saw franchise. Saw was only a flimsy slice of horror fiction, after all.
While the mutilated bodies visiting Brum are the real, squeal-deal. Each dead body on display has been chosen in the name of science and education.
They are part of the Bodies Revealed Exhibition, taking place at the Custard Factory from Friday.
The show, which is open to all ages, aims to give ordinary members of the public the kind of access to the stripped down human body that is usually only available to morticians and medical professionals.
But why would anybody want to take a butcher’s at a creepy crew of human carcasses?
According to Dr Roy Glover, who has helped organise the exhibition, looking at mutilated dead people is a healthy thing to do.
“We all have a body,” he says. “And it is very important for people to understand their bodies better. Most people don’t understand how fragile the body is, that it decays, and can be beset by disease.
“People think they are going to live for over, so they abuse their bodies with drink, food or drugs. But if they come to this exhibition, they will see exactly what happens to the body if it is not looked after properly.
“Which makes the whole thing a powerful visual education.”
Its bodies are certainly illuminating. There are heart and blood vessels that have been affected by a fat-rich diet. A case of liver cancer and many other diseases.
The exhibition includes ten full bodies along with 250 specimen parts.
All the corpses on display have been obtained from medical school. They were originally donated by the individuals before they died, or their family and friends.
But is this something children – and even some adults – will enjoy? For some, it may sound more morbid than magnificent.
“This exhibition has toured the world,” says Dr Glover. “More than 15 million people have seen it so far. And that includes 150,000 school children.
“After the show, we encourage them to make comments about it. Universally, those comments have been positive. People thank us for bringing the exhibition to their city, and admit how much they have learned.
“People have got in touch a while afterwards, and admitted that it has changed their lifestyle habits. Many stop drinking, start to exercise or eat less after coming to see our bodies. That is the most gratifying thing of all. So it is not a negative show about death. It is actually showing people how they can get more out of life.”
Dr Glover is a professor of anatomy and cell biology. For more than 30 years, he taught anatomy at the University of Michigan Medical School.
It was while working there that he developed the university’s body preservation lab, which he ran until he retired in 2004.
It is one of the only labs in the world that is capable of providing whole and dissected preserved bodies for medical study and research.
The laboratory has been vital in providing human specimens for training in medical schools, dental colleges, museums, universities and schools. But would Dr Glover, who is now 68, put his own body up for show, when he dies?
“Absolutely,” he says. “I see it as a wonderful gift to the public. I have spent my life working in education, so I would like to think that my body could continue the job even after the life force within me has gone.”
But has working with so many dead bodies made Dr Glover enjoy a healthy lifestyle, himself?
“Absolutely!” he says. “It’s no use preaching healthy living if you’re not going to follow your own entreaty. I may be heading towards 70, but I’ve got the body of a 35-year-old. Well, maybe not that good! But I have tried to preserve my own body. That’s my area of expertise, after all.”
* The exhibition runs from Friday to January 30. Adults tickets are £14, Senior Citizens (60+) are £12 and children (4-12) £10.