Sunday, September 25, 2016

Pharmacy Museum - New Orleans, LA (The Evil Experimenting Doctor)

514 Chartres St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
29.956071,-90.064963


            Call me morbid, but I have always been fascinated with antique medical instruments and the near-medieval practices carried out by eighteenth and nineteenth century doctors. Fortunately, we all
This will only hurt a bit!
live in the present day where, despite the outlandish cost of health care, advancements in the medical field have made the practice a lot more successful and less painful! If anyone has ever read up on some of these past poor attempts at curing various ailments, it’s no wonder so many people often died at such an early age. I truly have sympathy for those who lived during these times, as the medical instruments used on patients often looked like torture devices used during the Spanish Inquisition. In addition to the plethora of jagged, oblong tools that were inserted into every orifice imaginable, endless variants of special potions and elixirs were made more for the reason of making a quick dollar than actually causing any relief.
            Travelling salesmen from all around would travel from town to town, in the hopes of peddling the latest magic cure-all. Sure this sludge may taste like the rear end of a rotten skunk but, by God, if the salesman said it cured an ailment, you could bet people were lined up for miles to guzzle it down. I’ve always found great humor in the labels of these liquids, as they always had a funny name such as “Pappy O’Flattery’s Cure All” or “Fat Momma’s Love Juice”. Ok, that last one sounded bad!

            Other strange remedies seemed to cause more harm than good. Babies with toothaches were 
Check out these ingredients! Talk about a cure-all!
given either alcohol or cocaine. Heroin tablets were given to relieve asthma symptoms, while arsenic and mercury were used to treat syphilis before the introduction of penicillin in the 1940’s. Little did the doctors of this era know the damage they were really causing to their unknowing patients. Other procedures proved to be downright torturous such as lobotomies and electro-shock therapy for the insane and thoracoplasties for those with tuberculosis, which was the process of removing several of the patient’s ribs to allow the lungs to take in more air.

            You might be asking yourself, “Ok, where are we going with all of this?” Not only did I want to share my macabre interest, I had to touch on the subject in case some of you were just as strange as I am and would like to go to a museum that specialized in such curiosities. What better place to have such a museum than in the fitting city of New Orleans? Since the 1950’s the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum on Chartres Street has been just the place, offering a look at some incredible examples of centuries-old medical treatments, equipment and medicines.
            As soon as you walk in, you are quickly taken back by the immense amount of items the museum has to offer. Everything is era-appropriate, meaning that you are immediately thrown back in time upon entering. The walls are filled with antique medicine bottles containing everything from
Ingredients for all occasions.
standard aspirins to St. John the Conquerors Root and Dragon’s Blood for Voodoo practitioners who secretly stopped at the apothecary to replenish their supplies. From here on, the tour of oddities only increase in interest.

            The museum rotates different exhibits and can often be quite strange as to what the featured displays will be. I last visited the museum about ten years ago. I had the honor and privilege of observing an incredible exhibit that has truly given me a whole new appreciation for women: Eighteenth century gynecology tools! I’ve always been glad that I have not had to deal with the “personal issues” that women have to deal with but after seeing the torture devices on display, I have a newly-found respect for you ladies!  A man cannot help but cringe and walk by the exhibits with a hand inconspicuously guarding his genitals! Cold metal tables with uncomfortable stirrups were on display, as they hovered over large buckets to collect whatever rays of sunshine may have fell from the procedure. Small flowers were meticulously hand painted around the edges of these buckets, as to mask the intensity of the moment. Laid out on a metal tray were even more gruesome instruments, most of which were used to poke, prod, cut, hook, scoop, expand or any combination thereof.
            One memorable set of devices will stay etched in my mind forever. In a small wooden box, were various sizes of black rubber objects, said to be a kit to cure women from constipation. These
Bend over!
objects ranged from the size of a grape to the granddaddy wall-climber that looked like a softball. Let’s be frank here, as these items were simply “butt plugs” that a curious individual may come across while glancing in an adult sex shop. Well, at least I have been told so! The objects basically stretched the tunnel in question until the woman basically had no need to strain. As I type, I can’t help but shake my head at my own bluntness but after working over eighteen years in a prison; this is about as sugar-coated as you will get from me! Surprisingly, more memorable than the objects were the actual “how-to” instructions that came with the kit. Only in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, were people civilized enough to even make the insertion of large rubber objects into one’s rectum sound like a bit of poetic prose from Edgar Allen Poe himself. Quote the patient, “No more!”

            Now that your life is officially complete, I can begin with the history of the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. Before the years of tongue-in-cheek comments at various exotic displays, the museum itself was actually the very first licensed apothecary in the United States. The story begins in 1812, when Governor William C.C. Claiborne issued an order that established a mandatory licensing exam for pharmacists. In 1816, one of these first officially licensed pharmacists was a young man by the name of Louis Joseph Duffulo, Jr. He began his trade by working for his brother’s apothecary, situated on Toulouse Street. By 1823, Duffulo had become successful enough to open up his own shop. He did so by building a three-story home on Chartres Street. The first floor was his workspace while the second and third floors served as living quarters for him and his family.
 
Old soda fountain on display at the museum.
How bout a refreshing drink after your lobotomy?
         
Dr. Duffulo would run his popular shop for over thirty years. By the mid-1850’s he was ready to return to his homeland of France and he sold the apothecary to a Civil-War physician and pharmacist, Dr. Joseph Dupas. Here, the story seems to take a turn for the worse. Dr. Dupas was said to be quite an evil individual. He is rumored to regularly perform random, and often deadly, experimental medical procedures on young pregnant quadroon women. The lucky ones were horribly damaged for life while those not so lucky, died from the experimentations. Many would say that when Dr. Dupas would kill the young women, he would hastily discard of them by secretly transporting them to an awaiting carriage located at the rear of the home. It is uncertain as to the number of deaths that took place or the locations that the bodies ultimately ended up at. Before further examination and investigation of these mysterious deaths, Dr. Dupas would succumb to syphilis in 1867.
            The home would fall into numerous hands for the next eighty years until it would be purchased by the city of New Orleans. For several years, city officials planned to turn the historic home into a museum. Their plans officially came to fruition, as the present day pharmacy museum was opened in 1950.
            With such an incredible location that contains such a conglomerate amount of oddities, could the amount of paranormal activity reported here be due to the items themselves? Such could very
I've got my eyes on you!
well be the case, as many locations have been haunted simply due to specific items they house. Get rid of the item and you get rid of the haunting. Although the concept seems very plausible for this specific location, many people feel that the true source of the hauntings at the Pharmacy Museum is the evil Dr. Dupas. His apparition has been seen wandering through the building in a lab coat. His figure has been predominately seen on the second floor. Staff and visitors have reported being softy nudged or pushed as they climbed the stairs. Objects are said to move around in the display cases by themselves and many people have experienced shortness of breath, nausea and discomfort when encountering the spectral doctor.

             Although most feel that no serious threat resides here, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum definitely has its fair share of encounters from the other side. Fortunately, the most intense encounter might be a gentle nudge, as opposed to flying medieval medical instruments. Say what you wish, but I’d rather be pushed by an unseen force than attacked with a softball-size anal plug any day of the week!

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