The New York Grimpendium: Wilder Brain Collection

My new book, The New York Grimpendium, was just released and, like its predecessor The New England Grimpendium, covers my experiences traveling to hundreds of death-related locations and artifacts in the region. Below is one of a series of photo essays from sites in the book that I’m posting this season. If you live in or like New York, the book is for you. If you’re a bit morbid, the book is also for you, even if you’ve never been to the Empire State. After all, death is a punch line we all get.

October 3, 2012 — Anytime I hear phrases like "brain trust" or "think tank" or "meeting of the minds," I automatically think of disembodied brains in jars. That’s just what my own brain likes to do. And now, after visiting the Wilder Brain Collection at Cornell University in Ithaca, I have the perfect mental image to go along with that. There, in Uris Hall, you’ll find eight whole-specimen brains in a glass display case that represent a portion of the 120-year-old Wilder Brain Collection. It was started by a Civil War doctor and it numbered some 600 brains at its height. Each brain on display is from a man or woman preeminent in their fields, including Dr. Wilder himself. Oh, and one murderer.

So eight brains. And one of them is from the skull of a murderer. It's like an Agatha Christie plot, except there are no bodies...

The brain of the murderer...

...and the name of the restaurant downtown
that's named after him

Read all about my visit to the Wilder Brain Collection in The New York Grimpendium, which is on sale now: