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Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Black Dahlia lecture @ Barts Pathology Museum

London loves the marcarbe right now, and anyone who's anyone in our world is clambering to get into one of the sold out events at St Bart's Pathology Museum. Do you remember the STI cupcakes that all the London magazines were talking about in October 2012? Well the Pathology Museum was where they were at, and their gruesome (and educational) events have been capturing audiences ever since. 

Last week The Ministry of Curiosity were lucky enough to attend one such macabre sold out event, The Black Dahlia Lecture. The evening marked the 66th Anniversary of the horrific murder and unsolved case of Elizabeth Short, whose body had been left severely mutilated, severed at the waist and left in a vacant LA lot. 

The sensationalization of the case by the media at the time and subsequent portrayals of Elizabeth Short  has meant that her life and death have been re-enacted in film and literature, as discussed in Steven Powell's talk, 'I Never Knew Her in Life: Cultural Depictions of the Black Dahlia Case.' He spoke of the media's portrayal of her as a femme fatale, and an adventuress that afforded her the name of the Black Dahlia. He concluded by suggesting a possible link to the surrealist art movement in relation to the final positioning of her body. The link to surrealist art was something I found incredibly interesting and I will be reading Steven's essay, 'Betty Short and I Go Way Back: James Ellroy and the Metanarratives of the Black Dahlia Case'.

Now when you attend an event at the Pathology Museum there tends to be wine. This evening however there was a very very strong Black Dahlia themed cocktail: I'm not sure what was in it but it looked like blood and tasted suspiciously like vodka. For the next speaker we were in need of a drink. 

Professor Peter Vanezis OBE is Professor of Forensic Medical Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London and the images he showed we certain to turn even the strongest stomach. His talk was perfect for the morbidly curious in the crowd, titled 'The Investigations of Dismembered Remains.' Speaking from personal experience, Vanezis discussed high profile cases of murderers who dismembered their victims- Brian Hume, Dennis Nilson aka the Kindly Killer (who murdered 'for company' and flushed the remains down the toilet) and Stephen Griffiths aka The Crossbow Cannibal. We watched many of the gruesome images from between our fingers, but Professor Vanezis' sharp humour was the perfect remedy. He proudly announced 'All good crimes happened in the East End in those days' and ' All the best prisoners go to Yorkshire and especially Hull'. 

Who knew that forensic pathologists could be so funny? 

Barts Pathology Museum is only open to the public during evening seminars and Stuff & Nonsense taxidermy classes.
Upcoming events can be found on their facebook page:
Or follow them on Twitter @bartspathology

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