In an age in which you can quickly take three dozen photos of your instant noodles if the mood strikes you, it's easy to forget that photographers once needed to carefully decide if the moment they were about to capture was worth a piece of precious film. And sometimes, for reasons we'll never know, our ancestors decided that what was worth capturing was a moment of existential terror.
What follows is the sixth edition of your annual reminder that the past is a bottomless pit of nightmares. Catch up on parts one, two, three, four, and five, or dive right into the biggest edition yet, because history will never stop being horrifying.
20 Merry Christmas! It Might Be Your Last!
Depending on your philosophy, a human corpse can be anything from a sacred vessel to a sack of rotting flesh that might as well be disposed of in the nearest Taco Bell dumpster. But I think even the most cynical among us would agree that a random cadaver shouldn't be used as a prop in a wacky Christmas card, given that it would both offend the family of the deceased and make the med student's family worry about his mental health. The past, though? It didn't give a fuck. It didn't even have to be a special occasion for them to play with their corpses.
That's from 1906, and there's nothing being celebrated beyond "Hey, I just realized that I have access to cadavers, and also have a disturbed sense of humor. Maybe later I'll make it look like a couple are just suckin' my dick."
19 She Later Installed A Stereo
At first glance, this may just look like Tim Burton's daughter dressing up for a walk with her dad, but it's actually an 1878 advertisement for "Dr. Clark's Spinal Apparatus." It claimed to help patients with spine or leg problems walk, while also improving their circulation, digestion, and strength, although modern assessments are doubtful. So 19th-Century victims of spinal issues at best had to cosplay as a carriage just to get a little pain relief, while at worst their snake oil put ours to shame in both outrage and discomfort. But Dr. Clark's invention can serve an important new purpose today, as children with orthodontic headgear can be shown this and told to count their goddamn blessings. And if that doesn't work ...