For the past few years the Mütter Museum has been eagerly opening itself to artistic interpretation. Philadelphia’s archive of morbid artifacts has been the subject of an eccentric documentary film by the Quay brothers, a coffee-table photography book called “Bones, Books, and Bell Jars,” and now a collection of short stories.
Kathleen Sands wrote “Boy of Bone: Twelve Stories Inspired by the Mütter Museum.” She imagined the backstory of a Parisian woman with a horn growing out of her forehead, a love story between a man and his model of a woman’s face used for eye-surgery practice, and a Civil War doctor who decides to use the skin of a dead woman as bookbinding leather, rather than leave her body on a battleground.
“She’s going to be buried in a cornfield — in a rebel cornfield,” said Sands. “She will be dug up by hogs, she will be eaten by vultures. It’s not a respectable future for a corpse.”
This is Sands’ first venture into writing fiction, but not her first steps into the macabre. Her “An Elizabethan Lawyer’s Possession by the Devil: The Story of Robert Brigges,” published in 2002, was followed by “Demon Possession in Elizabethan England” in 2004.