One thing that can make any of us cringe is coming across some creepy vintage photos – especially vintage medical photos. That’s because we’re always astonished at some of the acceptable medical practices back in the day. They also serve as reminders that medical advancement have improved significantly since those days. Today’s doctors are much more equipped and skilled than doctors of the past. Not to mention, there are more diseases that could be treated. Why even the procedures themselves are a lot less risky than before. Aren’t you glad that we aren’t subjected to some of these questionable practices? I sure am. Here are some photos that will freak you out. They are proof that science and technology were advancing, albeit with some unusual contraptions in mind. Remember, to be where we are today, medically, all of these anomalies had to take place first. So in many ways, we have to be thankful for these vintage medical mysteries that have allowed us to advance to where we are today. That doesn’t, however, take away from their bizarre appeal. You will feel just as freaked out by looking at these photos regardless of how they have positively affected science and technology today.
15. Electric bathtubs for circulation
To us, this seems like a death wish, doesn’t it? I mean, who’s willing to put their limbs into mini bathtubs to increase circulation? Well back then, hundreds of people were not only willing but hundreds more were also prescribed this treatment during the 20th century. Not long ago, this was considered as good a way as any to get the blood flowing and keep arteries, veins, and capillaries working at optimal levels. Today, we have similar machines that work off electrodes, however, they don’t involve submerging any body parts in water. Although, don’t be surprised to learn that bath waters charged with electric currents are popular still in many countries and are a great source of relief for many patients with circulation or nervous system disorders or fatigued athletes. Just because it looks vintage and creepy doesn’t mean we don’t have some version of it today. But as you can see in the photo, it seems almost shocking. More so because our mothers taught us that electricity and water do not mix and could result in becoming angels before we’re ready.
14. Sunlamp cures the blues
In the mid-20th century, apparently, more children were depressed. Perhaps they suffered from the war in their own way, too. And surely, they were also affected by the Great Depression. Because of this alarming number, medical practitioners decided that it was vital to cure childhood depression and gathered those suffering into a room and administered sunlamp therapy. We understand the effects of the exposure to sunlight on our emotional constitution. Just look at those who live in colder climates compared to warmer ones. But what makes this vintage medical photo seem uneasy is it looks like children are surrounded by alien lights. Even more is disturbing that there were efforts to console a group of depressed children after the war. This just goes to show that there are no winners and losers with war. At least in this picture, they seem to be bouncing back, literally, and learning to cope with their emotions. After all, to ensure the continuation of humankind, we need to make sure children don’t commit suicide and reach ripe old ages, otherwise we’re all doomed.
13. Surgery theater, anyone?
Tired of the same old routine on Friday and Saturday night? Well, have you thought of heading down to a theater to check out your local doctor cutting open human bodies in front of a live audience? Yes, that’s right. People actually attended operating theater. Well, maybe not all people could attend but surely medical students were present for such an activity. Operating theaters also served as their classrooms where they could their hands-on training, up-close and personal. While it seems unsanitary and gruesome to us, even to see it in a photo, this operating theater is what brought us to the medical genius we know and love today. This type of operating was not exactly for the faint of heart, considering many of these surgeries were completely experimental while others were never done before. However, it was the best way for a medical student to learn. It might seem freaky and even fatalistic, but for the time period, it was a standard practice.
12. Perform self-surgery and lived to tell about it
Imagine that being on an expedition and you get sick. So sick that the only way to save yourself is to perform surgery on yourself. How would you know this? You’d have to be a doctor and a surgeon and just diagnosed yourself with appendicitis and realize that if you don’t operate, your appendix could burst and you could die. That’s what happened to this Russian doctor. And he didn’t hesitate to get down to business. While his colleagues were well-versed in medicine, no one was more skilled at surgery. As a matter of fact, as the story goes, he was the only one among them who could have performed such a surgery. He used local anesthetic and had to pause during the surgery because he felt dizzy. Duh, of course! He recovered in two weeks after the surgery and lived a long, healthy life.
11. Anesthesia for women in labor? Yes, please
In the mid-20th century, having a baby was no joking matter. Women must have screamed and howled under the duress of pain, which provoked doctors and nurses alike to administer anesthesia. While today this seems crazy, it was a common practice back then since they weren’t sure how to manage labor pains properly without affecting the baby. We know today that the application of anesthesia during labor could cause the mother to pass out and further complicate the labor itself. But back then, they were all like, Take this mask and inhale deeply to alleviate any pain. And women didn’t hesitate. In some ways, this vintage medical photo shows all the trials and tribulations woman have endured when it comes to bringing a life into this world. These days, women have the option of being administered with Epidural or not to minimize the pain of child birth.
10. Stacking bodies for scientific advancements
Here lies the last place you’d ever want to end up, that is, unless you’re a medical student. This is what one room of a medicine department would look like. Pretty creepy, right? Not only for the amount of bodies, but also because they are in different stages of decomposition. The fact that they’re wrapped like mummies adds a real horror show feel and makes us view this picture as something straight out of a scary movie. At first glance, this looks more like a crypt rather than a place for medical place, especially when there isn’t a single living soul in this picture. That thought makes the picture look extra eerie. You wouldn’t catch me dead up in there, and I assume you feel the same way. However, without the dissection of cadavers, medicine couldn’t be where or what it is today. Today’s morgues look much more organized and private.
9. Equipment look like metal coffins
Have you ever heard of the iron lung? It was quite sought after piece of equipment, especially for patients afflicted with the early stages of polio. Now, the contraption in the picture isn’t the iron lung, but some of its early versions looked quite similar to this one. For those who aren’t familiar, an iron lung is a machine that helped children battle polio, which ended up being a number one killer of children in the late 19th and early 20th century. So many children died of polio that a vaccine had to be created. In addition to the vaccine, there were also treatments that were used in tandem so as to alleviate symptoms and keep the virus at bay. What makes this freakishly strange is that it looks like the compartments of a morgue, which again reminds us that there were children during that time that died because of this terrible disease. There’s nothing pleasant about this picture, even the nurse’s smile seems sinister.
8. Dental instruments were extremely complex
Back in the day, dentistry was not what it is today. Actually, there were no such thing as a dentist, until more recently (much more recently than you could ever imagine). In the Victorian era, if you had a tooth problem, you went to your local pharmacist, who would apply an ointment or simply pull it out. So rather than going to an actual dentist, which didn’t exist back then, you had the pharmacist attend to your tooth woes. When dental medicine became a thing, there were all sorts of odd apparatuses that, today, seem like something out of a horror film or a Marilyn Manson music video. Yes, these vintage dental tools are strange and didn’t serve much purpose, but they have gotten us to where we are today in dentistry. You’ve got to admit, we’ve come a long way.
7. Water blanket therapy for the mentally unsound
Psychology is a fairly new branch of science. If you consider its specific area, it’s highly doubtful that psychologists will stop investigating or experimenting After all, it’s a science related to the brain, and the brain, in and of itself, is quite an enigma. Even more so are some of its abnormalities, stresses, or genetic maladies. It’s easy to say that psychology today is much more advanced, but imagine what they will say about our brand of psychology today? The same things we say about psychology of yesterday. These are patients in the process of water therapy. It was thought that wrapping patients in wet blankets for an hour or two would bring their mental state to equilibrium and diminish psychosis. While water therapy has worked wonders in other areas of medicine, perhaps psychology isn’t one that will benefit from its gifts. It just seems so cruel and illogical that it’s equally laughable and freaky.
6. Spinal column correction seemed more difficult
Perhaps it’s not the actual treatment that’s got us lifting our eyebrows, but the fact that the whole scene in this vintage medical photo seems sordid. This gentleman is the founder of the technology that helped alleviate scoliosis, and whether his techniques actually worked is still left unanswered. Why does this feel so bizarre? Nothing about it feels medical. First of all, why is the girl topless? Why is the inventor lurking and leaning in? It feels like a scene out of some S&M vintage book rather than anything vaguely resembling medicine. However, remember that many tricks of the S&M trade do use medical tools for their pleasure, so this should come as no surprise. I think it freaks us out because woman are very wary of male doctors, considering all the thousands of scandals that have befallen our sisters. Yikes. Stay careful out there, ladies.
5. Amputations were done like this
Be thankful that doctors no longer condone this sort of practice. Not too long ago, medical practitioners were allowed to do stuff like this. It’s what everyone was doing. Considering how frequently wars erupted back then, amputations were common. So common in fact that training was in high demand and medical toolkits were required to have an amputation saw as a part of the package. During the war, it was almost inevitable that you or someone you knew would get an appendage amputated. How f-ing crazy is that? That’s not just frightening, that’s sheer terror running through your heart. Amputations were done under the guise of alcohol or ether, with a piece of wood in the mouth should the patient still be awake and able to bear down, and a team of men to hold ‘em down. The mere sound of that is gruesome enough to make your blood turn.
4. Plague masks looked macabre theatrical bird faces
You may or may not have seen this one before. If you have, you might have chalked it up to some freaky vintage Halloween costume, but believe it or not, this is a tool doctors used back then. These were doctor’s masks. Yes, that’s right. During the 17th and 18th century, when the plague ravaged, doctors had to protect themselves while going from patient to patient. This mask was a way to do that. How? By keeping out bad smells and odors which, during that time, was thought to carry the disease itself. They weren’t aware of the intricacies of how viruses and pathogens were spread and thought if something smelled badly, it would cause illness. So they stuffed these bird-like masks with herbs and flowers to keep from smelling the stench of the plague, which included rotting bodies, vomit, and other putrid odors. Be thankful you didn’t live to see this era and not the one of this vintage medical photo.
3. Brain wave detectors
Neurologist have a serious job ahead of them. It’s hard enough to understand our own brains, let alone study the brains of other people. Maybe this isn’t as freaky as it is fascinating, but behind this gadget must be others much more unnerving. Neuro-science has had doctors doing brain scans and surgeries on people while still awake. How else could a neurologist study the brain if the patient were to be under anesthesia? There are definitely gruesome vintage photos out there on brain surgery being done on patients who were wide awake. And truth be told, not much has changed. Neurologists continue to perform brain surgeries with patients fully conscious and aware that they are, indeed, being operated on. That’s super freaky, right? It’s a good thing that doctors use MRI and CAT scans now to get a reading of our brain activity.
2. A bulky walking aid
If you were a child of by-gone centuries and considered invalid, lame, or debilitated in some way that prevented proper walking, this is something that the medical professionals would provide you with. It seems like so much more trouble than it’s worth. The chin strap is the most bizarre element, and while it seems to keep the spine and neck straight, we can’t be too certain. Overall, it feels like a hoax, but in reality, this was one of the first ideas behind wheel chairs. For children who couldn’t walk at all, they were confined to a bed that had wheels and somehow had to maneuver the wheeled bed while laying down. What makes this freaky is that it calls much more attention to a person who simply just wants to live a normal life. Imagine seeing someone using this today. It’s totally impractical – even by yesterday’s standards.
1. Growing taller means pulling yourself up by your bootstraps
If you wanted to grow a couple of inches, all you have to do to is stretch yourself. Yes, that meant literally. Stretch your own body by using this contraption, and before you know it, you’ll have gained those few inches that you felt were ruining your life in the first place. To be honest, this seems less like a lengthening machine than a shortening machine, and by that I mean shortening your life. But this method seems tame compared to some of today’s practices. Today, in order to gain a few inches, people are willing to get their shins broken and then extended with a small metal bar placed between the broken bones. All for a few inches or centimeters, all in the name of vanity. Talk about freaky. And we think the old school medical ways are dreadful. Little do we know how the future will talk about what we did and went through for beauty and for the sake of medicine.
Sources: elitereaders.com, moviepilot.com, theplunder.com, youtube.com
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