Okay. So this is probably the only place on the planet where you could take a job as a night watchman, have something go bump at 3 a.m., and wind up as an exhibit a week or so later. But far from whistling by a graveyard, the Anatomy of Death Museum is all about taking you under—make that taking you inside—a world of actual skulls, bones, and all things funerary.
The Dance Macabre of it is that, at 292 Cass Avenue, the museum’s dead live—among the Mount Clemens generations who do not, in this nearly 200-year-old city of ours—right down the road from the sprawling graveyard and the attendant headstone-maker shop at the far end of town.
The museum’s owner, curator, and host to all the afterlife artifacts and curiosities to be unearthed here is Todd Larosa, who is alive, lively, and loving it. Todd comes to his work from a funeral home background with a keen interest in the morbidity accommodations and accouterments surrounding death.
Talking to him, he is a lighthearted regular guy who chats it up with everyone who comes to visit, collects for the poor and down on their luck, and has a philosophic take on the dead that he finds particularly relevant for today’s world.
Death, he says, is the great leveler. “It doesn’t matter what political party you believe shares your values, whether your skin color is black or white, what religion you belong to, what your sex is, or how much money you have or don’t have. This [pointing to his surroundings] is how you are going to wind up. We will all look like this one day. We are all the same in the end. Use that to better understand and help each other.”
So, while Todd is saying we all have a date with destiny, the choices he has made for the museum clearly show that some dates are flat out better than others. Once past the body bag curtains that visitors enter through, be ready for anything and everything you might find on the other side of the River Styx. Brace yourself for life-rejecting emblems such as ceremonial death masks, embalming implements, Civil War amputation kits, and bones that never did fit right. How about the intact adult skeleton of a man who shuffled off the old mortal coil somewhere in the 1880s? Or an embalmer’s cosmetic case from the 1940s with make-up, brushes, combs, lipsticks, and toners?
What about a Naga headhunter’s trophy skull? Todd has one for you to look at and read about. Not as brave as you’d like to be? Perhaps you will take heart at the human backbone shown. Looking for a pick-me-up? There is a whole shelf of embalming fluids to examine. Finally, as you pass back into the lobby, there is a well-worn embalming table for you to kick back and relax on after your harrowing journey, and maybe use for a photo op.
Todd says day-of-rest Sundays are his busiest days. He sells death-related jewelry pieces and other unworldly souvenirs from the lobby counter and, for a modest amount extra over the price of admission, will conduct personalized tours. When you come, think of Todd as a conduit to all things dead, a voice but certainly not the only one—here the dead speak for themselves.