So on our last day in Portugal we decided to do something very out of the ordinary. We found on Atlas Obscura that the University of Lisbon’s Anatomy Department kept a preserved head of Portugal’s first known serial killer in a jar. I’m not one of those people fascinated by serial killers(even though I will also be doing a Jack The Ripper tour writeup) but this guy is an interesting read. A quick summary is he pushed people off a famous bridge in Lisbon and, like most wonderfully inept police at the time, it was deemed a bunch of copycat suicides. When caught, it was during a time when people believed head size/shape could determine personality traits such as the desire to murder people and his head was “removed” and preserved. Logic about that aside, we wanted to go see this head.
Now one thing I have found about traveling is most people are naturally averse to talking to strangers. This makes sense and, for me, it was born from the desire to figure things out myself. However, sometimes that can go too far and become a crutch. You need to be able to approach and talk to strangers when necessary otherwise some experiences just won’t happen. It is also a skill that is very easy to lose unless you keep it constantly in your mind.
Now where I am getting with this…
So there is no way to know where this head is, you need to ask some random med students. It took us approaching 3 separate ones for us to find the right department. We then started checking random classrooms because apparently it could be in any of them. Needless to say there were a lot of preserved body parts in jars…so really we kind of already accomplished our goal.
I then was approached by a staff member probably wondering why there were nervous looking people in every classroom. I explained we wanted to see the head she smiled and said OK but the head was currently on loan at another college. So we weren’t able to see it but you can see a picture in the Atlas Obscura article. Plus you know, the above pics which we did see…
It didn’t take very long to get in and out, of the university. In total maybe a half hour. It’s a very nice school and the Anatomy Department was very cool and had some fabulously macabre displays like in the cover photo. I absolutely loved walking around it. I definitely don’t want to make this a common tourist destination but it is a testament to how fun getting off the beaten path can be.
Anyway, it was a good exercise in being able to talk to strangers and it was a 2 minute walk from the zoo…so…win win?
Overall, comfort zones mean different things to different people, but get out of them regardless.