Anatomy gets an exotic twist in 'Real Bodies at Bally’s'
Most vacationers in Vegas don’t expect to see dead bodies, but that’s exactly what visitors get when they happen upon Real Bodies at Bally’s. In a winding series of walk-through exhibits, Real Bodies displays authentic preserved human forms and remains that have undergone modern-day mummification. Skeletal, respiratory and circulatory, digestive, nervous and muscular systems get their due in depth, with specimens in various states of dissection and activity. Organs and bones lay under glass, themes of hunger and healing are explored, and various states of development and disease are uncovered in a way that Gray’s Anatomy can’t quite convey.
With numerous wall-mounted factoids providing educational digressions along the way (“The amount of carbon in the body weighs 44 pounds, which can be used to produce 9,000 pencils.”), the journey begins with a human coffin and some context. The method used to create the cast of Real Bodies is polymer preservation, or plastination, which was developed by anatomist Gunther von Hagens in the 1970s. By the ’90s it was possible to replace fats and fluids in an entire body with polymer resins, preventing decay and enabling the public exhibition of cadavers. It also made it possible to create unusual educational experiences.
That education starts at Real Bodies with the skeletal system, where the purposes and placements of skull bones such as the sphenoid and maxilla are explained, and the number of bones in the wrist and foot are revealed. Dried respiratory, circulatory and digestive organs from larynx and lung to cardiac valves to liver and gallbladder are kept in clear cases, sometimes surrounding more colorful anatomical examples such as a life-like pink and gray bronchial tree that could be mistaken for underwater coral. The length of a small intestine, liberated from its human host, is revealed, as is the amount of skin covering an adult male.
The skin show gets its own room, but the real stars are scattered throughout Real Bodies. More than 20 full-sized, polymer-preserved, formerly living human beings are posed in various activities—running, playing basketball, waving a conductor’s baton—and dissected so the inner workings revealed match the rooms’ themes. One body holds hands with what seems to be its own skeleton. Another is sliced in half along the median sagittal line, allowing an inside look from head to viscera.
Healings and the beginning of life also get their due and several of the rooms have a spooky atmosphere, including a skull-and-bones wall display at the end of the walk-through where visitors with a penchant for the macabre can arrange to be married. For the most part, Real Bodies is an educational journey, albeit taught by bodies that found new life in various states of dissection. A tour of Real Bodies will leave visitors with a better understanding of how the body works, and in possession of impressive nuggets of anatomical trivia. Did you know, for example, the saliva you produce during your lifetime can fill two Olympic swimming pools?
Bally’s, 10 a.m.-close daily, last tour at 8 p.m., $24.95, $15 age 3-12. 702.777.2782