I’m so unsettled and captivated by this incredible photograph of wax figures burnt and melted after the massive 1925 fire that destroyed Madame Tussauds wax museum in London. I think wax models alone are already pretty creepy, but I don’t think even the Chamber of Horrors can touch the pathos of this unintentionally gruesome scene. With missing heads and appendages, charred skin and clothing in disarray, the uncanny wax models truly look like the causalities of some great trauma.
I’ve been trying to unearth more photographs of destroyed wax models from the fire, with no luck. However, I did come across this newsreel which shows the destruction of the fire, and some of the wax figures within the rubble.
Almost as interesting are some of the colorful quotes taken from 1925 news stories about the fire:
- “London is not often the scene of spectacular fires, but thanks to the liberal supply of wax fuel the world-famous building in the Marylebone Road created a blaze last night which was the most thrilling fire spectacle witnessed in London for years.”
- “The fire at Madame Tussaud’s was a most wonderful spectacle, with multi-coloured flames shooting high in the air…Ten thousand onlookers watched the progress of the fire, and when they heard the wax models sizzling shouted to the firemen: ‘How’s Deeming?’ and ‘How’s Crippen?'” (two criminals whose wax likenesses were included in the Chamber of Horrors)
- “The fire brigade was under the command of Mr. A. R. Dyer, who was brought to the scene from a theatre where he had been spending the evening with some friends. Despite the fact that he was in evening dress he took an active part in the operations.”
- “A cheer came from the assembled thousands when the salvage men came out carrying a large cage in which was the renowned Mme. Tussaud’s parrot. The parrot was found lying at the bottom of its cage stupefied as a result of the smoke and the intense heat, but after a few moments in the open air it revived…Then it startled everyone by remarking, ‘This is a rotten business.’“
- “It is strange to think of the number of eminent, and highly respectable people being burned in effigy in London. Madame Tussaud’s famous waxworks spread its net far and wide, and at least forty people of the present Parliament and scores of notabilities outside were represented in wax in these burning galleries. Criminals represented in the Chamber of Horrors, however, will have no feelings in the matter, as they are all dead.”
Elsewhere on the Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things:
- WWII parachute crash test dummies
- E.J. Bellocq and the Storyville prostitutes
- James Lomax’s inflatable skins
- Cleaning the elephant skin
- Ulric Collette’s portraits genetiques
- Shary Boyle’s deformed porcelain figurines