Flatulence, blood, guts and gore – it’s not a Saturday night out in Chester but gimmicks used to excite children at a new history of medicine attraction opening on the City Walls next Friday (August 5).
One of the stars of the Sick to Death interactive museum based in the 14th century Water Tower and Bonewaldesthorne’s Tower is the freaky-looking plague doctor.
Big Heritage, the not-for-profit organisation behind the attraction, built anticipation about its disease-ridden venture through a viral marketing campaign that saw the plague doctor pictured at various city locations as speculation mounted as to who or what he was.
A plague doctor model features in the exhibition, his long-nosed mask packed with herbs to ward off the plague. Actors will dress as the plague doctor and walk the walls as well as appearing from behind corners to scare the living daylights out of visitors. Mini-plague doctor outfits will be available so children can dress up.
Everywhere you turn there will be things to see, smell and touch – plus a Pokemon Go lure as an added attraction.
Managing director Dean Paton said: “Sick to Death explains the history of Chester through the history of medicine and the well-being of its inhabitants.
"You can learn a lot about society by the way it treats its ill and its poor," he added.
He hopes youngsters will be excited by the gruesome nature of some of the exhibits then realise afterwards ‘whoops, I’ve accidentally learned something’.
There is mock-up plague cabin for the dying, replica Civil War helmets to show how injury could be prevented which children can try on, a flatulent ‘man’ complete with sound and smell effects, replica surgical tools used by barber surgeons, a real skeleton, skull casts for handling illustrating different diseases, a ‘woman’ with leprosy and a box into which youngsters can put their hand to touch different skin conditions.
One of the most shocking exhibits is the model of a condemned man swinging in a window whose innards were removed and examined to help early scientists learn about anatomy.
A bonus is the working Victorian camera obscura in Bonewaldesthorne’s Tower which offers an aerial view of Chester projected onto a screen in the dark. And there is a herb garden with medicinal herbs on a medieval walkway between the two towers where families will be able to enjoy a picnic.
Dean explains the concept: “It’s not Alton Towers where you spend three or four hours but it’s using what Chester has got to draw people in off the walls – 1.5m people walk the walls every year. This is another hour in Chester, more time spent in the city, more money spent in Chester, using the city’s heritage to look after Chester.”
He hopes the attraction, which he describes as ‘Horrible Histories meets science and medicine’, will be popular, including with school parties, and at least pay its way. But Dean accepts it won’t be for everybody.
“For every one child that might get a bit freaked out you might get eight or nine absolutely loving it,” he explains.
Admission is £4.74 for adults, £2.75 for children and under fives go free. The entry price includes activity packs for children including a make-your-own plague doctor mask. Dean teasingly suggests an even bigger attraction is planned for the city but can’t say any more at this stage.