Take a Look Inside: It’s Three Dicks in a Box

At the Monroe Moosnick Medical History Museum in Kentucky, there is a locked antique case filled with 200-year-old penises that are only shown to visitors in-the-know.

By Lindsey B. Harris

In 2006, Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake introduced the world to a new holiday gift concept: the dick in a box.

Under the name The Lonely Island, they filmed a comical music video about their invention for Saturday Night Live! In it, they offer their dates huge, gift-wrapped presents, that, when opened, are actually completely empty, save for one item: their wieners. By cutting a hole through the side of the box, Samberg and Timberlake managed to turn an age-old invention into something new and hilarious.  

Most of us have probably seen this viral video by now, but have any of us actually borne witness to the genuine artifact? Probably not.

Unless, of course, you’ve visited the Monroe Moosnick Medical History Museum in Lexington, Kentucky. There, amidst the world’s largest buffalo hairball and a 19th-century stomach pump, they have not one, but three dicks in a box quietly tucked away in an unassuming antique case that is not on exhibit. They’re huge and hulking, at least a foot-long each, and are now, thanks to time, a nice, crumbly shade of brown. They look like huge turds.

Yes, they are real. And yes, you can see them if you ask.  

According to Jamie Day, the museum’s curator, these bad boys date back to the early 19th century and were used to educate future doctors during the Victorian era on the male reproductive and urological system.

The dicks are not part of the museum’s regular display and instead are tucked away in a box lest visitors become scandalized by their un-PG presence. I only found out about them because when I went there, Day appreciated my unbridled enthusiasm for some the museum's less popular displays, like the severed head with part of the skull sawed away. “If you like that, I’ve got something that’ll really surprise you,” he told me. I took the bait.

You may be wondering what use a medical school would have for disembodied penises, but when you consider that they probably had bladders attached to them, it makes more sense. (Unfortunately, in the 200-plus years since they were placed in the museum’s inventory, all that has survived are the schlongs themselves.)

Doctors needed an intimate knowledge of the way our bodies worked to graduate beyond the confines of quackery and chance that dominated the medical field until then. By the mid-1800s, advancements in health and science had stoked the public’s interest to such a degree that medical schools were established to teach the growing number of interested men how to get into the profession. Lacking computers and Powerpoint presentations, professors had to learn how to teach their students about the intricacies of the human body, and one way they did that was by examining actual body parts scavenged from cadavers.

And it wasn’t just preserved cocks that medical schools stored. They collected vaginas, too. The Monroe Moosnick Medical Museum used to have a vast collection of genitals, many of them stored in jars filled with alcohol, but Day said they were likely lost in one of the many fires that the museum has suffered. The three members are but all that is left.

The pickling of the penes is to credit for giving them their dark sheen and mammoth size. In fact, Day has a copy of the actual book that the doctors used as a reference when preserving them. Called Directions For Making Anatomical Preparations, Formed On The Basis Of Pole, Marjolin, And Breschet, And Including The New Method Of Mr. Swan, it was written by Dr. Usher Parsons, a surgeon who learned his trade on the battlefield, patching up injured soldiers during the War of 1812.

The section of the text that concerns our three friends is in a chapter called  Injecting and Preparing the Penis [sic]. It starts with an important note from Dr. Parsons: “A large penis is always preferred.”

He describes how to clean out the amputated dick next. “A large pipe inserted, through which warm water is to be injected and pressed out again, which is to be repeated as long as it turns bloody.”

To thwart hungry bugs, the penis is then soaked in a caustic solution, sometimes followed with suspending it in arsenic. Afterwards, it gets injected with colored wax or mercury, followed by a long period of drying and then a layer of varnish.

“Not a fancy mummification, but it gets the job done,” Day told me.

He explained that the use of wax and mercury is why the dicks are so large and heavy. They also look enormous because they represent the length of the entire penis. Trouser snakes that are still attached appear half as long because the other half is inside the body, connected to the pubic bone.

There is no record of the individuals from whom the museum received these three amigos. Cadavers at the time were generally anonymous, and while I couldn’t get Day to come right out and say that they were stolen from graves, he wasn’t able to deny it either.

The three penises have also been used in their fair share of pranks. Day said folks who ask to see the infamous box like to send photos of the phalluses to unsuspecting friends and family members — and you’ve got to admit, they are rather shocking to behold.

Even Ozzy and Jack Osbourne have been duped by this Pandora’s box. In an episode of their show Ozzy and Jack’s World Detour, they were presented with the case without being told what was inside it. A handwritten note normally under the lid that says, “WARNING: THREE PENISES INSIDE,” was conveniently missing to add dramatic effect to the show.

“Box of dicks? Fucking hell!” Ozzy proclaimed in his slurry British accent while Jack laughed in the background. “But why?”

Why not?


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