The grotesque scene above shows the aftermath of a disastrous fire at London's Madame Tussauds in 1925. The whole building became a chamber of horrors, when a huge blaze ripped through the upper floors.
Newsreel footage of the time shows the Baker Street attraction almost completely gutted. The famous Planetarium dome is but a skeleton. Charred limbs and broken waxwork torsos peep through the rubble in a mannequin atrocity.
The blaze occurred on 18 March 1925 and took an hour and a half to extinguish. The scenes inside must have resembled the finale to Raiders of the Lost Arc, with melting faces everywhere.
Members of Parliament, world leaders, sports personalities, historical characters and infamous criminals all burned in effigy during the greatest celebrity bonfire of all time.
These most expensive of candles caused quite an inferno. One witness described the spectacle: 'Strong red and golden flames leapt 50 feet from the roof of the building. The wax models could be distinctly heard sizzling themselves to "death".'
The surreal scene became still odder when the fire chief began tackling the flames in full evening dress, having been summoned from a nearby theatre.
This was a devastating fire, which put Madame Tussauds out of action for years. The whole of the top floor was destroyed, with heavy water damage to the lower floors. A collection of important Napoleonic relics — including the emperor's coaches and deathbed — were also lost. Fortunately, nobody was injured and the building was insured.
One survivor was a parrot in a cage. According to a press report, 'Doubts were expressed at first as to whether it was a live or a wax bird. But after a moment or two in the fresh air... [it] began to show signs of the returning perkiness usually characteristic of a healthy parrot'. To the amazement of the crowd — who had reportedly taken bets on whether the bird was real — its first words were 'This is a rotten business'.
The attraction took three years to bounce back. As luck would have it, the wax moulds had been stored at a separate site, making the job of repopulating the building all the simpler. Madame Tussauds reopened in 1928 with a new cinema and restaurant, and presumably a few more fire buckets.