Spot The Diseased Elves At The Old Operating Theatre

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By M@
Spot The Diseased Elves At The Old Operating Theatre
A toy elf with some kind of facial pox. Seems happy enough though

Elf on the shelf becomes Elf on the sickbed at the London Bridge attraction.

It's a tough life being an elf at the Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret. The elfin community here is susceptible to a range of communicable diseases, including TB, syphilis, smallpox, gangrene, plague, cholera, and tapeworm.

A toy elf with blood dripping from its mouth

Visitors to the museum are encouraged to look out for the pointy-eared patients, while they make their way around the displays on the history of medicine.

An elf with black splotches all over its face

The fever-faced faeriefolk are the handiwork of Monica Walker, Engagement & Front of House Manager for the operating theatre. As well as delivering a pox unto her elves, Monica has also arranged an amputation for one of Santa's little helpers.

A toy elf having its leg amputated by another toy elf

The elves seem happy enough, despite their various maladies. It's smiles all round. Even the choleric elf can't stifle his grin, as he sits on the basin edge preparing to vomit.

A blue-faced elf, showing signs of cholera

There is an educational side to this festive disease show. Visitors must attempt to diagnose each elf's ailment from the visible symptoms. Nearby medical cards give more information to aid diagnosis.

The museum is currently celebrating 60 years as a visitor attraction, and 200 years since the first operations were performed here. The space was formerly part of St Thomas's hospital, and was used for amputations and other surgery — all pre-anaesthetic. The museum tells this gory history, along with that of the attached herb garret.

If you want to see the poorly elves, you'll have to be quick. The museum will temporarily close on 11 December until March 2023, for the installation of a new skylight. Hopefully, the increased rays will boost elfin vitamin D levels, and not so many will fall sick next year.

The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret is accessed via the tower of St Thomas's, St Thomas's Street, London Bridge. Open Thursday-Sunday from 10.30am-5pm, prebook tickets. Note, access is via a 52-step spiral staircase.

Last Updated 05 December 2022