Bring Out Your Dead: A Walk Through Plagues, Madness, and Medicine in Philadelphia - Atlas Obscura

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Bring Out Your Dead: A Walk Through Plagues, Madness, and Medicine in Philadelphia

Join health and science journalist Elana Gordon on a fascinating journey through the rise of modern medicine and psychiatry in America.

Join Atlas Obscura for a walking tour through Philadelphia's hidden landmarks that tell the story of the city's crucial role in the rise of modern medicine. On this journey with health and science journalist Elana Gordon, you'll explore how epidemics of Philadelphia's past have informed our present day understandings of disease, healthcare, and society.

Philadelphia is a hub for modern healthcare and research today, but it has always been a leader in medicine, from establishing the first hospital on colonial territory to its stake on the front lines of combating HIV/AIDS. The founding city is rich with hidden stories that add a different lens to a well traversed history, when viewed through some of the biggest threats to public health and mankind. On this tour, you'll visit a hidden moat, search for a sinister set of keys, investigate rotten coffee, and pay homage to a few founding fathers and several trailblazing women. 


Elana Gordon has covered everything from small pox in the age of Benjamin Franklin to drug use in the age of fentanyl. She helped launch WHYY's health and science show, "The Pulse," and has been a contributor to Kaiser Health News and NPR. Her stories about bodysnatching and Legionnaires' Disease have been featured on the popular podcasts "Criminal" and "99% Invisible." Most recently, she has been researching public health, neuroscience, and addiction as a Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT.  


  • The walking tour starts at the Benjamin Rush Garden, 143 S. 3rd St., and ends at Pennsylvania Hospital at 8th and Pine streets.
  • The tour is outdoors, so please dress for the weather and bring drinking water.
  • The walk covers approximately 2 miles, crossing streets and alleys in historic districts. Some parts of the walk could be challenging for anyone with accessibility issues. Please get in touch if this is a concern. 


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