“Twilight at the Museum” A Mix of Grisly Displays, History, and Goodies

The Country Doctor Museum entrance and gift shop, as seen from Peele Road, Bailey, NC. Photo: Kay Whatley
The Country Doctor Museum entrance and gift shop, as seen from Peele Road, Bailey, NC. Photo: Kay Whatley

On the evening of October 19, 2019, The Country Doctor Museum in Bailey, North Carolina invited the public to their “Twilight at the Museum” event. Volunteers in costume set the tone as families arrived to see the spooky side of early medicine and enjoy complimentary cake, popcorn, and hot cider.

The Country Doctor Museum is the oldest museum in the United States dedicated to the history of America’s rural health care. It’s unique and has a wide variety of medical paraphernalia on display.

The mid-October weather was cool and comfortable, not cold. Costumed “Plague Doctors” and students in Victorian clothing roamed the museum grounds handing out candy to children and adults. Volunteers in an old-time nurse’s uniform or a long black dress led groups through The Country Doctor Museum and shared historical information on Victorian medicine, doctoring, hospital conditions, and more. The museum displays include a wide variety of artifacts from the days when doctors made home visit and embalming was a new thing. Tours of the museum were given for a $4 fee, with funds going to the museum.

Historical demonstrations of Civil War era amputation surgery and embalming techniques were given throughout the evening. A photo area was set up with a “corpse” (skeleton) inside the gift shop. In the refreshments tent, a fortune teller read palms and gave fortunes.

 

Volunteer dressed as a Plague Doctor, playing statue and waiting for someone to sit down for a "Boo." Photo: Kay Whatley
Volunteer dressed as a Plague Doctor, playing statue and waiting for someone to sit down for a “Boo.” Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Tour group approaching The Country Doctor Museum, led by a costumed volunteer. Photo: Kay Whatley
Tour group approaching The Country Doctor Museum, led by a costumed volunteer. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Southern Q food truck, seating area, and food-and-beverage tent during Twilight at the Museum event. Photo: Kay Whatley
Southern Q food truck, seating area, and food-and-beverage tent during Twilight at the Museum event. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Volunteer Tess leading a tour group through The Country Doctor Museum, pointing to artificial limbs on display. Photo: Kay Whatley
Volunteer Tess leading a tour group through The Country Doctor Museum, pointing to artificial limbs on display. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Inside the Carriage House, visitors were given an overview of embalming and its increased use during the Civil War. Photo: Kay Whatley
Inside the Carriage House, visitors were given an overview of embalming and its increased use during the Civil War. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

A Plague Doctor hands out candy to the tour group during Twilight at the Museum 2019. Photo: Kay Whatley
A Plague Doctor hands out candy to the tour group during Twilight at the Museum 2019. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Free cake, cider, and popcorn were passed out inside this tent, while a performer demonstrated in graphic detail how amputations were performed during Civil War times. At the tent entrance, a Plague Doctor distributes candy. Photo: Kay Whatley
Free cake, cider, and popcorn were passed out inside this tent, while a performer demonstrated in graphic detail how amputations were performed during Civil War times. At the tent entrance, a Plague Doctor distributes candy. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

A performer demonstrates amputations as performed during Civil War times. Photo: Kay Whatley
A performer demonstrates amputations as performed during Civil War times. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

During Twilight at the Museum, a volunteer told fortunes by reading palms. Photo: Kay Whatley
During Twilight at the Museum, a volunteer told fortunes by reading palms. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Something wicked this way comes. Just kidding. It’s a Plague Doctor stealthily approaching tour guests with museum in the background at right. Photo: Kay Whatley
Something wicked this way comes. Just kidding. It’s a Plague Doctor stealthily approaching tour guests with museum in the background at right. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Display containing a country doctor's home visit ledger. Photo: Kay Whatley
Display containing a country doctor’s home visit ledger. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Display showing contents of a country doctor's bag. Photo: Kay Whatley
Display showing contents of a country doctor’s bag. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Iron lung on display in the Carriage House at The Country Doctor's Museum. Photo: Kay Whatley
Iron lung on display in the Carriage House at The Country Doctor’s Museum. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Old-time medicines in a cabinet at The Country Doctor Museum, Bailey, NC. Photo: Kay Whatley
Old-time medicines in a cabinet at The Country Doctor Museum, Bailey, NC. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

"Cure You or Kill You" medicine artifacts on display in The Country Doctor Museum. Photo: Kay Whatley
“Cure You or Kill You” medicine artifacts on display in The Country Doctor Museum. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Medicinal supplies on display in the doctor's cabinets. Photo: Kay Whatley
Medicinal supplies on display in the doctor’s cabinets. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Old-time medicine artifacts on display in The Country Doctor Museum, Bailey, NC. Photo: Kay Whatley
Old-time medicine artifacts on display in The Country Doctor Museum, Bailey, NC. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Old-time medicine artifacts on display in The Country Doctor Museum, Bailey, NC. Photo: Kay Whatley
Old-time medicine artifacts on display in The Country Doctor Museum, Bailey, NC. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Live leeches on display in The Country Doctor Museum, Bailey, NC. Photo: Kay Whatley
Live leeches on display in The Country Doctor Museum, Bailey, NC. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

This event was fun, educational in a grisly way, and well-worth it. Many of those in the crowd not only took the tour, but stayed for several hours, cycling through the buildings and grounds.

Although this event is over, the museum is open year round and many of the items displayed during Twilight at the Museum are available to see during their regular daylight hours. There won’t be demonstrations and Plague Doctors, though. For that, you’ll have to attend Twilight at the Museum next year!

The Country Doctor Museum is located at 6642 Peele Road, in Bailey NC.  For more information on this Bailey, NC attraction, see www.countrydoctormuseum.org. Follow the Country Doctor Museum on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CDMBailey.

 

The Country Doctor Museum gift shop offers a wide variety of books on herbs, natural, and historical medicines. Photo: Kay Whatley
The Country Doctor Museum gift shop offers a wide variety of books on herbs, natural, and historical medicines. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

There’s also a history book about The Country Doctor Museum written by local authors James A. and Margaret B. Bailey. Photo: Kay Whatley
There’s also a history book about The Country Doctor Museum written by local authors James A. and Margaret B. Bailey. Photo: Kay Whatley

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Part of the Things We Did in NC When We Were Bored series.

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About Kay Whatley 2136 Articles
Kay Whatley serves as Editor and Reporter with The Grey Area News. Kay is a published author with over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. Kay Whatley is wife to Frank Whatley, founder of The Grey Area™ newspaper and The Grey Area News online news website.