With a basketball in hand, arm stretched forward and one foot off the ground, the man on display at a Los Angeles science museum looks like he’s dribbling toward a two-pointer. But a half-second glance reveals that he’s missing a few things. Like a pair of shoes. A uniform. And, incredibly, just about every last bit of his skin. Creepy photos!

The unidentified basketball player is a dissected and flayed cadaver, preserved in a way that makes him look like a freeze-dried statue. While his skin is gone, a variety of muscle fibers, blood vessels and glands remains. Even his testicles and trimmed toenails are intact. And in one last touch, his skull is cracked open to reveal his reddish-brown brain.



Creepy? Maybe. A crowd-pleaser? Absolutely. The basketball player and some 20 other preserved bodies have been traveling Europe and Asia for eight years, attracting an estimated 15 million visitors. Now, the controversial Body Worlds exhibit is on display in the United States for the first time.



Each day, steady streams of visitors pay $12 each and spend hours peering into the eyes — some fake, some real — of the dead at the California Science Center, a museum that sits next to the University of Southern California. Typical visits last two hours or more.



“A lot of people come in with an initial apprehension, but they get consumed with the fascination for what they look like under the skin,” said deputy museum director Diane Perlov. “That mesmerizes them and takes over.”



Indeed, the crowd was hushed on a recent Sunday afternoon as they gaped at a man playing chess, with all his nerves exposed, and at the “swimmer,” a blond woman posed as if gliding through water, oblivious to the fact that she’s in two pieces, split laterally down the spine to expose a cross section of her body.



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