An investigation at the University of Mississippi Medical Center Campus revealed a chilling suggestion: as many as 7,000 bodies are buried across its 20 acres, where the first Mississippi mental institution used to stand. Officials are now tasked with unearthing the 100-year old corpses from the ground for analysis.
According to records, close to 35,000 patients were admitted to the Insane Asylum from 1855 to 1935. A lot of the patients who died while institutionalized were buried at the Medical Center Campus’ cemetery, Gizmodo reports. Since the Insane Asylum was relocated some 80 years ago, the cemetery passed to the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
In 2013, construction workers digging in the lot found 66 coffins, which proved to be the tip of the iceberg. In 2014, while working on a parking garage, ground-penetrating radar showed more than 1,000 coffins more buried. Survey revealed a total of 2,000 coffins, and estimates now put the total number of deceased at 7,000.
University officials stat that it will cost around $3,000 to exhume and rebuy each body, costing a total of $21 million. The university is now looking at an alternative option where it will do the work in-house, costing $400,000 over eight years. The first 66 bodies will be reburied after analysis is completed, but the rest will remain where they lie. A memorial is planned in commemoration, along with a visitor’s center and a laboratory. Should the plan push through, this would be the first facility of its kind in the country.
Molly Zuckerman, UM anthropologist, said,
It would be a unique resource for Mississippi. It would make Mississippi a national center on historical records relating to health in the pre-modern period, particularly those being institutionalized.
To start, the university put together the Asylum Hill Research Consortium, a team of anthropologists, archeologists and historians.
Ralph Didlake of the UMMC’s Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, said, “We have inherited these patients. We want to show them care and respectful management.”