Imagine, if you will, discovering that you have been walking, working, living on a property then discovering that you have been doing all of that with 7,000 bodies buried under your feet. Sounds like the setting of a horror film doesn’t it? It is not. That’s exactly what happened to the people who live and work on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus.
In 2013, when construction began on a road running through UMMC 66 coffins were uncovered. In 2014 during the building of a parking just east of the dental school, a crew using underground radar found 1,000 more bodies. Now, they are estimating 7,000 or more bodies are buried on the campus.
So, where did the bodies come from? Mississippi’s first mental institution, built in 1855, once stood where the collage is now. The 7,000 coffins belong to the patients who did not survive their stay in the insane asylum. Their remains are spread over 20 acres of the campus.
Believe it or not, the asylum was a step up for the patients of the hospital. Before it was built, mentally ill people were either jailed or chained in attics or basements, or even killed. However, the asylum had harsh conditions. Treatments included lobotomies, electric shock, starvation diets, hydrotherapy, keeping patients heavily drugged, and procedures like trepanation where a doctor would drill holes in a patient’s skull.
The collage plans to study the corpses. They hope to learn more about the era, the patients, treatments and anything else they could learn. A group of anthropologists, archaeologists, historians and dating experts have come together to make the Asylum Hill Research Group, Channel 11 News reports. They also plan to build a memorial to honor the patients.
While doing research for this article, I couldn’t help but feel sadness for what the patients experienced. I also can’t help but wonder if their spirits still roam the land.