University Says Up to 7000 Bodies are Buried on Campus

Posted May 09, 2017

University officials believe at least 7,000 bodies could be buried on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus.

Didlake said current estimates put the number as high as 7,000.

Exhuming and reburying each body would reportedly cost the medical center almost $21 million in total. The "Insane Asylum" was the state's first and operated until 1935.

The asylum was built in 1855 and meant to improve conditions and treatment of the mentally ill, with many said to have been living chained up in closets or attics. By 2014, 1,000 more coffins were found when the school was constructing a parking garage.

It's possible that in addition to a memorial, a lab would be created that would allow researchers to study the remains and gain insight into asylum living. The university is now considering an alternative plan in which it'll do the work in-house, at a cost of $400,000 per year over the course of eight years.

Underground radar recently revealed as many as 7,000 coffins beneath the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, said Ralph Didlake, UMMC's professor of surgery and director of the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities. 'We want to show them care and respectful management'.

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Mississippi's first mental institution became a reality when reformer Dorothea Dix rallied support among state lawmakers to fund construction of the $175,000 asylum, completed in 1855.

The group includes Molly Zuckerman, associate professor in MS state department of anthropology and Middle Eastern cultures.

A group of academics have formed a consortium dedicated to studying the remains.

"It would make MS a national centre on historical records relating to health in the pre-modern period, particularly those being institutionalised". Before that, mental health patients were chained in jails and attics. During that time period, more than one in five of them died. The institute was expanded after the Civil War, and at its height around 6,000 patients were housed at the facility.

The remains were likely of patients of the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum, which in 1855 opened as the state's first mental institution.

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