As much as 7,000 corpses were found buried on the grounds of the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) campus. It is believed the remains belong to former patients of a mental institution called the Insane Asylum.
An underground radar showed several coffins spread out across 20 acres of campus where officials wanted to build. The said coffins are believed to house the remains of several patients from the Insane Asylum that was built in 1855. As many as 1,376 patients had been admitted here from 1855 to 1877. And during this period, more than one in five patients died. Meanwhile, at its peak, the asylum reportedly housed more than 6,000 patients. In 1935, the asylum was moved to its current location at State Hospital in Whitfield.
The recent discovery is not the first time that the university had found remains in its property. In fact, back in 2013, university officials found 66 coffins in the site while they were constructing a road on the campus. The following year, an underground radar led to the discovery of a thousand more coffins. At the same time, UMMC’s Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities head Ralph Didlake estimated that as many 7,000 could still exist.
Today, officials face significant costs if they decide to exhume and rebury all of the remains. According to a report by USA Today, it would cost $3,000 to exhume and rebury each set remains. This would amount to as much as $21 million in total.
UMMC may conduct exhumation in-house.
This is exactly why UMMC is looking into doing the exhumations in-house. In this case, the cost would amount to $400,000 a year with the operation running for at least eight years. The plan is to create a memorial that would help preserve the remains. At the same time, there would also be a lab that would study the remains along with the coffins and any remnants of clothing.
As of the moment, Ole Miss is welcoming the idea of housing the remains they have found. “It would be a unique resource for Mississippi,” Mississippi State’s department of anthropology and Middle Eastern cultures associate professor Molly Zuckerman explained. “It would make Mississippi a national center on historical records relating to health in the pre-modern period, particularly those being institutionalized.”
“We have inherited these patients. We want to show them care and respectful management,” Didlake added.