7,000 bodies have been found underneath the University of Mississippi Medical Center. A team of workers are locating the remains using ground-penetrating radar. Once a body is found, it is dug up and DNA tests run in case they have an opportunity to identify the remains. The reason there are so many bodies is the site is a former lunatic asylum, that was open from 1855 to 1935.
The asylum held a total of 35,000 patients during those years. When a patient died and they had no family or the asylum was unable to contact family in time, they would be buried right there on the grounds.
If you look closely at the image below, you can see outlines of the wooden graves, which were marked by pink flags…
The excavation provided closure for some of the patients family members who were still alive.
“People consistently want to know, can you find my ancestors in the records?” said Dr. Molly Zuckerman, who is an associate Anthropology professor at Mississippi State. “Overall, it’s just tremendous sadness and curiosity.”
While several years have passed, the family members of the asylum patients are still curious about the whereabouts of their long-lost relatives and Zuckerman says that she receives two to three emails a week from the descendants of the patients who know about the unveiling of the bodies.
“Sometimes it’s a straightforward exchange, other times we talk on the phone and I get to learn about the story that surrounds this ancestor, this lost ancestry,” said Zuckerman. “It’s never a happy story. It’s always tragic.”
People are so curious about their ancestor’s whereabouts that some have even taken it a step further and are in the process of using DNA to uncover a relative. Clinton, Mississippi resident, Karen Clark is one of those family members who is hoping to track down her great-great-great grandfather, Isham Earnest, who fought in a war between the United Kingdom and the U.S. in 1812. Clark believes that he died at the asylum between 1857 and 1859 and he was said to be diagnosed as “insane.”
“Hundreds, if not thousands, of descendants, are here today because of Isham Earnest,” Clark said. “Many are teachers, nurses, educators, and ministers.”