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7,000 Bodies From Old 'Insane Asylum' Found Buried Under University of Mississippi

May 11, 2017 10:22 AM EDT

The university of Mississipi may look like an ordinary school, but it has a secret buried underneath its medical center. Specifically, thousands of bodies worth of secrets.

According to a report from The Clarion-Ledger, there are up to 7,000 former patients buried on the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) campus. It turned out that the campus used to be home to the state's first mental institution called the Insane Asylum and built in 1855.

It was in 2013 when a construction crew working on the road of UMMC discovered the first bodies, according to a report from Smithsonian. Fast forward to present when thousands upon thousands of the dead were eventually found stretched across over 20 acres of the campus.

The discovery makes for a fascinating campus story, but officials face a steep cost for exhuming and reburying the bodies. An estimate of $21 million is necessary for the entire process.

As an alternative, the UMMC is exploring handling the exhumations within the campus at the expense of just $400,000 per year for about eight years. Their plans also include building a memorial for the remains with a laboratory that could study the remains, clothing and coffins in hopes of gaining a better understanding of life in the Insane Asylum.

"It would be a unique resource for Mississippi," said Molly Zuckerman, an associate professor in Mississippi State University's Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures. "It would make Mississippi a national center on historical records relating to health in the pre-modern period, particularly those being institutionalized."

Dr. Ralph Didlake, who oversees UMMC's Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, formed the Asylum Hill Research Consortium with Zuckerman and other experts in relation to the plans for the memorial. Didlake pointed out that such a facility would be the first of its kind in the United States.

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