UMMC finds thousands of bodies on its campus

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) — Officials at the University of Mississippi Medical Center said experts believe there are thousands of unmarked graves on the school’s campus.

We’re told they are the bodies of former patients at the state’s first mental institution. Instead of moving the remains, the school is planning to use them for education purposes.

Ralph Didlake of UMMC said archaeologists now believe there are up to 7,000 bodies buried here on campus. He said construction crews found 66 more graves while planning to build a parking garage.

“These people can teach us a lot,” he said.

Back in 2014, radar found around a thousand unmarked graves during another construction project. Experts said the bodies are from Mississippi’s first mental institution that was open from the mid-1850s to the 1930s.

“What was the experience of these individuals?,” said Didlake. “What can their remains tell us about a mental institution in a 19th century early 20th century?”

Didlake said it would cost the school about $21 million to exhume and rebury the bodies. Instead, he said UMMC plans to build a functional memorial.

“A place, not only for a final resting place but also for a research and education facility. This will be a great platform for training anthropologists, archaeologists, historians and anyone who wants to be informed by these people.”

“We want to be respectful and want to be deeply engaged in the decedent community and how we honorably take care of these people,” he said.

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