7,000 bodies said to be buried on Mississippi campus 4
In this 2013 UMMC photo, Forrest Follet from the Cobb Institute of Archaeology, Mississippi State University, removes the soil from the lids of the dozens of unmarked graves uncovered during construction on the UMMC campus. (Photo: Special to The Clarion-Ledger)

JACKSON, Miss. — Leading experts estimate that up to 7,000 bodies are buried on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus.

They are said to be former patients of the state’s first mental institution, called the Insane Asylum (clever), built in 1855, underground radar shows their coffins stretch across 20 acres of the campus, where officials have wanted to build.

But those officials have a dilemma, $3,000 to exhume and rebury each body, as much as $21 million total. This puts quite the damper on their plans….

Now UMMC is looking into a cheaper alternative of handling those exhumations in-house, at a cost of $400,000 per year for at least eight years. It would also create a memorial that would preserve the remains with a visitors center and a lab that could be used to study the remains as well as the remnants of clothing and coffins.

Ralph Didlake, who oversees UMMC’s Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, believes this type of lab would be the first of its kind in the nation — giving researchers insight into life in the asylum in the 1800s and early 1900s.

insane asylum