Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Person P46

yesterday i showed you a picture of the last remaining building of the metropolitan state hospital in waltham, which closed in 1992. we were there the last weekend of april. one evening, when i planned to post a picture of it here, and i was looking up some info on the history of the hospital, i stumbled upon a blog that showed its cemetery! cemetery?! we had walked around the grounds quite a bit, but we didnt see a cemetery.... but the mere fact that there was a cemetery associated with the hospital meant that we had to go back and find it, which is what we did last saturday.... even with the directions printed, we had a hard time finding it, we went wrong twice (really, really wrong), before we finally found it; the metfern cemetery. its almost 3/4 of a mile away from the hospital grounds, in the middle of the woods...
above you see one of the "gravestones". P 46. thats it. thats the grave for a person. no name. just a number, and either a P or a C in front of it. P meaning the person was protestant, and a C for Catholic. they were separated on either side of the grassy field (more pics here on my flickr account). some of the markers were toppled over, some were overgrown and others were unreadable. imagine that. you die in a psychiatric hospital, and then you are buried as a number. in fact, between 1880 and 1946 people from the metropolitan state hospital and the fernald school (an institution for people with developmental disabilities) were buried at the mount feake cemetery without ANY individual marker, so this individual number can be seen as an "improvement", which is how they buried their patients from 1949-1979; approximately 300 patients are buried here like this. my questions; why did this occur at another, their own, cemetery? and what happened after 1979? are there any records of the names of the people belonging to these numbers?! 1979 is not that long ago; did they really think this was the way to do it, even just 30 years ago?!! (this is just a subset of my questions...)
as you can see in my set on flickr, it is now sort of clear that that open spot in the middle of the woods is a cemetery, but that didnt seem to be the case originally as you can see here in a picture taken in 2004. moreover, when construction began for the fancy apartments that replaced the hospital, workers were unaware of the cemetery and made part of it a road to be used for heavy construction equipment.... 
im glad there are many blogs etc swimming around on the internet, telling us about these cemeteries (there are more, and i will use another tuesday to show you), so that they still will be visited from time to time.....
for more taphophilia, go here!

11 comments:

Nellies said...

First of all, what a beautiful photo. And 2nd, what an utterly sad story, I have a hard time believing they buried all those people without an marker and later with just only a number....only such a relative short time ago, why did they think this was the way to do it?? Thanks for sharing!!

Nicola Carpenter said...

Beautiful picture. Sadly not an uncommon occurance when it came to hospitals and asylums.

Awful to think that you leave this world as just a number.

Herding Cats

biebkriebels said...

What a sad story, you did a lot of research to find out the history and to look for the cemetery yourself. It is so awful to see the stone with a P or a C, as if that is the most important thing to mentione.

CaT said...

i didnt know of the existence of these cemeteries before i found out about this one! now i know there are many, all associated with mental institutions...
i read somewhere that it also has to do with preserving the privacy of the patient, and that that is why they are not buried by name but by number...

Tim Berendsen said...

visiting and learning about these facilities has been really fun these last weeks.

Kay said...

I wonder if "C" may stand for "Catholic" rather than "Christian." Catholics and Jews often have their own separate cemeteries.

Very interesting - and sad - post.

CaT said...

whoops! you are right! it should be catholic, not christian... thanks. just changed it...

Julie said...

Yes, i can understand Tim's comment about 'fun'. This sort of discovery would engross me, too.

And no, it does not surprise me that asylum patients were buried with a number, because usually they only lived as a number. The sooner our societies alter this approach, the more fully human we all will be.

Interesting that little mention of the working men and grading of the access road. Did they alter their plans at all when they knew that there were bodies in the immediate vicinity? I bet all knowledge of the cemetery is 'white-washed' as the apartments are sold to those wishing a good investment.

You have inspired me to look up some 'asylums' here in Sydney. Although, I already am behind in visiting the cemeteries that I 'discovered' last week.

Now to look at your links and your other photographs. I enjoy your contribution each week, Cat (and Tim!). I even enjoy your hurried visits on the Tuesday evening when you are obviously very very late at night ... fun and joy. Keep it up!!

Shuko K. said...

Hi CaT,

Awesome post!

I found your observation that numbered gravestones were considered as "improvement" very thought provoking! But as you might felt it, why do those numbered stones give a spine chilling feeling?

Because of the shame attached to mental illness, numbering is more "considerate" way to commemorate them?

My thoughts keep going on...It's good to see you, keep in touch.

Shuko

John Doe said...

I was told that the wall at Metfern cemetery was added after it was discovered that construction trucks were actually driving through the graves. Perhaps this is what happened to the Welch marker.

John Doe said...

http://www.mikedijital.us/Anna/WebSite/metro_metfern_cemetary.html