Milledgeville's cemetery for the insane: Visiting the world's most macabre memorial

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Milledgeville's cemetery for the insane: Visiting the world's most macabre memorial

milledgeville\'s cemetery for the insane: visiting the world\'s most macabre memorial

tatiana danger Tatiana Danger

15 May, 2015

If you find yourself traveling through Baldwin County in Georgia, you may want to pay a visit to a very unique memorial. Cedar Lane Cemetery is home to rows upon rows of numbered iron markers. What these markers represent are the souls of the insane that died at Central State Hospital, which at one point was the world's largest insane asylum. However, the insane asylum in Milledgeville was sorely lacking in effective burial methods. It's believed that the fields around where the asylum once stood are the site of a secret mass grave, where tens of thousands of souls are interred, without identification by way of grave markers. 

The hospital was built in 1842 in response to social reform movements. By 1872 the ratio of patients to physicans was 112-1.

"In 1872 the hospital possessed a ratio of 112 patients per physician, a number that would not improve for almost a century. Central State underwent a dramatic increase in patient population during the second half of the century, when local communities began sending unwanted or problematic residents to the asylum, regardless of their diagnoses." - Georgia Encyclopedia

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During the 40s the hospital had about 10,000 patients, who lived there for about 20 years on average. During this time shock therapy was introduced on a mass-assembly basis. Then in 1951 lobotomies were introduced. 125 patients received lobotomies. By this point local area newspapers began to take note of the deteriorating conditions and frequently ran reports of patient abuse. In the 60s the hospital housed over 12,000 patients. 


Photo by Craig Dominey

Some patients were lucky enough to be discharged from the hospital eventually, following treatment. Unfortunately, many, many others were not as lucky. For these unlucky patients what waited for them after death was burial in an unmarked mass grave. It's believed over 30,000 of these neglected souls are now buried throughout the surrounding grounds. 

In the late 1930s, an African-American cemetery was dug up and the bodies were removed, often placed in small boxes, and marked with a lone metal pole. The way each body was identified was numerically. There are six cemeteries that went neglected for decades. Many consider this mass burial ground to be the world's largest for the mentally-ill. 


Craig Dominey

During the 1960s many of the numbered markers were gathered up and discarded, in order to clean up the grounds. The Georgia Consumer Council responded years later by collecting as many iron grave markers as they could find and assembling them into the makeshift memorial you can visit today. It truly is one of the world's most macabre memorials. 

The historic marker at the cemetery states the following:

In 1997 a cemetery restoration began here triggered a movement to memorialize patients buried at state psychiatric hospitals nationwide. After discovering nearby neglected cemeteries interred some 25,000 people, members of the Georgia Consumer Council pledge to restore the burial grounds and build a memorial. A grassroots campaign raised funds to erect the adjacent gate and display 2,000 numbered iron markers displaced from graves over the years. A life-size bronze angel was placed 175 yards south of here to serve as a perpetual guardian. 

cedar lane

And of course, some people think the grounds are haunted.

Here's a list of the identified and unidentified graves.

If you'd like to tour the hospital grounds, contact the Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority.


Photo by Craig Dominey


Friends of Baldwin County Cemeteries; But for the Grace of God: The Inside Story of the World's Largest Insane Asylum, Milledgeville (1981) by Peter Cranford; Central State Hospital

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