The Athens Lunatic Asylum” (now The State Psychiatric Hospital Cemeteries – The Ridges)
Earlier this summer two friends and I made a day trip to Athens, visiting the Ridges and taking photographs. I’d always heard about the old hospital and cemetery but had never had (or made) the opportunity to visit.
According to the brochure we found in a box on the Nature Walk, the Athens Lunatic Asylum opened in January 1874. This stately campus featured “elegant buildings” and “elaborate landscaping” including parks, fountains and ponds.
From the 1870s to 1943 numbered (unnamed, undated) stones marked graves of unclaimed patients’ bodies. During this time, the bodies were washed, wrapped in shrouds, not embalmed, then placed in wooden coffins, then carried to the grave by four pall bearers (and grave diggers), a hospital representative and a chaplain. There was no visitation, and no mourners in attendance. If the deceased were a Christian, prayers were read.
During the 1900s, funds for maintenance were scarce and the cemetery grounds were no longer beautifully landscaped. By the 1980s the cemeteries were overgrown.
The Ridges is now part of Ohio University.
By 2006, the cemeteries were restored, the Nature Walk was built, and the old pond rebuilt.
In 2005, a law was enacted, thanks to State Representative Jimmy Stewart (his real name) and the Cemeteries Committee, giving public access to the identity of those buried in state mental hospital graveyards in Ohio.
As late as 1978, a female patient wandered off, her decomposing body found several weeks later in an abandoned ward.
These websites are very informative: