Stevie Tombstone at the Milledgeville Mental Hospital cemetery in Georgia
The Deep South holds many secrets,if you are willing to look in the right places. Sometimes all I have to do is travel back to my childhood in Georgia.
When I was a kid they used to say “watch out or they’ll send you to Milledgeville". We were told that they sent “crazy folks” there and the criminally insane and we would never come back if we didn’t straighten up our behavior. Little did I know I would find myself there almost 40 plus years later the morning after a show and late night (3 am) trip to the Golden Pantry (the best chicken biscuits I've had in my life, sorry Bojangles). As for Milledgeville Mental Hospital (as Granny called it) I soon found that what started out as a therapeutic facility turned into a dark cloud on Georgia history and the mental intuitions of the day as well.
Grand entrance to the Milledgeville Mental Institution
It is said that well over 25,000 folks were buried on the grounds at Central State Hospital, many unceremoniously and perhaps many more unaccounted for. It was originally called the Georgia Lunatic Asylum. The grounds and buildings reflect the dark but beautiful heritage of “Southern Gothic”. Many of the structures are in great disrepair with vines growing over the burned out windows and dark empty halls that once housed the unwanted from society and those who spoke against the status quo from time to time. Medical experimentation / shock treatment went pre-dominantly unsupervised at the discretion of staff members and the steady influx of "patients" created a large population that became the workforce on the grounds, as well building and farming among other things to make the Asylum self sustaining hell on earth to some.
The grounds contain six neglected cemeteries and the interred were marked only by small metal posts with numbers inscribed if anything to mark the spot. These graves were moved, lost or forgotten about along with many of the markers. Today, Cedar Hill Cemetery is the site for the installation of markers in remembrance of the unhonored dead and to mark the past of Central State.
The facility is still partially in operation on a much smaller scale and in adherence to modern out-patient procedures and treatments. Sprawling over 17,000 acres many come to explore, ghost hunt, photograph the architecture or just pay their respects.
One of the fringe benefits of my job is getting to enjoy a little weird history lesson from time to time as well as soak up the local flavor. Milledgeville, Georgia is a beautiful city to visit and has a rich history steeped in southern tradition. I’m lucky to have had the time to get to know folks there and see the rest of the sights during my travels.
Here are some more links to check out on the Asylum and if you are in the market for some late night culinary delights visit the Golden Pantry and tell em I sent ya.
Thanks to Matt McGee for photos, biscuits and real Southern Hospitality.