Like any completely normal adult, I have a cemetery bucket list. Bucket list seems very appropriate in this context. Ya know, just a bunch of cemeteries I want to see before I too kick the bucket. At the very top of this list was a single headstone that is actually in Ohio. One word…
What in the world are ‘specimens’?! I mean, obviously, I know what the word means but having it on a tombstone seems… I don’t even know. It’s weird. It’s concerning. Just like skulls on a headstone, I think the appeal to me is that is just seems like it has to be fake. It seems more like a Halloween decoration. But it’s not. This headstone resides in Columbus at the State of Ohio Asylum for the Insane Cemetery. Specimens in this case are most likely parts that had been removed during standard procedures and kept to study at the hospital. (Tumors, gallbladders, kidneys, etc) After a number of years it’s easy to imagine they’d probably have a pretty large collection of spare parts that they didn’t know what to do with. I guess it’s also in the realm of possibilities that it’s something a lot more sinister…
I don’t remember how long it’s been on my radar but it’s safe to say it’s been a loooong time. From the minuscule amount of information I could find about this place I was under the impression that it was private property. Despite what my previously blogged about adventures would have you believe, there are certain places I’m just sketched out about trespassing. Patrolled state property is definitely one of those places I don’t want to be lurking around on my own.
On the way down to Louisville the weekend before last Jeff asked if I wanted to stop at the cemetery. I’ve honestly been begging him to go down there with me since we met but my lack of information on the place made the drive seem like it might not really be worth it. Since I was driving he mapped it out and got me directions. I was nervous we wouldn’t be able to visit but excited that he was finally willing to go with me.
There are a handful of cemeteries that the mental health hospital used and luck was in my favor because two of them have geocaches. I know that just because there is a geocache somewhere doesn’t make it a legal place to be buuuut you have to agree that “Oh, I’m sorry, we were just looking for a geocache.” sounds a lot better to most people than “I like to photograph cemeteries.”
My main priority was finding the ‘specimen’ headstone so that’s where we headed first. Jeff went straight for the geocache while I proceeded to photograph headstones. I’m not going to lie, finally seeing it was sort of anticlimactic. I had a very vivid vision in my head of what visiting would be like and this was nothing like that at all. We parked in a parking lot and walked into a fairly well manicured cemetery. No sneaking, no feeling like I shouldn’t be there, just a regular old cemetery. Still, I was pleased to be there.
About 25% of the cemetery is filled with headstones similar in shape to the specimen one except they have names and dates. At first I assumed the rest of the cemetery was empty or at least had a bunch of unmarked graves but I quickly realized how wrong I was. Small headstones the size of bricks cover the cemetery. Each one marked with a number and “M”for male or “F” for female. Despite the fact the cemetery wasn’t overgrown or abandoned by any means, its easy to see how in another ten years or so any traces of the smaller headstones could be gone. This was only my second experience with headstones that didn’t have names, only identifying numbers so it’s still a bit perturbing to me. (See Wayne County Home Cemetery) These ones especially so since marking with male or female makes it seem even more anonymous.
After the first cemetery, we headed to a second. I was a bit more hesitant about visiting this one but again, geocaching seemed like a good enough excuse to be there. We parked on a little dirt pull off on the side of a fairly busy road and followed a muddy trail back to the cemetery. The approach to this cemetery was a bit closer to what I imagined the other one being like. Despite following a very clear path there, I felt like we had discovered a little piece of forgotten history.
One of my favorite things about the second cemetery was the arrangement of the headstones. There was a grave marker in the middle that was almost illegible except for “C. O. L. Asylum”. Surrounding that were small, rectangular headstones. There were lots of interesting ones including a few unknowns, a handful with names and only death dates but my favorite of the group had to be “(?) GLICK” Was that their nickname and their real name was unknown? Perhaps Glick was their last name and their first was unknown? Either way, I think it’s really interesting to put a question mark on a headstone.
I am so happy to finally crossed “specimens” off my list of things to see, and even happier to have also visited a second cemetery with equally as interesting headstones. There is so much history packed into these places!