Formerly known as "Creepy-chusetts, Strange-chusetts".

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bridewater State Hopital Cemetery 2-2, Bridgewater

From: Bridgewater State Hospital Cemetery 1-2, Bridgewater

From Titicut Follies (1967)

I visited Bridgewater State Hospital Cemetery to connect a patient -- who is coffined in the above picture -- and one of the 346 nameless, numbered gravestones in the cemetery.

Together with the cemetery, Bridgewater State Hospital was established in 1850's as a state run almshouse. Currently, the hospital is functioning as a medium security correctional facility.

The cemetery is located 1.2 mile north of the hospital. In the cemetery, there is a small enclosed burial ground named "Conant Street Small Pox Cemetery". Established in 1778, this small burial ground is the final resting place for some of the local members.   

Conant St Small Pox Cemetery est 1778
Bridgewater State Hospital Cemetery est 1853

Directed by Fredrick Wiseman in 1967, Titicut Follies starkly documented the daily operation at Bridgewater State Hospital where the patients/ inmates were constantly stripped naked and taunted by the staff.

A brief time after the release, the state of Massachusetts sued Wiseman, arguing that he infringed the "patients' privacy and dignity". While Wiseman had an oral consent from the superintendent, the Massachusetts Supreme Court judged in 1969 that the documentary could not be distributed to general public*.

* The court "allowed it to be shown only to doctors, lawyers, judges, health-care professionals, social workers, and students in these and related fields." -- from The follies of documentary making

Finally the documentary made it to general public in 1991. Superior Judge Court ruled that there was little concern regarding the patients' privacy because the majority of them already passed away. 

From Wikipedia

The most shocking scene of the movie is where an anorexic patient (possibly due to his psychiatric disorder) was forcefully fed by a chain smoking doctor with a heavy European accent. Restrained onto a table, his face is covered by a towel. But the camera zooms in to capture his eyes; wet with tears from pain, humiliation, and fear.

The voice of inmates and workers echos in the background, and the doctor, a cigarette in his mouth, even laughs while exchanging a quick conversation with other workers, portraying that it is merely an everyday operation carried out in Bridgewater.

The scene of force feeding is disturbingly crossed with the one with a body -- the very body which is strapped onto the table naked and being fed -- being embalmed. Clad with black suit, his body with sunken eyes shut is coffined and transported to a non descriptive cemetery plot with a distinctive concrete enclosure.

1967, from Titicut Follies
2011

This is the enclosure that helped me tracing the very cemetery and his gravestone. The fence that symbolically and physically separates the patients/ inmates and the town of Bridgewater becomes the key structure that connects him and his final resting place. 

After going back and forth with my crude drawing to determine the exact angle and to measure the distance between the people and the fence, I was able to make a guess for the possible gravestone:


So this is my conclusion. I was finally able to connect his story -- the way he was treated, the way he died, and the way he was buried -- and the nameless concrete block.


As you can see from the movie captures, the bodies are not cremated. After years, the earth on top of the coffins is sunken, creating rather haunting dents shaped exactly like the coffins.

From Titicut Follies

As I looked at movie captures while I was writing this, I realized the people who helped burying him were also patients/ inmates clad with ties. How uncanny would it be to see their possible future. As if they witnessed the process after their death...their future...the future that only distinguished by numbers. 


RIP

Locate Bridgewater Hospital Cemetery @ Google Map

The copy of Titicut Follies is possibly available from your local library. Or you can get a legal clip from critical commons. But please be aware that the documentary includes such disturbing scenes as people in psychosis, nudity, force feeding, and embalming process. Please use your discretion.

http://plymouthcolony.net/bridgewater/cemeteries.html
http://boards.ancestry.com/thread.aspx?mv=flat&m=1103&p=topics.cemetery.us.ma
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titicut_Follies (a right to privacy vs First Ascendant)
http://www.asylumprojects.org/index.php?title=Bridgewater_State_Hospital
http://historical.mytopo.com/getImage.asp?fname=bdgr40nw.jpg&state=MA
http://www.poorhousestory.com/MA_Hampden_Monson_HistNotes.htm
http://www.vice.com/read/doc-v14n9
http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=CASE&court=US&vol=398&page=960

3 comments:

  1. Very haunting. Great film and your investigation was worthy of it.

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  2. Hi Devin,

    Thank you! I need to watch other works of Wiseman.

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  3. i need to see this documentary.. my goodness...

    ReplyDelete