3.5K Dead and Forgotten Mental Patients Now Honored

Cremated remains were found decade ago at Oregon State Hospital
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 7, 2014 11:26 AM CDT
3.5K Dead and Forgotten Mental Patients Now Honored
Wencel Devorak, a saddler from Bohemia, was 33 when he was committed in 1890 with delusions that others en route to Portland were following him and teasing him about his wife. He stayed for 40 years.   (Uncredited)

They were dubbed the "forgotten souls"—the cremated remains of thousands who came through the doors of Oregon's state mental hospital, died there and whose ashes were abandoned inside 3,500 copper urns. Discovered a decade ago at the decrepit Oregon State Hospital, where One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was filmed, the remains became a symbol of the state's—and the nation's—dark history of treating the mentally ill. A research effort to unearth the stories of those who moved through the hospital's halls, and to reunite the remains with surviving relatives, takes center stage today as officials dedicate a memorial to those once-forgotten patients.

"No one wants to be laid to rest without some kind of acknowledgement that they were here, that they contributed, that they lived," says a state official. Between 1913 and 1971, more than 5,300 people were cremated at the hospital. Hospital officials have been working for years to reunite the remains with surviving relatives. Since the urns were found by lawmakers on a tour of the hospital in 2005, 183 have been claimed. The 3,409 that remain and have been identified are listed here. "I think it will be very difficult to forget them now," says a state administrator leading the hospital replacement project. (More Oregon stories.)

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