Friday, October 15, 2010

Metfern Cemetery, Waltham 2-2

Continues from Metfern Cemetery, Waltham 1-2

After many encounters, doubts, questions, and arguments, we were finally able to reach Metfern Cemetery, the final resting place for the patients from Metropolitan State Hospital (now defunct psychiatric hospital) and Walter E. Fernald State School (an institution for people with developmental disabilities) located somewhere in the nature trail in Waltham, MA.

As the sign on the cemetery entrance shows, the MSH and Fernald patients between 1947 and 1979 are buried here. The number of burials differs depends on the source, but there are over 300 headstones sorted by "C + number" as Catholics, and "P + number" as Protestants (I first thought the P stands as "P"atients.) There are four gravestones with names, and the years of birth and death (and one of them needs a serious maintenance.)

An alter roughly divides the Catholic and Protestant plot. I thought there is a sculpture of a candle on the alter. But looking at the pictures I took, it is more likely a remain of a statue snapped out from the bottom.

As a person outside of Christianity, I was wondering why the distinction between the two beliefs mattered more than the patients' individual identities.

My husband, Brian, was following after me while I was investigating the cemetery. But after he saw steps only existed on the Protestant side, a guy from a "small" Irish family sat on the other side and began to read a book. For him, the steps are the luxury only available to Protestants.

As I returned from the Protestant side, he was looking at a gravestone of an Irish baby girl. He seemed to be feeling closer to her because she was born only a year different from him. Considering from her young age, she might have been at Fernald. As I imagined her short life, I was remembering what I read from a brilliant book about a life of a Catholic boy who wrongfully put in the institution during the 50's.

There was a new cross in front of the alter contributed by the ex-children of the Gaebler (the MSH branch for youths.) They must have visited the Gaebler building before the demolition, and then stopped by the graveyard with the cross. We all should remember a thoughtful note from them: "Though your names are not known, Your lives will never be forgotten..." 


Continues to: Metropolitan State Hospital, Waltham
Locate Metfern Cemetery @ Google map

P.S.: On the way back from the cemetery...

I've never seen a snake here in the US before. I deem it as a symbol of immortality.  

A direction to Metfern Cemetery (good one, too):  


  1. helloo!!i stumbled upon your blog when searching for more information about the metropolitan state hospital. since then, i have read many of your posts and got inspired to visit some of the places you have posted on both of your blogs!
    i like abandoned places as well, and to figure out the history behind it.
    i also like to visit cemeteries, so... when i read here that there was a cemetery connected to the MSH, we went back there this weekend and found it. i will post something about it on my blog this evening (although most likely othing you already saw or read about...).
    thank you! i will continue to read your blog, and am sad i found it only after living in massachusetts for 2 years...

    1. Excellent!

      Do tell me when your post is up. I just posted a new post about a state hospital cemetery in Grafton. Please take a look at this:;

      A state hospital cemetery is a sad but strong example to look at the history of human rights.


  2. thanks! i will check it out.
    my post is here:
    this weekend we also went to the danvers state hospital (now apartments), and the cemetery there. i was very impressed by it..

    btw, when we were at the metfern cemetery, my boyfriend also saw a snake, at the protestant section. a black one. somehow i was expecting one, as i had read in your post that you saw one, but i never got to see it, and my boyfriend almost seemed scared by it, which really surprised me.

    1. Hi CaT,

      I'll check your post out, too.

      The snake wise, I love toying around symbolism and found fascinating that your boyfriend saw a snake on the Protestant side but not on the Catholic side. St. Patrick is on the C section? Maybe.


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