The Petrified Babies of Mississippi's Greenwood Cemetery

Greenwood Cemetery, Jackson, Mississippi

In 1901, the groundskeeper of Greenwood Cemetery in Jackson, Mississippi made an astonishing discovery when he dug up the grave of a child who died half a century earlier. The following story appeared in the August 15, 1901 edition of the McKinney Democrat:

The sexton of Greenwood cemetery, Jackson, Miss., in taking up the body of a child buried fifty-three years ago noticed that the casket was heavier than is usual in such cases, and, curious as to the cause, removed the plate from over the glass. It was a startling revelation; the corpse was lifelike, natural and in a mummified state.

Physicians who examined it say that it is a most wonderful specimen of petrification, and an old lady who looked upon the child just before its burial, those many years ago, says it has not changed in features, and looks as natural now as then.

This brings to mind another case almost as remarkable which occurred at Lexington, Miss. A few years ago a burial ground of far ante-bellum times was being dug up for some purpose, and a little metallic coffin was found. No one then living claimed it; no one knew its history. It was opened and the lifelike features of a little girl met the astonished workmen's gaze. The beautiful features lingered a moment, quivered as if still imbued with life, then crumbled to dust. The little coffin was reburied and the incident is one of the many weird stories strangers who come to that ancient Mississippi town are told and vouched for.

While the incidents reported on above were undoubtedly the work of nature, mankind has sought to preserve the remains of human beings for thousands of years. In the 19th century, Italian scientist Girolamo Segato pioneered a method to preserve human remains in a state of petrification. Sadly, because of fear and superstition, his methods were never embraced.

Born in Florence, Italy, in 1792, Segato first became fascinated with the preservation of human remains after visiting Egypt and its ancient mummies. After numerous experiments on animals he finally accomplished his goal of turning remains into mineralized mummies as hard as stone. But instead of finding fame and recognition, Segato became an outcast for his discovery. After someone broke into his laboratory, Segato destroyed his own papers and notes, determined to keep his amazing discovery a secret.

Segato took that secret to the grave. After his death in 1836, he was buried in a graveyard in Florence, his tomb bearing an epitaph reading: "Here lies Girolamo Segato, who would be intact, petrified, if the secret of his art had not died with him."

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