Memorial Mound

From the bluegrass hills of Kentucky, Clyde Booth, a former gravedigger and construction engineer, envisioned creating an underground burial mausoleum. As a young boy digging graves with his Uncle, he witnessed first hand unkempt graves and overgrown grounds. Booth thought he could come up with a better burial technique. In 1969, he began studying burial mounds and the catacombs of Rome as a hobby, astounded that both still remained today. At the age of 67, he set out to build his dream in the Southeast. A place he hoped people would visit for centuries to come.

16264871256_4d974b3b21_kIn 1990, Booth purchased a 16 acre lot in Bessemer, Alabama. His idea of an earth-covered mound would be like an underground version of the above-ground mausoleum. His idea drawn from ancient Indian burial traditions, but updated with modern technology to include video information on the entombed. Memorial Mound was finally opened in 1992.

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The interior map of Memorial Mound.

The facility’s foundation sits 8 feet below ground level with a large interior room serving as a chapel. It has separate wings on each side with metal racks for caskets and cremated remains. Relatives could not enter the warehouse-like room that housed the caskets, but could place items and floors on an interior marble wall. The steel roof was buried in red Alabama clay soil with a stairway leading down into the mound from street level.

Booth placed the caskets on racks in the wings up to 10 feet high. The more expensive ones being on the lower racks, because prices were based on worker’s accessibility.

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The average price for burial costs were between $1,800-$2,200 including grave space, vault, tombstone, and opening/closing fees. Booth’s underground facility included a computer inside for relatives to view video and pictures of the deceased forever. Another wing of the mausoleum was used as a display room for his wholesale casket company.

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The display caskets appeared untouched after 14 years.

In 1996, four years after opening with less than a dozen burials Memorial Mound shut its doors. Since Booth didn’t operate as a full service funeral home, he did not have to abide by the Alabama Board of Funeral Service guidelines.

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A remaining casket display.

 Clyde Booth believed his financial failure was a conspiracy by the local funeral homes who began recommending burial elsewhere. The grounds remained secured and relatives were still able to visit for the next few years. However, by 2000 the doors were locked and Memorial Mound was closed for good.

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Empty racks behind the display room wing.

Sadly, Clyde Booth passed away in 2009 at the age of 89. Memorial Mound became abandoned after his death and quickly fell into a state of neglect. Vandals tore apart anything they could use for scrap metal even dismantling chairs from the chapel. This left the facility in complete disarray.

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What’s left of the chapel chairs after vandals.

Most of the burials came from local funeral homes and many of the caskets were not sealed or were direct burials.

15701448660_eb571f98dc_kThis would prove to be detrimental over time, causing the bodies to break down and fluids to leak from the caskets.

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A skeleton visible in an open casket.

Memorial MoundLocal authorities knew of Memorial Mound for years and the neglected shape it was in, but failed to do anything about it until late 2014 after photos surfaced online of the remaining corpses. The remains of one infant and seven bodies were removed by authorities and taken to the coroner’s office until families could determine final arrangements. Once the bodies were removed the mausoleum was sealed shut.

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Memorial Mound brochure.

Authorities were unsuccessful when attempting to reach Booth’s family. Clyde Booth had good intentions, but many believe he did not thoroughly research the concept.

Abandoned Birmingham Book

Founded in 1871 after the Civil War, Birmingham rapidly grew as an industrial enterprise due to the abundance of the three raw materials used in making steel–iron ore, coal, and limestone. Birmingham’s rapid growth was due to the booming iron and steel industries giving it the nickname “Magic City” and “Pittsburgh of the South.” The city was named after Birmingham, England, as a nod to the major industrial powerhouse. The iron and steel industries began to dry up by the early 1970s, leaving behind dozens of abandoned structures that now dot the city’s landscape. In the last several years, Birmingham has begun to experience a rebirth. Money has been invested in reconstructing the historic downtown area into a pedestrian-friendly mixed-use district. In Abandoned Birmingham, photographer Leland Kent gives the reader an in-depth look at the forgotten buildings and factories throughout the city. This copy will be signed. Shipping included.

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21 Replies to “Memorial Mound”

  1. Wow – this is an incredible story! The pictures are excellent – I don’t think I could have gone down there to take them. Your work on these abandoned places is brilliant – looking forward to seeing more!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting that we have government regulating everything these days, yet this place was able to “fall through the cracks” on both a state and county level. Why no periodic inspections? No periodic license renewal procedures? Why no effort to regulate an industry which deals with cadavers? I first heard this story in 2015 when it broke, and always wondered about these questions. Apparently the place was closed for many years, left to neglect, rot, and ultimately vandalism. One would figure the Alabama Board of Funeral Service, a govt entity, might be charged with periodic inspections/licensing such facilities? And why, if authorities in Bessemer and Jefferson County were “aware” of problems, didn’t THEY at least step in? I’m sure the Office of the County Coroner would have direct statuatory authority to investigate (either directly or indirectly through the Sheriff’s Dept. ) The Jefferson Co. Public Health Dept might also have an interest, where cadavers might be involved. Crazy that it took “urban explorers” posting on YouTube to actually get the authorities off their duffs and into action.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve drove by it , it’s lost in the dangerous part of bessemer, didn’t know was place for the dead and the way it look from street I thought till news broke years ago it was older then me and I’m almost forty

      Liked by 1 person

  3. There were 9 caskets & 9 plaques on the wall but article talking about where everybody went didn’t mention Stephen MacKenzie. So I’m assuming his were the remains stolen. Whoever took them needs to turn them in so he can be reburied properly. If they don’t may they be haunted ’til they die.

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  4. That is ujst so wrong on so many levels.

    Grave robbers have no shame or soul, “Here honey pumpkin I was out coon hunt n’ with me blue tick hounds and found this gold mourning ring and these three gold teeth for yah.”

    ‘And I just don’t want to even know who is hording a corpse bones, and for what, a Macabre home decoration, damn I hope they all caught tuberculosis or the plague and rotted a slow death inward out. ‘

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Just hard to believe that these bodies were abandoned and forgotten. What about the relatives of the deceased? Did they all pass on or just didn’t care? Sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This was really sad to me so much neglect by families and the community.This was the first time I had ever heard of this.I have always been interested in the mortuary business all my life very interesting article. Thank you Rebecca

    Liked by 1 person

  7. How very sad this is. The only good that comes from after death care is the undertakers pockets get nice and fat. I remember when cremation sounded horrible. Does it still sound so awful now after seeing the abuse of bodies?

    Like

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