The Fate of Human Beings

Directed by Heather Cassano

In Waltham, Massachusetts there is a cemetery where 310 unidentified people are buried. Graves are marked only with a letter and a number. "C" stands for Catholic and "P" for Protestant, the number indicating the order in which they were buried. The cemetery, known as the Metfern Cemetery, served as a burial site for patients housed within the walls of nearby mental institutions. Hidden among the trees of Beaver Brook Reservation, Metfern Cemetery is only accessible by hiking trails. 310 lives suspended in anonymity.

Massachusetts has a sordid history of improperly interning and mistreating its citizens who fall within the definition of "mentally inadequate," but the history of state institution cemeteries is largely unknown even to those who live next door. Residents of Waltham, Westborough, Foxboro, and Northampton – to name only a few – live in ignorance of these injustices that occurred within their communities.

The feature-length documentary The Fate of Human Beings uncovers the history behind Massachusetts state institution cemeteries, exploring the depersonalization of people with disabilities and mental illnesses prevalent throughout American society.

Do you know someone buried in a state institution cemetery? We want to hear from you. Contact us at

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