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 MetFern Cemetery, served as a burial site for patients housed within the walls of two nearby mental institutions - The Fernald School for “feeble-minded” children and the Metropolitan State Hospital. 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 MetFern Cemetery is largely unknown even to those who live next door. Today, many residents in Waltham are surprised to learn of the cemetery’s existence. The feature-length documentary The Fate of Human Beings uncovers the history behind MetFern Cemetery, telling the stories of the people buried there. Through a mix of archival and present-day material, the film explores the depersonalization of disabled people prevalent throughout American society. Former patients of the two institutions, the funeral home director responsible for improving conditions in the cemetery, and family members of the deceased will form the narrative of the film.

Do you know someone buried in MetFern Cemetery? Are you a former patient or staff member from The Fernald School or Met State Hospital? We want to hear from you. Contact us at or

Billing Information
Giving Option
Credit Card