Memorial Mound : From Dream to Disgrace

Clyde Booth used to dig graves as a teenager in Kentucky with his uncle. He witnessed firsthand the neglect that occurred at graveyards, from deteriorating caskets to unkempt grounds. This would lead him to find an alternate burial technique in later years. Since 1969, Booth studied ancient burial sites such as mounds and the catacombs of Rome. The fact that the mounds and catacombs still existed today amazed Booth. He wanted to create a burial site that integrated both these concepts.

In 1992, he opened Memorial Mound in Bessemer, Alabama. Built on 16-acres, the foundation rests eight feet below the ground. Instead of being buried in the ground as in conventional cemeteries, caskets were placed on metal racks in a vast, warehouse-like room, and stacked up to eight levels high. Grieving visitors couldn’t enter the room where the caskets were stored, but were allowed to lay flowers on the large earthen mound, place a bronze memorial on a marble wall inside the structure or even call up a biography of the deceased on a computer.

Another room in the building served as a show room for Booth’s casket business, Caskets & Memorial Wholesale Co., which sold caskets to the public at wholesale prices. They advertised the cost of a funeral and burial at Memorial Mound for as low as $2,285.

Most of the bodies buried here were referred to by other funeral homes. Booth claimed it was a conspiracy when they stopped referring his business, which eventually lead to its closure.

Booth died in 2009 at the age of 89 of a heart attack, leaving his estate in the hands of his guardian. It’s hard to determine how long the facility has been neglected for, but pictures of it began surfacing on various websites around November 2014. It wasn’t long before the building was ransacked, including a skull which had become missing from one of the bodies.

In January 2015, became aware of the facility, and reported it to the authorities. The remains of 1 infant and 7 adults were removed by the Bessemer Police Department, and the building secured.

The “Haunted House” of Jacksonville

Located in the Springfield neighborhood of Jacksonville is a rather unique home which can best be described as a castle, notable for its three-story tower and constructed of concrete blocks. It’s known locally as the the Drew Mansion, the former home of Dr. Horace Drew, a businessman and owner of downtown’s H. & W.B. Drew Company.

Between 1967 and 1973, the mansion was abandoned and became known as the “haunted house”. Places such as these attract the youth and is a practice referred to by folklorists and anthropologists as legend tripping; going out at night to a site which is allegedly the scene of a tragic, horrific, or even supernatural event or haunting. Legend tripping is usually harmless, but on this particular night, these kids would experience what would later be described as a ‘night of terror’.

In March 1970, eleven students from Ribault High School, including eight girls, ventured into the decrepit mansion on the evening of Friday the 13th. Two black men followed them and barged into the home wielding a sawed-off shotgun and a knife. They wanted to know if the teenagers had any “reefers”. When they were told no, the two men passed a hat around demanding the teens put their money in it.

They picked out two girls out of the group and took the keys from one of the boys before herding the other teens into a bathroom. Using the boy’s car, the two men drove the girls to another abandoned home where they were joined by three others.  The girls’ sweaters and blouses were pulled over their heads and would be raped multiple times that night before being driven a short distance away and released. The car was taken back to the “haunted house”. 

Unbeknownst to most people at the time, there was a human head buried in the backyard of the mansion around this time. The head was discovered by two young kids who ran out to the street and notified two teenagers, who then called the police. The head was buried in a hole 18-inches deep. It belonged to a man, around 50 years old, and packed in a germicidal bag which prevented decomposition.

It was reported that the head belonged to a body stolen from Duval Medical Center back in November. An informant told detectives that the head was taken by an orderly who worked there and would occasionally take their friends back behind the house to go see it. 

On July 12th, 18-year-old Michael Tiliakus was arrested just before clocking in for his hospital shift and was charged with “dealing in parts of dead bodies.” Tiliakus had apparently known the man who had given his body to become a teaching cadaver and wanted to keep a part of his friend as the body would be cremated. He apparently slept with the head the first night before burying it behind the Drew mansion out of fear of getting caught.

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread: The History of the Memphis Wonder Bread Bakery

Once a Memphis icon, residents remember fondly of the years when the Wonder Bread bakery would send the scent of freshly baked bread down the streets of their neighborhood. 

The Taggart Baking Company launched the Wonder Bread brand on May 21, 1921. That same year, they constructed the 184,393-square-foot Memphis bakery on Monroe Avenue, sporting a colorful mix of hand painted and neon signs. Taggart would later be bought by Continental Baking in 1925, making Wonder Bread a national brand.

Wonder Bread was different than the other bread brands at the time. A loaf was half a pound larger than others, and beginning in the 1930s, Wonder Bread was shipped pre-sliced, was one of the first companies to do so, and considered a significant milestone for both the industry and American consumers. 

During the 1940s, vitamins and minerals were added to Wonder Bread as part of a government-sponsored program of enriching white bread, which was deficient in vitamin and mineral content, to combat certain diseases such as beriberi and pellegra. They were also the first national brand to feature shelf life as well as nutrition information on its packaging. Wonder Bread would continue to advertise its nutrient enrichments into the 1960s using the slogan, “Helps build strong bodies 12 ways.” 

In 1995, Continental Baking was bought by Interstate Bakeries Corporation. Interstate declared bankruptcy in 2004, but would emerge in 2009 as Hostess Brands. Less than two years later, Hostess would file for bankruptcy a second time.

Workers began striking in November 2012 at the bakeries and distribution centers nationwide over new contracts from Hostess which cut pay and benefits. Many of the workers believed the company was poorly managed and that even if they didn’t strike, the company was inevitably going to close anyway.

It wasn’t long before Hostess announced they would cease operations, temporarily ceasing production of Wonder Bread. Flower Foods, owner of Nature’s Own and Tastykake brands, signed an agreement to acquire Hostess’ bread brands, including Wonder Bread. By the end of the following year, Wonder Bread was back on store shelves. 

While the Wonder Brand brand continues on, the Memphis facility remained closed. It would remain vacant until 2018, when it was announced that a portion of the factory would be demolished to be replaced with two four-story apartment buildings and a 480-space parking garage, and the west end of the building would be renovated into retail and office space. 

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