A modern hospital is not a place many think of seeing ghosts, but as the building gets older, more and more stories come out of the woodwork. With over half of deaths in the US occurring in hospitals, it’s not hard to see why a place of medicine could become a place of hauntings and specters. As the building ages, more stories are collected and frightening events recorded and shared. Today, we’re looking at a hospital that is still running strong after 110 years.
A venture by a good-hearted and wealthy samaritan, the St. Joseph Hospital in Dickenson, North Dakota was established in 1912. Residents first realized the need for a centralized hospital in 1910, approaching a local holy man, Bishop Vincent Wehrle, with the request. $20,000 was raised by private donations and the Bishop agreed to finance the rest with a loan of $70,000. The hospital opened its doors for residents after the Bishop traveled to Rome to find Sisters of the cloth ready to help staff the hospital. He found the ladies of the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross in Switzerland and convinced them to move to the plains of North Dakota.
Additions to the facility were added during the ensuing hundred years, adding more wings and beds to the original 40 bed hospital. It became apparent in 2012 that the aging buildings were in need of modern upgrades to continue to offer the same level of care to its patients. Ground was broken on a new hospital site, and the St. Joseph’s staff would gain a new home under the name CHI St. Joseph’s Health. The original buildings still stand, not quite abandoned but not quite as lively. In 2019, the old hospital was purchased with the intent to give it new life as a behavioral center for mental healthcare.
One thing that has always been lively about St. Josephs is the paranormal activity reported by patients and staff while it was still in operation. Occasionally, the elevator seemed to gain a mind of its own and descended to the morgue without anyone requesting it. Well, anyone alive, at least. Doors throughout the hospital would swing themselves shut with force, or sometimes open and refuse to close like an unseen hand holding the handle. Even more doors open on their own in the morgue while it’s empty, which is particularly unsettling when you realize the doors do not open unless you have an access key.
Temporary residents of the hospital reported hearing soft, disembodied voices throughout the hospital, as if whispering from the afterlife. These voices are particularly strong in the Cafeteria on the grounds. The most frightening thing about the old hospital, however, just might be the patient on the third floor who was never released, even in death.
The man was previously a farmer and was about 75 years old when he was admitted for the final time to St. Josephs. At one point during his stay, the farmer came out of his room fully dressed and walked to the nursing station. “Well, I have had enough, I am getting out of here, I am going to go ahead and leave,” the farmer said. The nurse didn’t stop him from leaving, believing him to be feeling well enough to get dressed, he might as well be feeling well enough to go home. It wasn’t until the next nurse made her rounds that it was reported the old farmer had died in his room, long before his appearance and apparent departure. The nurse was frightened and shocked, saying she’d just seen him not 30 minutes prior. Reports say the old farmer will occasionally move things around the room, confusing the nursing staff. Even eerier, even when the room is empty, the call button will occasionally be pushed several times during the night shift. With no one there, some staff chalked it up to an equipment malfunction, but even with a replacement installed, the button presses would continue.
The Old St. Josephs hospital may be getting a new life as a mental healthcare center in the near future, but the haunting stories of its past as an active hospital are still strong in the Dickenson Community. While the Catholic church discourages mentioning the ghost stories, many and more may have experienced the poltergeist activity at the old hospital and simply ignored it. There are many reports of the ghostly activity, and with 100 years of service under her belt, The old St. Joseph’s Hospital may still have more stories to tell.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.