Is your hospital…haunted?


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A lot of people claim to have seen ghosts in their lifetimes. Me, for instance: The house I grew up in was still inhabited by the man who built it. We all could hear him walking around, and my sister and I both saw him, as did a roommate of mine when I was a grown-up and had bought the place from my parents.

That was truly weird, but it’s a story for another time.

That said, I tend to scoff at ghosts I haven’t seen. I’m not a big believer in the idea that somebody’s personality would hang around long after they’re gone, and especially not in a hospital, for heaven’s sake. Why not go haunt a nice water park or a smoky bar, or even the backstage of a Broadway theater? You’d get a lot more pleasure out of it, and bar patrons and actors tend to be in the state to acknowledge you. (I don’t know about half-drowned, sunburned people.)

Everybody says that my unit is haunted. Years ago, it was the super-duper isolated, incredibly clean place where every patient with an immune disorder went. Eventually it was reworked into a unit specifically for chemo patients and those who’d had bone marrow transplants. Later, it became a neurocritical care unit. And every nurse who’s been in the building for more than 20 years swears up and down that it’s full of the ghosts of people who died there.

I haven’t seen anything. There was the day that a clock in the nurses’ station jumped off—and I mean jumped off—the wall, nearly beaning somebody sitting in a chair six feet away. That, though, does not a haunting make. Had it flown at a resident, I might’ve believed in ghostly influence. As it was, the clock aimed at one of the nicest people I know, who, incidentally, was pregnant at the time, and I can’t believe any haint would do that.

I’ve wanted to believe, though. When our beloved Joe died suddenly, we all wished we’d see his long white coat disappearing round a corner, just out of reach. It was a symptom of how illogical we all were that we thought he might show up, in death, at the place he’d done so much to avoid in life. Nobody has seen his shade yet, though almost a decade later, we still attribute all computer glitches and medication-machine slowdowns to him. He’s immortal, and he’s immortal in a way that does justice to his life.

Is your hospital haunted? Have you ever seen a ghost, or felt somebody’s spirit head out an open window after death? I’ve got a bunch of marshmallows toasting, so pull up a s’more and tell your story.

Agatha Lellis
Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at

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