The Most Haunted Hospital in America
Was the Linda Vista truly filled with spirits or were its ghosts Hollywood inventions?
An apparition of a woman walks down a narrow corridor, clad in a hospital gown, singing to herself while lugging an IV pole. A television mysteriously flips itself on in the middle of the night. Ominous creaking footsteps set your heart racing and then make your skin crawl when you slowly turn to see that no one is there.
We’ve all heard stories like these from our coworkers or perhaps experienced such phenomena ourselves. Hospitals are optimal spaces for hauntings and ghost sightings, particularly on a rainy night shift after midnight. The majority of the staff and visitors have gone home, the patients are asleep and the only sounds are the occasional beep of an IV machine, heard echoing in a patient’s room. That’s when the creep factor tends to settle in. (And let’s not talk about having to do an unexpected late night drop-off at the morgue!)
Ghost hunters and spiritualists will tell you that hospitals are prime territory for ghosts. As places where both life and death are common occurrences, hospitals may become haunted by lost spirits, confused and bewildered after leaving their bodies. The combined human and spiritual suffering can also attract other entities, both benign and malevolent. At least, that’s what the ghost stories will tell you …
East Los Angeles is home to one of the most notorious haunted hospitals in America: the long-defunct Linda Vista Community Hospital. But is the abandoned hospital truly spooked or did Hollywood curse it, sparking the wave of “hauntings” with decades of movie melodrama?
A Troubled History
The Boyle Heights hospital known today as Linda Vista opened in 1905 as the Santa Fe Coast Lines Hospital, created to care for workers of the Santa Fe Railroad Company. The original building was completely redesigned and rebuilt in the ‘20s and in 1937 was renamed the Linda Vista Community Hospital.
A managed healthcare company purchased the hospital in 1980, but the facility struggled through the ‘80s, overwhelmed with rising healthcare costs. The hospital’s emergency department was overtaxed by the aftermath of local gang wars and the facility’s death rate began to climb. There were rumors of negligent care, although the large numbers of gunshot wounds and stabbings likely affected the mortality statistics.
By the early ‘90s, many of the hospital’s nurses and doctors were leaving for other hospitals and replacement staff became tougher and tougher to find. Linda Vista finally closed its doors in 1991.
Hollywood's Favorite Haunt
After the Linda Vista ceased operating as a hospital, it began a second career as a popular location for movie magic. Abandoned or not, the building still had beautiful Mission Revival architecture and lots of leftover hospital equipment. Linda Vista has been featured in numerous films, television shows and music videos, including the pilot of “ER,” Outbreak, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Pearl Harbor and more recently “Dexter” and “True Blood.”
As you can see in several YouTube videos that take you through the long, dark, dingy corridors of the old hospital, Hollywood stardom didn’t help the Linda Vista’s dilapidated condition. After a while, it was hard to tell if the pieces of scattered medical equipment were remnants of the original hospital or just discarded props from some low-budget horror movie. The same was true of threatening graffiti with warnings like “The end is near.”
You may be reassured to hear that at least one sinister feature was definitely a later addition: a jail cell constructed by the hospital’s old caretaker to make the locale more alluring for filmmakers.
Nonetheless, film crews and cast members have also reported unusual activity. It may just be nerves and the power of suggestion, but the hospital’s atmosphere can get under the skin, even of people who scare others for a living.
It’s no surprise that many ghost hunters have made pilgrimages to the Linda Vista, which became a paranormal amusement park of sorts. Among the ghost-hunting visitors have been a local group calling itself the Boyle Heights Paranormal Project, which investigated Linda Vista back in 2010, and some of the editors of the online Atlas Obscura.
Naturally, the Linda Vista has also been a popular destination for TV ghost-hunting programs. Zak Bagans, Aaron Goodwin and Nick Groff, the ghost-hunting team of the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” series, spent a night “on lockdown” in the facility in 2009 and again in 2012. In 2011, another Travel Channel series, “Paranormal Challenge,” even staged a competition between two teams to see who could find the most paranormal evidence at Linda Vista.
Some ghost-hunting teams have used audio recorders in hopes of capturing electronic voice phenomena (EVP): traces of voices or other human sounds in audio static or feedback, which some paranormal investigators believe is evidence of the existence of ghosts and may even allow communication with them. Some ghost hunters who have recorded EVP at the Linda Vista claim to have discerned whispering and even a little girl laughing and singing.
EVP is not the only unusual phenomenon investigators have experienced at the hospital. A mysterious woman’s shadow has been reported and some investigators thought they saw a ghostly doctor pacing the corridors. Kimber Chase, a former Linda Vista ER nurse who appeared on “Ghost Adventures,” has tweeted, “The old Linda Vista Hospital is extremely haunted, and I got more information from there than I ever wanted!”
Hospital of Lost Souls?
A few years ago, I took a paranormal studies course. My teacher claimed to have pertinent evidence that the Linda Vista Hospital was indeed haunted. She said that with the help of a spiritual medium, she was able to go into the hospital and clear it of all its lost and fragmented entities and ghosts.
I asked her why the ghosts and/or entities chose to stay in the hospital. She replied, “Most were gang members and patients seeking retribution for negligent care and didn’t know where else to go.”
While any ghosts that still linger in the corridors of the Linda Vista may be lost souls, the hospital itself has become famous. In 2006, the Linda Vista was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and declared a historic landmark.
A land developer bought the building in 2012 and today, a senior living apartment stands in the skeleton of the old hospital. But is it still haunted?
“I don’t think it’s haunted,” scoffed a girl at a local bookshop. “I drive by the building daily and it’s nothing more than just a beautiful old Spanish-style building.”
“My mother was a physician at the Linda Vista Hospital as far back as when it was owned by the Santa Fe Railroad Company,” recalls Anna Jimenez O’Conner. “She used to walk the underground tunnels that led from the intern housing to the main tunnels. She never reported anything unusual happening or any ghost sightings.”
Braving the Halls
With so much speculation, I decided to drive down to Boyle Heights to investigate for myself whether the premises were indeed still haunted. Although the property today is a lovely blend of antique and modern architecture, I did get a bit of the creeps as I stepped inside the main entrance — a slight twinge and the feeling that something knew I was there and was watching me through the long hallways. (No, there were no cameras!)
I ran into a security guard and asked him if he thought the new facility was haunted. “It’s my first day, but my coworkers have told me stories,” he said. “One of them saw several dead bodies lying in piles in the basement during his late night rounds. Another said he saw a doctor looking down at him from one of the windows. I don’t believe in ghosts, but some of the new tenants have reported the lingering stench of burning flesh in the halls.” (The original Linda Vista Hospital had a crematorium.)
Even if the Linda Vista was never really haunted, its macabre legacy will probably linger for many years to come. It might eventually be forgotten — but if unquiet spirits still lurk within the corridors, we may eventually see a new flurry of YouTube videos as retirement community tenants attempt to document those spectral entities. The story may not be over.
Perhaps all hospitals are haunted. Even if you’re a born skeptic, it’s hard to be sure. Those footsteps you hear down that empty hallway might just be your imagination. The chill in the pit of your stomach and the feeling that you’re being watched might just mean you’re overdue for a snack and a cup of coffee. On the other hand, you never know …
Ersilia Pompilio, RN, MSN, PNP, is a pediatric nurse practitioner and writer. She recently produced a storytelling show, “Nurses and Hypochondriacs,” for the Hollywood Fringe Fest 2015.
This article is from workingnurse.com.