Haunted Health Service

Haunted Health Service

I have been fascinated by stories of ghostly encounters, the paranormal and the unexplained. I do though walk around with a spectre of cynicism, sarcasm and denial. That was of course until Halloween night 31st October 1998. I was the medical junior doctor on call and it was a rainy night, full of cardiac arrest calls and death. The spooky certification of death was always harrowing for me. Each time, the chill of death, perhaps of evil or maybe of unrest shrouded each assessment. City General Hospital in a UK town was a cold place. Not only because of the death that surrounded the place but also because of the touch of darkness that pervaded it.

While I walked down passed the old mortuary building the clock struck midnight. I clutched to my white coat while the wind blew swiftly past me. My bleep echoed through the dark winding paths of the Hospital. It was yet another cardiac arrest bleep. I ran through the paths, down the wards and through the old block that was a children's ward. Through the pane of the window I saw seven children playing. While running, I thought - "that's strange for children to be up at this time". Having arrived at the cardiac arrest scene to find the patient drinking tea and watching Halloween II, I decided to take the nurses up on their offer of coffee and toast. "False alarm", they said, "student nurse, pressed the wrong button doctor, sorry".

While drinking the coffee, I muttered "Those children are up late in that old ward". The nurses look at each other "The ward has been closed for years, many people see the children though". Rumour has it that those are the babies and children who died in the fire. No one believes in ghosts but there is no other explanation Rita".

The United Kingdom has many hospitals with ghostly stories. Hospitals are after all places of where one exits to the "other side". Some ghosts of patients return to haunt their doctors, others simply haunt the wards. It is difficult to scientifically prove the existence of these phenomena and most evidence consists of eyewitness accounts. Hospitals are often unhappy places, full of pain, distress and suffering. Andrew Green a veteran ghost hunter died in 2004 but had collected many stories. Mr Green felt that these apparitions are forms of electromagnetic energy - a sort of faded echo of people whose lives were intensely stressful. These tales are passed through generations of doctors - perhaps a sort of paranormal aid to risk management. With the increasing numbers of deaths that have occurred over the last few years, one wonders if there is an increase in numbers of ghostly haunting. The Department of Health have no statistics related to this professing that it is more concerned about the living. That issue is hotly debated in all sectors.

Barts and Royal London Hospitals NHS Trust has sightings of the "grey lady" at the 264-year-old Royal London Hospital. Annie Lindsay at University Hospital London told the Guardian " It was the night sister's first duty to close the shutters, and the day sister's duty to open them in the morning. If the shutters were not closed at night, then somebody unexpectedly died". She described the ritual closing of the shutters on a picture of long decreased surgeon Marcus Beck.

Judith Walley of City Hospital NHS Trust told the Guardian newspapers " I was walking along the top floor corridor and seeing a ward sister coming towards me - I said " Evening sister". I then realised I could only see her from the knees up. In 1996 the site monitored by CCTV at the Birmingham Eye Centre triggered alarms following a ghostly figure. Security guards found no one there".

Holly from Swansea tells of a 'friendly ghost' who haunted a psychiatric hospital

"When I worked in the office of a psychiatric hospital, I was walking down one of the many dark and eerie corridors of the hospital when I heard a female voice singing in a strange language. I started to feel very cold and nervous as the voice got louder."

"When I looked in the voice's direction, I saw a very small woman with long ginger hair and big green eyes. She stopped singing, smiled at me and said, "Have you come to punish me again?". I reassured her that I was not there to hurt her in any way, and with that she walked into another room and out of my sight.

"I assumed that she was one of the patients who often said and did strange things. But when I told my boss about her, he smiled and explained that the woman's name was Olga, and that many of the staff had seen her. He told me that Olga was a friendly ghost who had been haunting the hospital for years. She had been a patient with paranoid schizophrenia, who had died in the hospital at a young age after committing suicide."

"Olga had asked me if I was going to punish her because, due to her illness, she had been paranoid that everyone was about to hurt her in some way. I saw Olga twice after that, but instead of being scared, I just felt sorry for her. I don't know if she is still at the hospital, but if she is, I hope she finds peace one day."

Peter Fenwick Neurologist at Kings College London states "They usually feature a decreased member of the family appearing to a dying person, helping them on their journey to physical death," he says. "People report that it is extremely pleasing. Occasionally, carers have reported seeing the vision, so it can't be put down to hallucination due to medication. Where a patient is having a good death - by that I mean one with fewer painkillers - then these phenomena are more likely to occur.

Relatives and staff in hospices, including a doctor, have also reported seeing a room filled with light or columns of light emanating from the body of a dying person. This is interpreted as "the soul or the essence of a person" leaving the body. Dr Fenwick states, "I have to say that when there is no brain activity, consciousness dies and you are gone. But the things that have been described to me might point to a continuation of consciousness. Who can say? Electricity was thought to be magic several hundred years ago. As we move to a postmodern view of science, together with the recognition that as yet, neuroscience has no explanation for consciousness, the possibility of transcendent phenomena around the time of death should also be considered.

In 2009, the media featured a curious tale from Derby. The Times reported

"Managers at the Derby Royal Hospital have received numerous complaints from spooked workers that a figure cloaked in black has been stalking the wards and walking through walls at the site run by the NHS - perhaps to be renamed the National Haunted Service. The hospital denied that an official exorcism would be taking place, but a spokeswoman for the Bishop of Derby confirmed that the hospital's on-site chaplain had contacted the diocese Paranormal Advisor - essentially an exorcist - to assess the situation and reassure spooked staff.

She said: "The sightings will be investigated and appropriate action taken."

I have kept an open mind since the two experiences I have had of unexplained phenomena. While the NHS purportedly cares for patients from the cradle to the grave. One never really knows what lies beyond that grave.

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