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Volume 69, Issue 106, Monday, March 9, 2004

Opinion
 

Hospital a link to Houston's past

By Summer Dawn Gorbea

Yesterday, I visited the haunted hospital. It stands abandoned just outside of downtown on Elder Street. Graffiti covers the front entrance as a sad reminder of all the neglect and disrespect this plot of land has endured. 

The haunted hospital, or Jefferson Davis Memorial Hospital as it's officially called, was built in 1924. It has a spotty history, which began before it was even constructed. The land that it was built on was once known as City Cemetery, the final resting place for various soldiers, both Union and Confederate, victims of yellow fever and thousands of unnamed others. There is some evidence that this land also served as a cemetery for some English plague victims some hundreds of years before. Currently, there are an estimated 3,000 buried beneath the hospital and the surrounding grounds.

The hospital only operated for 14 years, after which it served a variety of purposes, ranging from a venereal disease clinic to a psychiatric hospital to a food stamp distribution center, before finally closing its doors in the 1980s. It has stood empty and decrepit for years.

However, according to some, the hospital has not been empty at all. An Internet search on Jefferson Davis Hospital will reveal information about the hospital's history and more about the rumors of supernatural activity which have surrounded the building for years. The hospital has been a popular destination for teenagers and young people who get a kick out of scaring themselves. There have been numerous reports of ghostly doctors, nurses and patients, strange noises, unexplained electrical fixture failings and even photographs of strange orbs -- which are associated with supernatural activity.

Unfortunately, it has also been a popular destination for people who are fonder of raising hell and committing vandalism. In recent times there have been numerous instances of assault and robbery on the hospital grounds. For these reasons, if you are caught trespassing, you will promptly be arrested. Such instances have left officials wondering what should be done with the building. Archaeologists have said that destroying the building would further disturb the cemetery below. Of course, Americans can't stand the idea of a perfectly good piece of property going to waste.

So what's to be done with it? At this point, the building is slated to receive grant money in order to be converted into lofts for low-income artists. Did we learn anything from Poltergeist? This is a historical building that provides a link to Houston's past. At best it should be left alone, or perhaps turned into a museum. It certainly should not be turned into anyone's home. 

As I roamed the grounds outside of the hospital yesterday, I could feel a sense of sadness surrounding it. Even if you don't believe that ghostly apparitions float silently through the hospitals lonely halls, you must believe in respect for the dead. This spot has been desecrated enough. Admire it for its architectural beauty, fear it for its supernatural rumors, but leave it alone.

Gorbea, a columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu.
 

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