Scotland

Glasgow’s Haunted Hospitals by Amy Van De Casteele

Glasgow is an ancient city, which lies on the banks of the River Clyde, in the West Central Lowlands of Scotland. The land it rests on has been inhabited for millennia, and the city itself first came to prominence during medieval times, so it’s fair to say that Glasgow has witnessed its fair share of human life and all that it brings. Within the old buildings, the city’s foundations and the soil it lies on, there are countless memories and echoes of love, hope, despair, anger, suffering, violence, sickness, ecstasy and death.

The city is home to many fascinating old buildings and many of them are haunted.  Its hospitals are no different. Of course, it isn’t surprising that hospitals should become home to restless spirits, as these buildings are no stranger to death. But for the people who work there it must sometimes be a little daunting, to work in a place where you know you might turn a corner into an echoing fluorescent-lit corridor one night and come face to face with a former patient or a nurse who never wanted to leave her station…

The Glasgow Royal Infirmary, established in 1792, is just one of these haunted hospitals. Among its many ghostly inhabitants is the apparition of a former nurse, who strolls the corridors looking just like any other nurse – except that she is missing her legs below the knee. Meanwhile an old man named Archie lingers in Ward 27 and has been known to hold conversations with dying patients – and the surgical block of the hospital is said to play host to the spirit of a woman, supposedly a nun, who fell down a staircase as she tried to prevent someone committing suicide. Last but not least, another spooky story from the hospital recounts how a doctor had just received notification of a cardiac arrest on one of the wards and was hurrying to respond when he was stopped by a patient asking directions to the hospital exit. The doctor showed him the way and then hastened on to his patient – but when he arrived, it was too late. Most horrifying of all, the dead patient was the same man who had just asked him if he could show him the way out…

Meanwhile, in Stobhill Hospital, there is a well-known story of a helpful ghost who once helped a student nurse to save a patient’s life. The student nurse spotted a woman – who she thought was another nurse – slip into a side ward. Wanting to ask her something, the student followed – but when she entered the ward, she found that the nurse had vanished and the only person there was a patient who had fallen unconscious and needed urgent medical attention. Who, then, was the mysterious woman who had just vanished into thin air? Could she have been the ghost of a former nurse, trying to draw attention to the plight of a critically ill patient? No one will ever know.

Another well-documented hospital haunting is that of nurse Mary McLellan. In 1975, she was working in Glasgow’s Western Infirmary, and was preparing some equipment in a room just off a brightly lit corridor when she became aware of a silver-haired man wearing a blue dressing gown, who was standing in the corridor near the door to the opposite ward. He stood there for a few seconds, watching her, then disappeared. Mary wasn’t alarmed or suspicious in any way, thinking he was an ordinary patient. But a moment later a ward sister, who worked in that ward opposite the room where Mary was, came rushing up to her in a very distressed state because she too had seen the spirit – and knew him to be the ghost of a patient who had passed away two days ago.

Another famous ghost to haunt the Western Infirmary is the spirit of Sir William MacEwen, an eminent brain surgeon, who died in 1924. Shortly before his death, Sir MacEwen allegedly refused to operate on a young artist who had been admitted to the hospital suffering violent headaches. Shortly after, the artist fell down four flights of stairs in the hospital during one of his headaches and died. Sir William MacEwen is said to walk the hospital, regretting not performing the operation.

At the Victoria Infirmary in the city’s South Side, a strange shadow was seen by a member of staff taking a quick break outside. What appears to be the apparition of a disfigured dog, complete with green gunge was seen slinking about a ward by staff and a patient.

In the former building of the Paisley Royal Alexandra Infirmary, just outside Glasgow, staff reported all manner of things when it became a nursing home. Disembodied footsteps in the padlocked loft, beds being lifted and moved, the sound of running water and whispers in rooms with sleeping patients, and most eerily, the apparition of a man dragging a body bag! Though, it is possible the tales dated back to when the building operated as a hospital before it’s closure in 1988, when it was replaced by the Royal Alexandra Hospital on another site in Paisley.

These kinds of stories might make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, and make you reluctant to be admitted to hospital – but none of the ghosts involved in these hauntings are malicious or evil, merely the spirits of former nurses and patients who have not moved on. Perhaps, when you next visit your local hospital, you should take a minute to reflect on the spirits who may still wander those echoing corridors. Who were they? Why do they remain? Whoever they are, they probably deserve your compassion more than fright or horror. For once, they were patients too… or perhaps they were a nurse, or a doctor, who still likes to check in on patients now and again, from force of habit or genuine care…

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