When you’re sick and in need of hospital care, most people’s primary concern is that it takes their insurance. Secondary considerations might be quality of staff, specialization in what ails you and reputation for cleanliness. Does anyone check to see if the hospital is haunted? Is it a bad sign if the ambulance stops at the curb and dumps you on the lawn? The Stimson Hospital in Easton Rapids, Michigan, had a haunted reputation almost from the day it opened until it closed 40 years later. Then it was turned into an apartment building that was haunted for 60 more years. Sounds like it’s about time to tear this place down, right? Never underestimate the power of people with money who think they can run a bed-and-breakfast, ghosts or not.
According to local historians, the building that has become known as the old Stimson Hospital was built in 1870 as a private home on the corner of W. Plains and Main Street in Eaton Rapids. It was later acquired by Dr. William Claudius Puffenberger, a dentist. There’s no mention in historical records of him practicing dentistry at the house (a source of horror that needs no ghosts) but in 1917 he sold it to Harriet Chapman and doctors Charles Stimson and Francis R. Blanchard, who turned the large home into the Harriet Chapman Hospital. Only a few months after it opened, Dr. Blanchard had just finished surgery when he stepped into an open elevator door on the third floor and fell down the shaft to his death. Just three years later in 1922, former owner Dr. Puffenberger mysteriously committed suicide at age 45.
Those two are believed to be the ghosts who were later heard making noises in the basement (Dr. Blanchard in the shaft), scaring people away (Dr. Puffenberger, who may not have wanted others to experience what drove him to suicide), moving objects around and causing equipment to act up or break down (both plus any ghost of patients they may have recruited). Those patients were probably babies who died there – the hospital became the Stimson Community Hospital in 1942 and was a popular maternity hospital, with 240 babies born there in 1956. Unfortunately, that was its peak as the hospital closed in 1957..
However, the building and its ghosts lived on, becoming first a medical office center and then a four-unit apartment house. Many renters heard voices and children spoke of a man they called their imaginary friend Blanchard, back before this would be cause for vacating the premises or calling “To Catch a Predator.”
That brings us to 2017. It was announced recently that the old Stimson Hospital had been purchased for the low price (it still is a beautiful building) of $143,000 by Pam and Chris Sturgill, who claim to be “hobby ghost hunters “ but say they bought the house for its looks, not its ghosts. (Photos of the hospital today here.) While they know of its reputation, they haven’t done any paranormal hunting themselves, focusing instead on renovating the 5,000-square-foot Victorian-style house into a bed-and-breakfast. The elevator shaft is still there and, if the ghosts are too, they’ll be listed in the brochure as part of the ambience.
The Sturgill’s told the Lansing State Journal that they’ll host ghost hunters and paranormal investigators as well as those just looking to get away from the hassles of the living. Pam Sturgill can’t wait to open it again.
“It’s a very colorful history. It’s the local haunted house.”
Everybody has a dream.