Mar 07, 2023 I Brent Swancer

A Sinister and Malevolent Haunting at the St. Ignatius Hospital

There are some places in this world that just seem to have eerie tales gravitate towards them. For whatever reasons, these are locations that have garnered a reputation for being haunted or even cursed, and sometimes these places have gained a reputation that seems to be larger than life, eclipsing reality to launch them into the pantheon of the truly ghost-infested. One such place lies out in the U.S. state of Washington, and by all accounts it is one of the most haunted places in the state, prowled by malevolent, aggressive forces from beyond our understanding.

In 1892 Rev. Jachern, a Roman Catholic priest, recognized the need for improved healthcare in the area of Colfax, Washington, and enlisted the aid of a religious institute of Roman Catholic sisters called the Sisters of Providence to begin construction on a hospital to serve the then rural region. Construction of the St. Ignatius Hospital was completed in 1894, and at the time it was the only hospital in the entire county. Over the years new additions were made, such as the St. Ignatius School of Nursing in 1911, and the hospital stayed in operation until the 1960s, when it faced difficulties with expenses since at the time religious orders across America relied on private donations or sponsors to fund their projects and what its patients could afford to pay. It finally closed its doors in 1964, and served for a time as an assisted living home for developmentally disabled adults until it was finally closed down and abandoned in 2003. For some time, the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation named St. Ignatius the number one most endangered historic building in Washington state, until the Whitman County Historical Society then approved a preservation project for St. Ignatius in 2015. It now sits as a sort of historic piece of heritage and a museum, and it is also said to be insanely haunted. 

St. Ignatius Hospital

It is perhaps not hard at first to see where the stories of ghosts and hauntings might come from. Besides its slightly creepy gothic look and ambiance, the history of the St. Ignatius Hospital also lends itself to tales of things that go bump in the night. According to rumors, there were numerous people who died here, both during its construction and its operation, as well as many patients who were said to have gone stark raving mad here. Paranormal investigator Jason Hawes has said of some of the death associated with this place:

So much has happened here. I mean, at one point, you had the mentally insane, then they moved them to a different building. But some of them, because of their issues, forgot where they lived, so they came back. One fell down the elevator shaft and died, another fell out the window and died because the place was abandoned and left open. So many people have come through here.

By all accounts, the place is absolutely thrumming with often very harrowing paranormal phenomena. One frequently reported phantom is a huge, black mass that menaces and rushes at people. It apparently resembles just a nebulous black blob that is buzzing with negative energy and feelings of anger, hate, and despondency. Psychics who have been confronted with the black mass describe it as pure evil and dread, and say its psychic malevolence is so unbearable they are not able to stay in the same room as it. Another vengeful spirit said to wander the halls is that of a construction worker who was apparently crushed to death by two railway cars before the hospital was even finished, and who apparently does not like visitors, poking, prodding, and tripping people. In addition to these spirits there is a whole myriad of strange phenomena reported here, with people touring the hospital reportedly hearing voices, being touched, pushed and hit, seeing objects move on their own and having the lights go out suddenly and without warning. Chamber Executive Director Valoree Gregory herself has had her own experiences, and says of some of these:

Since I’ve been in St. Ignatius Hospital, there are things that I’ve seen and heard that I cannot explain. I’ve been kicked in the back of the foot and thought it was a person. I turned around and the person was way down the hall in another room and I thought it was the person because I could feel them behind me. I took some kids in there after their Homecoming dance and all hell broke loose. We had made it to the fourth floor, everything was fine. There was eight of us in there. We could hear what sounded like five people running up the stairs at us. It was so loud. The loudest thing I’ve ever heard in there. It’s pitch black in the building, there is no way anyone could run up the stairs because they wouldn’t be able to see where they are going. I could still hear it but there were no voices and if it were kids that broke in, they would be laughing. I get to the second floor and it stops. It’s the eeriest silence I’ve ever heard in my life. There was no one. When we had the ghost hunters come and the psychic, there was the one floor that she could barely make it up here and she said she felt nauseous. No two ghost hunts were ever the same. We saw different activity, and it was different people. We have real ghosts.

For years the Colfax Chamber of Commerce capitalized on the stories of hauntings, offering ghost tours of the hospital to thousands of curiosity seekers in order to fund renovations. The St. Ignatius Hospital was brought some amount of fame when it was featured on the hit paranormal TV show Ghost Adventures, who claimed to have carried out “a dusk-to-dawn lockdown investigation, using the latest scientific gadgets and technology to confront the reported paranormal activity and document key evidence in an effort to uncover the truth.” Before the episode had even aired host Zak Bagans was hyping it up, talking about how people at the location were being “viciously attacked” by paranormal forces and teasing that they had found irrefutable evidence that the place was haunted and tweeting:

We got something that we haven’t captured in a very long time...a FULL-BODIED apparition. We work so hard to get the best evidence we can and tonight we got it! This place is terrifying but INCREDIBLE.

The “evidence” would turn out to be perhaps not as revelatory as claimed, consisting of merely what appears to be a misty white figure in a photo from a full-spectrum camera, which can capture ultraviolet and infrared light. Nevertheless, it was great exposure for the ghost hunts, and people were coming in droves to check it all out for themselves. Sadly, the ghost tours were discontinued in 2019 when new owners bought the building and the Chamber of Commerce lost their lease. 

It is interesting that this place should be so incredibly haunted, because despite the dramatic stories of people going insane to jump to their deaths or of being crushed by railway cars or even murdered here, there is actually no real evidence in the records that any of this really happened, or that the St. Ignatius Hospital has any more tragedy or death than one would expect from any other hospital. Gregory has said of this:

There is always one story that says someone fell down the elevator shaft and passed away, that’s not true. We have other people say there has been suicides in there and we can’t find records on that. We’ve only found records of people passing away in their rooms.

Considering this lack of any real turmoil and suffering outside of what one would expect from pretty much any hospital it is hard to reconcile why this place should be not only haunted, but with such seemingly malevolent forces. Is there perhaps something more to it than we have been led to believe? Is this place maybe at some nexus that allows insidious forces to pass over between realms? Or is this just a decidedly spooky place doing what spooky places do, accruing urban legends and creepy lore? For now there is no way to really know, and it remains another haunted place sitting gathering dust as it keeps its secrets close. 

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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