10 most haunted hospitals in the US: Guaranteed to creep you out!

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Exploring the corridors of the unknown: Inside haunted hospitals

Have you ever walked past an old hospital and felt a chill, wondering what stories its walls could tell? Well, you’re not alone. There’s a certain pull to these places where so many life-and-death dramas have played out. In this post, we’re talking about haunted hospitals — particularly the crumbling, abandoned ones — but also those still in operation, that are rumored to have unexplained occurrences.

We’re going on a fascinating tour through the history and stories of some of the world’s most haunted hospitals. Whether you believe in ghosts or are just here for a good story, we’ll explain what makes these hospitals hotspots for paranormal enthusiasts and why their stories continue to capture our attention.

So, sit back, relax, and let’s journey into the world of haunted hospitals. Who knows? By the end, you might start seeing these places in a whole new light.

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Historical context of haunted hospitals

Hospitals haven’t always been the advanced facilities we see today. The history of hospitals started in ancient times with institutions in Greece, the Roman Empire, and the Indian subcontinent. Early Greek temples dedicated to the sick and infirm were the precursors to hospitals but were quite different from modern hospitals.

The concept of public hospitals emerged towards the end of the 4th century with the establishment of the first Christian hospital in the Byzantine Empire. This marked the “second medical revolution”.

Over centuries, hospitals developed across Byzantine, medieval European, and Islamic societies, eventually spreading to colonies in North America, Africa, and Asia. St Bartholomew’s hospital in London, founded in 1123, is one of the oldest functioning hospitals today​​.

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Epidemics have profoundly impacted society and, by extension, hospitals. For example, the tuberculosis epidemic at the end of the 19th century led to significant public health campaigns. These campaigns not only raised awareness but also brought about behavioral changes in the general public, like discouraging cup-sharing and spitting in public, which helped reduce the disease’s prevalence.

Similarly, wars, especially World War I and II, were pivotal in the creation of many military hospitals and innovations in hospital care. Government-run hospitals increased in various countries post-World War II. By the late 1900s and into the 21st century, hospitals began to be managed by networks and government health organizations, leading to the closure of smaller, less efficient hospitals in the West​​​​.

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All these historical twists and turns contribute to why some hospitals feel haunted. Epidemics like tuberculosis in the 19th century, yellow fever in the 18th century and the diphtheria outbreak in the 20th century all left lasting imprints on the community and healthcare facilities. During these times, hospitals were often overwhelmed with patients and witnessed numerous deaths.

These are places that have witnessed the highs and lows of human experience: epidemics bringing waves of patients, wars flooding hospitals with the injured, but also the births of children and live saving procedures. Events like that left deep emotional imprints on these places. It’s no wonder that some old hospitals have a reputation for being haunted — they’re like time capsules of human history and tragedy​​.

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The lure of abandoned haunted hospitals

You know when you pass by an old, abandoned hospital and feel a certain air of mystery around it? It’s a common feeling, and there are reasons why these places often get labeled as haunted.

Abandoned hospitals and asylums, with their history of dark times and traumatic events, naturally stir up a sense of mystery and intrigue. They are often associated with the spirits of those who once lived or worked there, believed to be trapped or unwilling to leave due to the sadness and trauma experienced within their walls. This association is not just limited to hospitals but extends to any large, deserted buildings that once held troubled populations like prisons and orphanages​​​​.

It’s not just their history of housing pain and trauma, but also our own psychological wiring. Psychologically, the creepy atmosphere of such places trigger feelings of dread because they activate deep-seated alarm buttons in our brains. These warnings of potential danger are a product of evolutionary psychology, where the brain is wired to respond to ambiguous threats with caution.

The uncertainty of whether these places pose a threat or not is what makes them unsettling. Plus, large, drafty buildings with creaking sounds, fluttering curtains, and echoing halls are classic triggers for hypervigilance against perceived malevolent agents, whether supernatural or natural.

Our evolutionary predisposition to err on the side of detecting threats in ambiguous situations plays a significant role in why these hospitals are perceived as haunted​​. This natural instinct, combined with the heavy history of these sites, makes them the perfect setting for ghost stories.

Take the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in West Virginia, for example. Its past is packed with stories of overcrowding and rumored hauntings. There’s also the Eastern State Hospital in Kentucky, equally notorious for its dark history and ghost sightings. These places are like time capsules, each with its own chilling story.

We’re drawn to haunted hospitals because they’re like real-life mystery novels. They let us peek into the past and feed our curiosity about the unknown, and there’s something about that mix of history and the possibility of ghosts that’s just so captivating. It’s about feeling connected to a past we weren’t part of and wondering about the mysteries that might still linger in those old halls. It’s human nature to be curious, and haunted hospitals are perfect for sparking that curiosity.

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Famous hauntings: Most haunted hospitals in the United States

Haunted hospitals, often old and brimming with stories, capture the imagination. Whether it’s an abandoned asylum or an operational hospital with a spooky past, each one has its own narrative.

For those who are fascinated by ghost stories or the supernatural, these 10 haunted hospitals offer a peek into the unknown.

1. Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Kentucky

Waverly Hills Sanatorium, located in Louisville, Kentucky, is renowned for its haunting tales. Originally, this site wasn’t a hospital but a family home with a schoolhouse, named after the “Waverley novels”. However, the rampant spread of tuberculosis in the early 20th century transformed it into a sanatorium, believed to be an ideal location due to its high altitude and fresh air.

Patients at Waverly Hills were subjected to experimental treatments, including surgeries like thoracoplasty and artificial pneumothorax, which were considered cutting-edge at the time. The sanatorium was initially designed for about 50 patients but soon became overwhelmed, housing over 140 patients.

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Photo by Royasfoto73, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By the late 1930s, tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in Kentucky, further burdening the facility. The huge number of deaths led to the construction of a secret tunnel, known as “the body chute,” designed for discreetly removing bodies.

Today, Waverly Hills is infamous for its paranormal activities, with reports of unexplained phenomena like footsteps, voices, and apparitions. The fifth floor, particularly Room 502, is known for its ghost stories, including sightings of apparitions and unsettling experiences reported by visitors.

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2. Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, West Virginia

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (also known as the Weston State Hospital) in Weston, West Virginia was established in 1858 and completed in 1881. The facility was initially designed to be a more humane mental health institution, which was a big contrast to other asylums of the time. The creators intended for patients to be comfortable, not simply confined.

Sadly, this vision soon became overshadowed by severe overcrowding and deteriorating conditions. By the 1950s, the asylum was swarming with 2,400 patients, far exceeding its intended capacity of 250. The overwhelming number of residents led to chaos, including incidents of murder and fires set by unsupervised patients​​​​​​.

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Photo by Upstateherd, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As for its haunted reputation, the asylum is filled with tales of ghostly encounters and paranormal activities. Visitors and staff often report sightings of ghostly figures and unexplained phenomena.

One of the spirits said to haunt the asylum is Lily, a little girl believed to have been born and died within its walls. She is said to make her presence known by doing things like holding hands, tugging on clothing and giggling.

Ruth is another spirit frequently encountered. She is said to have been an aggressive older woman during her life at the asylum, particularly on the first floor near her old holding cell.

Other reported ghosts include Dean, who haunts the room where he was brutally murdered, and Elizabeth, a nurse who supposedly continues her rounds beyond death​​​​​.

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3. Utica State Hospital, New York

The Utica State Hospital in New York, originally known as the New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica, has a history as complex as it is somber. Opening its doors in 1843, it was the first state-run hospital for the mentally ill in New York, considered a state-of-the-art facility at the time.

Its original design featured four identical buildings with a central courtyard, but due to funding cuts, only one of the planned buildings was completed. This quickly led to overcrowding, with all beds filled soon after opening.

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One of the buildings at the Utica State Hospital, the Doctor’s House. Photo by Andrey Volk, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, the care provided at Utica State Hospital was far from ideal. The facility was known for performing lobotomies and electroshock therapy on patients. Living conditions were deplorable, with patients confined in cramped spaces and receiving minimal care.

One of the many disturbing inventions at the hospital was the Utica Crib. Created by the asylum’s first director, Dr. Amariah Brigham, this crib was a long, shallow caged bed used to restrain and punish unruly patients. While intended as an alternative to chain restraints, many saw it as barbaric.

Since its closure in 1973, the abandoned “Old Main” building of the Utica State Hospital has been the subject of numerous ghost stories and reports of paranormal activity. Visitors and those who have explored the abandoned facility have shared chilling experiences, such as hearing screams and seeing faces in the windows, believed to be those of former patients.

The chilling atmosphere of the building and its dark history fuel these tales, making it a haunting reminder of the past. The site is mostly off-limits, but occasionally ghost tours are offered​​​​​​.

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4. Danvers State Hospital, Massachusetts

Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts stands out among the most iconic haunted hospitals on this list. The facility was originally built in 1874 and opened in 1878. The hospital was built on Hathorne Hill, where Judge John Hathorne, a leading figure in the Salem Witch Trials, once lived.

The hospital’s design followed the Kirkbride Plan, which is a specialized architectural style for mental institutions. It’s even rumored to be the birthplace of the pre-frontal lobotomy. Despite its initial intent as a treatment center, Danvers State Hospital expanded over the years, eventually becoming overcrowded and overwhelmed.

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Photo by John Phelan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Things got really bad in the late 1930s and 1940s, when the patient population swelled to over 2,000 — despite the facility being designed for only 500. As a result, the hospital experienced a decline in the quality of care, leading to its closure in 1992. The site was later sold to Avalon Bay Development, and most of the original buildings were demolished in 2006, leaving behind only some tunnels, cemeteries, and the brick shell of the administration and the D and G wings​​.

Danvers State Hospital has certainly left its mark on popular culture. It’s believed to have inspired the infamous Arkham sanatorium in H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Thing on the Doorstep”, which in turn influenced the creation of Arkham Asylum in the Batman universe.

The hospital’s reputation is further solidified by its appearance in various media, including the 2001 horror film Session 9 the book Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz, and the video game Painkiller where one level is based on the hospital’s central administration section.

Also, episode 6 of the podcast “Lore,” is dedicated to Danvers, and the Call of Cthulhu tabletop game’s scenario “Genius Loci” takes place in the hospital​​.

The tales of hauntings and ghostly encounters at Danvers are not limited to fictional representations. Following its closure and partial demolition, there have been reports of mysterious fires breaking out in apartment complexes built on the site. People have also claimed to see apparitions of former patients​​.

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5. Alton Mental Health Center, Illinois

The Alton Mental Health Center in Illinois was built in the early 1900s, and it soon developed a notorious reputation due to the harsh “treatments” administered to its patients. The history of this hospital reveals a troubled evolution in the treatment of mental illness.

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These treatments included crude electroshock therapy, lobotomies, and cold-water therapy, with some reports even suggesting these cold-water treatments could last for hours — if not days. At the time, these practices were considered cutting-edge, but by today’s standards, they would be viewed as inhumane and akin to torture​​.

After its establishment, the hospital expanded its facilities and treatments. Hydrotherapy was introduced in the 1920s, and by the 1930s, specific wards were opened for World War I veterans, civilian men, women, and tuberculosis patients. The 1940s saw the introduction of Electro-convulsive Therapy (ECT) and lobotomies. The hospital had a patient population of 1,775 — far exceeding its capacity of 1,084.

By the 1950s, new antipsychotic medications were introduced, leading to an increased rate of patient discharge. Hydrotherapy was phased out in the 1960s, marking a shift in treatment approaches. The facility was renamed the Alton Mental Health Center in 1975 and continues to operate today​​.

Modern reports from the still operational Alton Mental Health Center tell of unexplained paranormal phenomena. Staff, patients, and visitors have reported hearing unusual noises, indistinct whispering, doors slamming without cause, and disembodied voices asking questions.

Nurses working in secluded parts of the building have reported hearing a man asking, “Who’s that?” when no one was visible. These experiences, coupled with reports of sensations of being touched by unseen hands and photographs capturing orbs with human faces, add to the hospital’s haunted reputation.

There’s also a network of tunnels that connect the facility — which have naturally been the subject of many ghost stories — though they remain closed to curious paranormal investigators​​​​.

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6. Rolling Hills Asylum, New York

Rolling Hills Asylum in New York has an interesting history — it evolved from a poorhouse to an asylum, later earning a reputation as a site of paranormal activity and becoming a feature on the Haunted History Trail of New York State.

Initially established on December 4, 1826, as the Genesee County Poor Farm, the facility was designed to house a wide range of individuals, including orphaned children, the elderly, the physically handicapped, the mentally unstable, and even criminals.

Government-run facilities for the support and housing of dependent or needy persons were common in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The poor farm was self-sufficient, spanning over 200 acres, and the residents — referred to as inmates regardless of why they were housed there — were required to work the farm and even produce goods for sale​​.

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Photo by Adam Moss, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The asylum’s haunted reputation comes from its long history and the often marginalized individuals it housed. Reports suggest that over 1,700 people died within its walls. Over the years, the asylum served various purposes, including an infirmary, a nursing home and even a shopping center. Visitors and staff have frequently reported encounters with a ghost named Roy, as well as experiences of voices, footsteps and doors opening and closing by themselves.

Today, Rolling Hills Asylum offers a variety of experiences for those interested in its history and paranormal aspects. Visitors can engage in self-guided ghost hunts, historical tours and special events. The facility has also received attention on national television, featuring on shows like Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” and SyFy Channel’s “Ghost Hunters”​​.

It is also a part of the Haunted History Trail of New York State, a tourism program that includes 65 haunted locations such as inns, restaurants, museums and military sites. This trail caters to travelers interested in adding a paranormal dimension to their journeys, whether through staying in haunted hotels or learning about history through ghost walks.

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7. Eloise Psychiatric Hospital, Michigan

The Eloise Psychiatric Hospital in Michigan is another example of poorhouse-turned-hospital. Established in 1839 as the Wayne County Poorhouse, the institution underwent several transformations, expanding into an asylum, sanatorium and hospital over the years.

By 1913, it was known as “Eloise”, named after the daughter of Detroit’s postmaster. At its peak during the Great Depression, Eloise housed around 10,000 residents. This sprawling complex became self-sufficient, operating like a small town with its own police and fire departments, a railroad, trolley system and various facilities such as a bakery, post office and power plant.

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Photo by Dwight Burdette, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It also housed the first kidney dialysis unit in Michigan and pioneered music therapy. Despite its forward-thinking approaches, Eloise also used controversial treatments like lobotomies, hydrotherapy and insulin therapy. Over time, the population dwindled, and the psychiatric division closed in 1982, followed by the general hospital in 1986​​.

These days, the site of Eloise Psychiatric Hospital and the adjoining Eloise Cemetery are reputed to be haunted. This reputation has evolved into a haunted house attraction, transforming one of the remaining buildings and drawing both paranormal investigators and urban explorers.

The Kay Beard Building, a well-known remaining structure, once served as Eloise’s admission and post offices and housed patients and staff. It now forms part of the Eloise Asylum haunted attraction. Despite the controversies surrounding the portrayal of the site’s history, efforts continue to preserve its legacy, including identifying patients discovered in a nearby burial ground​​​​.

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8. Royal Hope Hospital, Florida

The Royal Hope Hospital in St. Augustine, Florida, originally built in the late 1700s, was one of Florida’s oldest hospitals. Situated near the Spanish quarter village in St. Augustine, it was originally known as Our Lady of Guadalupe and served as a military hospital for over forty years, treating soldiers from several battles, including the Seminole Wars and crude Civil War amputations​​.

During reconstruction efforts, disturbing discoveries were made which have contributed to its reputation for being haunted. Construction workers found that the original hospital was built over a cemetery or possibly a Native American burial mound, likely a Timucuan burial site. This revelation, along with the hospital’s history, has led to numerous reports of ghostly encounters over the years​​.

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Various parts of the hospital are associated with specific paranormal activities. The Mourning Room, where family members of the deceased would gather, is known for disembodied voices praying, sobbing and moaning, along with an overwhelming sense of despair.

The Surgeon’s Office reportedly has a spirit that grabs onto visitors’ clothes, described as having a freezing cold and forceful grasp. In the Ward, beds are said to move on their own, and visitors report being scratched and hit. The Apothecary, used for storing medicines, is a site for sightings of shadows and hearing sobbing spirits.

Other reports include full apparitions, clear voice recordings, moving objects, unexplained bruises and hearing disembodied voices, including words of Spanish origin. Orbs have also been reported, following visitors around and even appearing in their cars as they leave​​.

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9. Pennhurst State School and Hospital, Pennsylvania

Pennhurst State School and Hospital in Pennsylvania, originally known as the Eastern State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic, was established in 1903. This institution was designed to accommodate and provide specialized care for the mentally and physically disabled. It was meant to house no fewer than five hundred residents, divided into educational and industrial, and custodial or asylum departments​​.

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Photo by Smccphotog (talk) (Uploads), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By the late 1960s, the conditions at Pennhurst were publicly exposed as being substandard and abusive. A 1968 television news report by Bill Baldini and a 1981 Time magazine article described the facility as understaffed, dirty and violent, with instances of patient abuse.

In 1983, nine employees were indicted on charges related to patient mistreatment. The Halderman Case, a lawsuit filed in 1974, detailed widespread patient abuse and ultimately led to the closure of the institution in 1987. The lawsuit argued that the conditions violated the patients’ constitutional rights and resulted in the deinstitutionalization of the residents, moving them into smaller community living arrangements​​​​​​.

Today, Pennhurst has been partially transformed into a seasonal haunted attraction known as Pennhurst Asylum. This transformation, completed in partnership with the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, has been both successful and controversial, particularly among locals and those previously affiliated with Pennhurst​​. The haunted attraction preserves part of the history of the facility while also serving as a reminder of its controversial past.

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10. Essex County Hospital, New Jersey

The Essex County Hospital Center, once known as the Overbrook Asylum, is located in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. It initially functioned as a general hospital before transitioning to house patients with mental disorders. The original site, now part of the Essex County park system, witnessed massive changes over the years, eventually giving way to a new hospital in 2006 and redevelopment into park and residential areas by 2017​​.

Established in 1896 on land purchased by the City of Newark to alleviate overcrowding at Newark Hospital, Overbrook expanded over time, adding several buildings, including a power house, laundromat and theater. Tragically, in the winter of 1917, a catastrophic boiler failure resulted in 24 patients freezing to death in their beds.

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One of the wards at Overbrook. Photo by See page for author, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By the mid-1920s, Overbrook had transformed into a mental institution, operating until its closure in 2007​​. The latter part of the 20th century saw significant changes in mental healthcare, with new medications leading to the decline of traditional mental hospitals. The patient population at Overbrook dwindled, and many buildings were abandoned.

These deserted structures, along with local stories about escaped patients and troubled spirits, are responsible for adding to the hospital’s haunting reputation. The complex, which had housed a diverse array of individuals over the years, including tuberculosis patients and drug abusers, became known for its ghostly tales and attracted both curiosity seekers and paranormal investigators​​.

As the site faced demolition, it became a popular location for urban exploration, despite warnings against trespassing. Stories of hauntings and supernatural occurrences proliferated, with accounts of apparitions and other paranormal phenomena. The location even drew attention from the film industry, with movies like “Choke” and TV shows such as “Ghost Adventures” featuring the hospital​​​​.

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Scientific perspectives: Are hospitals haunted?

As we wander through the corridors of haunted hospitals, stories of unexplained phenomena often leave us pondering: Are these hospitals truly abodes of the supernatural… or can science shed light on these experiences?

Picture this: You’re walking down a dimly lit hospital corridor, and suddenly, you feel a presence. It’s not just your imagination; it could be electromagnetic fields (EMFs) at play. Research spearheaded by neuroscientist Michael Persinger suggests that EMFs, though imperceptible to us, can stir the brain into feeling a ghostly presence.

His experiments revealed that weak magnetic fields around the head could evoke sensations often attributed to paranormal encounters. This theory aligns with findings that many haunted sites feature unusual magnetic fields, suggesting a possible link between EMFs and our ghostly sensations​​.

Have you ever felt a sudden chill or unexplained dread in a hospital room? Infrasound could be the invisible culprit. These sound waves, undetectable by the human ear, can trigger a range of unsettling physical responses. Engineer Vic Tandy’s work in a ‘haunted’ lab revealed that a fan emitting infrasound at 19 Hz caused him and others to experience a range of spooky symptoms, from feeling depressed to seeing ghost-like apparitions.

It turns out, these inaudible vibrations were disorienting enough to mimic a haunting. Subsequent studies have reinforced the connection between infrasound and the eerie sensations often linked with ghostly encounters​​.

Additionally, social psychology offers insight into how our perceptions of paranormal activity can be influenced by others. A study from Goldsmiths, University of London, found that if someone confidently asserts they’ve witnessed a supernatural occurrence, others are more likely to believe and even recall similar experiences.

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Further reading and resources

We’ve ventured through the hauntingly fascinating world of hospitals that have become known for their ghostly residents. From the eerie halls of Waverly Hills Sanatorium to the chilling stories surrounding the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, these places hold secrets and stories that are both haunting and historically significant.

As we close this chapter, we invite you to share your thoughts on haunted hospitals. Do you think these stories just figments of our collective imagination, or do they hold a kernel of truth? Maybe it’s the mystery that keeps these stories alive? Let us know what you think in the comments! 👻

And for those eager to look further into the world of haunted hospitals, here’s a list of books and documentaries that offer more insights:

  1. The World’s Most Haunted Hospitals by Richard Estep – This book offers firsthand accounts of paranormal investigations in hospitals worldwide.
  2. Ghost Adventures – This Travel Channel series features episodes exploring haunted hospitals and asylums.
  3. Haunted Healthcare by Richard Estep – This book goes in-depth the experiences of medical professionals in hospitals known for their paranormal activity.
  4. Paranormal Witness – A Syfy series that includes documentary episodes on haunted hospitals with dramatic re-enactments.

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