Monday, December 16, 2019

It Feels Evil Paranormal Fact Checks--The Real History of Yorktown Memorial Hospital

Author's note--I conducted the research for LiveSciFi's investigation of Yorktown Memorial Hospital for the new Travel Channel show It Feels Evil. The local folklore has been related as "history" by the owners of the location and almost every paranormal investigation ever conducted. This dossier was made available to the production company before the show was filmed, and demonstrates why legitimate research is a necessary requirement for ANY paranormal investigation--and also how often that research is ignored in favor of folklore and downright lies. This dossier has been presented in its original form.

Almost every online source claims that over 2000 people died at Yorktown Memorial Hospital in Victoria, Texas. Unfortunately, as with so many other paranormal sites being run as tourist destinations, those claims have been wildly exaggerated. The facts tell an entirely different story. It appears that the majority of these claims stem from the Ghost Adventures investigation of the hospital or were initiated by an owner or interested party, and are being propagated by the guides on ‘historical’ or paranormal tours of the property 
But there is VERY little about Yorktown Memorial Hospital in the newspaper accounts of DeWitt County, Texas. At first I couldn’t figure out why. And then I realized the answer was actually very simple: Yorktown Memorial Hospital wasn’t a hospital the way we think of them today. The hospital was more like an overnight urgent care. It was created to handle childbirth and labor, minor/routine mostly outpatient surgeries, and to stabilize patients with emergency care before transporting patients to bigger facilities. This wasn’t a hospital designed to handle critical care. That’s the reason why claims of 2000 or even 500 deaths at the location have been grossly exaggerated, and why almost every newspaper article archived about the hospital is a birth announcement.  
According to records cited by Pam Culpepper of the Yorktown View-News, only 7 of the 33 years of the hospital’s existence ended with over 60% occupancy—of a 27-bed facility. These are the real statistics involving occupancy:  
1951 - 367 - 27.1%  
1952 - 624 - 33.1  
1953 - 778 - 38.9  
1954 - 773 - 41.3  
1955 - 700 - 52.8  
1956 - 689 - 50.0  
1957 - 607 - 48.1  
1958 - 717 - 53.9 
1959 - 741 - 52.9  
1960 - 713 - 55.0  
1961 - 700 - 41.0  
1962 - 630 - 74.7  
1963 - 617 - 64.6  
1964 - 546 - 65.1  
1965 - 529 - 52.1  
1966 - 577 - 58.5  
1967 - 569 - 58.6  
1968 - 579 - 72.3  
1969 - 578 - 66.6  
1970 - 585 - 64.5  
1971 - 592 - 62.1  
1972 - 560 - 64.5  
1973 - 476 - 57.4  
1974 - 458 - 54.1  
1975 - 495 - 46.1  
1976 - 518 - 52.2  
1977 - 448 - 39.3  
1978 - 484 - 41.4  
1979 - 596 - 45.5  
1980 - 452 - 39.5  
1981 - 494 - 46.4  
1982 - 654 - 52.7  
1983  655  44.4  

That’s 19,501 total admissions in 33 years, meaning that in order for over 2,000 people to have died in the hospital, roughly one out of every ten people admitted would have had to died. Obviously, that’s statistically impossible. Any hospital would have been shut down long before 1984 with statistics like that, and particularly such a small hospital. The other number quoted frequently is 500 deaths, which is one out of forty admissions, but that seems rather high as well. This wasn’t a hospital designed for the kind of health care that would result in a high number of deaths. boots on the ground researcher would more than likely be able to find the exact number of deaths in the hospital, but the rough average of deaths per admissions nationally is about 2.4% according the CDC (775,000 deaths per 31.7 million hospital admissions in 2000; 776,000 deaths per 35.1 million admissions in 2010). ( 
That being said, it’s important to understand that this hospital was not equipped to do major surgeries, provide long-term health care, or to provide critical care. According to a history of the hospital in the DeWitt County View of June 27, 1984:  
“In the spring of 1946 when the Dr. Allen Community Hospital of Yorktown was converted into a rest home for the aged, the city was left without a place to meet emergency needs, much less to handle births or ordinary surgery. It was then that agitation began in earnest to build a community hospital.”  
That hospital opened on March 25, 1951. The building is a cross-shaped single story with only the center section having a second story. The second story is the convent for the nuns who staffed the hospital, including living quarters and a chapel. When the hospital opened its doors, there 
were ten doctors and nine nuns on the staff for the 27-bed facility.  
After the closing of the local hospital when it was turned into a nursing home facility in 1946, the people of Yorktown came together to have a new hospital created for births, minor surgeries, and emergency situations—a place to stabilize patients before transferring them to a larger facility. By June of 1949, $150,000 had been raised, and when the committee in charge of the facility sought a religious organization to help the local Catholic priest suggested the Felician Sisters. 
The Felician Sisters are a Franciscan order of nuns whose members profess public vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Mrs. Louis Streiber, widow of a former town mayor, donated ten acres for the hospital, and that’s where the facility was built.  
Something to know about the Felician Sisters here—the sisters were the last people paid for their work, and they were paid at a rate far less than what laypersons received: 
 “The Sisters, who comprise one-third of the professional help are on a salary much lower than the going rate for their respective positions. Their salaries are sent to the Motherhouse for the upkeep of the Motherhouse, education of the young Sisters, and medical care for the sick and elderly Sisters. Only after all has been paid, employee salaries and suppliers bills, do the Sisters get paid. Their salary has been in arrears many, many times for as long as found months until such time that enough cash flow was available to pay them. Each year’s audit confirms the fact that without the lowered rate of pay to the Sisters, the hospital could not have survived. The auditors and those in the financial know-how are amazed that the hospital has existed in spite of all the financial obstacles, primarily because of low patient census. The relief, the substitutions, and the 24-hour back up and call by the Sisters are the basic reason for the Yorktown Memorial Hospital's survival to the 80's.”  
This makes sense, particularly when the hospital finished in the black only 7 years out of its existence. So taking into consideration these factors, the place of Yorktown Memorial Hospital in the community wasn’t that of a normal hospital, and the death statistics that were reported by a previous TV investigation were grossly exaggerated. After all, Yorktown’s population has hovered right at 2,000 for fifty years. I went through forty years of newspaper articles in the DeWitt County newspapers. Ninety percent of the mentions in the paper were birth notices. The remaining ten percent were announcement of board meetings, events notices, and death notices which were almost all events that had happened elsewhere—like massive heart attacks at home—but were brought to the facility for a doctor’s care and confirmation of a DOA.
There was no suicide-murder-love triangle involving patients and staff ever reported at the facility. There was no death notice for a little girl (more on this later). There was no notice of the death of a man named Doug Richards in 1973. There is no article or report of Dr. Leon Norwierski having slit a patient’s throat during a thyroid surgery resulting in that patient’s death or any other allegations of incompetence. (Note here that if a doctor made that kind of horrific mistake, he’d be sued for malpractice and his medical license revoked. While I can find articles Dr. Norwierski wrote for the American Journal of Medicine, there is no indication anywhere that he was sued or his license revoked for incompetence. Current libel/slander laws state that once a person is dead, you cannot libel or slander them legally so everything’s fair game. That’s a dead shame because this facility and the groups that just copy/paste the history seem to be slandering a doctor who did nothing but good for that town.) There were no articles or reports that anyone died at the back door of the hospital from a drug overdose when his friends just left him at the ER entrance and rang the night bell for a nun to come find him. 
All that being said, what we seem to find here at Yorktown is the gradual creation of folklore built around an abandoned building. When the hospital was finally closed, it just sat there and rotted. Kids broke into the building, turning it into a hangout. Also, keep in mind that the second floor of the central hallway was a convent with the chapel and altar still intact. Considering that paranormal activity has spread across the street to the feed store/lumber yard and the second floor there is particularly active, it’s a reasonable assumption that the Felician Sisters’ convent, chapel, and living quarters have been defiled or desecrated. There’s no telling what happened in those area before steps were taken to stop/prevent trespassers 
However, here’s a tidbit that might interest you: After the hospital closed it was then converted into a drug rehabilitation facility, which was eventually halted by the state for their inability to contain their patients. One example of this claim is of a patient that exited the facility, who then walked across the street to the local feed store where they slapped an employee across the face.” 
So there does appear to be at least an allegorical tie established between the feed store and the hospital, which could explain why the energy from the hospital is allegedly showing up across the street now.  And it does make sense that the nuns were incapable of keeping rehab patients confined and on the property. So I started thinking about the “TJ” who allegedly died outside the emergency entrance when he was dumped there by his friends after a heroin overdose. I thought that just maybe the legend was being told backwards, and that he was a patient who got out of the hospital without the nuns’ notice and subsequently tried to get back in at night when the place was locked up and couldn’t. But…no. Still no TJ deaths listed in any of the DeWitt county newspapers. Since death records are sealed in Texas for 75 years, the newspapers are the only avenue I’ve got. 
According to the DeWitt County Appraisal District Tax Rolls, the hospital ownership since it closed is as follows. City to James D. Short (no date), James D. Short to Short Family Trust (5/26/1995), Short Family Trust to Herbert Schaefer (11/25/1998), and Short Family Trust to Phillip M. Ross (8/07/2008), Phillip M. Ross to Jo Ann Marks Andrews Rivera.  
A couple of things to mention—caretaker Mike Henson has told stories about seeing strange black creatures/masses in the hospital corridors that are “about the size of an adult German Shepherd”—which ties into a theory I have regarding demonic/negative haunts like the Bell Witch or the Welles House where this type of thing has been documented. Same thing with the little girl ghost—something that pops up all the time in demonic hauntings like the Sallie House. That would really make me focus on the second story and the chapel/convent during the investigation. I think you’ll be more likely to find evidence of desecration and that would explain the hauntings on this property.  
While there were naturally some deaths in the hospital--most likely fewer than 100--I’ve found nothing to indicate that any of those deaths were connected to the reported ghosts that haunt this location. I’d be inclined to think that if Dr. Leon Norwierski haunts the ER/OR area, it would be as a residual entity. I’ve found no evidence of the other named ghosts to back up those claims. There were no reports of a double homicide in the basement and the “blood spatter” (if that’s what it is and I’d use luminol to test it) either post-dates the hospital when a trespasser injured themselves or a maintenance worker using a sharp tool injured himself—which makes sense seeing as the alleged blood is in a boiler room in the basement.  
By passing on these legends as fact, the management of the Yorktown Memorial Hospital facility is recklessly endangering visitors and investigators of the site by sending them out thinking the entities are innocuous only for them to find something completely different. Out of all the stories I’ve found/researched, I’d be most interested in the link between the feed store and the hospital, which at least seems to be corroborated. For a haunting to spread that distance, I’d consider this to be a demonic infestation caused by a combination of thirty years of trespassers’ legends, misinformation, and the perpetuation of that misinformation by ownership, a previous televised investigation that seems to just have made stuff up, and tour guides/paranormal guides who reinforce those false legends on a daily basis.  
However, not everything’s been good between the ownership of the hospital and the town of Yorktown. Local residents who were born at the hospital or witnessed the death of someone they loved at the hospital are horrified at the use the hospital’s been put to. In 2010, the city forced previous owner Phillip Ross to close the hospital for code violations. After a complaint by someone who had visited the site, the county building inspector and codes officer were denied entry into the hospital. When a judge issued a court order to the owner, a group of county and town officials entered the building, eventually finding code violations in the electricity, the structure, and the plumbing. The city administrator added that the two hours he spent in the building during the inspection didn't have him fearing ghosts. 
"If I am scared of anything in that building, it's tetanus," Puente said. 
ETA: I am waiting for a couple of phone calls that might impact this dossier, but I doubt it. I’m currently trying to dig out whatever I can on the drug rehab center but the powers that be in that town don’t seem to want to discuss it. As best I can tell after an extensive search of the historical record as documented by newspapers and personal accounts, none of the published stories regarding the hospital are based upon actual historical fact. Any haunting there—and there’s an extensive provenance to support the fact that the building is haunted—has to have been engineered by what happened on and to the location after it was decommissioned as a hospital and abandoned for a number of years before being turned into a paranormal attraction. And considering the nature and spread of the haunting, there seems to be evidence that the haunting began with the desecration of the convent and chapel and is now fueled by a steady stream of investigators and tourists and the energy they bring to the site.