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Unexplained Cases | Haunted Hospital Ruins

Written by: Rick Garner
Case Filed: 2/29/20 - New York City, New York
Executive Producer: Rick Garner

  


Smallpox. It was a dreaded killer and disfigurer for more than 3,000 years in all parts of the world. Prior to the vaccine’s discovery in 1796, more than 400,000 people a year died from smallpox in Europe alone. Worldwide vaccination efforts led to the disease eradication in 1979. 


The highly contagious and deadly viral disease once contracted either killed the victim or left them with significant scarring - especially on the face, arms, and legs. 

Before the late 1800s, many cities built hospitals specifically for treating smallpox sufferers. In New York City, on the southern tip of Blackwell’s Island (now Roosevelt Island), one such hospital opened on December 18, 1856, to keep infected patients isolated far away from the population. 
James Renwick Jr. designed the smallpox hospital. Better known for Grace Church on Broadway, St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Madison Avenue and the Smithsonian Institution in DC, Renwick’s Gothic Revival style hospital treated about 7000 patients a year from 1856 until 1875. During that time, nearly 14000 patients died in a structure designed for 100 beds. There are accounts these bodies would be heaved into great piles, burned, and disposed of in the East River. 

In 1875, the building was renamed Riverside Hospital. In 1886, it was converted into a nurses’ school and dormitory. The city smallpox hospital was moved to North Brothers Island. By the 1950s, Renwick Hospital had become useless and was abandoned by the city, quickly falling into disrepair including becoming a drug den and being gutted by fire. 

With 14000 deaths - such emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual torture - it’s no surprise the Smallpox Hospital is considered the most haunted location in New York City. With limited time, I made the trek to the tram...crossed the river...and began the walk to these ruins just 5 days late of it’s opening anniversary. 

After exploring and setting up to investigate, I realized that I’d made a rookie mistake. Although I had brought along fresh batteries, I had neglected to bring a small phillips screwdriver. Thus, when I learned that my tri-field meter was dead, I had no means to get the fresh battery into it. And when I learned my SB7 Spiritbox was drained, I realized it uses AAA batteries and not the dozens of AAs I had for my lights.

So, I walked back to where the tram deposited me and even further to a CVS for a screwdriver set and batteries. Plus, took advantage of the Starbucks across the street for refueling. Then, I made my way back to the ruins. Whew, definitely getting the steps in!

There are many challenges investigating such a structure. Being on the tip of an island, it’s quite windy. With Manhattan just across the river, city noises are constant. The structure is a shell and considered unstable. It’s entirely fenced off. Breaching the fence is trespassing. Trying to conduct a spirit box session here affirmed the need to remove the antenna from the device. There’s so much radio interference on the FM and AM bands it was very difficult to discern if I were hearing any responses or just receiving radio chatter. However, one response is rather interesting and appears to be my name!

My suspicion is that there’s more history...more stories...more here than meets the eye. I want to keep this Unexplained Cases file open. I want to return here with more equipment, more time, and unravel what mysteries this 164 year old structure holds.

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