Haunted Past: Jefferson Davis Hospital by Bou C. Boeun

1101 Elder Street
Houston, Texas 77007

January 2004–The Jefferson Davis Hospital, designed by Wilkes Alfred Douglas, was built in the early 1900s and opened in December 2, 1924, as a charity hospital. Located in 1101 Elder Street, Houston, Texas 77007, the building was used as a venereal disease clinic, psychiatric hospital, juvenile detention ward, and even a food stamp distribution center. The hospital was built over Houston’s official 1800’s city cemetery, which put to rest over three thousand bodies including former slaves, city officials, victims of the yellow fever and Civil War soldiers. The name Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, was used as a memorial for those buried underneath the hospital. In 1938 a second Jefferson Davis Hospital, which was torn down in 1999, was built and the original building was turned into a storage center from the 1960s to the 1980s. It has been abandoned for more that twenty years and the building’s architectural design was even used in the movie Robocop 2, where the fabricated drug “Nuke” was produced. Visitors of the abandoned structure would report seeing paranormal activities in and around the hospital. Thus, the building was named one of the top haunted spots in Houston by varies Internet sites.

The first time I laid my eyes upon the hospital a chill went down my spine. As the moonlight shines on the rough surface, an appearance of a scary movie comes together. The building is four stories high and made entirely of concrete and red brick. A dull barbed wire fence surrounds the property without a gate in sight. As I crawled under a loose part of the fence, my hands glazed a piece of glass, barely cutting my skin. Wild grass and endless vines grow around the structure and produce an aroma of mud and plant life. All the windows and doors have been removed and graffiti with satanic writings are everywhere, which is only to disturb the spirits at rest and start trouble.

Inside the building beer cans and cigarette butts are abundant on the ground and metal pipes and wires are hanging from the ceiling. The majority of the floors are set up exactly the same, so if your not paying attention you could get lost. Half of the fourth floor however has a large open recreation area, which was used for a garden and playground. From there you can see the outside of the hospital and the buildings surrounding it. There is no electricity throughout the building and the halls are pitch black. The only light you could get is from a flashlight or a street lamp shining through a window. When moving down the hall you could feel some rooms are colder than others. Occasionally I would make quick turn, because of a strong sense of someone lurking in the darkness. A very dangerous area in the hospital is an open elevator shaft near the stairs. At the bottom of the shaft is broken equipment and beer bottles. A confused or careless person might think of it as another room and fall to their demise.

Behind the hospital there is a small patio filled with old chairs, tables, mattresses, and filling cabinets. A wood roof shades this area, but time has deteriorated the structure leaving holes. Water collects between these objects and creates a strong smell of old furniture. The rust from the metal stained the tile to a dark brown, making the appearance of old blood. Near the filling cabinets are documents and patient cards scattered on the floor. Most of them have faded and suffered massive weather damage. These are just the remains of previous looters, which already scavenged items throughout the years.

If you follow a mud trail a few feet behind the hospital there is a small incinerator building, which is surrounded by tall poison ivy. Compared to the hospital the incinerator isn’t architecturally astonishing and is falling apart. The one story building has a simple square figure, made from the similar brick as the hospital, and has large smoke stack on the roof. When inside the building there is limited room to move around and the stench of rust fills the atmosphere. The ground is concrete and there are only a few small windows, so it is darker than the hospital.

Almost every night you could see teenagers or adult ghost seekers, with their cameras, wander into the hospital looking for adventure. Every so often they would go in drunk and distorted, so maybe their minds can play tricks on them. The hardcore visitors will go in the hospital, usually three at a time, and roam around alone, using only their cigarette as their source of light. On a parched shadowy night you could see them playing hide and seek throughout the hospital and take cover in rooms where patients use to sleep. The novice visitors would go in, as a group of five or more, and carry heavy duty spotlights and slowly move across floor to floor. Visitors say floors with the most ghost sightings are the third, which is where mental patients were kept, and the basement, where they treated African American patients. Some people wouldn’t even dare to walk on those levels for the possibility of meeting an enraged ghost. During October the hospital becomes a very popular place. People would hold small Halloween parties in the building with underage drinking.

On July 31, 2003 a group of young adults got mugged, in the hospital, by armed robbers leaving the building. According to KTRK news crew, which reported at the scene, the robbers fired one shot at the teens, but no one was hurt. They took their wallets and all valuable possessions. The police brought a k-9 to the area hoping to find them in the building, but they where nowhere to be found. Ever since then a very disgruntled and armed security guard would make his rounds in a golf cart, trying to stop trespassers in the region. The punishment for being caught is a call to the Houston Police Department and a night in jail or fine. Signs are posted all over the fence and around the hospital saying, “no trespassing”, but eager adventurers don’t obey the warnings and take a risk walking around the building.

On March 2002 Houston’s Archeological and Historical Commission accepted the suggestion of declaring the building a city landmark. Then on June 20, 2002 the Harris County Commissioners sold the abandoned hospital to Avenue Community Development Corporation and Artspace Projects. The plan of these two companies is to transform the building into thirty-one affordable lofts for low to medium income artists. The companies will spend $6.2 million for reconstruction, restoration, environmental cleanup, land, and a monument for those buried.

The Jefferson Davis Hospital is a very good place to get cheap thrills, but danger creeps at every corner. Just like the teenagers who got robbed, you never know what could happen. The kids just wanted to have some excitement and explore a historical landmark, but they got taken advantage of. The best action to take is by not even going in the building. People should read and follow the signs posted on and around the building. They are there for the public protection and should be obeyed. You have a greater risk of running into a mugger, security guard or even the paranormal if you step inside. The people entering the hospital are also disrespecting the bodies that were buried, by vandalizing the building and treating the place like an amusement park. The enormous collection of trash makes the building a health violation. People should not walk around because of the risk of stepping on something hazardous. In a couple of years the Avenue Community Development Corporation and Artspace Projects will began their construction in turning the vacant hospital into inexpensive lofts for artists. I don’t understand how a person would be able to live in a building that was once an old hospital built over three thousand 19th century graves. Knowing this information I would keep a crucifix around my neck at all times and have trouble sleeping. Before the restoration begins people should just enjoy the structure as a building that appears haunted, from the outside. Then they would be able to just imagine what went on behind the walls of the Jefferson Davis Hospital.






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