Tales of the Ghosts at Cottage Hospital
Hospitals harbor ghosts of all kinds, from the people who worked there to those who died there. There are many stories about ghosts at Cottage Hospital in Nantucket – the original hospital that officially opened in 1913 and was in operation through 1957 when a new facility was opened. The homes remaining where there once was a bustling hospital show some memories in the steps leading up to the entrance to what was the main building, and they’ve left lots of ghosts behind.
The History of Cottage Hospital
Cottage Hospital was a twinkle in the eyes of Doctors Benjamin Sharp and John S. Grouard in 1911. The following year they invested in an old homestead, with the assistance of the Hospital Endowment Committee, that would be transformed into the hospital. The original Cottage Hospital opened to patients in 1913.
This original hospital sitting on West Chester Street was the first hospital in Nantucket. There are three of them that made up the original “cottage” look of the hospital. These days the buildings that were once the only option in Nantucket for people needing a doctor’s care are home to two private residences and a condo. There were apartments there in between as well. The hospital moved into a new facility located at 57 Prospect Street in 1957. Even that location required an expansion in the 1960s due to the need for better medical care for island residents.
When Cottage Hospital initially opened, it was only taking patients during the summer season. In the first month of operation, beginning on August 12, 1913, they only had three patients. They also performed an appendix operation before closing for the season in September.
It wasn’t until around 1915 that the hospital would begin staying open year-round. They stayed open now because it was needed. There was at least one point when they had to turn patients away. By 1917 they were so overcrowded that there wasn’t room for off-duty doctors and nurses to find private rooms for some rest between shifts.
In 1918 a family donated money to the hospital so an addition could be built. It was perfect timing because the influenza epidemic struck the island and sent over 300 people into the hospital for treatment. Only nine people succumbed to the illness.
As the years went by, more equipment and more money were needed to keep up with patient care and the changing times. Fundraisers helped bring in most of the funds, including a thrift store and special events. The final expansion to the original hospital came in 1940.
In the 44 years that the “old” Cottage Hospital saw patients, lots of residual energy was left behind, and people living on the property since then have had interesting experiences. From missing keys to sightings of shadow people, while only faint reminders of the old hospital are noticeable on the outside of the building, there are plenty of ghostly reminders on the inside.
Tales of Ghosts at Cottage Hospital
In the book “Haunted Nantucket Island,” author William Alexander shares the stories of multiple residents in the homes that now sit where the Cottage Hospital once operated. Even more stories than what are in the book have been told about the spirits still hanging around the former hospital. Here are some of the curious tales.
The Case of the Missing Keys
One interesting story about things that have happened in the original Cottage Hospital since it became homes instead of hospitals is about a couple and their missing keys. According to the story in “Haunted Nantucket Island,” a couple was living in an apartment in one of the “cottages” when they experienced something that would make anyone believe in the paranormal.
The boyfriend had a daily ritual of pitting his keys on a table inside the apartment door when he arrived home, but one day, when he was heading out, his keys weren’t there. The relationship was a rocky one, to begin with, so the boyfriend was quick to accuse his girlfriend of moving his keys, though she hadn’t touched them. They argued, and the boyfriend when ahead to tearing the apartment apart, looking for the keys.
After he’d gone room to room and even pulled the cushions of all of the furniture, with his girlfriend at his side the entire time, they returned to the place the keys should have been, and they were right there. They hadn’t been; both of them knew it. The woman told the author of the book that this wasn’t the first time things went missing in their apartment, but it was the first time something important had.
The Basement Apartment
Another renter in one of the hospital buildings had a place in the basement. Basements in hospitals are notoriously the morgue, so many folks may find it an unsavory place for living. This particular tenant had no qualms with this realization, but he did have some other issues while renting the basement apartment.
The apartment always felt cold, even when the windows were covered in plastic. The landlord would come in and check the furnace only to find it warm and working as expected. The chill in the apartment wasn’t the only spooky thing going on.
The tenant had a watch that beeped each hour, but when he was in the apartment, it always beeped at odd times, like twelve minutes to or seven after. When he wasn’t home, the watch worked perfectly normal.
As if watches beeping at the wrong time and a freezing cold apartment wasn’t bad enough, the tenant always felt like someone was watching him when he tried to sleep in his bedroom. The feeling was so strong that he started sleeping in a different room.
The Phantom Nurse
One would expect phantom doctors and nurses to haunt an old hospital, and the apartments in the former Cottage Hospital were no exception. One single mother with a five-year-old daughter lived in one of the apartments. Her daughter was ill, and the doctors had trouble pinpointing what was wrong with her, except that she had a lung problem that was causing her difficulties.
Once they’d moved into this apartment, the daughter started telling her mom stories about a lady who came to take care of her at night when she was having trouble breathing. Initially, the mom thought her young child was making up stories, but the ghostly nurse told the little girl that she missed taking care of all of the babies and little children now that there weren’t as many to watch over. It seems the phantom nurse was doing a swell job, as the little girl began to feel better – she felt better enough that it stumped her doctors.
Later on, during an illness of her own, the mom “met” that same ghostly nurse who came to take care of her in the night as well. Sometimes ghosts stick around to help us – even if the idea of someone hanging around after death is a little frightening to some.
The Disappearing Man
One apartment tenant chose not to stay there very long – what he saw frightened him so much that he left the island altogether. It was more than what he saw, but a combination of what he heart as well. Apparently, the sound of crying babies was common, even though no babies lived in the building. From the previous story, we know that there were plenty of babies in the hospital when it was running.
The thing is, this guy had a notion that the sounds of crying babies where there are no babies is the devil trying to lure people to him. Exactly where this idea comes from is unsure. Nonetheless, this, combined with a ghostly mad with no legs wearing a hat coming down the stairs toward him when he got home from work one night, was enough to cause him to pack his bags.
Creepily enough, the legless figure passed him on the stops, a chill in the air around him. The ghost acknowledged the tenant with a smile and hat tip, then faded into nothingness as he went further down the steps.
Perhaps the ghosts haunting the old Cottage Hospital are of people who passed away in the hospital, like those who didn’t make it through the influenza epidemic. Maybe some of the doctors and nurses who worked there returned after death to watch over ghostly patients. Whoever it is haunting these homes and apartments, they’re making themselves known to the tenants.