Occupation: Nurse, Critical Care
Residence: Atlanta, Georgia
Date of Performance/Collection: April 30th, 2021
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): None
Stella is a traveling ICU (intensive care unit) nurse who currently work in Atlanta, Georgia.
STELLA: Nurses believe their hospitals are haunted, oftentimes.
INTERVIEWER: Do they believe that the hospital *you* work at is haunted?
STELLA: I mean like, when I worked at a different hospital, like—there were certain rooms that like, had really weird, like—vibes. And like, people—nurses would be like, “Oh yeah, like, I worked in that room”. And like, you know, lights would flicker and like, things would be moved. I just, like—it was always cold like, I just felt really weird. And like, there were definitely times, like… like before they would even mention that to me, like—I would walk down to that side of the hallway or like, near the room and I would like… like I felt different and then they like, told me about it later and I was like, “that’s so weird, like—I like, felt that like… [kinda(?)] that way or there’s like certain rooms like, in ICU or something where like… the patients like, always do bad and like… it’s kinda like the “cursed room” sort of thing.
INTERVIEWER: Wow… that’s really interesting and really takes the form of ghost stories [laughs] kind of in—in general, the—
STELLA: Oh, yeah. I mean, I was like, working on like, a neuro ICU at night one time, and there was like… this like, curtain that just like—kept moving. And me nurse were just like, “what the heck? Like, what’s going on?” And there was like no draft in the room and like, there was no reason for there curtain to be moving, but it was just like, fluttering. And like, it was in like the “haunted corner”. You know, it’s just like… it’s like, super spooky.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, because of all places to be haunted—I hadn’t thought of hospital rooms. But it does make total sense now. Um—
STELLA: Oh, it’s a thing. Like, all these nurse Instagrams that I follow online like… especially around Halloween, like—people will send in their like, haunted like, nursing stories. And it’s like, ICU nurses and they like… will be like “Yeah, like—this like, hospital used to be like, a psych hospital, and patients would like, jump out the window. And it—you know, it’s—like, it’s haunted. Or like, they’ll have multiple patients in the same room like, see like, the same kid in the red dress. Or like, the same like, patient who like, died there tragically will be like “oh, like—the lady with like, the blue shoes.” And it’s like, multiple patients like, have… have like, said that they see this person and like, stuff like that.
The informant seemed to relate beliefs in ghost stories among nurses to community. Shared experience is powerful, and the experiences Stella relates from her time travelling between units and hospitals served to bond her with her new, and ever changing, fellow medical professionals.
The prevalence of ghost stories among medical professionals might be explained by a common association of hospitals with death. Transience of people (coming-and-going) is also a factor, which might also explain the prevalence and proliferation of ghost stories among professionals in the hospitality industry (hotels, theme parks). One of Stella’s accounts also follows a common pattern seen among ghost stories: a person has a moment of discomfort or a brief paranormal encounter (without being told about any possible paranormal activity beforehand) which is later fleshed out by others who already know about the phenomenon. Perhaps the most interesting thing that Stella notes is the belief, not only in ghosts in the building, but in a supernatural force which acts upon the physical world, such as malevolent forces which cause a room to become “cursed”, and patients to “do bad” when assigned to them. This might suggest a search for comfort by members of the folk group, seeking to attribute unexplained medical tragedies to forces outside of their own control. There is a strong desire among medical professionals to exert control upon illness and suffering, thereby ending it with scientific means. When this fails for no clear reason, and seems to follow an uncanny trend, it makes sense for medical professionals to replace their own uncertainty with a conclusion which gestures towards the metaphysical, beyond science.