RA: “Lots of hospitals have ghost stories about the people who have passed away in the operating rooms. When I worked at Ben Taub hospital in Houston, there were so many because it was such a big trauma hospital. I can’t remember them now, partially because there were so many, but there were lots of stories of dead patients lingering in the rooms where they died, especially if it was an especially difficult case. One that I remember from my time at Children’s… well, it’s a little creepy. I don’t know if you want to hear it.”
AB: “Creepy is good!”
RA: “Well, there was a baby that passed away in one the cardiac operating rooms, which is rare because we usually don’t have babies in there. One of my colleagues was in charge of that case and was really broken up about it. Ever since then you could hear a faint baby’s crying or laughter in that operating room. We knew it was the baby, and that she had stayed in the operating rooms as her final resting place. We could hear her from some of the nearby rooms, and the crying usually seemed to come from within the walls. Me and my friends, especially Erika, and some of the nurses would sometimes go to the room just to talk to the baby. We would usually just read stories, sing lullabies, and talk about our cases with it. She seemed to listen, and the crying always seemed to disappear after we talked to her. Sometimes, when I had little kids as my patients, I would take them to that room if it wasn’t being used so they could talk to the baby. They all got a kick out of it, and the kids that knew about the baby would even ask if they could play with her. Looking back, I’m sure it was something weird happening with the vents. There were lots of weird noises all over that hospital, and it usually had to do with fans and vents and wind blowing around in an old building, but everyone could tell that it was a baby laughing in that room.”
AB: “Do you think the ghost of the baby really lived in that room?”
RA: “Well, in this case, that baby was just born. The only rooms it ever knew were in that hospital, and it probably spent most of its life in the operating room. She passed away peacefully, so I think she stayed in that room because it felt like her home. There was no sense that the ghost was evil or scary or anything, so I really think, the baby just chose to stay in space where it felt comfortable.”
Ghosts often inhabit liminal spaces, and indeed, the operating room is a quintessential liminal space. Patients only enter this room during an operation, thus this room stands between sickness, pre-operation, and recovery, post-operation. When a newborn that has spent no time outside of a hospital dies in this space, doctors may perpetuate the life of the baby as a ghost that watches over a space that stands between life and death. The informant emphasized that the spirit was not malicious, and that she and her colleagues would often discuss difficult cases with the baby, so the ghost may even act as a kind of guardian of the operating room, protecting future patients and doctors.