Located along 18th Street south of Harrison Avenue in Charleston, Illinois, Charleston Community Memorial Hospital opened in February 1953 and operated until 1977. It suffered from a chronic lack of admissions and staff. In May 1977, Mattoon Memorial Hospital and Charleston Community Memorial Hospital completed a nine-year consolidation effort by merging into Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center. After the hospital closed, it was converted into a professional office building and is currently home to the Coles County Health Department, American Red Cross, and other non-profit organizations. According to current and former employees, however, something of the past remained.
“Our office was at first what used to be the surgical room,” Ellie White told the JG-TC in an October 2012 interview. Ellie worked in the building from 1985 to about 1998. “There were no windows and it was all enclosed… There were a lot of mornings I would go in to work and open up, and there would be a strong cigar smell in the area.” Fellow employees told her that the ghost of a former cigar-loving doctor was responsible for the strange odor. It was his way of letting people know he was still around.
Other employees heard the sound of children laughing, crying, and running through the hallways. Coffee mugs disappeared and reappeared, and disembodied voices have been heard in the former hospital kitchen.
Becky Guymon worked in the building from 2006 to 2010. She told the JG-TC about other strange occurrences. “We would hear some knocking noise that seemed to follow us,” she said. “And in the women’s restroom, we would have lights turn off and on us, and they weren’t the motion sensored lights. You could check the switch and it wouldn’t be flipped. And also, the stall doors would open and close.”
None of the former employees described the eerie encounters as threatening or malicious, and they continue to this day. Hair raising? Yes, but in their simple way, these ghosts of the past help keep alive the memory of what once was.
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