St. Ignatius Hospital
St. Ignatius Hospital was a Roman Catholic hospital founded in 1893 in Colfax, Whitman County, Washington, United States. Mother Joseph Pariseau of the Sisters of Providence supervised the building project.
The hospital served Whitman County in southeastern Washington and the larger Palouse region of the northwestern United States, which includes parts of north-central Idaho and north-east Oregon.
[Note: The Sisters of Providence, formerly Sisters of Charity of Providence, is a religious organization of Roman Catholic women founded in 1843 by Mother Émilie Gamelin in Montreal, Quebec.]
St. Ignatius Hospital was one of the first health institutions the Sisters of Providence built in the Inland Northwest region of the U.S. around the Greater Spokane area.
St. Ignatius Hospital building project started in 1893
The project started in 1892 when a Roman Catholic priest, Rev. Jachern, realized the need for a healthcare center to serve parts of the Inland Northwest (Spokane Historical Organization).
He contacted the Sisters of Providence and requested they establish a hospital in the Palouse region. Colfax hosted the hospital after outbidding cities such as Pullman and Palouse City.
Construction commenced in April 1893, with Mother Joseph Pariseau of the Sisters of Providence supervising.
[Note: Mother Joseph Pariseau, born Esther Pariseau in April 1823, was a Quebecois Roman Catholic sister who pioneered the humanitarian work of the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. She distinguished herself as the first female architect in British Columbia (Stephen Hume, Vancouver Sun, June 9, 2017) and supervised the construction of several healthcare institutions, schools, orphanages, and libraries in B.C., Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon.]
The first patient had pneumonia
While the building was under construction, a small group of women from the Sisters of Providence began operating a clinic in a makeshift wooden structure hastily erected on the site. Their first patient (according to the Spokane Historical Organization) was a person with pneumonia. The clinic moved to the completed building in 1894.
St. Ignatius Hospital quickly became a hub of healthcare service provision in the Palouse region. The Sisters added new structures in 1917 and 1928 to cope with the increasing demand for their services and established a school of nursing.
St. Ignatius Hospital’s first nursing students graduated in 1911. The school also produced the first male nurses in Washington State–Philip Krom and Archie McClintic–in 1941.
When St. Ignatius Hospital closed in 1964, the building consisted of 50,000 square-foot of space divided into five floors, a basement, and 25 rooms. The morgue was down in the basement.
St. Ignatius closed in 1964
St. Ignatius Hospital did not receive any significant support from the government. It relied on private donations and sponsors for funding. Patients paid whatever they could afford.
Thus, one of the reasons the hospital closed down was financial constraints that meant that the Sisters of Providence could not afford the expenses of constantly upgrading and modernizing the aging structure and facilities.
The issues came to a head in the early 1960s when the institution faced the threat of losing its license due to its outdated facility. The Sisters decided it would be more cost-effective to build a new facility instead of attempting to upgrade the old one. So they initiated an effort to construct a new hospital (Moscow-Pullman Daily News, May 2010).
St Ignatius Hospital eventually shut down in 1964. It relocated to the new facility, Whitman Community Hospital on Fairview Street, which opened in 1968.
After the hospital moved to a new facility, the old property hosted an assisted living facility, St. Ignatius Manor. It catered to developmentally disabled adults from 1968 to 2003.
The property remained abandoned until 2015 when it opened as a historic haunted house. Due to its deteriorating condition, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation included it on its Most Endangered Watch List in 2015.
According to KHQ.com, about 9,000 tourists visited the building from 2014 to 2017. Whitman County Gazette reported that the Colfax Chamber of Commerce supervised the tours.
Tour guide and director of the Colfax Chamber of Commerce Valoree Gregory told the Spokesman-Review that ghost tours were a source of funds for maintaining and preserving the historic site.
Private individuals and businesses have shown interest in purchasing the property and developing it for ghost tours since 2015
Anthony Griges and Marianne Salib purchased property but sold it to Austin and Laura Storm, a couple from Moscow, Idaho for $115,000 on April 23, 2021, according to the Whitman County Gazette.
Austin and Laura reportedly started a crowdfunding campaign with the backing of the Whitman County Historical Society to preserve the property.
Local folklore claims that the rooms and halls that once housed the St. Ignatius Hospital now have ghosts of past patients and inmates haunting them.
Due to the lower quality of healthcare services in the era before the discovery of safe and effective pain relievers, antibiotics, and advanced surgical procedures, many patients who would have survived today suffered and died in pain.
The realization that thousands of people died due to various painful conditions during the decades St. Ignatius Hospital received patients makes the site attractive to paranormal enthusiasts, researchers, and ghost hunters.
Stories about past incidents at the hospital have become the stuff of legends locals share with visitors. Most information about the hospital’s past comes from people who claim to have worked there. Many residents also claim they knew patients who died there.
Some locals share first-hand stories about ghost encounters. However, most accounts are second-hand or urban legends circulating in the communities for years.
Tour guide Nancy Cochran told the Spokesman-Review that the building was an eerie place after nightfall. It seemed to visitors unfamiliar with the layout that the building was a network of endless hallways spreading out in different directions. Visitors often got lost wandering in it.
The hallways and passages were full of dark shadows, low or muffled conversations, often in anguished or angry tones, and doors slamming.
According to Cochran, the building has five floors and a basement. The first floor housed the emergency department, the second obstetrics, and the third was for patients with infectious diseases. The fourth floor housed the surgeries and X-ray departments. Sisters of Providence and nurses lived on the top floor.
The fourth floor delivered the spookiest experiences, according to City Administrator Mike Rizzitiello, who claimed to have observed paranormal activity in the building. Rizzitiello claimed that on multiple occasions while wandering the fourth floor, he heard ghostly footsteps approaching but never saw anyone.
F. E. Martin’s tragic death
The first fatality at St. Ignatius Hospital was reportedly a patient named F.E. Martin (Spokane Historical).
Martin died in 1893 after being crushed between two railroad cars. Local legend claims he died in pain and agony, and his ghost has since haunted the structure.
Some of the rooms in the property bear the names of patients who once occupied them. One such room is known as Rose’s Room.
Rose’s room has an eerie atmosphere that people find uncomfortable when they step inside for the first time, according to Gregory. Some guides and visitors refused to enter the room due to the oppressive atmosphere.
Gregory, born at St. Ignatius Hospital in the 1960s, claimed to have known Rose. She was a patient who lived in the room when the property served as an assisted living facility for adults with developmental disabilities.
According to Gregory, they invited a psychic to communicate with Rose’s ghost. The psychic obtained recordings of ghostly voices in the room that sounded very angry.
Left is Dead hallway
There was a hallway on the first floor that the tour operators nicknamed “Left is dead.”
The name comes from the practice during the early years when emergency department staff took patients right if their condition was treatable and left if they were going to die.
Turning left takes you to a room and then an elevator that goes down directly to the morgue in the basement.
Did a patient fall down an elevator shaft?
Gregory used to be a skeptic but became convinced after multiple experiences.
According to the tour official, locals share a tragic story about a patient who plunged down an elevator shaft and another who committed suicide.
Gregory expressed doubts, noting they did not find such information in the records. But she recalled having strange experiences in the building. She claimed someone once kicked her from behind. When she turned around, there was no one there.
However, she could feel a mysterious presence around her.
Ghostly footsteps on the stairs
An even weirder incident happened while Gregory took a group of high school kids around the building.
While on one of the top floors, they heard loud noises from the stairs below, as if people were running up and down, making as much noise as possible.
She stood by the stairway banister and looked down to see who was there. But it was pitch black below. She wondered who would race on the stairs when they couldn’t see where they were going.
The kids became scared and started demanding that she do something. She didn’t know what to do but went down the stairs toward the noise, hoping it would stop.
When she came to the second floor, there was an eerie silence. She then called the kids to come down to the exit.
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Featured Image: St. Ignatius Hospital is an allegedly haunted hospital building in Colfax, Washington. Pic credit: Wikimedia/Public Domain
|Address||St. Ignatius Hospital, 1009 S Mill St, Colfax, WA 99111|
|Activity reported||Haunting, Poltergeist, Shadow Figures|
Where to find
In the media
Ghost Hunters Season 16, Episode 6, airing on May 11 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Travel Channel, follows the TAPS team and special guest Tory Belleci (who played Daredevil on Mythbusters) exploring the old St. Ignatius Hospital building in Colfax, Washington.
In the episode titled The Myth of St. Ignatius, the paranormal experts investigate decades-old claims that ghosts of past patients and inmates haunt the dark corridors and hallways of the abandoned building.
https://stignatiuscolfax.com/, “About St. Ignatius,” accessed on April 7, 2023.
https://www.wcgazette.com/story/2021/04/29/news/old-st-ignatius-hospital-sells-to-a-colfax-couple/35083.html, “Old St. Ignatius Hospital sells to a Colfax couple,” accessed on April 7, 2023.
https://www.khq.com/news/st-ignatius-hospital-is-getting-a-face-lift-and-major-attention-from-a-youtuber/article_b952b55e-e508-11eb-8ede-0f7f50d4df61.html, “St. Ignatius Hospital is getting a face lift and major attention from a YouTuber,” accessed on April 7, 2023.
https://spokanehistorical.org/items/show/598, “St. Ignatius Hospital: A Haunted Hospital in the Palouse?” accessed on April 7, 2023.
https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/canada-150/canada-150-esther-pariseau-built-hospitals-schools-orphanages-for-the-poor, “Canada 150: Esther Pariseau built hospitals, schools, orphanages for the poor,” accessed on April 7, 2023.
https://dnews.com/slice_of_life/history-repeated-st-ignatius-manor-hospital-a-history-abandoned/article_ec4b3a8d-b3fa-5f74-a728-4a770ebcdca3.html, “HISTORY REPEATED: St. Ignatius Manor Hospital: A history abandoned,” accessed on April 7, 2023.
https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/oct/31/the-abandoned-st-ignatius-hospitals-new-owners-aim/, “St. Ignatius Hospital’s new owners aim for a balance between community and creepy,” accessed on April 7, 2023.
https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2019/jun/18/tv-show-claims-proof-of-ghosts-at-st-ignatius-hosp/, “TV show claims proof of ghosts at St. Ignatius Hospital in Colfax, but no haunted tours scheduled,” accessed on April 7, 2023.
https://www.khq.com/news/spokane-spooks-how-haunted-are-the-halls-of-colfaxs-st-ignatius-hospital/article_3e0ec3e0-f5d8-11e9-8c56-c7b31acc081c.html, “SPOKANE SPOOKS: How haunted are the halls of Colfax’s St. Ignatius Hospital?” accessed on April 7, 2023.
https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2016/oct/07/st-ignatius-in-colfax-finding-new-life-as-a-haunte/#/0, “St. Ignatius in Colfax finding new life as a haunted hospital,” accessed on April 7, 2023.
https://dailyevergreen.com/144065/life/we-have-real-ghosts/, “We have real ghosts,” accessed on April 7, 2023.