Story and Photography by Sarah Naron
Hospitals were meant to be places of healing and recuperation. But if you’re like me, you’ve always found them a little on the creepy side. Earlier in my 20s, I spent two years working in one (during my “hey, being a pharmacy technician sounds like fun!” phase…a horror story all its own), and there were plenty of times I got the chills—such as while working the late evening shift and being given the task of restocking meds on the cardiovascular surgery floor, which was completely deserted (save for me and my med cart) and dimly lit at that time of night (cue mental images of that cheesy ’90s horror-comedy, ‘Dr. Giggles’). A couple of times, coworkers and I goofed off and indulged in a stroll through the dark, deserted portion of the hospital that once served as a long-term care ward. And don’t even get me started on the hair-raising feeling that accompanied having to go into a trauma room and retrieve a crash cart after someone had been pronounced dead in that very room not even an hour earlier (a feeling made infinitely worse on the handful of occasions when the bed was still occupied by the deceased and none of the emergency room staff saw fit to provide a heads up).
Creepiness aside—or perhaps the creepiness is actually to blame—I have always had a sort of odd fascination with hospitals, especially those that harbor a history of alleged paranormal activity. Several years ago, I watched an episode of ‘Ghost Adventures’ on the Travel channel in which the cast stayed overnight at one such location—Yorktown Memorial Hospital, located just under 90 minutes from San Antonio. The old place definitely had plenty of creep factor, and taking a visit of my own made its way onto my bucket list.
When Kay informed me that she wanted “everything that goes ‘bump’ in the night” for this month’s edition of TFH, Yorktown Memorial was one of my first suggestions. Kay accepted the idea, I arranged the trip, and within a few weeks, my husband, J.C. (a somewhat unwilling participant, but still a good sport), and I were trekking up the front steps of the 30,000-square-foot building as Eddie Mayfield, the hospital’s caretaker, filled us in on the history.
“This place was built in 1950 and run by three of the Felician nuns of the Roman Catholic Church and the priest,” Mayfield explained. “From 1950 to 1985, it ran as a small community hospital and then shut down and reopened as a drug rehab facility. That didn’t go well at all; they finally shut the doors in 1990 due to insurance fraud and malpractice issues.”
During the hospital’s 40 years in operation, Mayfield said, a total of 2,000 patients passed away in the facility. While it may not seem to be a strikingly high number given the fact that plenty of hospitals see many more deaths, Mayfield feels that the size of the building makes the amount of death that occurred there seem “crazy.
“The hospital is very small, so to imagine that 2,000 people died in here is astronomical,” he said. “It’s just plain crazy.”
Part of the deaths, according to Mayfield, were caused by the actions of some of the doctors who worked at the hospital. While many doctors came and went throughout the hospital’s existence, a handful remained there for the entire duration. Among them were Dr. Norwierski and Dr. Specks – a surgeon and an obstetrician, respectively.
“All the records in this place were taken out by the doctors, because they didn’t want anybody to know what they were doing,” Mayfield said. “They were up to no good; they were doing stuff they weren’t supposed to do. They were drunk in their power. They were hurting for money, too, so they were – more or less – doing shortcuts. Some of the stuff they were doing was pretty bad.”
While the majority of the medical records were destroyed or simply lost to time, the records of Dr. Specks were left in the hospital and taken into Mayfield’s possession.
“I was reading his patient log from 1984, and there was a page and a half of dead babies,” Mayfield divulged. “That’s one of the reasons they shut this place down, because stuff like that was going on.”
Other activities which contributed to the hospital’s demise, Mayfield said, were the illegal abortions that took place there.
“Mayfield added that Dr. Norwierski’s record had its own blemishes that further marred the reputation of Yorktown Memorial.
“He’s the one that performed most of the surgeries,” Mayfield said. “He was the oldest practicing physician in Texas. He was well into his 90s when he retired and died. He would do shock treatments on people – with or without their consent. He would also slice their throats for thyroid procedures, and he was doing a variety of different experiments on people.”
It is reported that in the 1950s, the hospital’s original caretaker – an Africa gentleman by the name of Mr. Williams – was murdered in the third-floor observation room.
“He was talking to administration about what the nuns were doing, and the priest wasn’t very nice,” Mayfield explained. “They found out about it, had him killed, and cut him up in little-bitty pieces. They took his pieces and threw them in the incinerator. Whether that story is true, I don’t know, but it makes a good bedtime story.”
Tragedy also struck in the basement boiler room, Mayfield said.
“This room was the site of a murder-suicide,” he explained. “There was a lover’s quarrel. A woman who worked at this hospital was messing around on her husband, and she and her lover were making out in here. The husband found out, came through the door, ran up with a knife, and stabbed her and the lover and himself.”
One of the boiler room walls bears several dark splotches believed to be blood shed during the incident.
“It goes all the way up to the top of the wall,” Mayfield said. “That’s about 12 feet. Unless you cut somebody’s jugular vein, you would not get blood splatter like that.”
Mayfield expressed his disbelief of the story to the owner of the hospital, who encouraged him to do some investigating.
“The story changed when I met Donna Perez,” Mayfield said. “She was the youngest nurse that worked here in 1983; she was 16 years old.”
Perez, who paid a visit to the hospital in January 2019, claimed that Danny, a former coworker of hers, was the one responsible for killing the lovers and himself in the basement – and instead of a knife, his weapon of choice was a firearm.
“That would explain the blood splatter, because bullet wounds do that,” Mayfield pointed out.
Although the hospital has been out of operation for nearly three decades, it is widely speculated that the building is far from empty. Paranormal investigators and other visitors claim that due to its troubled past, Yorktown Memorial Hospital is as active today as it has ever been.
Mayfield said the alleged paranormal activity is what led to his involvement in the hospital.
“This was something that my wife, Stephanie, has wanted to do all of her life,” he explained. “She was always fascinated with the paranormal. So, she started doing the tours here. She doesn’t do the tours anymore, and one of the reasons is that she was being attacked here.”
According to Mayfield, the worst incident occurred in June 2019.
“The Ghost Adventures crew came in here and did a documentary,” Mayfield said. “They introduced themselves to me, and we talked, and I said, ‘You know, I don’t care what you guys do. Make the show interesting. But one thing I don’t want you guys to do is use a Ouija board. Please don’t use it. I know it’s exciting. I just don’t like it. Just keep it away from here.’”
The crew agreed to honor Mayfield’s request, but proceeded to conduct a Ouija board session in the hospital chapel soon after beginning their investigation.
“There was some stuff that happened that normally doesn’t happen,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield recalled that the day after the investigation, he and Stephanie traveled to visit a friend in San Antonio who shared their appreciation of the paranormal and had previously conducted her own explorations of Yorktown Memorial.
“Stephanie started acting very strange,” he remembered. “I didn’t know what to think of it. She went to the restroom, and I talked to her friend and said, ‘Did you give her any drugs or something? She’s acting not like herself.’ She goes, ‘No, Ed, we’ve had a couple of beers, and that was it. Man, she’s acting weird.’”
Soon after, Mayfield – who was in the back yard with the friend while waiting for Stephanie’s return – received a text message from his daughter, who was 16 at the time.
“She said, ‘Dad, you need to come in here. Mom is freaking out. I’m freaking out. She’s not herself. Please come in,’” Mayfield explained. “So, I went in, and I saw Stephanie. It looked like she was being pulled with invisible rope or something. And as she’s being dragged, she’s screaming at the top of her lungs.”
Mayfield and his daughter helped Stephanie to her feet, and he said she promptly “just lost her balance and fell flat on her face.
“We did this several times, and she just kept falling,” Mayfield said. “I’m like, ‘What is going on?’ My daughter was totally freaked out; she was terrified.”
The teenager was so unnerved by what she had seen that she requested to be taken home, and Mayfield left his wife in the care of their friend to return home with her.
“When I saw Stephanie the next day, it looked like Mike Tyson got a hold of her,” he said. “She was beat up bad. Her face was all messed up, she had scratch marks, she was really not looking good at all.”
As a result of the experience, Mayfield made the decision to relieve his wife of her tour guide duties and undertake them himself.
“Make no mistake, I love it,” he said. “I get to meet people from all over the world – Scotland, Australia, all over the place. So, it is rewarding.”
Regardless of its positives, Mayfield said, the job is one he does not expect to be able to maintain for a lengthy period of time.
“I cannot do this place for more than two or three years,” he said. “Because it’s starting to affect me mentally and physically. My biggest complaint physically is that I’m tired all the time. Every time I do a tour, at the end of the day, I am totally spent. And I don’t do anything. So, there’s something in the hospital that’s making me weak and lethargic.”
The draining of energy, Mayfield said, is something several visitors have reported experiencing as well.
“We have people who come here for overnight investigations, and a lot of times, they don’t stay the whole night,” he reported. “They’re brutally tired, so they leave. There’s something in there.”
Mayfield also claimed that while alone in the hospital, he has heard noises such as voices and crying babies. Evidence of spirits – such as shadow figures and orbs – have also reportedly shown up in pictures he has taken in various areas of the building.
“My third day here, I was here to clean up,” he recalled. “The old caretaker did not care about the hospital; he just let it go. He was here 11 years, and he was burnt out. Plus, he wanted to go back home. He wouldn’t do tours; he would just give people the key and say, ‘Have fun.’ Well, they would have fun. They would destroy the place.”
Mayfield spent approximately three hours in the hospital that day, the last hour of which he described as “a nightmare.
“I kept hearing noises in the kitchen,” he said. “There was nobody here. So, I turned off my hearing aids. Usually, when I turn my hearing aids off, I can’t hear anything. But this time, it didn’t matter. I could hear the noise without my hearing aids because it was so loud. So, I got freaked out and left and went home.”
Mayfield recounted the experience to his wife, voicing his intended refusal to never return to Yorktown Memorial.
“She goes, ‘You have to go back. You’re the caretaker. You’re helping me run this place,’” Mayfield said. “She said, ‘They’re probably doing that to you because they don’t know who you are. You need to sit down with them and tell them what’s going on.’”
Although he found the idea “stupid,” Mayfield followed the advice during his next visit to the hospital.
“They have not bothered me since,” he reported. “So, hey, I’m cool with that.”
In addition to the kitchen, spirit activity has been reported in the hallway outside of the emergency room and is credited to a man named TJ, a felon who overdosed on heroin and was brought to the hospital.
“Instead of being like normal people and getting him registered, they just left him at the back door,” Mayfield explained. “So, by the time the doctors got to him, he was dead.”
Also among the resident ghosts of Yorktown is Stacy, who frequently visited the hospital in the 1970s.
“Her mom used to work here as a nurse, and I guess she brought her here because she couldn’t find a babysitter,” Mayfield said. “Dr. Norwierski had an infatuation with Stacy. I don’t know what their relationship was, and I don’t want to know. But he used to buy her toys, clothes, books – all that stuff.”
Stacy eventually died in the hospital – Mayfield is unsure of the cause – and has since been heard crying and seen in photos taken near the chapel.
Those with tattoos are encouraged to be cautious when entering the chapel, as the nuns allegedly haunting that portion of the facility are said to harbor a strong dislike for body art.
“I don’t know what it is about tattoos,” Mayfield said. “But they don’t like people with tats.”
Activity has also been reported on the second floor of the hospital. While the majority of the level was used as living quarters for the employees, one room at the end of the hallway was designated as the isolation room.
“This is a very freaky room,” Mayfield said. “People that were going through withdrawal symptoms would be put in here. It was padded at one time, and it has a steel door.”
Patients brought to this room were given doses of medications aimed at counteracting the effects of whatever drugs they had taken, Mayfield explained.
“But the staff really didn’t know what they were doing,” he said. “So, the people would panic, and they would kill themselves in this room. There’s lots of activity in here.”
Room 114 – which once served as a room for adult patients – was described by Mayfield as being “the most popular room in the entire hospital.
“People that I give tours to – they’ve had parents and siblings that died in this room,” he said. “This is a very active room. People claim to see spirits walking into the room.”
Also among the spirits reported to be in the building is Sister Mary Elena, who once served as the hospital’s head nun.
“A lot of people claim she’s still living and that she’s residing in a retirement home in Italy, where she’s from,” Mayfield said. “I doubt that very much; I’m pretty sure she’s dead. Paranormal teams have made contact with her, and she has responded.”
Mayfield was recently informed by a ghost hunter visiting Yorktown Memorial that one of the spirits is focused solely on keeping an eye on him.
“There were three female ghost hunters, and they were ahead of me; I was trying to keep up because they were so excited,” he explained. “All of a sudden, one of them just went, ‘Stop!’ I was like, ‘What’s going on?’”
Mayfield said the woman paused, looking at him and at the area directly around him.
“And she goes, ‘Wow. A spirit just went by, and it’s behind you, Ed,’” Mayfield recalled. “And I said, ‘Okay. What does this spirit want?’ And she said, ‘The spirit says she’s been following you since you started working here three years ago.’”
Mayfield inquired about the identity of the spirit and was informed that her name was Maggie. According to the ghost hunter, Maggie had made it her mission to protect Mayfield and keep him from seeing apparitions while in the hospital.
“I don’t know if I believe her,” Mayfield said. “I don’t know. But that’s freaky. And if Maggie’s here – cool. I feel good to have somebody following me.”
While many visitors find the thought of being touched by a spirit unnerving – and understandably so – Mayfield insists that those who experience such contact should not be afraid.
“They’re not gonna hurt you,” he said. “If you walk around here and get pushed and shoved – if something kicks your feet or grabs your behind or whatever – please don’t go. Stay! That’s why you’re here, man. You want that stuff to happen to you. You might be an empath or a medium. Who knows? Those people are special; spirits are interested in those people. If it happens, embrace it. Enjoy it. Because you’re special.”
Yorktown Memorial Hospital is open for tours by appointment. The cost of admission is $25 per person. For reservations, please call 210-748-4475 between the hours of 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.
Yorktown Memorial Hospital is located at 728 W. Main St. in Yorktown.