The Haunting of St John’s Hospital
Like every hospital, death occurs daily and St John’s was no exception. With spine chilling medical procedures being performed and people being held in padded cells, there’s no surprise that there are several stories about inmates committing suicide and treatments going wrong. One story tells of how one of the inmates hung himself at the top of a set of stairs within the asylum. Was this due to his mental condition or having to endure the harrowing day to day life in the asylum? Stories such as this may be the reason for some of the strange phenomena reported from within the grounds.
When the hospital was closed, two removal men were employed to clear the building. They did not stay for long as the blood curdling sounds of screaming made them flee from the building. It is said to be a regular occurrence to walk past the asylum and hear screams emanating from within the solid walls.
The fire brigade has even been called to the building when residents have reported sightings of small fires being lit, visible from the windows. On arrival, there were never any fires to be put out. Although some of the firemen have reported seeing strange lights in the corridors. Some think it could be intruders or squatters starting the fires, others believe it’s the work of the paranormal.
In September 2010, a photograph taken by a group who snuck into the property was printed in the Lincolnshire echo. It shows the outside of the building from a distance, but when magnified, a white figure can be seen stood looking out of one of the windows. Of course there is scepticism about the reliability of the photo, but for some it only proves further their belief of ghostly activity in the building.
The Homestead public house in Bracebridge heath is set in the grounds of the former hospital and has had several reporting’s of ghostly activity itself. Many staff and customers have reported seeing ghostly nurses and patents roaming around the pub.
Arriving at the gates of the former asylum at dusk, I could see smashed windows, an old roof and graffiti. I had expected the building to be stripped bare and for there to be very little evidence of its former use. I was wrong.
On entering the building, the grand staircase made me stop and look for a few minutes. Wrapping round both sides of the room and meeting at the landing. There were no banisters left on the staircase and paint was peeling off the walls.
Once climbing the stairs, all five of us stood in the doorway of the first room. But not for long. We all shot round at the same time and stood in silence. After, we shared the same story of seeing a dark figure rushing past the doorway.
After no more activity, we moved on to the children’s ward. It was only when I saw the children’s paintings still on the walls that I began to think about the patients that were there.
We found a ward with tiny cells down each side and I decided to go in. There was still padding on the walls and we realised this must have been an awful place to be for an hour let alone days.
The children’s bathroom still had a bath, sinks and cubicles in it. The most interesting part of the room for me was that there were still stickers with names on above each towel hook. The names were faint but readable. Was it one of these people that had ran past us on the landing?
In the past, visitors to the Homestead pub have asked to move tables due to abnormal things happening around them and seeing hanging bodies. However, having visited the pub a few times myself I can’t say I have been aware of any activity.
The History of St John’s Hospital
St John’s hospital in Bracebridge heath has a long and interesting history. Set in grounds of 120 acres, its grand Italian style design is now nothing but a shell of its former greatness hidden from the public behind scaffolding and barriers.
The asylum has had many names since it first opened in 1852;
- Lincolnshire Lunatic Asylum,
- Bracebridge Mental Hospital,
- The Lincolnshire County Pauper Lunatic Asylum,
- Bracebridge Heath Hospital,
- St John’s Hospital.
The hospital had male, female and children’s wings and used some of the traditional medical techniques in that day to cure insanity, including electric shock treatment.
Conditions such as depression and post natal depression were classed as a mental illness and treated the same as someone with schizophrenia. Brain surgery was believed to cure mental illness and was commonly used in asylums such as this. On speaking to a friend about the hospital, she revealed her Grandmother was a patient and actually underwent brain surgery to cure her depression. In this time, if a patient was deemed unfit to decide what treatment they wanted, the doctors would decide for them, and therefore her Grandmother never agreed to have the surgery but instead was forced to undergo hours of drilling into her skull.
The asylum grounds also included the hospitals own burial site for those unfortunate enough never to escape from its intimidating walls. Whilst surveyors were excavating the grounds, work had to come to a stop when human skeletons were uncovered. It turned out they had found the burial site.
The hospital was closed down in 1990 and is now being privately developed into flats. The new housing developments surrounding the asylum are set on the original grounds. The popular Homestead pub was also part of the hospital.