Night Shift Nurses see more than Patients

by Angela Brooks

Night Shift seems to bring things out of the dark corners…or does it?

Sitting on the front porch of a 155 year old building looking out across the manicured lawn – where a time capsule is buried in the front circle for the next generation to discover. I sit and wonder what it must have been like when there were 2000 mentally ill patients on the census books.

In the early 30,40,50's even up to the late 80's mentally ill patients were not treated like our clients are today. The treatment in the early years today – would be patient abuse.

Which leads me to believe that the lives that make up the history of this old insane asylum were not rested souls when they parted this world. The memories they left behind still appear around a few corners.

After working for the last 21 years under this historical roof I have seen a few things that have made me question "What was that?"

Now I am not a ghost hunter nor do I want to sign up for the class to become one. However, the paranormal comes to mind when I think of things that go bump in the night.

A Paranormal is described as a ghost – or spirit or apparition – is the energy, soul or personality of a person who has died and has somehow gotten stuck between this plane of existence and the next. Most researchers believe that these spirits do not know they are dead. Very often they have died under traumatic, unusual or highly emotional circumstances. Ghosts can be perceived by the living in a number of ways: through sight (apparitions), sound (voices), smell (frangrances and odors), touch – and sometimes they can just be sensed.

Let me share a few things that I have seen and you be the judge. If you have not spent the night in a 155 years old historic mental insane asylum you may want to turn the lights on before you started reading.

Back in the late 80's when I begin my mental health career I began to notice a few pattern of events that occurred in certain rooms and areas. As you walk down the long shiny hallway in dimly lit lights. You come the first bedroom on the left that has a single twin iron bed with a hard plastic mattress and flat plastic pillow. There is a wardrobe hanging on the wall for a few personal items. It has only one window with bars on the outside and no curtains. The view from the window is the back side of another unit – which is just plain red brick.

More than one patient sleeping in that room has complained of someone walking beside their bed and running their hand down the side of their sleeping body. I don't know about you,that would wake just about anybody up. Some will continue to sleep in the room and others will refuse to go back in. One man sat on the hall for 3 nights awake. When I ask if he needed something to help him sleep. He said "No thank you." I ask "Why aren't you sleeping?" He looked up at me and said. "They already think I am crazy because I am here. I don't really want to say anything that will make me look worse." I ask him to give me a try. He told me about the foots steps that shuffled across the floor. The light touch of something that would start at his shoulders and go down his leg. I smiled at him and ask if I could move him to another room and see if that would help. He said, "Yes I would like to try." The man slept all night for the rest of the time he was in the hospital.

On the next hallway where I have spent the alot time working. At the very end there is a porch that we call the "smoking porch" back in the day when we were a smoking facility the patients would go out there to smoke. Across from that porch is another single bedroom that has one window over looking the beautiful front lawn that is covered with bars. In this room many people have complained about a small girl who is around 4 ft tall, thin and giggles. One patient that comes to mind who was known for hearing voices slept in that room. At 3 AM she woke up screaming "Get the hell out of my room!" She began throwing her clothes out of the room, shoes, chairs, and finally her mattress. The staff began talking to her to see why she was so upset.

She began describing her as the little short bitch who kept walking in her room touching her and then hiding beside her dresser. She said "I want her out of my room and to stay out!"  I agreed with her that would upset me too and out loud I said, "Get out of her room now – go back to the porch and stay there." She giggled and left. The patient looked up at me and said, "Did you hear that? I ask, "her giggle? Yes." Very seriously she looked at me, made the statement, "So you hear voices too?" I could not deny that I didn't. We laughed. "Yes I guess so"

The little girl as we call her stays out on the smoking porch most of the time. There is a room at the end of the porch where we used to have our washer and dryers an stored things. Right after midnight one the staff went to put some clothes in the dryer. She came back to the office about as fast as she left, pale white. I ask what was wrong. She stated, "If you want those clothes in the dryer you can do it but I am not going back out there." I laughed. I told her we would go out there in the morning after the sun was up. Around 5 AM we decided to go get the clothes before they spoiled and had to be rewashed. We slowly opened the door, flipped the light switch on and stuck our heads in the door. My heartbeat was thumping wildly. Behind the ping pong table she peeked out, giggled then hid again. We both took off running. I don't remember if we shut the door or not but I know how fast I can run from zero to the office.

On this same hall beside the smoking porch – we have our X-Ray department. It is closed on the night shift an opens around 7 AM. It has two doors going into the department. One large enough for a bed to roll through and one that goes into a small office storage room. At 4 AM the radio began playing behind the small door. The volume was loud enough that it was waking up the other patients on that end of the hall. We called security to bring the key so we could turn the radio off. They came and tried all their keys but nothing opened the door. Four staff stood there wondering what we needed to do until finally after 30 minutes it turned off just like  an alarm was set for that time.

When the day shift tech came in I walked down to his office and ask if he would make sure the alarm was turned off in the office behind the small door. I explained what happened during the night. He had a funny look on his face. He said,"Come here I will show you the room." It had an old desk in the room but it was now storage. There was not a radio any where in the room. Where did the music come from?

Still on the same side of the hall beside of the smoking porch there is a room that has a old metal desk, a creaky medal rolling office chair. The room is about 6 ft wide and 8 ft long. The nursing desk used to be directly across from this room. At 4 AM one of the staff and I were the only two working on the unit with 15 patients. A loud bang came from that room that was obviously the old metal chair slamming into the desk. The light was off in the room – it has a window in the door. She was reading and I was cross stitching. Neither one of us stopped what we were doing or looked up. After about a minute had passed I said. "Go see what that noise was". With out looking up from her book she replied "Hell no". We both cracked up laughing. After the patients woke up for the day and we were serving morning coffee. I went over and unlocked and opened the door. The chair was pushed under the desk appearing untouched.

If your sitting there wondering why would we continue working in this environment? Join us to see

I have to smile and say – I enjoy it. The noises do not bother me to bad (wink). However, it does make your hair raise up on your neck at times. Tell me what you thought about this article. I want to hear your voice. Comments make me smile, I can't wait to hear from you..

  

Angela Brooks has worked in a state-funded psychiatric hospital in Kentucky for 21 years as a nurse, assisting sometimes-dangerous patients who come in shackled and cuffed. At AngelaBrook.com, she offers stories of life on the inside of a psychiatric ward, and the site, as well as her company, offers support for nurses in the mental health field and helps them bring passion into their role at work.

She is a natural health expert with 24 years as a nurse she can show you holistic approach helps the entire family physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially. Clients enjoy getting back to the road of recovery using health alternates for them and their family

Everyday we share insights, strategies and even some of our biggest secrets to nurse entrepreneurs  on our Facebook page!  Join the fun and connect with like-minded business owners and Nurses EVERY single day!  Click here and "become friends" with  Angela's NOW!


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Angela Brooks is a retired nurse after 25 years in mental health. She used her lunch breaks to build her business part time on the night shift. Her car became a mobile university as she listened to business training, coaching calls on CD and phone webinars. She blogged while she was at her sons' baseball practices.

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1 Lily September 7, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I once read a great Halloween article in the NYTimes about somebody who grew up in a haunted house.  He and his siblings were regularly spooked by the ghosts in various parts of the house.  But the mother, who still lives there happily today as she had been all along, never got bothered by any of them!  
I just moved into a 120 year old house.  I wonder if I'll have some stories to share soon!
Lily

2 Moniismean December 15, 2011 at 8:52 pm

wow, those are some crazy experiences.  i’m such a scardy cat when it comes to things like that. i would be so upset to see a hospital like that now-a-days cause i feel so bad for those people and i would hate to disturb the dead.

3 Patrick Hendry August 10, 2012 at 8:37 am

My organization, Mental Health America (formerly the National Mental Health Association) is producing a documentary on the history of mental health treatment and supports.  We are would like to know if you photo of the empty hallway with open doors is available for use and under what terms.  Please contact me at 703 838 7538.
Patrick Hendry

4 Diane Barnes October 7, 2012 at 3:48 pm

I worked night shift in a nursing home for many years. It’s true. Night shift does occasionally have extra “visitors.”

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