City of Yorktown stops ghost hunting tours at former hospital building
Sept. 20, 2010 at 4:20 a.m.
YORKTOWN - Prospective ghost hunters are going to have to find another place to scare up spooks.
The City of Yorktown has cited the Yorktown Memorial Hospital for numerous code violations and informed San Antonio owner Phil Ross and local caretaker Mike Henson that "no building or structure shall be used or occupied ... until the building official has issued a certificate of occupancy."
Due to the code violations, that certificate of occupancy would be denied if applied for, said Yorktown city administrator Marcus Puente.
A notice to that effect was posted on the front door of the hospital by city officials on Friday, the day before members of Victoria Investigative Paranormal Research were to ghost hunt at the location.
"We had an individual complain about the conditions," said Puente. "And for some people in town, that was a place where they were born, where someone special died. Some take offense that it has turned into something for amusement."
Puente said after the complaint, he and the city's building inspector were denied access to the building to conduct an inspection.
Municipal judge Bill Robinson issued a search warrant to allow the city access to the building for inspection.
Puente, building inspector A.W. Podsim, Police Chief Paul Campos and fire marshal Kevin Lamprecht were among those who conducted the inspection on Sept. 8.
In a memo to the mayor and members of the city council, Puente reported that "the findings of the inspection resulted in significant violations of the city's building, electrical and plumbing codes, as well as possible violations of the city and state fire codes."
The memo added that based on those violations, the city will deny the property owner a Certificate of Occupancy, which would eliminate future access of the building by the general public."
"I would like to commend the Yorktown staff for working together to protect the public's safety and move forward to an eventual rehabilitation or removal of a once important community building, which has now become an eyesore," wrote Puente.
The hospital was built in 1950 and operated by the Felician Sisters of the Roman Catholic Church. It remained open until the late 1980s. It has been used as storage by two separate owners since that time.
Current owner Ross isn't happy with the city's actions.
"They are saying we are an amusement business and fall under building occupancy codes," said Ross, who bought the hospital three years ago. "They threatened me with fines of up to $2,000 a day for each violation. I don't agree with it, but I am not going to break the law."
Ross said caretaker Henson, who lives in a camper trailer on the property, began addressing some of the city's concerns the day the notice was posted.
Electricity to Henson's trailer was cut off on Friday and as of Monday afternoon had not been restored.
Henson said he disconnected the electricity to the hospital even before it was cut off following the city's inspection.
Ross said it would cost about $100,000 to make all the repairs the city is demanding to be able to open the building to the public.
He posted a notice on his website notifying the public that tours were suspended until further notice.
Henson, who has been caretaker about a year and a half, said he conducts two to three tours a week at a cost of $10 per person for groups of five to 50.
"The people being hurt are those who want to do paranormal investigations," Ross said.
Steve Hurley of VIPR reacted to the closure.
"As a paranormal investigating team, we are very saddened and disappointed by the recent happenings at Yorktown Memorial Hospital" he said. "To the local paranormal community, this is a big loss."
"Instead of shutting the building down, the city should think about using the publicity it is gaining from the interest the hospital has brought to help bring attention to an otherwise relatively unknown town," Hurley added."
Puente said the issue is a matter of safety and the city isn't picking on the hospital.
"I don't want anyone to say the city stood by and let someone got hurt there," he said. "The priority was getting people out of the building."
The city administrator added that the two hours he spent in the building during the inspection didn't have him fearing ghosts.
"If I am scared of anything in that building, it's tetanus," Puente said.