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Owners, supporters make pleas to re-open Yorktown Memorial Hospital

By Sonny Long
Sept. 29, 2010 at 4:29 a.m.

Dolls and other toys fill the room that was once the nursery of the Yorktown Memorial Hospital. These furnishings, like most of the furnishings in the rest of the building, were brought in and set up to make the hospital look like it may have when it was operational. The city of Yorktown is prohibiting the public from entering the building due to several building codes violations.

YORKTOWN - The MovieMichael Felts, an independent movie maker from San Antonio, wants to shoot part of his horror film "Yorktown" in the Yorktown Memorial Hospital. His production company's - Angry Otter Productions - first feature length film is in pre-production. Filming is expected to take place Feb. 4 through 18. The movie is slated to premiere in San Antonio on May 11.

"The movie is a '70s style slasher/horror film that takes place in the city of Yorktown. It's about a group of friends that upon hearing of Yorktown Memorial decide to take a road trip to the haunted location and 'investigate.' What they don't realize is that someone has taken up residence in the building, and they begin to kill them off one-by-one," said Felts.

For more information, go to the fan page at www.facebook.com/yorktownmovie or the official site at www.YorktownMovie.com.

YORKTOWN - Wade Eernisse's mother and three aunts were born in Yorktown Memorial Hospital. He's lost relatives there, too.

"It is our job to preserve the history of this historic building so that future generations can enjoy it the way we do now," said the 24-year-old native of nearby Weesatche who works in Victoria.

Because of the significance of the building to his family, and his interest in the reported paranormal activity there, Eernisse has started a Save The Yorktown Hospital movement, including a page on Facebook.

He started the page at about midnight Saturday night and as of Wednesday afternoon had more than 250 people who "liked" the page.

"In my honest opinion, the building is in great condition for its age and also sitting vacant for more than 20 years without a caretaker," Eernisse said. "(They) have done a great job restoring this old building and decorating it to be a more safe and inviting place for the people that visit there."

CODE VIOLATIONS

The hospital, built in 1950 by Felician Sisters of the Roman Catholic Church, remained open until the late 1980s.

The last couple of years the current owner, Phil Ross of San Antonio, has allowed public tours as well as ghost hunting excursions in the facility. He also uses the building for storage.

The city of Yorktown recently cited the hospital for building code violations and the tours discontinued.

The code violations that prevent its occupancy include roof and plumbing issues.

The city also classified the building as being used for entertainment business and the code requires a public address system in such a facility.

Ross has estimated it would cost $100,000 to bring the facility up to code.

CURRENT OCCUPANTS?

Eernisse is a member of Victoria Investigative Paranormal Research, and the Yorktown Hospital is reportedly a hotbed of paranormal activity.

VIPR had an investigation at the hospital planned the day after the city posted notice on the hospital's doors that it was in violation of city codes.

"I have only been one time and the last time I was there I really didn't catch any really good evidence - only a few strange noises," Eernisse said. "That's why I was so upset that they shut the hospital down the day before our investigation. I was going to try some new equipment and techniques."

Angelka Rogers, an investigator for Scientific Paranormal Investigative Research Institute of Texas, works as a tour guide at the Black Swan Inn in San Antonio.

Ghost hunting and paranormal tours have been conducted at the inn for more than 15 years, and Rogers believes the Yorktown Hospital has the same potential.

She assisted with the cleanup of the Yorktown Hospital "one shovel load at a time" to get it ready for tours.

She said the city is missing a great opportunity if the ghost hunting excursions are discontinued permanently.

"I tried to convey the importance of the research being done in the hospital that has gained national and international attention," Rogers said. "I also pointed out that the location was being looked at for television shows on two major networks, as well as a film location, which would put Yorktown on the map and bring in much-needed revenue to the small town."

MAKING THEIR PLEA

Ross, local caretaker Mike Henson, and Rogers addressed the Yorktown City Council Monday night.

Eernisse and film maker Michael Felts were also in attendance, but did not speak.

"Yorktown Memorial Hospital is no longer a functioning hospital. It is not a special entertainment building. It has no present commercial use," Eernisse said. "The hospital property is private property that I own and use for storage of my personal property and for my own personal enjoyment."

He said it is unreasonable to regulate the property as a commercial special entertainment building, since he does not use the property for any commercial purpose.

Ross told council members that he has allowed people to conduct paranormal investigations of the old hospital building for the past two years without incident or complaints."

Henson, who doubles as tour guide, collected $10 per person for tours, income that he used personally.

"The City of Yorktown has no liability for protecting my guests or invitees, who may desire to visit my private property," said Ross.

Marcus Puente, Yorktown city administrator, said about a dozen people came to discuss the topic including three Yorktown residents who supported the city's decision to cite the hospital, though they did not speak during the discussion.

WHAT'S NEXT?

"Mr. Ross is not disputing the fact there are code violations," said Puente. "To me it doesn't matter if you charge people or not, it's still the same thing. You're letting people in the building."

Ross has requested permission from the city to allow a couple of different groups access to the facility, including Felts' film crew. Puente has forwarded the request to the city attorney.

"There are no plans to do anything else with the hospital," Puente said. "As far as I am concerned, it's off the table."

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