A night at Yorktown Memorial Hospital
April 2, 2011 at 10:02 p.m.
Updated April 1, 2011 at 11:02 p.m.
YORKTOWN - A sign at the front door warns hospital visiting hours end at 8 p.m.
It's nearly midnight.
Two paranormal investigators saunter through a chain-link gate, reassemble the padlock and lock themselves inside the grounds of the abandoned Yorktown Memorial Hospital.
"If you're not at the front door in five minutes, we'll come looking for you," Rob Calzada, founder of Golden Crescent Paranormal, jokes.
The investigation at the former hospital that is thought to be haunted is both serious and silly, with exhausting electronic voice phenomenon sessions and hearty banter afterward.
This is Susan Wallner's fourth time investigating the hospital, which she has spent hours researching. She's the history researcher for the Port Lavaca-based Golden Crescent Paranormal, and she's either seen or heard several of the so-called "permanent residents" within the brick walls.
"I get something different every time I'm here," Wallner says. "I get the same people, too, but always something new."
Just within the fence, past a pink abandoned hearse, Spirit awaits.
Spirit is the guard donkey at the hospital, and he can be as mean as his duty requires, Wallner says.
After giving him a familiar pat on the nose, Wallner and her teammate, Faith Lemke, climb some makeshift stairs and enter through the back of the hospital.
Minutes later, their flashlights shine through the front glass doors, and the crew unpacks their gear.
Four infrared cameras, EVP detectors, a trap camera that snaps pictures of movement, wireless audio, hospital layouts, computers, a cooler of beverages and endless extension cords stretch throughout the 30,000-square-foot hospital, which is void of electricity.
They lug it all inside, past the visiting hours sign and to command central - the nurse's station, located in the center of two 100-foot corridors.
It's time to set up.
"Where do you want the camera in the boiler room," Wallner asks Calzada via a two-way radio.
"Toward the wall with the blood on it," Calzada replies nonchalantly.
Legend says two people were murdered in the basement boiler room a day after a drug rehab facility that operated in the hospital was closed.
Crimson splatters stain the walls, which Wallner said has been tested and confirmed as blood.
However, she has been unable to document the story of the double homicide.
Regardless, Wallner says the feel of the basement and boiler room is like no other in the hospital.
"It's like it pushes you away. It doesn't feel good, plain and simple," she says.
It takes the crew of five investigators at least an hour to get all the equipment situated and functioning.
"How many girls does it take to set up an (infrared) cam?" Wallner jokes.
Calzada, the only man in the hospital that night, has invested about $6,000 into all of the gear.
"So far," he quickly adds.
By day, he is a self-employed construction worker, and Wallner and Lemke are homemakers. The crew, based out of Port Lavaca and founded a year ago, does a paranormal investigation about once a month.
"We do not charge and we do not accept donations," Calzada says while checking a four-screen monitor, which will broadcast the four infrared cameras. "All we want to do is help people experiencing paranormal activity and help them find answers . We got together to help people and have fun doing it."
Wallner adds, "When we're not ghost-hunting, we're thinking about ghost-hunting."
And with that, it was time to hunt some ghosts.
"Did ya'll hear that man? Hey, come down here. Quick," Calzada yells down the basement corridor.
"Anybody. I just heard my name."
The investigators are spread about the two basement hospital wings, their flashlights hardly illuminating from one end to the other.
Calzada had said he felt cobwebs. His left knee was shaking.
He had just left a flashlight in the center of the room and asked someone, anyone, to turn it on if they wanted the investigators to leave.
The light clicked on. Then it clicked off, at Calzada's solicitation.
He was packing up as promised when audio captured by two devices seemed to prove his ears correct.
"Robert," a deep voice seems to say. Then, somewhat indecipherable, "para aqui," Calzada later determined after listening to the audio.
Later, the crew heads to the second floor, the nuns' quarters, where men were strictly forbidden.
The nuns' spirits are infamous for their disdain for tattoos, as shown on a recent episode of the Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures."
In that episode, Spirit the donkey charges at a tatted-up investigator.
In the nuns' quarters, Calzada, whose arms are covered in tattoos, is feeling lightheaded.
"Umm, we got full red," Wallner says of a K2 meter that is said to measure electromagnetic fields.
A device that had shone green all night lights up to yellow and finally red when Calzada inquires about his tattoos on several occasions.
"Why are you judging me? No disrespect. I believe in God, too," he says.
At one point, the group gathers outside for a break from what could be some draining encounters.
"We need to pray they stay here," Calzada tells the group. "When something calls your name, that's personal. That's getting a little too close."
The group holds hands outside the glass doors and recites the Lord's Prayer.
But their work was far from finished.
The investigators stayed in the hospital until 5 a.m. A week later, Calzada was halfway through reviewing about 40 hours of video and audio.
"I think it was very successful," he says of the investigation. "The reason we go to places like this is to train the investigators and have fun in the process. The hospital is known to be haunted, and we came away with some good evidence to support that it is indeed haunted."
The investigators of Golden Crescent Paranormal acknowledge skepticism of their work, though.
"One out of three people believe in ghosts, I believe the statistic is. It's the other two out of three that call us crazy. We're not here to change anybody's mind," Calzada says.
Wallner welcomes the challenge.
"The skeptics are nice to have around. It keeps you grounded," she says. "You have to go through logical stuff first or else everything is paranormal, and that's not the case."
But the investigators stick to what they've seen and heard firsthand.
In a packet she compiled about the history of the hospital, Wallner summed it up.
"The walls have seen the torment of addiction, the urgency of trauma, the sadness of constant deaths, pain and suffering alongside occurrences like the happiness of a cure to an illness and rehabilitation and new beginnings," she writes. "There is no surprise that the numerous stories that this property holds within its walls are very real to one person or another."