established in 1908, St.
Mary’s Mercy Hospital would see multiple additions and renovations
over the years while it expanded to accommodate the city’s growing number of
residents. But when the fortunes of Gary turned and the citizens fled, the
hospital became economically superfluous; the reduced population base could not
financially support operations.
The debt-ridden facility endured a slow and
painful contraction before finally closing in 1995. Several attempts were made
to reuse the building–including the moving of the city’s police department
into the newest wing–but half of the complex was never re-appropriated and
left vacant. Today, the remaining structures have deteriorated and are
likely beyond repair.
When Gary was founded in 1906, the steel company
did not initially plan for adequate medical facilities. In 1908, the Sisters of
St. Francis founded what would later become known as St.
Mary’s Mercy Hospital. The medical center would begin life as four
crudely-equipped private residences connected via walkways. Initially, it would
have just 20 beds.
As the town grew, the need for larger facilities
quickly became apparent. In 1910 the Sisters of St. Francis decided to expand
the hospital, and soon construction began on a five-story rectangular brick
building on the corner of West 6th Avenue and Tyler Street (above).
However by 1912 the Franciscan sisters would run out of funds, leaving the
building unfinished and in search of another suitor.
In 1913 regional cleric Bishop Alerding called in
the order of Ancilli Domini (Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ)
to finish construction of the hospital. They completed the fundraising for the
Bishop and by December of 1914 the new St. Mary’s
Mercy Hospital was finally opened. A first-class building when
opened, the facility was rated class A by the American Hospital Association.
St. Mary’s would continue to grow with numerous
additions made over the years. In 1918 the Gary Land Company donated a parcel of
land next door to allow the hospital to expand. The additional wing would add
150 beds and allow the building to also house the Gary Works Hospital, which had
previously been located at the plant.
In 1927 yet another extension to the hospital was
completed, further growing the capacity; the hospital would eventually
accommodate 300 beds at its peak after the multiple additions and updates. The
hospital had multiple departments (surgery, obstetrics, x-ray, and
physiotherapy) but would specialize in obstetrics and pediatric cases. Mary
Mercy also ran a school of nursing in the building.
For decades Mary Mercy Hospital would be a
premiere healthcare facility in Gary, and it boasted a resume which included
celebrity connections. The hospital was the birthplace of Michael, Janet, and
the rest of the Jackson siblings. In 1978, the facility attempted to save
California Angels player Lymon Bostock’s life when he was shot and killed in
Like everything else in Gary, Mary Mercy’s
fortunes would rise and fall with steel. The decline arguably began in the
1960s; the hospital began contracting when the population growth trends of Gary
reversed. By 1968 the St. Mary Mercy Hospital Nursing School was shut down.
A reorganization in 1974 saw the hospital renamed
to St. Mary’s Medical Center after an update. It was
during this time the new west wing was added which today houses the Gary Police
However it would be a downward slope for the rest
of the aging structure. By 1993 the hospital was in financial dire straits; it
needed to find a buyer or the facility would be forced to close, leaving 450
Ancilla Systems and the Lakeshore Health System
had unsuccessfully been operating St. Mary’s for years. In May of 1993, the
now 162-bed hospital was sold to Summit Medical Holdings, Ltd, an Atlanta-based
Summit’s operations were nationwide, spanning
numerous for-profit hospitals in Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, California, and
Illinois. By December the acquisition had been completed and Summit wasted no
time attempting to update & streamline the facility. Part of the plan
involved a new name; it was now known as the Northwest
Family Hospital, and for the first time it was now completely
Medicaid and Medicare-eligible.
Despite Summit’s attempt to make the hospital
profitable, the macro-economic hardships effecting Gary were too powerful to
overcome. Restructures would continue into 1994, and each one involved another
round of layoffs. On March 10th of 1995, Summit Medical gave employees the
federally-mandated 60-day Worker Retraining Notification Act notice of its
intentions to close the hospital.
Days before the hospital was scheduled to close,
Summit rescinded the order while hope of a sale to a group of investors gained
traction in the eleventh hour. The Northwest
Family and Gary Mercy Foundations, non-profits spearheaded by
doctors and community leaders including City Judge (now mayor) Karen
Freeman-Wilson, worked with Summit in at attempt to rescue the struggling
Eager to exit their collapsing investment, Summit
agreed to sell the hospital to the groups for one dollar.
Dr. Chiedu Nchekwube, a member of the purchasing
group, told the press
“[Summit] said, somebody, just take this
off of our hands – whoever that somebody is. This is a guesstimation, but I
really don’t think they are looking to get anything out of it. I think they
are looking for someone to simply take over their liability. Actually, when we
had our first meeting, they even gave us a dollar to buy it. They handed it to
Dr. [William] Washington and said, ‘Take it and pay us when we’re ready.'”
Despite valiant attempts by the Gary foundations
to keep the hospital operating, they entered in the process too late and were
ineligible to purchase the building; Federal regulations at the time disallowed
private practices from purchasing hospitals.
Dr. Nchekwube and his associates scrambled to form
the proper entity to qualify for purchase, but time was running out as the
layoffs would continue.
Financing would ultimately be the problem for the
foundations; they had the dollar for purchase but not the capital to fund full
operations and payroll. It was estimated $2-$3 million was needed just to keep
the hospital operating for the next 45 to 90 days.
Undeterred, the groups negotiated with other
agencies to determine how the building might be used for alternative health care
“Our goal is to get the building out of
bankruptcy at the cheapest amount possible and divide it out into health-related
uses, the Health Start administrative office would be an example,”
said Gary Mercy Foundation member Freeman-Wilson.
By August of 1995 it was clear the deal was not
going to get done and Summit was forced to re-issue the Federally-mandated
60-day notice to Northwest Family’s employees. In another effort to appease
creditors, the management company sold most of the remaining fixtures,
furniture, and equipment over the next several months.
In the middle of October 1995, Summit was forced
to close the emergency room and lay off over 100 workers.
By November of 1995 Northwest Family Hospital was
drowning in debt. Summit owed nearly $1.2 million in property taxes, real estate
taxes, and other penalties. The beleaguered hospital management company sought
forgiveness of the debts from the Lake County Commissioners. Officials from
Summit reported the hospital lost more than $3 million in 1994, the year for
which they owed the $1,181,106.50 in taxes and penalties.
Finally, on November 24th during Thanksgiving of
1995, the obsolete and spartan hospital was shut down for good after nearly 90
years of continuous operation. It was a disaster for the remaining 150 medical
workers who risked staying at the hospital despite the numerous warning signs of
According to Gary Mercy
member Dr. Chiedu Nchekwube, “Nobody really wanted it to close, but the
marketplace changed and we had to change with it.”
In November of the following year, Dayton
Ohio-based National Content Liquidators, Inc. was hired to conduct a massive
garage sale at the shuttered complex. Bargain hunters prowled the abandoned
buildings for deals on the remaining medical and office equipment which was
being sold at pennies on the dollar.
A sign on the wall of the information desk told
shoppers everything was fair game except “fire extinguishers, carts, bed parts
and samples.” Shoppers bought everything that was left, from chairs to file
cabinets and staplers. One shopper even left with a toilet seat.
Remaining medical equipment was liquidated as
well. In what was once the emergency room, shelves and carts were filled with
devices and equipment, including a dozen or more defibrillators, surgical
instruments, and microscopes. An arthroscopic surgery system, which at the time
sold new for about $19,000, was priced at the Northwest
Family Hospital sale for $3,800.
The sale lasted until everything was sold. “Our
intention here is not to leave anything behind,” said a spokesman from
National Content Liquidators said. Proceeds from the sale were used to offset
some of the debts held by the bankruptcy estate.
Several attempts to re-appropriate Mercy Hospital
would happen over the years. The most successful was the proposal from mayor
Scott King which would come in October of 1998. His plan called for the closed
hospital to be converted into a public service facility; the police department
would move into the newer west wing of Mercy Hospital and part of the building
would be converted into a jail.
Despite community backlash, the idea made fiscal
sense. The police department was in need of a new home; construction of a new
facility would cost an estimated $25 million dollars while converting the
abandoned hospital was estimated to cost $14 million. The proposal would
eventually be approved and the conversion began.
By 2001 plans were underway to enact King’s
earlier proposal and the Police Department began moving into the building. By
2003 the move of the police department to Mercy had been completed, and to this
day it remains Gary’s police headquarters.
The police department was using less than 50% of
the complex, however, and citizens of Gary wanted to find a use for the
remaining unused square footage. In January of 2004 Lake County Sheriff Roy
Dominguez submitted a proposal to convert a portion of the old St. Mary Mercy
Hospital into a comprehensive substance abuse rehabilitation center for adults
The idea was well-received, but it would take
millions of dollars to rehabilitate the now dilapidated structure and an
economic feasibility study was never completed. After the failed Dominguez
proposal, the future for Mary Mercy looked bleak. The real estate collapse in
2008 all but sealed the fate of the old edifice.
Today, the unused portion of the building is
likely beyond repair after nearly 20 years of exposure to salvaging thieves,
vandals, and of course Mother Nature. Initially there were community fears of
demolition, but those have subsided as the building appears safe for now.
As long as crime and economic woes plague Gary,
the threat of redevelopment is low and landmarks such as St. Mary’s Mercy
Hospital appear to be safe from demolition.
Hauntings: The current locker room of the police department was once part of the morgue. Another area in the police department that has been a hot-spot is the fifth floor. It is an unoccupied area, and claims of sounds of footsteps and furniture being moved have been stated by those who work there. Investigators in the past have become quite dizzy and almost passed out. This occurred simultaneously to them while they were in different areas of that floor. Disembodied voices have been heard in the past on the fourth floor. Sightings of shadows have been seen on the second floor and members scratched in the dayroom on the third floor, one member was groped and other heard footsteps. Lockers at the end of the first floor apparently have opened by themselves from time to time. Responses on a Ghost Box happened on the third floor and the second floor is also very active with EVP.
have also been numerous inexplicable metallic sounds heard and recorded
throughout the building as well as unusual lights even though is no longer any
electricity running at the site.
The Ghost Research Society investigated St. Mary's Hospital on June 28, 2014. Team members included: Stan Suho, Kathie Para, Marge Sucha, Yvonne Zanilah, Michael Wright, Katherine Meagher, Jim Piscopo and Dale Kaczmarek. We were assisted JC Rositas.
setup: Since this location has greatly
deteriorated since our last investigation in 2010 due to vandals breaking in and
salvaging copper wire and tubing, no former set up was conducted. A lot of water
damage and many hallways were simply impassible due to the amount of water and
grime on the floors. There was a lot of overhang that was dangling from the
ceiling which made even a simple walkthrough somewhat dangerous at times.
performed: EVP, Ovilus X and Ghost Box sessions were conducted in the
Dayroom, outside the 5th floor records room (where we captured the
“Get out of here” last time on the Ovilus), 5th floor surgical
suite, 2nd floor hallway near the double doors and 1st
floor near the lockers.
Stan Suho: For a few of us this
was our second visit in four years. It was a shock to see how the building had
deteriorated in such a short time. It has been vandalized to such an extent as
to make the investigation unsafe. Pipes, air conditioners, dry wall are all over
the corridors standing in pools of water. Plus this time there was no power at
all. After we set up our
equipment inside Dale gave a walk-through to new folks. We decided to do a mini setup of the second floor, in a room we used last time that had a couple of intact shelves. Because of all the clutter it was decided not to run any cables and to run everything in local mode. I chose to setup one camera in a room down the hall where the last time I heard a loud bang. The reason for the noise could not be found but I thought this would be a good place to start. The Ghost Camera, Ghost Microphone and DVR were set up in the corner of the room and left to run unattended. At the same Jim set up an IR Camera down at the far end of the same hallway where there reports of shadow people. This camera also ran in Local mode.
When everything was squared away I grabbed my Sony IR Camera and went in search
of our far ranging EVP team. Failing to find them I went back to the Command
Post and tried to look busy. After a while the team returned, refreshed and were
off again with me bringing up the rear. We went up two or three floors EVPing
all the way, and me taking pictures. After we returned to the command post I
decided to start packing up loose equipment while the team went out again.
After everyone was rounded up again we departed.
It's too bad to see the condition of the building as this could be turned into a good place to advertise for Ghost groups to visit ala Waverly. It should be secured and boarded up.
Wright: St Mary’s located in Gary
Indiana is a hospital that has been vacant for many years; unfortunately the
last few years it was left unsecured leaving the premises open for vandalism and
vagrancy. Most of the hospital had debris on the floor and broken fixtures
hanging from the ceiling making going through the building dangerous.
We did our walk and decided to avoid some areas of the building because of the condition of those locations.
We did several EVP sessions throughout the building; it was difficult discerning noises coming from outside the hospital to the ones in the building.
However, there were a few things that stood out:
In the break room the Ovilus was active also some equipment batteries were being drained.
The 5th floor outside the room with the records I saw a few shadows and had picked up some unusual noises on my recorder.
Operating room had a few responses on the Ovilus but did not pick up much else.
Even though it was not what we had anticipated we made the best of the situation and managed to pick up some evidence.
was my first time there. GRS
previously investigated there in 2010.
Dale gave a tour of the
hospital and showed us some of the hot spots from their previous investigation.
The place was in bad shape.
It had been vandalized. Dust
and debris everywhere.
After our tour due to the
condition of the place I decided not to go back upstairs and stayed in the area
we set up our home base.
While the rest of the group
went back upstairs to investigate Yvonne and I stayed in the home base area and
did a couple of EVP sessions of our own.
I did not get anything on my recorder.
Our group went down the
hall from where we had our home base set up and did an EVP session.
I did not get anything on my recorder.
We moved to the first floor
down the hall from Day Surgery and did another EVP session.
With the street lights shining in you could see down the hallway.
I kept seeing a shadow moving. At
one point I looked down and it was pitch black as if someone was blocking my
view. Later I had a spider web
feeling on my right hand. At the
same time one of the investigators next to me heard a noise to his left where I
was sitting. Shortly after that
several of us heard a shuffling noise.
Several of us saw a light
moving around down the hallway and at one point we thought it was one of our
team members walking with a flashlight.
Turned out he was at command center at the time.
As we watched it would move around and then completely go away.
I was unable to debunk.
I did not catch any EVPs in
Overall the night was
Para: GRS members present for this investigation were Dale, Stan, Jim, Mike,
Kat, Marge, Yvonne and me. We were joined by JC Rosita during the first half of
The building was in pretty sad shape, having been
empty for nearly 20 years. Vandals and those breaking in to strip the walls and
ceilings of copper tubing, etc. really left the place in a mess.
Most windows were broken on all five floors and
water was dripping into the building in many areas so there was quite a bit of
noise contamination. But in spite of that we managed to have a very interesting
A couple times during EVP sessions I felt as though
I was touched on the leg and ankle and I captured a whisper on my audio recorder
in the 2nd floor hallway. The most active area, in my opinion was the 1st floor.
We settled in the hallway for an EVP session and had several experiences. There
was a rather loud noise in one of the rooms we were outside of and a little
later a shuffling noise was heard in the room next to it. A couple members saw
shadows several times and one felt as if a spider web was on her. There was also
an audible groan. At the very end of the hallway there was a light, which was
most likely a window. This light started to move back and forth and in circles.
It even went completely out of view momentarily a couple times. It almost looked
to me if someone was walking while holding a lantern in the distance. This went
on for several minutes during which time every person there had turned their
attention on it. As we were commenting on it and asking “what in the world is
that??” the Ovilus replied “spirit”.
Piscopo: We arrived at the
hospital and took our equipment up to the second floor. Dale gave us a walk
through and then we started to set up equipment. I set up my IR camera on the
end of the second floor facing towards the police station where shadow are said
to be seen. I sat through a couple of EVP sessions on the 5TH floor. I did not
have any unusual feelings at the hospital.
Meagher: This was probably
one of the uneasiness’ places I have experienced, and not because of the
paranormal. The building was not closed to be the public. It was wide open for
any vagrant to explore. It was dilapidated and some floors were overcome by the
hospital was contaminated with outside noise and very hard to pick up audio
without seconded guessing the possible EVP’s that I had picked up. I could not
confirm if the voices were EVP or street noises due to the fact of not being
able to identify the source at the time. Yet, the evidence gathered, is
left my tape recorder on the fourth floor while we investigated the rest of the
building. When I listen back I had heard the sound of a doorstopper and a voice
saying watch the door. I am suspicious of the fact that the building might have
been occupied by the living but I can’t be sure since I did not listen to the
recording till I got home. The building I felt was a little unsafe for an
Hot, muggy and thunderstorms earlier in the evening
Olympus digital voice recorder, Sony camera with night shot
capabilities, Sony A390 modified for IR , K-II Meter, Echovox app, Spiritlights
On the whole, while it was interesting (albeit, a bit creepy)
to explore the building, I didn't visually see anything that I could claim as
paranormal in nature, although the session on the Echovox Marge and I did while
sitting in the command center may have had some responses to questions.
Kaczmarek: The location was a disaster! The floors
were so messy we decided not to even put cables down to run remote cameras to a
Command Center. There was some contamination from people outside talking,
yelling and shooting off fireworks in advance of the 4th of July.
The entire group did see a weird light anomaly at the end of
the 1st floor corridor that was moving around very strangely. It did
not appear to be a reflection or optical illusion because all of us saw the same
thing. What it did appear to be was someone walking towards us perhaps with a
flashlight, however our entire group was all in the same place at that time and
no one had wandered off by themselves!
I was able to hear a few disembodied responses to questions
asked throughout the building that I was fairly sure did not come from outside
1st floor hallway groan st marys.MPG – while
conducting an EVP session on the 1st floor hallway, several people
heard a groan coming from down the hallway.
Bucket drop mercy.MPG – Piscopo’s static IR camera on the
2nd floor picked up a noise that sounds like someone dropped a
Doctors nurses st marys.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box
session outside the “Record’s Room” and having just turned on the device,
the Ghost Box says, “Doctors, nurses.”
Footsteps mercy.MPG – Piscopo’s static IR camera on the 2nd
floor picked up the distinct sounds of footsteps when no one was around to
Go ahead st marys.MPG – while conducting an EVP session
outside of the “Record’s Room”, a question was asked, “Do you mind if we
come in the room?” A voice replies with, “Go ahead!” (Not 100% sure
however that this didn’t come from outside sources)
Go up st marys.MPG – while setting up in the Dayroom, the
Ovilus X says, “Go up.”
Metallic sound mercy.MPG – Piscopo’s static IR camera on
the 2nd floor picked up a metallic sound when no one was around.
Michael st marys.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session
in the 2nd floor hallway, a question was asked, “Who’s your
favorite patient right now?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Michael.”
No st marys.MPG – while conducting an EVP session outside
of the “Record’s Room”, a question was asked, “Is there anybody in the
record’s room?” A response says, “No.”
Noise1 st marys.MPG – while conducting an EVP session on
the 1st floor by the lockers, a question was asked, “Can you tell
what tests you came in for today?” A noise is heard in the background.
Records st marys.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session
outside of the “Record’s Room”, a question was asked, “What’s in the
boxes inside the room?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Records.”
Response1 st marys.MPG – while conducting an EVP session
outside of the “Record’s Room”, a question was asked, “Can you tell us
what’s inside those boxes in the room?” A (response1) response is heard in
the background which we cannot make out.
Response2 st marys.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in
the 2nd floor hallway, a question was asked, “Why are you still
here?” Another (response2) response is heard in the background which cannot be
Shadows st marys.MPG – while filming the lockers and
doorway on the 1st floor hallway, a series of black shadows suddenly
travel from right to left as if exiting from the doorway. For this to happen
naturally, someone would have had to come in between the camera’s IR light and
the doorway in order to create those shadows.
Spirit st marys.MPG – while concluding our EVP session in
the 1st floor hallway by the lockers, the entire group begins to see
a strange light anomaly moving down the hallway and then the Ghost Radar says,
Strange sound st marys.MPG – while conducting an EVP
session on the 1st floor near the lockers, a strange sound is both
heard and recorded.
They are here distant scream st marys.MPG – while
conducting an Ovilus X session in the Dayroom, the Ovilus says, “They are
here” followed by what sounds like a faint, distant scream.
Whatroom2ndfloor st marys.MPG – while conducting an EVP
session on the 2nd floor, a question was asked, “What was your room
number?” A voice responds with what sounds like either twenty-eight or
Yeah st marys.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the
Dayroom, a question was asked, “Can you tell us the name of the hospital?” A
class A voice says, “Yeah.”
Conclusions: This is always an
interesting place to investigate even though it will probably be our last time
due to its decayed and dangerous condition. The birthplace of the musical
Jackson family has probably seen its last GRS investigation but it did not let
us down. Even though there was a lot of contamination from dripping water, cars,
yelling and talking from people outside, etc., I believe we captured some
quality evidence and had some very interesting personal encounters!
Perhaps ol’ Michael himself is still around visiting his birthplace. Who knows?
Ghost Research Society (www.ghostresearch.org)
© 2014 Dale Kaczmarek. All rights reserved.
Web site created by Dale Kaczmarek