They’re ba-ack.Ghost hunters and thrill-seekers are again flocking to Colfax for a chance to tour its abandoned 1893 St. Ignatius Hospital.
Last year the Colfax Chamber of Commerce planned a series of Haunted Hospital tours as a way to raise money and awareness about the building that has stood empty for more than a decade and is in a state of extreme disrepair. The tours were billed as the last chance for the community to see the building before a developer remodeled it into luxury apartments. The developer did not follow through on those plans and the hospital is for sale, said Valoree Gregory, the unified
executive director for the Colfax chamber, downtown association, arts council and historic preservation commission.
The tours are a way to get the word out about the building in hopes of attracting an investor, she said. “It’s a beautiful building that would really change Colfax.”
While a few investors have inquired about the building it has attracted scores of ghost hunters. Haunted Hospital tours sell out as fast as events are listed. More than 650 people had signed up for October tours as of last week. This year’s events include sleepovers, private and public tours ranging from one to three hours and a scary movie night where participants will watch “Session 9,” a film about an asbestos crew cleaning up an abandoned mental hospital with a horrific past.
Since last year an episode of “Paranormal Lockdown” was filmed at the hospital. The program airs on Destination America, a channel devoted to “paranormal entertainment.” It features two ghost hunters who spend 72 hours locked in a purportedly haunted location. The Colfax episode will premiere early next year, Gregory said. The hospital was also featured in a YouTube episode by liveScifi.net, although they didn’t name the specific location, and Gregory was recently contacted by another Destination America show, “Ghost Brothers,” about filming there.
Paranormal teams pay for the chance to be locked into the building. Last year’s tours earned a total of $40,000. This year the chamber set a $20,000 goal for October and is on track to meeting it, she said. The chamber has used the money to create a monthly First Thursday event (see info below) with live music and vendors in downtown Colfax and a matching grant program for downtown storefront improvement, she said.
The hospital has proven to be an unexpected moneymaker, bringing hordes of tourists to the rural town. People often ask Gregory why they want to sell it.
“We don’t have enough money to fix it up,” Gregory said about the 50,000-square-foot building where the pipes burst long ago and plaster is falling off the walls. There are holes in the roof and when it rains water runs down the staircases, she said.
“We’ve blocked off certain spots this year that didn’t have to (be blocked off) last year,” she said about the safety of the building. “I don’t want to see it condemned. I just want somebody to save this building.”
The listed price for the hospital is $350,000. St. Ignatius was the first and only hospital in Whitman County for years. Many residents, including Gregory, were born there.
“If somebody can bring that back to life, that’s what we want,” she said.
If You Go
What: Colfax First Thursday
When: 3 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6
Of Note: There will be street vendors, live music and shopping downtown. One hour ghost tours of the hospital will be offered at 6, 8 and 9:30 p.m. for $10. People must register in advance online at www.colfaxhauntedhospital.com for tours.