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Abandoned and Haunted: The Parkland/Woodlawn Hospital of Dallas

An abandoned old hospital is the perfect place for a haunting, and Parkland Hospital in Dallas is said to have a few.

Originally, an old clapboard hospital opened on this site in 1894, and was replaced by the current building in 1913. It became known as Parkland due to the fact that it was built on beautiful, sprawling grounds called Oak Lawn, which the city of Dallas used as a park. The place was enlarged in the 1920s and again in the 1930s (including the addition of a nurses’ dormitory).

It became famous for its intricate brick architecture, Greek Revival entrance, and lush park-like setting. In 1954 in response to a need for more space, a new Parkland Hospital was constructed near the old facility, which was then renamed Woodlawn. The new Parkland became the main hospital (and, incidentally, was the hospital where they took JFK after he was shot). Woodlawn was used to treat patients with chronic diseases, tuberculosis, and psychiatric problems. It was closed permanently as a health-care facility in 1974, and its ownership transferred to Dallas County. At different times it housed a rape crisis center, the Dallas County Fire Marshall, a law enforcement academy, an alcoholic rehabilitation center, and a minimum-security prison.

So, as you can see, this place has a lot of history. It's not surprising that people claim the place could be haunted. There have been reports of strange noises, voices, and lights inside the hospital at night, and even apparitions. The most famous one is the specter of a little girl whom they say fell out of a tree and died on the grounds; supposedly she will appear near a tree and say, “You're too late to help.” Then she vanishes with a scream.

When we visited the forlorn old hospital we were amazed when when we first laid eyes on it. It's an incredible complex––the brickwork is gorgeous, and the style of the architecture is really beautiful. We could see right away there would be no getting inside the place though, it was all tightly boarded up. We parked on the right side of the hospital and started our stroll there, heading around toward the front. There was a huge, brilliant green expanse of lawn dotted with lush trees all across the front of the place. Someone obviously keeps it up as the grounds looked impeccable. One weird thing was how some boxes up on a second floor balcony contrasted behind the iron scrollwork made the appearance of a pair of eyes looking down at us from the building's “face.’'

The place was huge. It took us a few minutes just to wander all the way across the front lawn. As we rounded the corner toward the left side of the building, we found what appeared to be the emergency entrance, and another entrance that had a faded sign reading “Clinic” above its doors. There was another long expanse of green lawn along this side of the building too, studded with trees, one of which stood out because of its height and extremely dark bark. We wondered if this could be the tree where the ghost of the poor dead girl was said to make hers presence known. We lingered under its branches for a few minutes, but nothing spectral appeared to us.

Heading on around to the back of the hospital, we found a building marked “Boiler Room” with a huge smokestack jutting into the sky, the jail entrance and many other buildings that may have been dormitories or patients quarters or part of the jail or clinic.

The place was so big that it took us about half an hour to walk all the way around the whole thing. I really wish we could have gone in though. We can only imagine what must lie inside!
We did recently read the following in a Dallas publication concerning the potential future of the abandoned hospital: "ASLA Dallas will work in partnership with the Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to restore the abandoned Parkland Hospital and turn it into the first-of-its kind health education facility for the citizens of Dallas."

So, maybe the old place is gonna get new life again sometime soon. We can only hope that the new facility will set aside a little space for the residents of the former institution who have never checked out.

Weird Texas

 

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