Date of Establishment
In 1892 the St. Ignatius Hospital began construction to bring Whitman County better healthcare. The construction had many constructional setbacks and funding issues as the years ticked on. The Sisters of Charity began operation the “hospital” out of a wooden building in 1893 and awaited the main building’s finish. Finally finished in 1894 the Sister proudly opened the doors and began caring for patients in the proper setting. St. Ignatius grew to support major medical developments and changes for the state of Washington, until a lack of funding resulting in its closure in 1964. The building stayed abandoned until 1968 when it went up for sale and transformed into an assisted living facility.
The hospital’s final days would be marked in 2000 when it was abandoned yet again to sit. St. Ignatius did not die quietly however; its spirits came alive to the locals of Colfax. In 2015, the building made the Most Endangered Properties list and shot into the limelight. Paranormal communities scrambled to welcome this building into the abandoned but loved category, and the tours commenced. However, the Colfax Commerce took over owners as of September 2020, and they plan to save and restore the building. Tours and other paranormal tourism have yet to have a stack in the plan, but only time will tell.
Name & Location
Abandoned and haunted St. Ignatius Hospital sits less than a mile from Codger Pole, on S. Mill Street in the heart of Colfax, Washington. The town of Colfax is located on the Palouse River in Southeast Washington. The town is the seat of Whitman country, which is a highly agricultural county. This area was once home to bands of Palouse and Nez Perce Tribe Native Americans. In 1893 Colfax was the host town to Whitman’s County’s first Hospital. Years after their original opening, St. Ignatius established a School of Nursing in 1911. In 1941 the school was celebrated for having the first 2 male nurses in the whole of Washington state. After its closing in 1964, St. Ignatius Hospital became an assisted living facility called St. Ignatius Manor. Today its traditional name of St. Ignatius Hospital is what locals prefer to use until its future is determined.
The hospital is an intimidating 5-stories high with its main rows of towering windows, it appears to gloom down at visitors. The building’s overall look is abandoned, broken, and worn with its heavy overgrowth of vegetation and cracking bricks. Many have reported that when it rains outside, it’s also raining inside. The interior of the building has seen much better years, as its walls are left cracked and peeling. Graffiti, holes, and burns cover the halls as the many years of abandonment show like old wounds. It is extremely dark and the air is stained with mildew mixed with various guanos. The maze of hallways seems to confuse and turn you in circles as you navigate your way through the wings. Many nurses and tour guides would lose their way for months until they learned the wings and corridors.
The first floor held two emergency wings, the right was for “survivable” patients and the left was not. The left-wing was for “untreatable” patients and held a direct port to the morgue in the basement below. The second floor was the Obstetrics and maternity wings, again divided across the different corridors of the buildings. On the third floor, an infectious disease wing battled to treat or contain the pandemics of its years. Surgeries and X-Rays were done on the fourth floor. Leaving the fifth floor for the Sisters and nurses to have private living quarters, locker rooms, and meal areas. This floor was said to be off-limit to all patients and their families or guests.
As of 2016 the windows and doors were sealed in hopes to keep “amateur” ghost hunters at bay, as well as vandals. The building is being cared for and in hopes of being restored in the future ahead.
St. Ignatius’s was an idea born from Rev. Jachern in 1892 when he saw this area’s healthcare needed major improvement. Traveling to Portland he meets with the Sister of Charity and plans soon fell into a way to build the hospital in the areas around Palouse and Colfax. To fund buildings at this time, it was custom for religious orders in the United States to us private donors and sponsors for the funding. So, three towns were offered the chance to bid on being the official sponsor; Colfax, Pullman, And Palouse City. The Chamber of Commerce in the town of Colfax won the bid to be the private sponsors for building the hospital.
St. Ignatius has been surrounded by urban legends since the 1960s because many of their rooms were named after patients that formerly lived or died there. The 3 main rooms that creep guests out are Rose’s Room, The Children’s Room, and Dave’s Room. Rose was a resident when St. Ignatius Manor was a care facility for developmental disabilities. Her room and ghost are very active in the haunting, she is on multiple recordings as being angry. Every October there is an annual St. Ignatius Haunted tour in the name of its first fatality, F.E. Martin (1893). He was crushed in a railway accident and taken to the hospital only to find he’d already died.
Many reports flood the web about St. Ignatius as it returned to the limelight, however, many workers and guides have reported never really see the same ghosts twice. Though the ghost may not repeat, the encounters with them do. Whether traditional pokes and jokes or violent and disturbing; this hospital has no shortage of lore.
Mythology and Lore
During these guided tours visitors are told there have been “thousands and thousands” of deaths during this building’s history. The famed “haunting” has even caught the eye of many TV and paranormal researchers. However, no matter the guest, they must be with a tour guide. Many of the guides have heard on recording how unhappy some spirits are, like Rose. They have also nicknamed a 1st-floor hallway as “left is dead”, this is because the left-wing held the untreatable patients and lead straight to the morgue below.
Tour guides have also reported full-figure shadows about the grounds, they do not seem to take shape or human form. They also hear snatches of conversations and slamming doors when the building was empty. The 4th-floor area by the surgery ward is rumored to be a highly active area where you hear footsteps coming toward you, but never see a figure. There are many reports of figures looming in windows, lights flickering, and unworldly screams.
Televisions Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures’’ reportedly captured “authentic” paranormal evidence upon investigating. Using a full-spectrum camera they captured an anomaly of a “white misty apparition’’ roaming the halls.
Modern Pop-Culture References
- Paranormal Lockdown (2017) “St. Ignatius Hospital’’ [Episode 4, Season2]
- Ghost Adventures (2019) “St. Ignatius Hospital” [Episode 8, Season 18]
- Washington Haunted Houses
- Atlas Obscura
- The Spokesman-Review
- Spokane Historical – R. A. Schultz, “St. Ignatius Hospital”
- Colfax Washington
Is there anything we missed about St. Ignatius Hospital? Let us know in the comments section below!