Written By: Aurora Caskey
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Less than nine miles from the nation’s capital lies Glenn Dale hospital, a facility that is now crumbling and in disrepair. For nearly 40 years, the empty hospital has attracted urban explorers, ghost hunters, and curious teens to wander its sprawling campus and underground passageways. Glenn Dale was built in 1933 as a tuberculosis sanatorium. It remained as such until 1959, when it was opened to other patients with chronic illnesses. By the late 1970s, Glenn Dale’s large 23 building and 213 acre property only housed a few hundred Medicare patients. However, due to a substantial build up in asbestos, the facility closed in 1982. As of 2009, Glenn Dale Hospital was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009 and the application can be viewed here.
The White Plague
In the early 20th century, the White Plague or tuberculosis, (also known as “TB”) was a formidable disease that was responsible for almost 10% of deaths in the United States. TB was known to spread among a wide range of people, regardless of age, gender, race, or class, however, TB but was more common in urban areas. Before antibiotics were developed for tuberculosis, the best cure was thought to be rest and fresh air. Because of its contagiousness, those afflicted had to be quarantined away from other patients. Glenn Dale which is in a suburban area, was selected because it was away from uninfected people and provided the most land and space for facilities.
The Story of Etta Frances Young
Before proper treatment, TB was viewed as a death sentence. Since TB was spread through close contact, people with loved ones diagnosed with the disease often kept that fact a secret from their communities. TB hospitals like Glenn Dale were seen as somewhere to send the sick and dying to live out their days in peace and comfort. But as with any feared and misunderstood disease, mistakes happened.
In 1954, a 27-year-old pregnant mother by the name of Etta Frances Young told her doctor she felt short of breath while walking up stairs. After various questioning and testing, the doctor ordered a chest x-ray, which showed a shadow on her lung that he interpreted as tuberculosis. Due to the contagious and incurable effects, people were quarantined and otherwise held in detention under State Quarantine Laws. At no time did the hospital staff ever detect or dispostively identify TB symptoms with Young. There were times when Young would try to leave the facility and was threatened with criminal charges. Etta Frances Young spent approximately 114 Days at Glenn Dale Hospital.
It’s not clear whether the young woman had a choice because there were local laws that allowed contagious people to be forced into sanatoriums in order to protect the public. She survived and was released, but the separation from her family did irreparable damage. Trusting the word of doctors, she believed that she was a danger to her children and kept them at arm’s length for much of their childhood. 50 years later, Young told her daughter, Leah Y. Latimer about her time in Glenn Dale, which consisted of forced rest, chest x-rays, surgical procedures and stories of other women at the hospital. A complete recount of Etta Frances Young’s story as told by her daughter can be viewed here.
“Etta Frances Young spent approximately 114 Days at Glenn Dale Hospital.”
Alleged Paranormal Encounters
Is Glenn Dale haunted? There are some examples which suggests an eerie presence within the premises. For example, a YouTube video uploaded in 2012 by “thyAshes” identifies anomalies captured by a group exploring Glenn Dale. Most of the so-called “voices” are impossible to hear, but at one point there’s a very distinct whisper and breathing sound that is chilling. Another example is about a police officer assigned to patrol the area. A bystander reported hearing gunshots and called 911. When the officer was found, he was frozen in fear and unable to explain why he fired his weapon. These are only some of the many incidents that happened at the hospital. In addition, the Maryland Ghost and Spirit Association, which is a group of paranormal investigators, added Glenn Dale Hospital as an “official” haunted site. Given the history and karma surrounding the hospital, it would not be too difficult to believe there are restless spirits still lurking the grounds.
“When the officer was found, he was frozen
in fear and unable to explain why he fired his weapon”
Glenn Dale Today
In April of 2019, the Maryland legislature passed a bill that superseded 1994 legislation which the hospital to be used as a retirement community if it was to be sold. The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPCC) purchased the property from the District of Columbia back in 1995. The MNCPCC had the ability to sell the property to developers as long it was for the purpose of maintaining a retirement community. Although offers were extended, the MNCPCC felt that none of the potential developers had the qualifications to run and maintain a retirement facility. Such difficulty may have been the reason why recent legislation has lifted this requirement.
A development company that focuses on preserving and reusing historical structures has expressed some interest in Glenn Dale, but demolition and asbestos removal would be a huge undertaking. The same company recently worked with the local government to turn an old Virginia prison into residential and commercial spaces. If you want to visit this spooky site (which I don’t recommend because you could be arrested), you should probably do so soon before it gets transformed. On the other hand, if the developers turn the facility into condos or coops, you may have some “visitors.”
I visited Glenn Dale Hospital in 2004 with a group of friends. We were aware of the risks (asbestos, lead, police patrols) but decided to check it out anyway. Our encounter was fairly brief; we walked through the crumbling buildings and took pictures of the decay. After several minutes we heard a door slam loudly on the floor above us. Rather than stick around and see what caused it, we ran. It could have been another group of trespassers, but surely we would have heard them sooner. It was unlikely to be the police because it was deeper into the building, which is rotting and not structurally sound. I’ll never know for sure, but what I do remember vividly is being scared out of my mind.
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