Just ask Margaret Langley, a registered nurse, about her job, and you'll quickly learn that ghosts haunt the hospital where she's worked for the past 16 years. Broughton State Hospital (a state psychiatric hospital) located in Morganton, North Carolina is considered one of the most haunted places in the state. Mysterious and unexplained events fill a century with stories of ghostly encounters.
Margaret works what is commonly called the graveyard shift, which has nothing to do with graveyards and everything to do with the time of night she works. In Margaret's case, the terminology is revealing since it's during her shift that a lot of the paranormal activity occurs. Her ghostly encounters prompted her to write a book, Haunted Broughton, Tales From the Graveyard Shift, that includes real life ghost stories others tell about the hospital. "I felt that these events should be documented," Margaret said. "Privacy is my main concern, and therefore no patient or staff names are used."
Working at a Haunted Insane Asylum
Since her first day on the job, Margaret Langley knew her place of employment wasn't the typical hospital setting. "BH (Broughton Hospital) is a totally different place at night. You see shadows out of the corner of your eye and hear things that can't be explained."
LTK: What was your first encounter with a spirit at Broughton?
Margaret: I witnessed, along with my co-worker who was also a nurse, a vaporous cloud floating in the hall about five feet off the floor. It was near the top of a door that had a thin window built into it, and the light was shining through that window and through the cloud. As we stood there in amazement, the cloud sort of melted away. After investigating the area, we concluded that it must have been a ghost or spirit because there was nothing there that could have caused such a cloud.
LTK: Are there certain areas that seem to have the most paranormal activity?
Margaret: The most haunted are the least used areas. Other areas of intense activity are the ones known as high control areas for violent, uncontrollable patients and the wards where the criminally insane were housed.
Patients Haunt Underground Tunnels
LTK: Are all of the wards still in use today, or are the haunted wards closed off from use?
Margaret: With the exception of most of the basement wards, BH utilizes many of the wards in the building formerly known as the Center Building for patient treatment. It is now called the Avery Building. The building is kept in excellent repair with polished floors and regular painting. BH does not officially or otherwise acknowledge the existence of ghosts. If something unusual is reported to the BH police, they duly investigate and make no mention of it. Therefore, if a ward is closed, it is usually for remodeling.
LTK: What was the purpose of the underground tunnels? Are they used today?
Margaret: The tunnels were used for transporting patients from building to building. One of the favorite rumors is that wealthy or influential people were afraid that one of their family members in the hospital would be spotted by visitors and the word would get out. Also, stories were told about chaining patients to the walls down there. I have talked to people who have actually been down there, and they report no sign of chains exist today.
The Steward and the Matron of the asylum would check on the wards and the patients by carrying a lantern and walking through the tunnels. There were also tracks laid down in the tunnels leading from the kitchen and laundry in order to transport supplies back and forth to the hospital.
Ghosts Scare Patients and Staff
LTK: Have patients told you about seeing ghosts?
Margaret: Yes, they have. My most recent event was around Thanksgiving 2009 when two men told me they saw a blue light floating outside the window. When they got up to see what it was, the light floated over the trees and through the leaves. It moved around and around until it disappeared. They were very adamant about what they saw.
LTK: What is the scariest story associated with ghosts at Broughton?
Margaret: Wow! That is a hard one! There are so many. So, I'll share one I heard recently that isn't in my book. A nurse (friend of mine) was working up on Ward 8 one night. After finishing her paperwork, she walked down the hall to where one of the staff members was sitting. During the course of her conversation with him, she began to notice something out of the corner of her eye. It seemed to be a shadow, sitting at the end of the hall where the sofa was.
She kept trying to ignore it, but the guy noticed the way she was glancing down the hall and said, "You see it, don't you." It was a statement, not a question. At first she denied it because she didn't want anyone to think she was off her rocker. She admitted that she thought she saw something. The staff member, said, "It's a man playing solitaire, look."
She told me she looked and sure enough, there was the shadow of a man making the motions as if playing solitaire. As they watched, the shadow dissipated into nothing. My friend said the CNA told her that he'd seen that apparition many times during the twilight hours. He had just gotten used to seeing it, and didn't feel scared by it anymore.
LTK: Have you conducted paranormal investigations at Broughton? If so, what kind of permission did you need in order to conduct the investigation?
Margaret: No, I have not conducted paranormal investigations other than simply walking through empty wards that I had to go to in order to complete my assignments. Things I hear and see are what the spirits want me to see and hear. Broughton Hospital is a working hospital, so no permission can be obtained at this time to do investigations. That being said, I would emphasize to everyone not to come on their own accord. The BH police will escort you off the campus.
LTK: Any plans for future ghost hunts?
Margaret: For me, every night I work is a "ghost hunt." I traverse different areas of BH and watch/listen for any activity. Just recently, I heard a door click as if were being shut as I passed by, but the door was open. Sometimes I am frightened by what I hear and see, as anyone would be.
LTK: What was the most impressive and lasting experience you've had at Broughton?
Margaret: When I was in Bates Building all by myself one night. I had never had a fear of being there alone prior to that night. I was sitting at the conference room table looking over my time sheet and writing down my upcoming vacation days.
All of a sudden, a woman's voice spoke in my right ear and called my name in a loud whisper, "Margaret!" It scared me so bad that it felt like an iron prod was shoved up my spine into the base of my skull. (I am sure that was my blood pressure shooting up). I slowly rose from my seat and, almost as if in a daze, walked over to the desk, replaced the time book and left the conference room.
As I walked down the hallway to exit the building, I held my breath and kept looking behind me. At the door, I could not get my key in fast enough; it didn't want to go in! Finally, I got the lock turned, and out the door I went. I never went into that building alone again. It was an event I will never forget, ever.
LTK: Is there a sequel to your book in the works?
Margaret: Yes, there will be a sequel, but the title and release date are undetermined at this time. In addition, I'm working on a historical biography, but it is slow going.
Future of Broughton Hospital
There are many haunted insane asylums throughout the United States that have been abandoned for newer buildings. There are plans to build a new facility to replace the current Broughton campus. "BH will hopefully be protected from destruction," Margaret says, "It is on the official preservation list of Historical Buildings in North Carolina."