Updated: Oct 21, 2020
Vicksburg, Mississippi has plenty of haunted places, including houses, a garden district, and a military park where thousands of soldiers lost their lives. It’s also home to what was, until recently, what some people considered one of the most haunted hospitals in the South.
This is Kuhn State Memorial Hospital. Until recently, it sat at 1422 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Vicksburg. It was 40,000 square feet on 12.8 acres of land and, interestingly, was in the shape of a cross. It also has a dark story that I think both history buffs and paranormal enthusiasts will enjoy. Let’s explore the history of Kuhn State Memorial Hospital in one of the South’s most historic cities.
Vicksburg was founded in 1825 and soon began thriving, perhaps thanks to its close proximity to the Mississippi River. It was also the river that indirectly led to what the city is most known for, the Siege of Vicksburg. It was the middle of the Civil War, and Union troops were slowly taking the South one city at a time. But because they weren’t prepared for river combat, their attempts to take Vicksburg lasted for more than a year before the city finally surrendered on July 4, 1863 after a 47 day siege. Vicksburg residents famously would not celebrate Independence Day for a further 81 years.
In the midst of all this, the hospital that would come to be known as Kuhn State was founded in 1832 after a smallpox outbreak. At the time, it was known as Vicksburg City Hospital and treated a variety of illnesses, both physical and mental. In addition to serving as a Civil War hospital and treating a yellow fever outbreak in 1878, the hospital served as a facility for the criminally insane — who were housed in the same building as the mentally ill. Multiple asylum cliches, including lobotomies, strap downs and shock therapy were all implemented.
In 1901, a new wing was added to the building to house aging Confederate veterans. From 1910 to 1911, the hospital served as the site of the first Ole Miss medical school. The building caught fire in 1918 though fortunately, as far as I could tell, there were no casualties.
From here, some details become fuzzy. I read one source that said ownership of the hospital passed to the state in 1871. I read another that said the city of Vicksburg sold it to the state in 1956 for $5. Yet another source says the hospital was state funded at one point, but always owned by the city. Regardless, it became Vicksburg Charity Hospital in 1956, at which point another wing was added to the building. The hospital was closed and abandoned in 1989.
In the late 1990’s, several proposals were made as to what to do with the property. It was considered as a veteran’s home in 1994, as well as a possible psychiatric ward for adolescents or an assisted living center. In 2000, the building was donated to a homeless shelter in Yazoo City, about an hour away.
But it doesn’t seem the shelter did much with the building because, from its closing in 1989, it sat abandoned for a further three decades. And the abandonment and goings-on during its operation no doubt led to the rumors of paranormal activity.
Over the years, multiple ghost hunting groups, news crews and curious citizens have entered the ruins of Kuhn State with the hopes of capturing something. At one point, a local film crew shot a movie there; I couldn’t find the specific movie, but there are reports that they caught a disembodied voice on camera. Ghost hunters also heard a voice saying “Want to come play with me?” An investigator who filmed a video in March 2016 claimed they felt something brush against their leg as soon as the camera was turned off. People have also reported seeing full bodied shadow figures in the building and felt a “strange presence, as if someone was watching."
It’s also not uncommon to find writing amongst the dusty, long abandoned machines. One investigator drew a tic tac toe board in the dust to see if a ghost would play back — though, as far as I know, none ever did. Another crew found the word ‘help’ written backwards in the dirt — and ghosts are presumably known for writing backwards. Was this the work of a prankster or bored teenager — or was it a ghostly message?
In 2014, the hospital was featured on the TV show Ghost Asylum. The crew seemed to pick up a good amount of activity — especially in the newer building, which housed the mental ward, prison and autopsy room.
But perhaps the most disturbing thing paranormal enthusiasts have found at the hospital had nothing to do with ghosts. Around 7 pm on Sunday, June 28, 2015, a group of ghost hunters were exploring the hospital when they saw a trail of blood on a flight of stairs. The trail led them down the stairs and outside the building, where they found the body of 69-year-old Sharon Wilson. Wilson had been reported missing earlier that day when police in Leland, about an hour and a half away, pulled over two men who were found to be driving her stolen car. 33-year-old Rafael McCloud and his 20-year-old nephew, Akeen McCloud, were taken into custody, and the truth soon came out.
The previous day, the two men broke into Wilson’s house and ransacked it. Then they kidnapped her in her own car, drove her to the hospital and, at some point, raped and murdered her, the latter of which presumably happened inside the building. Then they dragged her body down a flight of stairs and outside, where they left it on the side of the road. I couldn’t find exactly how she died, but her body had head trauma, so I’m assuming it was something along those lines. While in custody, Rafael claimed they took Wilson to that particular area because if people there heard gunshots they wouldn’t think anything of it.
On March 2, 2016, Rafael McCloud escaped from jail. He was on the run for eight days, and is thought to have spent at least part of that time hiding out at Kuhn State. On March 10, he was caught breaking into a home and subsequently shot and killed by one of the residents.
After Sharon Wilson’s body was found, David Childers, co-founder of the Mississippi Paranormal Research Institute, said the building should be torn down because it was unsafe. It wouldn’t be long before he got his wish. At the time, the Community Development Director was already trying to get the building demolished. Previous attempts had failed because of asbestos in the building, but that soon changed.
In September 2018, Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. signed a contract with a company that would remove the asbestos and demolish the building. On Wednesday, February 4, 2019, demolition on the hospital began. The hospital with a rich legacy that stretched back over 180 years is now gone.
So what do you think of Kuhn State Memorial Hospital? Do you think it’s really haunted? I would have loved to visit at one point, but it seems I just missed my chance, which is disappointing. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.