THE GREY NURSE PHENOMENA – HOSPITAL GHOSTS
In Sickness and in Death – the Grey Nurse Phenomena by Kag Allwood
The Grey Nurse hospital ghost – she is said to attend your needs with a smile whilst she empties the bedpan or changes your drip. If you need extra care, she will press the buzzer to alert other nurses. There is something not quite right about this nurse, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. You later realise her uniform was of a much older style. Enquiries are made about the nurse wearing the grey uniform and a funny cap, only to be told that they don’t have a member of staff matching that description! Not only that, the buzzer she pressed for help, either wasn’t connected or wasn’t working!
Partway through your shift, a patient requires the lavatory. You place her on the toilet seat and, respecting her privacy, request that the buzzer is pressed when she is ready to be taken back to the bed. After a while and with no buzzer being heard, you find that the patient is no longer where you left her. She is now back in her bed, thanks to the lovely nurse in the grey uniform with the funny cap! None of your work colleagues are wearing such unusual gear!
If you experienced these and many more similar incidents, you may have just been one of the many who have encountered the Grey Nurse!
The Grey Nurse is a world-wide phenomenon. Wherever you go in the world, whether it be an old hospital or an aged-care home, you will find that it is more than likely to be haunted by a ‘Grey Nurse’. She doesn’t go around the hospital jumping out and scaring patients, visitors or staff, but prefers to help out, as though she is still carrying on with her work, but her shift never ends. You have to love nurses, even when they have passed on, they are still carrying on with their job!
Can we date the nurse by the jobs she undertakes? If she was renowned for just emptying bedpans, then she could be from way back as they have been around for years. But what about changing drips and pressing buzzers for help, surely that would require a more recently deceased person? This may not be necessarily so, as we are probably talking about an ‘intelligent haunting’. Intelligent hauntings seem to able to communicate with us, to understand the equipment and also to acknowledge that we – the living – are around. If it is true and they can learn how to manipulate our equipment, then surely it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that an intelligent haunting can learn other new things too, such as new nursing practices. On this basis, and if the Grey Nurse does exist and is an ‘intelligent haunting’, she could be from any era, making our search for whomever she is, even more difficult!
The uniform that she wears can differ, depending on the venue. Does the nurse wear the uniform that was worn at the time of her death, or can she change her look to ‘fit in’ more? If she is going to be seen by a number of patients and visitors and she dates back to the days when long dresses were worn, she would stand out like a sore thumb. Maybe she can possibly change how she looks and appear in a more ‘up-to-date’ outfit! Who knows!
Why carry on nursing?
Why do these nurses carry on with their job long after they are deceased? There could possibly be a number of reasons.
Back in the day nurses not only had to live on-site, but they weren’t allowed to marry or, consequently, have a family. If they married or fell pregnant, they had to leave their career! Many stayed single and carried on with their healing role, the hospital became their life. Maybe they are possibly carrying on nursing to this day!
Some nurses may have met an unfortunate ending, losing their lives to accidents, disease and even possibly murder. These poor nurses could possibly feel that their lives were taken away far too soon and the job they loved and worked hard for ended before it was time!
A number of nurses back in the day, contracted the condition of the patients they were looking after such as influenza, typhoid and tuberculosis, sadly leading to death for some. How fascinating would it be that a deceased nurse could still be looking after patients to this day, even though she may have lost her life by contracting the condition of her patient previously!
Death from burning could also be a cause for nurses losing their lives during the days before electricity. Kerosene lamps and candles were used for lighting in the days when nurses’ uniforms consisted of long skirts, lots of heavy material and caps with streamers down the back (denoting your authority within the nursing staff). All of these were accidents waiting to happen.
We cannot forget the nurses that joined the First and Second World War effort, not all of whom returned from their time serving their country. Could they have come back to a job they loved?
The real reason is something we may never know.
Lot Fourteen – Former Royal Adelaide Hospital (FRAH)
We had the privilege of conducting tours through the former hospital site. Alongside the history tours, we were also taking guests on the Grey Nurse tour. The former hospital was renown to have been haunted, with numerous stories of encounters with the Grey Nurse.
No-one knew who she was, but there were rumours of how she died. These rumours varied depending on when staff worked there. We have been told that she was the wife of a doctor who died on the operating table; one story suggests she was killed in an accident on her way to work; another version has her being pushed down the stairs by a mental health patient. The list goes on… This is part of the Grey Nurse puzzle that may never be solved.
Shadow figures were reported to walk between bays in the Emergency Department and room to room in the Intensive Care Unit, as though a nurse was checking up on her patients. Whispering could also be heard from nurses’ bays.
Were any of these the Grey Nurse?
There have been a number of Grey Nurse stories told to us by nurses, security staff and cleaners alike.
A group of nurses were all involved in a resuscitation situation. Next door drips and other medical paraphernalia that would be required shortly were being collated by unseen hands!
Bedpans could be heard rattling in a sluice room; a nurse checked the empty room and all the bedpans were on the floor. The nurse put them back on the shelf and went about her duties. Later on, she heard the same noise from the sluice room. Again, the room was empty and the bedpans were on the floor. The nurse, now understandably annoyed, blamed the Grey Nurse, telling her that they were too busy and didn’t have time for games. The bedpans could stay on the floor and she should instead make herself useful. Later the nurse checked on a patient that was in a lot of pain but had had the maximum amount of pain killers she could have, this patient was now fast asleep. Thinking that the pain medications had now kicked in, the nurse left her in peace. The following morning the nurse went to check on the very same patient and asked her if she was relieved that the pain killers had worked. The patient replied that the pain meds hadn’t worked, but a lovely nurse in a grey uniform with a funny cap had stroked her face until she fell asleep, just like her mother used to do as a child! So, she did make herself useful.
A cleaner was in the morgue when she turned around and saw a grey figure standing by her. She called her friend who was in the building and her friend found the poor cleaner a white as a sheet!
After all our tours and investigations at Lot Fourteen, were we any closer to finding out who the Grey Nurse was and how she lost her life? The answer is ‘no’, we didn’t get any closer at all. Are we disappointed? For sure, how cool would it have been to find out all about her and the reasons she carries on to this day. We all knew that the likelihood of that happening was fairly low, but we could hope. We will also never find out if there was just the one Grey Nurse or were there possibly more, which was one of the theories. Was that the reason she was seen in different places and sometimes looking slightly different too. I used to end my Grey Nurse tours at Lot Fourteen with the following and I feel it apt to end this blog with the same.
‘It doesn’t really matter if it’s The Grey Nurse or Grey Nurses. What matters is that anyone that had dealings with the Grey Nurse, whether they were a patient, visitor or a member of staff, were grateful for her being around. If you ever get the opportunity to talk to someone that has had dealings with the Grey Nurse, listen to their stories and listen to the passion in their voices. It’s a fascinating subject”
For anyone who wants to know why the Grey Nurse, especially at Lot Fourteen is a female and not a male, that would be because the first male nurses weren’t employed by the FRAH until 1964!
“We would just like to thank Renewal S.A. for trusting us with such a sensitive site to take the public through for one last time and share the history. By doing so it allowed over 5000 people to say a last goodbye to the FRAH. Even better… Haunted Horizons managed to donate over $20,000 worth of life-saving medical equipment to Rotary and raised $5,000 for the Royal Flying Doctors. We also, as always, raised money for Beyondblue. Thank you to everybody who supported us and made this possible!” ~ Haunted Horizons.
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Written By Kag Allwood
Lead Guide for Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons
Paranormal Researcher and tour guide
All articles are the personal opinion of the author only and do not always reflect the views of Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons.
© Kag Allwood – Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons – 2020