Most Haunted Places in America: Swingle Hospital
For years, stories of the Swingle Hospital haunting in Johnson City, Tennessee have circulated statewide and beyond. Visions of horrific surgeries gone awry and the mad Doctor Swingle have been planted in the heads of enthralled listeners. But the truth is, not much actually happened at the Swingle Mansion.
The haunted legend of Swingle Hospital that is often relayed is this:
Swingle Hospital was built near Science Hill High School and Heritage Manor as Johnson City’s first hospital and private residence of Dr. Hugh F. Swingle, Jr. Legend has it that in the 1920’s, Dr. Swingle killed most (some stories say “all”) of his patients on the operating table due to careless practices.
It is said that by walking slowly up the front entrance, one can hear the insane Dr. Swingle and his staff talking. A walk around to the back of the building results in the audible range of screaming patients supposedly buried in the back yard.
The true story of Swingle Hospital is this:
Swingle Hospital was opened on February 25, 1948 by a group of highly educated doctors with a mission to heal the sick. Johnson City seemed the perfect location, in need of their services as much as they needed the work. The hospital was named “The Clinic Hospital, Inc.” It was merely the local legends that termed it “Swingle Hospital”, or “Swingle Mansion”.
The doctors involved were:
Dr. Edward Thruston Brading, who received a degree from Harvard University and moved to Johnson City in the early 1940’s to establish his practice. While there, he made several friends who were fellow doctors who eventually opened The Clinic Hospital, Inc with Brading.
Dr. Carroll Hardy, native of Johnson City, Tennessee, and graduate of Pennsylvania University. Hardy was a two-year resident doctor at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, PA. Dr. Hardy moved back home in 1932 and partnered up with his father, also a doctor.
Dr. Hugh F. Swingle – who the legend of Swingle Hospital surrounds – and Dr. Jack Gordon were introduced to Dr. Edward Brading through Dr. Carroll Hardy. Gordon’s father was the majority share holder of the Empire Chair Company, and provided financial backing for the group to purchase the building now known as Swingle Mansion; a 3-story brick home located on North Roan Street. Dr. Hugh Swingle was named president of the hospital, likely the reason his name was tagged by locals when the story of Swingle Hospital was concocted.
After a few years, Swingle’s fellow doctors began leaving, one by one, to pursue further education and/or bigger city business in their current practices. Edward was the last to leave Hugh Swingle, the sole doctor left to attend the patients of the hospital. Dr. Swingle struggled to maintain the practice for as long as he could, but without the help of his once trusted friends, the hospital was finally closed in the 1960’s.
The closed building attracted a multitude of homeless individuals and vagrants. A fire broke out (likely set by one of these squatters) and the owner decided to board up the windows, placing a ‘No Trespassing’ sign on the property.
The probable cause of the local legend of Swingle Hospital originated from the father of Dr. Carroll Hardy, who had been residing in Johnson City, TN since 1891. Hardy’s father took on the near impossible task of repairing an African American man’s intestines. With little more than a dining room table and chloroform for anesthesia, Carroll’s father went to work on the man, but he died on the operating table. The Jonesborough Herald & Tribune plastered the story on its front page.
This story has been so grossly misconstrued due to a simple link between Dr. Hugh Swingle and the tragic death of a patient belonging to his associate’s father. Yet still, countless times each year, trespassers creep onto the lawn of Swingle Hospital in hopes of hearing the “mad Dr. Swingle”, or the screams of “his many victims”. Is Swingle Hospital haunted? Possibly, but having the correct background should change your opinion on who is doing the haunting.