Despite having spent a lot of time in Yuánlín 員林, a mid-sized city in central Changhua 彰化, Taiwan 台灣, I have only recently begun to explore some of its more famous ruins. Among these is Yuanlin Hospital 員林醫院, formally the Changhua County Yuanlin Hospital 彰化縣立員林醫院, originally built in 1963 and operational until the the turn of the millennium. Nowadays it is one of the more notorious abandoned places in central Taiwan, where it is regularly featured in news reports, particularly around Ghost Month 鬼月. Taiwanese media engage in an annual outpouring of overly sensationalized stories about haunted places—and hospitals, as liminal spaces of birth and death, often appear in such reports, complicating research into the real story of what went on.
Notoriety is a curse for urban explorers interested in experiencing a genuine sense of what a place was like before it was abandoned to the elements. Yuanlin Hospital is far from unspoiled—almost everything of value and interest has been stripped out of the interior and the walls are covered with adolescent graffiti (most of which has been carefully cropped out of my photos).
Although this hospital is located on the edge of town it is immediately adjacent to a busy schoolyard—and you can be sure that kids regularly dare one another to enter the “haunted” hospital, play pranks, and spread rumours. Some half-hearted effort was undertaken to seal the building long ago but it is now effortless to walk inside if you know the location. Bizarrely, several news reports I’ve perused openly list the address of the hospital, inviting members of the public to take a look for themselves. Yuanlin Hospital is far from secret but it is not without a certain vintage charm.
Minor misgivings aside, Yuanlin Hospital is a fine example of the institutional aesthetics of the KMT authoritarian era, all reinforced concrete, angular ironwork, and patterned tile. The teal paint running along the corridors should be familiar to anyone who has visited any of the nation’s historic military villages. You might not feel like you’re the first person to set foot in this place in years but it’s still worth a visit if you’re interested in urban exploration in Taiwan.
As for what really happened here, it sounds like this hospital was doomed by government inefficiency rather than anything sordid like medical malpractice or embezzlement. From what I understand the hospital was originally owned and operated by the Changhua County Health Bureau 彰化縣衛生局. After it was closed property rights were transferred to what is now the city of Yuánlín 員林, and I suppose they’ve just taken their sweet time getting around to redeveloping the site. Recent news reports suggest it will be turned into an activity center some day.
In a curious coincidence Yuanlin Hospital has been in the news since I visited earlier this month. Police received panicked reports about someone hanging themselves inside the hospital only weeks after I was there—and in Changhua 彰化 suicide by hanging is an extremely serious issue, necessitating a unique purification ritual known in Taiwanese as sàng bah-tsàng 送肉粽 (see my post about Daodong Academy 道東書院 in nearby Héměi 和美 for more about this practice).
Luckily there was no hanging—it was a prop from the filming of an episode of the television drama series Love, Timeless 鐘樓愛人. The crew had left a dummy hanging in the hallway and a concerned parent had seen it while walking their kid to school. This strikes me as being rather irresponsible given local beliefs about hanging—but whatever, the news media ate it up.
For more about Yuanlin Hospital some Taiwanese bloggers have written accounts here (with more photos here) and here (continued in part two here). I also found another post with some great photos that you might like if you were expecting something spooky. Finally, if you enjoyed this post you might like to peruse my write-ups about Xinglin General Hospital in Tainan 台南 or Minxiong Ghost House in Chiayi 嘉義.