Things that go bump in the pharma night

Oct. 28, 2022
The pharmaceutical industry is not without its creepy tales

Even though pharma folks exist in a world grounded in science — it's difficult to turn down a good ghost story.

Medical experiments gone horribly wrong are often the main plotline in horror movies, but we were wondering, are there real-life pharma facilities with scary stories to tell?

Our editors dusted off the Ouija board and got to work. While we were unable to unearth any reports of haunted pharma manufacturing plants, we did find some creepy tales within the broader industry.

If you have any stories about paranormal activity on the plant floor, please share them with us! For now, grab your flashlights and cue the eerie music…

Pharmaceutical warehouse in Houston, haunted by a former employee

Once touted as ‘the most haunted place in downtown Houston’ this former warehouse-turned-restaurant traces its spooks back to the death of a pharma warehouse employee.

The building became the famed Spaghetti Warehouse in 1974 (and recently was renovated and reopened as new a bar/restaurant) but prior to that had been used as an actual warehouse for various industries since its construction in the early 1900s. As one version of the story goes, during the time when the building was being utilized as a pharma warehouse, a young worker (some report he was a pharmacist) died after falling down an empty elevator shaft. The employee and his wife — who died shortly after him from grief — have been haunting the building ever since.

Diners and restaurant workers have reported seeing strange floating objects, hearing people run up and down stairs when the building is empty and finding things that were secured in cabinets strewn about the restaurant. The ghosts seem to be particularly fond of haunting the restrooms and like to call people by name and then disappear into the ether.

Asheville haunted hotel built by a pharma businessman

Edwin Wiley Grove, business tycoon and self-made millionaire became determined to find a remedy for malaria after losing both his daughter and his wife to the disease. In 1886, Grove founded the Paris Medicine Company (that’s Paris, Tennessee) and began producing ‘Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic,’ which combined quinine with other ingredients and was advertised as a treatment for malaria, chills and fever. After Grove’s death, Paris Medicine Company was renamed Grove Laboratories in 1934 and bought out by Bristol-Myers in 1957.

Grove famously struggled with hiccups that would often last for weeks at a time, causing anxiety, insomnia and sometimes even internal bleeding. In search of clean mountain air, he relocated to Asheville, North Carolina, where he built the Grove Park Inn. The castle-like luxury hotel has hosted countless past presidents as well as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

But its most famous guest doesn’t seem to want to leave. Known as the Pink Lady due to her flowing pink ball gown, the young woman allegedly fell, jumped — or was pushed – to her death off the 5th-floor balcony back in the 1920s.

She’s purportedly a prankster of a ghost, messing with electronics, rearranging things in the rooms and tickling the feet of sleeping guests. Fortunately — and perhaps a nod to the hotel’s founder himself — the Pink Lady seems to have a soft spot for sick children. Several reports have been made of her comforting children who had taken ill while visiting the hotel.

Former Michigan lodge haunted by a pharma pioneer

In 1886, Dr. William E. Upjohn and his brother founded the Upjohn Pill and Granule Co. in Kalamazoo, Michigan. William had patented a process for making crushable, more digestible pills — but his business quickly expanded.

The drugmaker — which was soon renamed Upjohn Company — is credited for pioneering numerous chemical, microbial and manufacturing innovations. The manufacturing processes developed by Upjohn for its steroid medicines were regarded as transformative for the pharma industry at the time. Upjohn was acquired by Pharmacia in 1992; Pharmacia was acquired by Pfizer in 2002.

Dr. Upjohn purchased the Brook Lodge land in Kalamazoo County around the turn of the 19th century. He enjoyed summers there with his extended family until 1932 when he died from a heart attack on the grounds, inside what is now known as the ‘doctor’s cottage.”

Upjohn was well-regarded in the community and his death was mourned by many — perhaps that is why he decided to stick around.

The Brook Lodge site was used as a retreat center for decades, even functioning as an exclusive corporate retreat destination when Pharmacia and Upjohn merged. Guests and employees of the lodge have reported hearing footsteps, piano playing and a host of strange noises, especially inside the doctor’s cottage — all thought to be the doings of Dr. Upjohn himself.

The land was donated to Michigan State University, who closed the facilities in 2009. It was recently purchased by the Foundation for Behavioral Resources, a management company for area preschools and public elementary charter schools. It remains to be seen if Dr. Upjohn was included in the sale.

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About the Author

Karen P. Langhauser | Chief Content Director, Pharma Manufacturing

Karen currently serves as Pharma Manufacturing's chief content director.

Now having dedicated her entire career to b2b journalism, Karen got her start writing for Food Manufacturing magazine. She made the decision to trade food for drugs in 2013, when she joined Putman Media as the digital content manager for Pharma Manufacturing, later taking the helm on the brand in 2016.

As an award-winning journalist with 20+ years experience writing in the manufacturing space, Karen passionately believes that b2b content does not have to suck. As the content director, her ongoing mission has been to keep Pharma Manufacturing's editorial look, tone and content fresh and accessible.

Karen graduated with honors from Bucknell University, where she majored in English and played Division 1 softball for the Bison. Happily living in NJ's famed Asbury Park, Karen is a retired Garden State Rollergirl, known to the roller derby community as the 'Predator-in-Chief.'