Make your own free website on

McDowell’s Mistakes


Although Ephraim McDowell became famous for his successful abdominal surgeries during the early 19th century, he lost five of his thirteen patients on the operating table.  These women, all from the area around Danville, had flocked to Dr. McDowell to be saved from their ovarian diseases after being impressed by his previous success with the new procedure. For some unknown reason, McDowell began to struggle.  All of his operations were performed in his downtown home, which still stands today near Constitution Square.  The house remained quiet for a number of years, but its history was awakened when county officials began a movement to remodel the home to make it a tourist attraction.

The construction workers complained often during the project.  They said that moans and screams of women could be heard early in the morning.  Some fearfully concluded that they were the screams of the women who died in that house after surgery at dawn without anesthesia.

One morning, a worker was alone in an upstairs bedroom working on drywall when he heard a steady dripping noise.  He looked at the roof to find a leak, but he heard a moan and turned quickly to observe a woman floating in the air, as if lying upon an invisible operating table, with her abdomen opened and bloody.  She stared into his eyes, and he fled from the home never to return.

The curators of the restored home have also witnessed supernatural events, but they are very reluctant to admit it and often strike down the possibility of such activity to avoid bad publicity.  One former employee recalls walking through the home late one night to do a final check.  Everything seemed normal, so she locked the doors and windows and left.  Early the next morning, she returned to the home.  Everything was still locked, but some of the furniture seemed to have been moved.  The woman walked through the home to make sure no one was inside.  She never found a person inside, but upstairs in the guest room, the bed was completely saturated with blood.

Possibly the most suspicious of all incidents at the McDowell House in Danville concerns the preserved ovaries of the deceased women.  The ovaries were once kept in the apothecary located near the house in separate jars.  Then two pairs of ovaries mysteriously disappeared.  Employees were questioned, but no one was found to be guilty.  About a week later, a maintenance worker found two empty jars while mowing in the local cemetery’s oldest section.  They were leaning against the graves of two of the women whose ovaries had once been in the jars after they had died on McDowell’s operating table.


Michael Osborne

             DuPont Manual High School