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Waverly Hills Sanitarium
The Haunted Hospital

By

Bobette Bryan


© 2005 by Bobette Bryan



 

The Waverly Hills Sanitarium in Louisville Kentucky has it all-- cold spots, disembodied voices, and ghosts roaming the halls. It sits on a great hill overlooking the city and seems like a reigning fortress of gloom in its eerie, decaying state. The atmosphere is further darkened by a chilling history of mass death and of patient abuse during the years it was used as a geriatric hospital.  

In 1910, a wooden two-story hospital was built on the site, which was the highest elevated hill in southern Jefferson County, but with tuberculousis rampant in the area, the building wasn't big enough to house all of the patients.  And so a new building was constructed in 1924, and the new Waverly Hospital opened in 1926.
 

Treatment for the dreaded disease was primitive at that time. Without antibiotics, natural cures provided the only available defense. Health care providers believed that rest and plenty of fresh air and sunshine was the answer, and thus the patients spent the majority of their time in the solarium-like porch ways.  You can see in the picture above that the patients are just outside of their rooms on an enclosed porch. The large windows had no glass and were screened. Even in the winter, patients would be placed outdoors with heating blankets (such tuberculosis treatments were the reason why heating blankets were invented.).




Besides such natural remedies, there were also many experimental treatments which were downright dangerous including: pneumothorax, surgically collapsing or deflating a portion of the lung so that it would heal; and thoracoplasty opening up the chest and removing up to 2 to 3 ribs at a time so that the lung would have more room to expand and heal. And there were other dire experimental methods as well.  None of these methods were effective.  In fact, fewer than five percent of patients survived the pneumothorax method.

Thousands of people died at Waverly before streptomycin was discovered in 1943--some estimates are as high as 64,000.  Ten thousand people died during Waverly's first three years alone. But by the 1950's, tuberculosis was nearly eradicated thanks to the antibiotic.  As a result, the need for such a huge facility to handle tuberculosis patients was no longer necessary, and the hospital closed in 1961.

It reopened a year later as the Woodhaven Geriatrics Sanitarium, where there have been many tales of patient mistreatment and unusual experiments. The state of Kentucky closed it in 1982 due to patient abuse.

The buildings, contents, and land were auctioned off and the doors were locked for good. Over the next 18 years, ownership of the building changed hands many times. The second owner wanted to tear it down, but was stopped because the property was on the National Historic Register’s “endangered” list. He decided that if he couldn’t legally tear it down then he would do everything in his power to get it condemned.

He encouraged vandalism and people broke windows, porcelain sinks, toilets and doors.  They sprayed the walls with graffiti and defaced stone and wood. The owner then dug around the foundation, in some places as deep as 30 feet, to try and make the foundation crack. If this happened, he believed, he could get the building condemned and would be able to legally tear it down. But his efforts failed, and he finally gave up and sold the property in 2001.

Efforts are now being made to renovate the hospital, and in recent years, interest has grown in the history of the building. It was even featured in a segment of Fox Television’s, World's Scariest Places, and on MTV's Fear. A documentary is now in the works called, Spooked, and the feature film Death Tunnel should hit the theatres around Halloween.

There are rumors that satanic rituals have taken place within its walls, of a little girl moving about the third floor solarium playing hide and seek with trespassers, of a little boy named Bobby playing with his leather ball, of rooms lighting up though there was no power in the building, of doors slamming, disembodied voices, a hearse driving up and dropping off coffins, and an old woman running from the front door with her wrists bleeding screaming: “Help me. Somebody save me!”

Ghosts have been seen in the form of shadow people and ectoplasm clouds, and even in full apparition form. Cries and screams are frequently heard in the lonely, moldering halls.


Hauntings
Here are some of the most well-known supernatural occurrences in the building:

Main Entrance:
Here the ghost of an old woman has often been seen. Sometimes she runs out the front door. Her hands and legs are in chains and spectral blood drips from her wrists and ankles. She cries for help before she dissipates into thin air.

The Third Floor
Many have seen a little girl on the third floor who is known as "Mary." Some say that she plays with a ball; others have only heard the ball bouncing on the floor or down the stairs.  This ball bouncing has also been attributed to a little boy, but the little girl seems the spookiest. One man said that he encountered a little girl that "wasn't normal." She kept saying that she has no eyes.  He was so terrified that he refused to enter the building again. Some have seen the child peering out the third floor windows.


Roof
Some have heard children chanting verses here such as: "Ring around the Rosy." But why would the spirits of children be on the roof?  When the hospital was a tuberculosis facility, children were taken up to the rooftop for "heliotherapy," in which they were exposed to the supposed healing rays of the sun.

Room 502
Perhaps the most infamous area of all in the hospital. is room 502.  The story goes that In 1928, the head nurse was found dead in the room. She had hanged herself from the light fixture. No one knows why the 29-year old woman would take her own life, but it's believed that she was unmarried and pregnant. It is unknown how long her body hung before she was finally discovered. The county coroner’s office attributed her death to suicide.

In 1932, another nurse who worked in room 502, supposedly committed suicide when she jumped from the balcony of the roof. No one knows why.

Folks have seen the full body apparition of a female nurse in white on this floor.

People have also reported that this room gives them an "unsettling" feeling of great despair.  Some have heard a voice say, "Get out!"

The Body Chute or Death Tunnel

What is now called the “body chute” is actually a 500 foot long tunnel that leads from the hospital to the railroad tracks at the bottom of the hill. When someone died they were sent down the tunnel via gurneys to an awaiting hearse.  This was done so that patients wouldn't see the hearses or the bodies--in order to keep morale high.  Concrete steps line one side of the tunnel while the other side consists of a motorized rail and cable system.

Voices are often heard along the long eerie passage.

Cafeteria and Kitchen
A spectral man in a white coat and pants supposedly roams this area. No one knows who he is but some think he's an old employee of Waverly who contracted tuberculosis and died.  The smell of food often wafts from the kitchen though no meals have been served since 1982 when the mental hospital was closed.

Fourth Floor
Some regard this as the most scary and "active" area of the hospital. There have been many reports of people seeing ghostly shadow-like people treading the halls, and doors frequently slam for no apparent reason.

Other Oddities:
A guard saw a floating head in one of the rooms late at night. He screamed and rushed downstairs where he passed out. He was so terrified that he never returned to the sanitarium.

Many people have also reported that they've seen lights in the building at night though there had been no electricity in the building for many years and no glass to reflect light. A security guard once reported that he'd seen a television playing in a room on the third floor. From outside, he could see what appeared to be the distinct flicker of a television in a dark room. He went upstairs to investigate but found nothing out of the ordinary.

Troy Taylor of the Louisville Ghost Hunter's Society investigated the building in 2001 and captured a strange photo of a light burning in a stairwell though there were no lights in the building at the time and no light hanging in that spot. See that photo and many others here. In addition, he got several very odd readings from his EMF meter--a piece of equipment that detects disruptions in electro-magnetic fields, which is often associated with hauntings.

Conclusion:
So is the hospital haunted?  It certainly sounds like it.  Hopefully, in the near future, I'll be able to travel there and get some first hand experience. It would be even more exciting if Marie St. Claire could accompany me. I've asked Marie St. Claire to try to connect to the hospital to see what she feels from afar.  Here are her impressions.



Marie's Psychic Investigation:
I can't tell you how much this building bothered me during the course of my research.

I spent a whole day studying photos of it in order to connect. And I made a very strong connection. At first I was fascinated with the place, but as I started to mentally connect, feelings of despair and anger overwhelmed me. Suddenly, I found Waverly repulsive. It caused a definite--though temporary--mental change in me.

I can't say that there's necessarily anything evil there, but what I did pick up on was a whole lot of bad feelings and mental pain, which were so strong that they made me nauseous. I feel that a lot of this pain came not from the tuberculosis era but from the geriatric era of the hospital. Though certainly the TB deaths have left their mark as well.

I don't know if I could go there in the flesh. I don't know if I could bear the overwhelming emotions that pour from this building.

There is an old woman in the building with blood and metal cuffs on her arms. She most often inhabits the lower levels of the hospital near the entry. Someone took her to the hospital--a son or daughter perhaps, long before her death, and she's waiting for that person to come and "rescue" her, but, of course, that person never will.

She's thin with long gray scraggly hair and large expressive eyes. She is a patient of the geriatric hospital--not the TB hospital. She was treated badly and felt like a prisoner. The chains and blood are symbolic, however, the staff often restrained her to the point where her arms were raw and bloody.

In addition, she was often cold, not fed well, and allowed to lay in her urine for long periods of time. I'm not sure what was wrong with her other than old age and possibly dementia. Her soul is in pain and not at rest. She does not understand that she is now free in death. She is still living the nightmare of her confinement in the hospital and is seeking aid.

There is the spirit of an eight-year old girl there. Like the old woman, she can't accept or understand that she's dead. She was in bad shape when she arrived at the hospital, and she died quite suddenly.  Unfortunately, they never explained to her just how ill she was. She feels lost and so alone.

Many are fascinated with room 502 and the stories of two nurses that supposedly killed themselves. I only saw one nurse, very attractive, dark haired, shapely, and young. It doesn't mean that there isn't another one--only that I didn't pick her up during this brief investigation. 

The nurse went about her duties but was burdened with feelings of great despair and hopelessness that she kept hidden. These feelings came from the place and from the isolation in working there.  I don't know if she was pregnant--nothing suggested it.

Is she one of the nurses who is rumored to have killed herself? I believe that someone jumped from roof when the building was used as a sanitarium.  I don't see a hanging.  And  I never actually saw this nurse kill herself; nor did she reveal that to me, but it's likely from the feelings of gloom and despair that I picked up from her that she's the one who jumped from the roof.  The anguish she carried was just too heavy to bear. 

To learn more about her, I would have to try another connection and focus entirely on her--something I'm not anxious to do, considering the negative affect that the hospital had on me.  Still, at some time, I might take another peek as I'd like to know more about this nurse.

In conclusion, Waverly is very haunted.   I'm not surprised that a place with such a dark history is. I would be more surprised if it wasn't.


      

-The End-

 


Author's Notes:
If you have some personal experiences with Waverly Hills, please share them with Underworld Tales. 

For more information about the upcoming movie and documentary about Waverly Hills, click here!  Best of all, they hit the theatres just in time for Halloween!

For another fascinating account of Waverly Hills and for more spooktacular stories, check out Kriss Stephen's chilling book, "Fear: A Ghost Hunter's Story.

If you want to see more pictures of Waverly Hills, here's a huge photo archive by Mark Ledford.

For in-depth information about the history of Waverly Hills and even more photos, don't miss this site Waverly Hills--the History.
 

Do you have some comments or some personal experiences to add about this haunted account? If so, write to Underworld Tales and share it with others. We will not use your real name.




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