With an atmosphere darkened by a chilling history of death and patient abuse during its latter year's as a geriatric hospital, it is no wonder that Waverly Hills Sanatorium is considered to be one of the most haunted buildings in America.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium is located just outside the city of Louisville, Kentucky. Waverly Hills sits on top of a hill overlooking the city, a looming fortress of gloom in its eerie, decaying state. During the 1800s and early 1900s, America was ravaged by the then deadly disease tuberculosis. This terrifying and very contagious disease, for which no cure existed, claimed entire families and sometimes entire towns. In 1900, Louisville, Kentucky had one of the highest tuberculosis death rates in America. Built on low, swampland, the area was a perfect breeding ground for disease.
Waverly Hills, opened in 1926. It was considered the most advanced tuberculosis sanatorium in the America, but even then most of the patients succumbed to the disease. In the days before antibiotics were available to treat the disease, it was thought that the best treatment for tuberculosis was plenty of fresh air, plenty of nutritious food and lots of rest. Many patients survived their stay at Waverly Hills but it is estimated that up to 64,000 patients died at the sanatorium, up to 10,000 patients died here in the first three years alone.
In many cases, the treatments for the disease were as bad as the disease itself. Some of the experiments that were conducted in search of a cure seem barbaric by today's standards but others are now common practice. Patient's lungs were exposed to ultraviolet light to try and stop the spread of bacteria. This was done in "sun rooms", using artificial light in place of sunlight, or on the roof or open porches of the hospital. Since fresh air was thought to also be a possible cure, patients were often placed in front of huge windows or on the open porches, no matter what the season or weather. Old photographs show patients lounging in chairs, taking in the fresh air, while literally covered with snow.
Other treatments were less pleasant, 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.
While the patients who survived both the disease and the treatments left Waverly Hills through the front door, the majority of patients left through what came to be known as the "body chute". This enclosed tunnel for the dead led from the hospital to the railroad tracks at the bottom of the hill. Using a motorized rail and cable system, the bodies were lowered in secret to the waiting trains. This was done so that patients would not see how many were leaving the hospital as corpses. Their mental health, the doctors believed, was just as important as their physical health.
By the late 1930s, tuberculosis had begun to decline around the world and by 1943, new medicines had largely eradicated in the United States. In 1961, Waverly Hills was closed down but was re-opened a year later as Woodhaven Geriatrics Sanatorium
There have been many rumours and stories told about patient mistreatment and unusual experiments during the years that the building was used an old age home. Some of them have been proven to be false but others have unfortunately turned out to be true. Electroshock therapy, which was considered to be highly effective in those days, was widely used for a variety of ailments. Budget cuts in the 1960s and 1970s led to both horrible conditions and patient mistreatments and in 1982, the state closed the facility for good.
Some time during 1990 a homeless man and his dog were sleeping in the building, two teenage boys whom had become obsessed in devil worship entered the building, attacked the man and murdered him in the name of Satan and threw his body down the empty elevator chute. They were later arrested and sent to prison.
Ghost hunters and thrill seekers can not join the paranormal tours run regularly at Waverly Hills. There have been reports of numerous spirits, apparitions and ghosts still residing at the Sanatorium.
At the main entrance of the building the ghost of an old woman is often seen, usually she is reported running out of the front door. Her hands and legs are usually in chains and blood drips from her wrists and ankles. She cries for help before she disappears into thin air.
The ghost of a man in a white coat and pants has been seen in the kitchen and cafeteria. No one knows who he is, but it is presumed that he's an old employee of Waverly Hill who has remained here after death. The smell of food often wafts from the kitchen though no meals have been served since 1982 when the geriatric hospital was closed.
Many visitors and paranormal groups have seen or sensed 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. The ball bouncing has also been attributed to a little boy "Timmy", apparently his spirit like's to play games with the living.
One visitor told a guide that he had encountered a little girl in one of the third floor rooms that "wasn't normal." She kept saying that she had 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.
What is now called the "body chute" is actually a 500 foot long tunnel that leads from the hospital to the rail road tracks at the bottom of the hill. Concrete steps line one side of the tunnel while the other side consists of a motorized rail and cable system. Paranormal activity has been reported in this tunnel and consists of apparitions, voices, a sense of dread, and strange lights.
Many people have also reported that they've seen lights in the building at night though there has 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.
Ghost hunters are often drawn to the fifth floor and roof of the former Sanatorium. The fifth floor consists of two nurse's stations, a pantry, a linen room, medicine room, two medium-sized rooms on both sides of the two nurses stations and the roof. One of theses rooms 502, is the subject of many rumours and legends and just about every curiosity seeker that had broken into Waverly Hills over the years wanted to see. According to legend, people have seen shapes and shadows moving in the windows and have heard disembodied voices that order trespassers to "get out".
Rumours and stories say that in 1928, the head nurse in Room 502 was found dead in the room. She had committed suicide by hanging herself from the light fixture. She was 29 years-old at the time of her death and allegedly, unmarried and pregnant. Her depression over the situation led her to take her own life. It's unknown how long she may have been hanging in this room before her body was discovered.
In 1932, another nurse who worked in Room 502 was said to have jumped from the roof patio and plunged several stories to her death. No one seems to know why she would have done this but many have speculated that she may have actually have been pushed over the edge. There are no records to indicate this but rumours continue to persist.
The experiences recorded on the fifth floor involve many sightings of strange shapes and shadow people often seen in the corridors. One paranormal investigator witnessed what looked like human shadows moving up and down the fourth floor hallway. One of the shadows in particular actually appeared to look around corners at him. 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 sanatorium.
Some visitors have heard the sound of children singing nursery rythmes coming from 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.