The Haunted Waverly Hills Sanatorium!

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium is a closed sanatorium located in southwestern Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky. It opened in 1910 as a two-story hospital to accommodate 40 to 50 tuberculosis patients. In the early 1900s, Jefferson County was ravaged by an outbreak of tuberculosis (the “White Plague”) which prompted the construction of a new hospital. The hospital closed in 1962, due to the antibiotic drug streptomycin that lowered the need for such a hospital.

Waverly Hills has been popularized on paranormal television as being one of the “most haunted” hospitals in the eastern United States. The sanatorium was featured on ABC/FOX Family Channel’s Scariest Places On Earth, VH1’s Celebrity Paranormal Project, Syfy’s Ghost Hunters, Zone Reality’s Creepy, the British show Most Haunted, Paranormal Challenge, and Ghost Adventures on Travel Channel.

Plans have been developed to convert the sanatorium into a four star hotel which will cater to the haunted hotel crowd as well regular hotel patrons.

History:
The land that is today known as Waverly Hill was purchased by Major Thomas H. Hays in 1883 as the Hays’ family home. Since the new home was far away from any existing schools, Mr. Hays decided to open a local school for his daughters to attend. He started a one-room schoolhouse on Pages Lane and hired Lizzie Lee Harris as the teacher. Due to Miss Harris’ fondness for Walter Scott’s Waverley novels, she named the schoolhouse Waverley School. Major Hays liked the peaceful-sounding name, so he named his property Waverley Hill. The Board of Tuberculosis Hospital kept the name when they bought the land and opened the sanatorium. It is not known exactly when the spelling changed to exclude the second “e” and became Waverly Hills. However the spelling fluctuated between both spellings many times over the years.

Original sanatorium:
In the early 20th century, Jefferson County was severely stricken with an outbreak of tuberculosis. There were many tuberculosis cases in Louisville at the time because of all the swampland, which was perfect for the tuberculosis bacteria. To try to contain the disease, a two-story wooden sanatorium was opened which consisted of an administrative/main building and two open air pavilions, each housing 20 patients, for the treatment of “early cases”.
“In the early part of 1911, the city of Louisville began to make preparations to build a new Louisville City Hospital, and the hospital commissioners decided in their plans that there would be no provision made in the new City Hospital for the admission of pulmonary tuberculosis, and the Board of Tuberculosis Hospital was given $25,000 to erect a hospital for the care of advanced cases of pulmonary tuberculosis”.

On August 22, 1911, all tuberculosis patients from the City Hospital were relocated to temporary quarters in tents on the grounds of Waverly Hills pending the completion of a hospital for advanced cases. In December 1912 a hospital for advanced cases opened for the treatment of another 50 patients. In 1916 a children’s pavilion added another 40 beds making the known “capacity” around 130 patients. This report also mentions that the goal was to add a new building each year to continually grow so there may have even been more beds available than specifically listed.

Sanatorium expansions:
Due to constant need for repairs on the wooden structures, need for a more durable structure, as well as need for more beds so that people would not be turned away due to lack of space, construction of a five-story building that could hold more than 400 patients began in March 1924. The new building opened on October 17, 1926, but after the introduction of streptomycin in 1943, the number of tuberculosis cases gradually lowered, until there was no longer need for such a large hospital. The remaining patients were sent to Hazelwood Sanatorium in Louisville. Waverly Hills closed in June 1962.

Woodhaven Medical Services:
The building was reopened in 1961 as Woodhaven Geriatrics Hospital. Woodhaven was closed in 1981 allegedly due to patient abuse. Rumors say that during this time patients were treated for mental illness, and the term insane asylum and other similar terms have been used to describe the hospital during those years.

The Tunnel:
A tunnel was constructed at the same time as the main building beginning on the first floor and traveling 500 feet (150 m) to the bottom of the hill. One side had steps to allow workers to enter and exit the hospital without having to walk a dangerous, steep hill. The other side had a set of rails and a cart powered by a motorized cable system so that supplies could easily be transported to the top. Air ducts leading from the roof of the tunnel to above ground level were incorporated every hundred feet to let in light and fresh air.

Removal of bodies:
As antibiotics had not been discovered when Waverly opened, treatment consisted of heat lamps, fresh air, high spirits, and reassurances of an eventual full recovery. Once tuberculosis hit its peak, deaths were occurring about one every other day. The sight of the dead being taken away in view of patients was not good for morale which plummeted, causing them to lose hope or the will to live and become depressed, which only contributed more to the death rate. With deaths occurring at such a high rate, the tunnel took on another use, and when patients died, the bodies were placed on the cart and lowered to the bottom where a hearse would be waiting to be take them away discreetly, out of patient view, saving morale.The doctors also thought this would combat the disease and keep it from spreading.

Haunted legends:
Room 502:
An episode of the Sci-Fi Channel television show Ghost Hunters featured the cast’s investigation of Waverly Hills, including a local myth about the death of a nurse by murder or suicide in Room 502. Legend says the nurse found out she was pregnant by the owner of the sanitorium without being married and had contracted tuberculosis, so she hung herself in the room she was in at the time. The room was also investigated by the show Ghost Adventures in 2010, in which they used a special device called a EM-Pod to detect spirit activity.

Death rate:
Some urban legends claim that “63,000 deaths” occurred at the Sanatorium. According to Assistant Medical Director Dr. J. Frank W. Stewart, the highest number of deaths in a single year at Waverly Hills was 152. Stewart wrote that the worst time for deaths was at the end of the Second World War when troops were returning from overseas with very advanced tuberculosis cases. Some independent researchers suggest that since 162 people died at Waverly Hills in 1945, the highest total number of deaths possible over 50 years was approximately 8,212.

“Body chute” or “Death tunnel”:
According to one urban legend, the tunnel was a “body chute” where dead patients were tossed, and a body thrown in would make it to the bottom by simple gravity. But actually, the dead patients were strapped onto a gurney and by a rope and pulley system the gurneys were rolled to the bottom and transferred to a hearse. This was done to keep the morale high in the remaining patients.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waverly_Hills_Sanatorium
Official Site: http://www.therealwaverlyhills.com/

About Andrew

Co-founder & lead investigator of Paranormal Encounters. I've experienced the paranormal all my life, having encountered ghosts, angels and demons. I live in a haunted house and when not exploring and researching the unknown, I enjoy single malt Scotch whisky & potato chips (though not necessarily at the same time).