Waverly Hills Sanatorium
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The Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky, is well-known for being haunted. With the high number of deaths, believed to be in the thousands – mainly through Tuberculosis (also called the ‘white plague‘), it would be more surprising if it wasn’t haunted.
The two areas which are believed to be the most haunted parts of Waverly Hills Sanatorium, are the tunnel (also called the ‘body chute‘ or ‘death tunnel‘) and ‘Room 502‘.
But first, we’ll start with its history…
The History of Waverly Hills
The County saw an outbreak of Tuberculosis in the early 1900s. At that time, before antibiotics were invented, there was no known cure for this terrible illness, which in some cases, took the lives of whole families. It was decided that a new hospital was needed to try to contain the disease, as it was so contagious.
Originally, the hospital was a wooden two-story building, built on a hill, and was able to accommodate up to 50 patients. But, constant repairs were needed, and there was also a growing demand for a larger building to be able to accommodate more patients. In 1924, building work started on a new five-story building that was to accommodate up to 400 patients.
In 1926 the new hospital opened its doors, and while some patients survived and left Waverly Hill, many did not. Doctors believed that fresh air, a healthy diet and plenty of rest was the best form of treatment. But, failing that, they would experiment on the patients to try to find a cure. One experiment or treatment method was to expose the lungs of a patient to ultraviolet light, hoping that would stop the bacteria from spreading.
The Body Chute
As some of the experimental treatments were unsuccessful, there were a lot of deaths. Doctors felt that the patients’ mental health was as important as their physical health. Because of this, the deceased patients’ bodies were taken down a tunnel (also known as the ‘body chute‘ or ‘death tunnel‘), from the hospital building to nearby rail tracks. That way, they would not be seen by the patients who, perhaps, still had hope that they would survive the disease. This tunnel is now believed to be haunted, by the spirits of those who were taken through it, after their deaths from Tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis was not the only cause of the many deaths at Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Sadly, there have been deaths by suicide as well. In 1928 a young nurse, who was pregnant and unmarried (which at that time was frowned upon), was desperate and perhaps even depressed with the situation she found herself in, hung herself from a light fitting in Room 502. That is one version of this tragic story. An alternative version is, that she and her baby’s father tried to abort the pregnancy themselves, but something went wrong, and the hanging was meant to cover that up.
A few years later, in 1932, another nurse committed suicide by jumping out of a window from Room 502. The reason for this nurse to want to take her own life remains unknown, although some believe she may have contracted Tuberculosis herself, and after witnessing the patients die from this illness, decided she didn’t want to go through the same so took her own life. This is just speculation though, as some people think she might have been pushed. This room is also believed to be haunted.
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium closed its doors in 1961. With the improvements in medicine and the introduction of antibiotics in 1943, used in the treatment of Tuberculosis, it was felt that such a large hospital was no longer needed.
However, in 1962 the hospital building was reopened and became a nursing home, called Woodhaven Geriatric Center. The nursing home treated the elderly with conditions, such as dementia, and other mental health problems. It also treated elderly patients with mobility problems as well. Woodhaven Geriatric Center was later closed, in 1982, by the state over claims that the patients were neglected due to the nursing home being understaffed.
After failed plans to convert the building into a state prison, and then into a place of worship, it was purchased by Tina and Charlie Mattingly, back in 2001. Since then they have held tours of the building and, at Halloween, they hold haunted house events, to help pay for the much needed restoration work at Waverly Hills.