The Waverly Hills Sanatorium: One of the Most Haunted Places in America

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium today. Only a shell of its former self.

A tuberculosis hospital,rich in history....and in hauntings

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville,Kentucky is a magnificent building. Even without being notorious for hauntings, it is a breathtaking sight to behold, and the history of it is just as mind blowing. It has 5 floors of long hallways and beautiful views out of the many windows throughout the building. Before we talk about the ghostly happenings that have occurred, lets get into the history of the building for those who may not be familiar with it.


Waverlys patients getting some fresh air.

Waverly Hills before the elements and vandalism took over.

Waverly Hills-The Beginning

The main hospital opened in 1926, as a Tuberculosis hospital. At this time, there was no cure for TB, and the disease was spreading throughout Louisville quite rapidly, especially due to the swampy area that Louisville is built on. TB was extremely contagious, and people who were diagnosed as having it had to be quarantined from others to prevent the spread of the illness. It was thought by medical staff that fresh air and sunlight helped people overcome the illness, so the building was built in a way that allowed plenty of natural sunlight to come into the patient rooms and hallways. They would even have some patients wheeled out onto the terrace in their beds during the winter months with heated blankets because of the firm belief that fresh air would help tremendously. And in fact, it is thought that Waverly Hills was the first place to use heated blankets, possibly even inventing them. The fresh air theory proved to be a false belief, but the nurses and doctors tried to do all that they could to help their patients to keep them comfortable.

Other methods were also used on the sickest patients to try to keep them alive. We would consider them cruel treatments these days due to our accomplishments in medicine since that time. It was reported that they would use electroshock therapy in patients who experienced mental issues during their stay at the hospital. Thoracoplasty was a surgery that was done at Waverly pretty often, and required that the doctor remove up to 8 ribs from the patient in order to collapse the lung. This was more or less a last ditch effort to help the patient recover, and was only done on the sickest patients in the hospital due to a very high death rate of those undergoing this surgery. Those that did survive it, were permanently disfigured by not having the structure of rib bones to hold the bodys normal posture correctly.

There were also children in Waverly Hills. Some of them had TB, and some of them just didn't have any other family to stay with (because they all had the disease), and so these children took up residence at Waverly along with their family members. There was a childrens ward, and also a swing set on the fifth floor to keep them happy. It was set up on the outdoors area of the fifth floor, which once again, allowed for plenty of sunshine and fresh air.

Waverly Hills closed its doors in 1961 due to advances in medicine, causing Waverly Hills to become unnecessary. It reopened two years later as Woodhaven Geriatrics Center, which was a nursing home. It was also closed in 1981 because of patient abuse. From that time, the building was left alone to deteriorate for many years, and became a victim of vandalism. The current owners began hosting tours on weekends for a fee, and that money goes to restoring the building before it becomes nothing more than a memory.

The Death Tunnel

The 500 foot tunnel attached to the first floor at Waverly has been called "the death tunnel" because at the height of the TB outbreak, there were so many deaths on a daily basis that they could not keep up, and the tunnel was used as a way to carry the dead to the bottom of the hill to be put on trains to be sent back to their loved ones for burial. There were steps on one side of the tunnel and a rail system on the other, which was used to take them easily to the bottom. It also was a good way to keep the dead away from the patients that are still living, and therefore keeping their own hopes up for a recovery. Contrary to some stories, there is no graveyard on the property that the current owners are aware of.

The infamous room 502, where a nurse reportedly hung herself due to an unwanted pregnancy to a doctor.

The death tunnel at Wavery Hills

Most Haunted Place in America

Because of it's past, Waverly Hills is somewhat of a breeding ground for paranormal activity. It is estimated that up to 60,000 people died in this building over the years,mostly during the time it was used as a TB hospital. There are reports of strange voices and screams, foot steps, doors slamming or locking, shadow people, doppelgangers, and even full bodied apparitions. I had the opportunity to visit this magnificent building on May 10, 2013. I always watched tv shows about ghost hunts, and haunted places and Waverly Hills seemed to always come up on these shows. The place enchanted me to say the least. And when me and my boyfriend were allowed through the gate and onto the grounds to park for our tour, the site of the building looming ahead just took my breath away. I wasn't scared actually, but just in awe of the building, and you can see even in its current state that it was once a very grand and beautiful place.

Once we parked and sat through the little introduction in the gift shop, they allow you into the building. I still wasn't scared, and I don't know why. After seeing so much evidence on tv you would think it would be frightening to be there, but I wasn't fearful. It felt very calm in there, and I don't think any spirits at Waverly are mean or there to harm anybody.The tour guy will split you up into groups of ten or so people and split you up into floors. We had the death tunnel and the first floor first. The death tunnel is not for the unfit, because it is 500 feet long and I can tell you it is a serious workout walking back up those stairs. I didn't personally see or hear anything odd in the death tunnel at the time, but I did pick up a voice whispering on my evp recorder.

We continued to tour the rest of the building. It had rained most of the day so there were a lot of areas where you could hear water dripping into the building. You had to really pay attention and understand that most noises were water dripping onto walls or onto pipes,etc. When we got to the fourth floor, I can honestly say I did feel scared on that floor. I don't know why, but the rest of the group also seemed to agree. The air just felt different for some reason, and my boyfriend even discouraged me from doing evp work. I shouldn't have listened but I did, because I didn't want to scare the pants off of him. I might have been able to catch something if I would have done evp, and I think the the creeper is said to haunt the fourth floor. This is the ONLY floor where I heard some weird things. At one point our group was gathered and accounted for in the hallway of the fourth floor, and we could hear a shuffling noise far down the hallway. It sounded like the noise it would make of somebody walking but dragging their feet on each slow step. I also heard a whistle twice, but not everyone heard it. Somebody in the group earlier heard a whistle on the historical tour and was told that usually if someone hears that it means something is about to happen. But, nothing happened. Oh well.

On the fifth floor I was honestly bored to death. They give you so much time on each floor until you meet up and switch, and honestly I couldn't wait until our time was up on the fifth floor. Room 502 is there, where a nurse reportedly hung herself. But I didn't see or feel anything, and there isn't much up there. But it is a beautiful, open view from the top. The third floor is where Timmy, a little boy ghost, is said to hang out and roll balls back and forth,or into other rooms. Also a ghost named Mary is supposed to be there, which is a young girl ghost who people claim has no eyes. It was a lot of fun trying to get Timmy to roll the balls or move them, but I didn't witness any significant amount of movement. The little bit of movement that i did notice I believe was from the air circulating through the building from not having windows, and the sheer amount of windows makes a constant slight breeze on most floors. But when we walked past the patient rooms, I was snapping a lot of pictures, and snapped one that looks a lot like a young girl in a white dress or robe, with dark hair and no eyes, just black spots where the eyes would be. It is in front of a door to a patient room, and some would say it's a reflection, but there is no glass in these doors. So I can't say for certain if it is a ghost or not, since I'm no expert. But it's fun to think that it could be.

Difficult to see without enlarging, but is there a figure in a white gown in the second door?

Haunted or hoax?

In my personal opinion, I would say Waverly Hills is most likely haunted, just based on the fact that so many deaths have occurred there. I did not experience a lot that night, but I also feel like it may be more difficult to see or hear things when there are three groups of people tramping around. And might even make the ghosts a little uneasy and less likely to present themselves. Or maybe they see so many people these days, they've become somewhat bored and don't present themselves every day. I do plan to go back for an 8 hour overnight tour ( we did the 4 hour overnight). So hopefully I will have a new experience to write about, and maybe even see something up close and personal. If not, I still love the building, and ghost hunting is exciting and a lot of fun if you've never tried it. You'd be surprised. Would I suggest going to The Waverly Hills Sanatorium? Most definitely!!! It was on my to do list before I died, and I can thank my boyfriend for listening and booking us a tour together. Happy haunting!!

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velzipmur profile image

velzipmur 2 years ago from Maryland

Love this article, very informational, and interesting.

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