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Haunted Places: Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Updated on June 15, 2011

There is always something eerie about insane asylums and historic hospitals. And haunted or not, there is something even creepier about abandoned insane asylums. But an abandoned mental institution that is also notoriously haunted? Now that takes the cake.

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium located in Louisville, Kentucky was built in 1910 specifically to quarantine and treat patients suffering from tuberculosis (an infectious pulmonary disease that affects the lungs and causes the patient to feel fatigued, run a fever and cough up blood.) Until it closed permanently in 1961, Waverly Hills was Louisville's primary treatment facility for early and advanced cases of tuberculosis. And in the fifty-one years it was operating, the sanatorium saw as many as 63,000 deaths.

Government propaganda from 1931

Other than the high number of alleged deaths, there are a number of factors and legends that make Waverly Hills Sanatorium a prime location for a haunting. As seen on an episode of the SciFi channel's hit series "Ghost Hunters", there exists a tunnel that was built in 1926 to enable construction workers to easily transport supplies in and out of the building. It operated this way as originally intended for several years, before someone realized that the tunnel could also be used to discretely transport the bodies of dead patients without other patients seeing. The corpses were placed in a cart and transported along a motorized rail and cable system. An untold number of bodies passed through this tunnel, and it is thus the site of many unexplained occurrences and paranormal activity. EMF detectors go haywire in the "body chute", and disembodied voices have been heard coming from down the tunnel. One of the popular legends surrounding the sanatorium concerns "the draining room", which was supposedly a room used to prepare the bodies for lighter and easier transport through the death tunnel. Since there was no cemetery at Waverly, and the locals were afraid of the corpses transmitting the disease through their town, the dead were hung on poles to drain them of all body fluids. Despite extensive paranormal activity witnessed time and again by various ghost hunters, and the presence of eight large spear-headed poles in the draining room, this legend has been touted as false by skeptics who state the quadrant operated only as the transformer room.

Images from

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The infamous "Death Tunnel"Looking down the body chuteThe folks over at caught orbs and streaks at the entrance to the death tunnelMore streaks captured outside Waverly Hills
The infamous "Death Tunnel"
The infamous "Death Tunnel"
Looking down the body chute
Looking down the body chute
The folks over at caught orbs and streaks at the entrance to the death tunnel
The folks over at caught orbs and streaks at the entrance to the death tunnel
More streaks captured outside Waverly Hills
More streaks captured outside Waverly Hills
A staged pneumothorax procedure, minus all the blood
A staged pneumothorax procedure, minus all the blood
The cafeteria at Waverly Hills
The cafeteria at Waverly Hills
Beds were placed wherever there was room, even in the hallways
Beds were placed wherever there was room, even in the hallways

There were also allegations of severe abuse at the hands of the hospital staff, accounts of patients being grossly neglected or mistreated. An electroshock machine, a controversial method typically used to treat psychological disorders was implemented to treat the physical symptoms of tuberculosis. One of the procedures used to treat the disease was called pneumothorax, which involved deflating the infected area of the lung and then letting it heal. Another option was thoracoplasty, which involved opening up the chest and removing several ribs. The idea was that this would allow the lungs more room to expand and take in more oxygen. Only 5% of patients survived this bloody, invasive procedure. Some doctors were accused of performing highly unprofessional experiments on patients who were "going to die anyway". Other than the usual flickering of lights, slamming doors, mysterious footsteps and various noises and voices, other haunted tales of the sanatorium include visitors seeing a young girl running up and down the solarium on the third floor along with a boy who chases a ball, a hearse that drops off coffins at the back door, and an elderly woman who runs around with bleeding wrists, begging and screaming for help.

Nurse Mary Hillenburg committed suicide (or was murdered) in Room 502
Nurse Mary Hillenburg committed suicide (or was murdered) in Room 502
Shadow people are a common occurrence on this floor
Shadow people are a common occurrence on this floor

The most popular story, however, is the legend of Room 502, where a nurse named Mary Hillenburg allegedly hung herself from the doorway there in 1928 after discovering she had become pregnant out of wedlock. A variation of the story holds that she was actually impregnated by one of the (married) doctors working at the sanatorium at the time. The doctor apparently attempted an abortion that went awry and Mary died. To cover his tracks, he made it look as though she took her own life. Another nurse supposedly committed suicide by flinging herself off the roof.

Either way, the experiences and sightings that have taken place at Waverly Hill Sanatorium over the years have made it one of the top five haunted locations in the United States. Here is some of the evidence that has been collected in the forty years since the hospital closed its doors -- at least to the living.

"Haunted" Waverly Hills -- part 1

"Haunted" Waverly Hills -- part 2

"Haunted" Waverly Hills -- part 3


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    • profile image

      Ashley 6 years ago

      Well, living in Louisville, it's popular to go down to Waverly around Halloween. A large percentage of people here are descendants from patients at Waverly. It was going to be changed into a hotel, but that no idea longer exists. The owners want to keep the hospital as preserved as possible, despite its aged state. 102 years!

    • profile image

      Kayla 6 years ago


    • profile image

      brenda 6 years ago

      are they going to tear this historic place down and build hotels? really my daughterwans to see it when she gets out of highschool,in 2and half years.

    • profile image

      lilly 6 years ago

      lol l love it at the waevly hill.

    • profile image

      flyingtacos22 6 years ago

      that's so creepy!my uncle is going there xD

    • profile image

      mrcop123 7 years ago

      i saw a game of this on roblox

    • profile image

      haley 7 years ago

      I've been to waverly hills, its a great place to visit, but

      There staff is really rude, they act like it kills them to answer a question about the place, they need to have some attitude ajustments if there going to try to run a popular business, I won't go back until there is a better staff. Sorry tina no offense to you, its the brown short woman mid 40's... yea?

    • profile image

      Ronnie 7 years ago

      53,000 people have died at the Booneville Sanatorium

    • profile image

      Grace 7 years ago

      How did you mad this movie

    • profile image

      Lefttodie 7 years ago

      I've read and seen every movie and show about this place and i just wish i could be one of them. I love haunted things and scary/haunted houses I never jump only widen my eyes. If you can't tell I'm emo. o.O

    • profile image

      Debbie 7 years ago

      my grandmother was in there in the 50's she was one of the lucky ones. So I toured it 2 years ago on the midnight tour. Got some wild pics

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      Robert 8 years ago

      There is bound to be one or two hunting in a large institution

      especially if tthere many deaths on the premises. But the building is not creepy.why? The people who designed hospitals back in the early 20th century employed buildings that would serve huge amount of patients, based on utilitarian thinking of serving many ad employing few. So the ward had to be large so that staff could see all patients in a single glace. These institutions were meant to last and to be totally self sufficient, i.e., no outside help everything and anyone who had a trade repaired and made what was needed, most had their own morgues and burial grounds; but due state file either destroyed or LOST

      no one really knows what or who or what took place in these non transparent hospitals. Even today hospitals do not share information and if they do it is either half a story or cryptic. I'm sure the communities that help build these hospitals did so with the best intentions in mind!

    • The Lost Dutchman profile image

      Patrick Bernauw 9 years ago from Flanders (Belgium)

      Great hub! What an atmosphere!... And those photo's!... Love it!

    • profile image

      brittany 9 years ago

      so any ways umm.. i totally believe in the ghost in the haunted waverly hills sanitorium but i cant go because my dad dont believe in it sooo... looks like i wont be going. but yeah the ghost pictures they put on here are so awsome i would love to see ghost heck some day i wish to join ghost hunting im 16 now i hope and pray i can sighn up or something now

    • profile image

      VPI_John 9 years ago

      I've always thought that this would be an awesome place to visit! I'm the co-founder for Valley Paranormal Investigations. We operate out of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I've done a LOT of research about Waverly Hills and intend to talk to the owners abut sending a group in to investigate that don't have to worry about ratings. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has real information or at least knows where to get real information about the place. My email is

      I've been doing this kind of thing for over 40 years. Maybe we can find new things to see at Waverly Hills!

    • profile image

      jjrubio 9 years ago

      Very scary,,,I heard about this place before and how they mistreated and experimented on patients....They treated them like cattle...

      HEY....sounds alot like KAISER...just kidding!

    • profile image

      Dante C.  9 years ago

      Technically, the facts proposed here are all true. Having done research myself, having been there myself and living in that part of the state for three years; I've grown to know it's true. JSG, I suggest you take a few look-arounds the internet. And perhaps you can check at a local library. You shouldn't say somethings' not true when you don't have factual evidence that it's NOT true. - DC.

      And to the owner of this page. Well done. Perhaps it may be help with a few documentaries that I'm working on.

    • profile image

      JSG 9 years ago

      Double check your facts! This was never a mental institution, only a hospital for tuberculosis patients. Granted many died there, but the figure of 63,000 is not fact. They lost on an average of 152 per year, all to consuption, other than 2 suicides.

    • Angel of Life profile image

      Angel of Life 9 years ago

      Tres Cool!! You may enjoy a short but sweet article I wrote about George, our in-home resident. My HUB is not nearly as awe inspiring as is yours!! Nice job!! Very informative!!

    • profile image

      callie 10 years ago

      i am very interested in waverly hills i have never been and i would love to go. i heard that they are closing down soon due to fact that they are going build hotels.

      is this true? i hope not because i really look forward to going one day soon whenever there are openings

    • profile image

      Sammiie 10 years ago

      This place is super cool,we are watching the movie right now

      me and my friend are gonna go here when we turn 16

      i think the history is amazing and creepy,

      If anyone wants to join me and my friend in the quest of this amazing once in alife time experience email me at


    • profile image

      grizz 10 years ago the links to two of your articals we posted on there. If you want me to change anything about how I did it feel free to tell me.

    • becauseilive profile image

      becauseilive 10 years ago from N.J.

      Sure, Grizz, that sounds great. Thanks again :) Let me know where you put the links so I can check them out once they're up. My email is if that's easier for you.

    • profile image

      grizz 10 years ago

      Hey, that's fine with me. I just wanted to have this great, if I may say so, article on our site so people can get some information about some of these places. Thanks. I'll make sure I give proper credit to you.

      Thats the site if you want to link it or check it out.

      One more question. Could I link all your articals about ghost hunting or haunted places on my site?

      Oh one more thing, nice site.

    • becauseilive profile image

      becauseilive 10 years ago from N.J.

      Hey Grizz, thanks so much for your interest, I'm flattered! I would LOVE to let you reprint my article on your site, but unfortunately my agreement with HubPages says that I will not duplicate the content anywhere else :( You are more than welcome to LINK to this page, however, I would be very grateful for that! In turn, I'd be happy to link to your website at the top of this article. Let me know what you think. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Grizz 10 years ago

      I co-own a paranormal forum and would love for you to join us or let us use this on our site. I would give you full credit. Maybe we could set up an agreement to advertise your site on ours.

    • profile image

      chuckbr 10 years ago

      Didn't they shoot an episode of the X-Files there?

    • The Good Cook profile image

      The Good Cook 10 years ago

      I once visited an old prison where up to ten men were confined in cells that were no larger than the average-sized bathroom. Even though it had been closed for over 100 years, the place still had an "aura" of misery attached to it and nothing could have pursuaded me to spend a night there.

    • j.wilson profile image

      j.wilson 10 years ago

      woow... this is creepy! but this is very informative though. thanks!

    • becauseilive profile image

      becauseilive 10 years ago from N.J.

      My apologies, Wyrd! I figured since YouTube offers all the links for file sharing and the codes for embedding videos in a blog or website, etc. along with each video that it was okay to repost them, plus if you follow the link in the video it goes to your page. But I would be glad to credit you! Which two videos are yours? Thanks!

    • profile image

      wyrd 10 years ago

      Two of the YouTube videos on your website were made by me - and posted without my permission. Would you at least please credit me (YouTube ID = wyrdbewaechterin), and please email me in the future if you would like to post anything.


    • Kari Livingston profile image

      Kari Livingston 10 years ago from Little Rock

      Creepy! We have a tuberculosis sanitorium in Booneville, Arkansas that is reportedly haunted. It is actually still used as a home for developmentally delayed adults. It seems like all the sanitoriums were designed to look as creepy as possible.


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