Haunted Places: Waverly Hills Sanatorium
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.
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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.
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.