TB patients are still here, hoping to get better.
A staff member with a broken heart committed suicide.
Other staff who caught TB and died here are still on duty!
Unfortunately, the climate and water/land geography qualities of Louisville , Kentucky, offered the perfect conditions to grow the TB bacteria, which resulted in whole families coming down with this very contagious disease, which was in its heyday from 1910-1936, though it was still a threat up until the discovery of the vital antibiotic which became a formidable foe and defeated TB. This insidious disease, named the “white plague” eventually destroyed the lungs, slowly suffocating people who caught the TB bug. TB also sometimes infected bones, the brain, the eyes and larynx.
In 1910, a small 140 bed Waverly Hills Sanitarium was opened outside of Louisville on an isolated hilly area, where fresh air blew freely, and a caring staff tried their best to nurse the afflicted back to health.
Hallway on one of the wards.
However this “white plague” swept over the population, and by the 1920s, TB outbreaks grew, overwhelming this small facility. It is said that more people died from TB than Americans who died in WW1. It was decided that a much larger hospital dedicated to the fighting of this horror should be added to the already existing facility.
So in 1926, a five story, stone, gothic structured, 500 bed, state of the art hospital (for its time) opened, built around the needs of patients and staff in fighting this “white plague” in the search for a cure. The dedicated staff also lived in residence at the hospital, dedicating their careers to the management and defeat of the TB bacteria. A major effort was made to make the public aware of the first signs of the disease, which if caught early, the patient had a much better chance of beating it.
The Sanitarium was a self-contained city, offering everything a person needs. A kitchen, barber shop, laundry, dentist, library, etc., were available on site.
Because there were no antibiotics invented yet, the standard treatment basically revolved around natural cures; lots of rest, good diet, plenty of sun and fresh air, with the idea of boosting the infected patient’s natural defenses. Also, as it was discovered that ultraviolet light could kill the bacteria infecting the body, so this hospital had this tool to combat the disease as well. While these methods were effective for some patients, who recovered and went home, many died in the hospital, despite the best efforts of the medical staff.
View of open air rooms.
It was reported in an article found on this Waverly Hills Sanitarium page on Tripod.com, that of the patients who were admitted to this TB treatment hospital, only 25% were in the first or early stages of the disease, 27% were in the second stage and a big whopping 47% were in the advanced, last stages. It is no wonder that around 60,000 people died here. The early stages are painless, easy to pass off as a bad cold. As the disease took hold of the body, pain came with the invasion however.
The staff did their very best in trying to help the sick, and found a need to come up with new medical treatments to help the people in the middle to late stages of the disease, which needed something else than the cures mentioned above. The alternative would be to just let these people die, which goes against the oath taken by doctors, and the strong drive many in the medical field have to find a cure through medical procedures.
Experimental treatments and operations were performed, and much was discovered and learned about treating the TB infection in people. Some medical treatments which were developed helped and some were disastrous. They did come up with a list of surgical treatments which did help some people. Minor Surgery: An Artificial Pneumothorax procedure collapsed the diseased part of the lung, so that it could heal.
Major Surgery: For patients in the advanced stages of diseases: Thoracoplasty, Pleurectomy, Lobectomy, Pneumonectomy, and Phrenicotomy (Phrenic Nerve Crush).
These following questions were thought about and answered with planned procedures and a practical way to do so, before patients were even admitted, with both the living patients’ well being and the general public’s health in mind.
How to remove all the dead who died from TB?
As not to crush the human spirit to fight the disease, the dead were not carried out in front of the other patients who still had their hope intact. A patient’s mental state was an important factor in fighting the disease. Psychologically, it was thought it would be counter-productive, and the patients needed all their psychological strengths to fight their infections. Nothing like looking at a dead body of a person who lost the battle drive away in a Hearse to boost one’s will to fight and survive!!!
Tunnel where dead bodies were sent from the hospital morgue to the outside
world, out of sight of the patients who were still hoping to beat the disease.
How to make the corpses safe for the living?
Another problem concerning the dead; the dead bodies were thought to be still contagious because of the bacteria-filled bodily fluids.
The hospital came up with two solutions. First, the dead bodies were hung up, slit from sternum to groin area and drained of all fluids after the autopsy. The bodies were then sent by cart down an underground tunnel which ran 500 feet underground to the receiving station down the hill. The bodies were taken by the surviving family members or cremated.
What finally stopped this scourge in its tracks for good though was the discovery of the antibiotic which could defeat TB. In 1943, a brilliant American Ph. D candidate at Rutgers University, microbiologist Albert Schatz, discovered Streptomycin, a very powerful drug that kicked TB in the pants, ending its reign of terror! Nineteen years later, this Waverly Hills TB Sanitarium was able to close because of a lack of patients; What a joyful day that must have been! The buildings and the 29 acres they sat on were sold to a private owner, who opened up The Woodhaven Geriatrics Sanitarium in 1962.
First floor reception area.
The Woodhaven Geriatrics Sanitarium in 1962 – This institution didn’t have such a great track record with its patients. A few bad apples on the staff abused patients and the Sanitarium was closed via court order in 1980.
From 1980 to 1998 the building slipped into disrepair and ruin. Building was taken over by vagrants, cultists, teen parties. Windows were broken, and the place was looted of anything valuable. Lucky for us, the huge amount of money used to build this huge building was well spent. This stone, gothic building is and was a burn-proof, sturdily built fortress.
It was finally sold to people who wanted to restore the place, dedicated to its preservation. Because of its history and the hauntings, they started to raise money to start the long process of renovation. From the beginning, the new owners established security system around their property, complete with cameras and guards, which stopped the vandalism.
In 1999, the “Awakening of Waverly Manor” began with the lobby, first floor and east wing being opened to the public for tours, and started an annual Halloween party event with a concert of local bands, all to raise money. A TV Show segment for “The Scariest Places on Earth Series”, was shot here. This was the first of several film projects made on this location, which also helped raise some money, to continue to fuel the renovation efforts.
Another huge money maker has been the Waverly Sanitarium tours, which are given on the weekends for $20.00 a person. Tom and I visited this historic building, and took this tour on a Saturday night. We were glad to see some real progress being made in the restoration process. Many of the windows had been replaced, and cleaning out the years of refuse was clearly well on its way.
After being let in by a staff member at the end of the facility’s long driveway, we drove our car up this long driveway, lined with tall trees. Yikes!!! Seeing the Waverly Sanitarium at the end gives one the chills. It is one of those buildings that gives off uneasy vibes, and has an aura radiating from it which even an unpsychic person like myself felt rather strongly. We were glad to see that the building was in much better shape now than it was when I first did a story on this place.
The tour begins in the building right next to the Sanitarium itself, where about 100 people gathered to see a film about the history of this Sanitarium and the actual film results of a paranormal investigation group – frightening stuff!
Because people brought other friends with them, the usual tour groups of 25 people each, swelled to 50 people in each group. It didn’t matter a bit, because everyone in our group was quiet as we entered one of the spookiest buildings we have ever entered! We were taken on a tour of all 4 floors, in the dark by one of the owners of the building.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Many patients who died of TB here were not obviously ready to go on to the other side for whatever reason. Many are still hoping to go home, cured of the disease.
Medical staff sometimes caught T.B. from their patients, and died as well.
A nurse is said to have hung herself on the very top floor. Some say that she was having an affair with one of the doctors, and was pregnant.
Also joining them are probably some victims of the geriatric wards. Some inadvertently died from the common use of electric shock, to calm people suffering with mental problems because of dementia, Alzheimer’s and other difficult behaviors resulting from the aging process and brain deterioration.
Apparitions and shadow people are common sightings on the various floors, the craft auditorium and hallway, the cafeteria.
The Fourth Floor Shadow People
The highlight of the tour for Tom and I, and the other people in our group was our trip up to the very dark fourth floor, where we stood in the blackness.
A brave volunteer went down to the very end of the hall. We saw a shadow person appear right next to the volunteer. We all jumped when the door suddenly banged shut!
It seems that the shadow people on this floor are very protective of their space.
Our guide told the story of 3 young teens who broke into the building, and headed for the fourth floor. They found themselves surrounded by shadow people, who also held the door to the floor closed so they couldn’t escape. They were finally rescued by the building’s guards.
Shadow People at Large
Shadow People are seen a lot in the dark hallways, in the rooms, moving down the hallways, stopping to look at the living. Sometimes they appear as full apparitions. Sometimes just a pair or two of eyeballs appear.
Another young boy, a shadow child known as Timmy by paranormal investigators is agreeable, bold not afraid to come close.
A young girl in a blue dress with matted hair & no eyes, who is carrying a round object has been seen as an apparition, and has shown up in pictures taken by photographers, and paranormal investigators.
Another apparition of a young boy carrying a leather ball has also been seen and has shown up in pictures. He is seen with a man apparition, all on the third floor.
Apparitions seen throughout the building, Cafeteria and Third Floor
Apparitions have been seen looking out the windows.
Our guide told us the The story of what happened to her after they had just purchased the building and were standing in a large room on the first floor. When an apparition in a white uniform began to materialize, the living hightailed it out of the building, not wanting to meet an entity just yet.
On the very top of the building, where the patients with TB in their brains were housed, one ghost hunter described seeing a pair of legs walking through the room in the film we saw at the beginning of the tour.
Other Paranormal Signs
Investigators have found shoe and foot prints in the shower room.
The living feel touches, tuggings from unseen presences and being brushed by a ghost dog, pet of a transient?
Some people were pushed by an unseen presence, a grumpy entity who was probably a geriatric patient wanting some space.
People experience the feeling of being watched, not being alone in a room.
Freezing cold spots – One such spot is in the old morgue, where bodies were drained of blood to lessen the chance of infection for the people receiving the bodies at the other end of the tunnel.
Recorded EVPs – All interesting stuff!
Yes indeed, in a huge way! On September 24th, 2005 several Paranormal Investigation groups went on a ghost hunt/readings gathering session in the early morning hours, 12:15 – 6:00 AM.
The entities are more than willing to be photographed, accompany visitors who tour the old hospital and will talk on the EVP readings. This building has so much documentation of the entities who exist here that Paranormal Conventions are held here. Besides the Ghost tours, a movie was filmed here. All money raised here goes toward the renovation projects in the works.
4400 Paralee Drive
Louisville, Kentucky 40272
The Waverly Hills Sanitarium can be found with perseverance and determination on the edge of Louisville, Kentucky, in a hilly area, with very nice homes, right next to /above the Bobby Nichols Golf course. The road which leads to the Sanitarium begins on the west side of the golf course. When you call to buy tickets for the must see tour, they will tell you how to find them. I won’t attempt to find it before calling, because it is hard to find otherwise.
Waverly Hills front entrance.
The only way to see The Waverly Hills Sanitarium is to pay to take the tour. The whole property is secured, complete with cameras and security guards. The Waverly Hills Sanitarium sits on a piece of property on top of a hill, located at the end of a very long driveway, and can’t be seen from the locked gate which is at the beginning of this long driveway, because of the trees and bushes.
They are serious about keeping trespassers out, as they have made some progress in fixing the huge building, and don’t want it torn up by vandals. People who try to sneak in will be caught and prosecuted.
- The Louisville Ghost Hunters Society
- Paranormal Activity Investigators Report on Waverly Hills Sanitarium
- The Waverly Hills Sanitarium web site
- Biography of Albert Schatz
- Waverly Hills page on Tripod.com
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr