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, It was still a threat up until the discovery of the vital antibiotic which eventually defeated TB. This insidious disease named the “white plague” destroys the lungs, slowly suffocating people who catch it. TB also sometimes infects bones, the brain, the eyes and larynx.
In 1910, a small, 140 bed Sanitarium, known as Waverly Hills, 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.
Despite this, the white plague swept over the population, and by the 1920s, TB outbreaks overwhelmed this small facility. It is said that in this time more Americans died from TB than died in WW1. It was decided that a much larger hospital dedicated to the fighting of this horror should be added to the existing facility.
So in 1926, a five story, 500 bed, state-of-the-art hospital opened. The staff lived at the hospital. A major effort was made to make the public aware of the first signs of the disease, which if caught early, could be defeated.
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 goal of boosting the infected patient’s natural defenses. After it was discovered that ultraviolet light could kill the bacteria, the hospital offered this as well. While these methods were effective for some patients, many others 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, 25% were in the first or early stages of the disease, 27% were in the second stage and a whopping 47% were in its advanced, last stages. It is no wonder that around 60,000 people died here. The early stages are relatively painless, easy to pass off as a bad cold.
Experimental treatments and operations were performed, and much was discovered about treating TB. Some treatments helped, and some were disastrous. Researchers came up with treatments which did help some people, such as a minor surgery, an Artificial Pneumothorax procedure, which collapsed the diseased part of the lung, so that it could heal.
For patients in the advanced stages of diseases, there were all kinds of major surgeries: Thoracoplasty, Pleurectomy, Lobectomy, Pneumonectomy, and Phrenicotomy (Phrenic Nerve Crush).
How to remove all the dead who died from TB?
The dead were not carried out in front of the other patients who still had hope of surviving. A patient’s mental state was an important factor in fighting the disease.
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?
Because authorities feared the dead bodies were still contagious, the hospital took extreme measures, hanging them up and slitting them from sternum to groin, draining them of all fluids after the autopsy. They were then sent by cart down an underground tunnel which ran 500 feet to the receiving station down the hill. The bodies were then taken by the surviving family members or cremated.
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 ruin. It was taken over by vagrants, cultists, and partiers. Windows were broken, and the place was looted of anything valuable. Luckily for us, the huge amount of money used to construct this huge building was well spent. Made of stone and burn-proof, it is sturdily built fortress.
It was finally sold to people who wanted to restore it. From the beginning, the new owners established a 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 annual Halloween parties and concerts with local bands, all to raise money. A TV Show segment for “The Scariest Places on Earth Series”, was shot here, the first of several film projects made on this location, which helped raise more money.
Another source of revenue has been the Waverly Sanitarium tours, which are given on weekends for $20.00 a person. Tom and I took this tour on a Saturday night recently. We were glad to see some real progress being made in the restoration process. Many of the windows had been replaced, and a cleaning out of years of refuse was clearly well on its way.
After being let in by a staff member, we drove up a 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 years ago.
The tour begins in the building right next to the Sanitarium itself, where about 100 people gathered to see a film about its history, including the results of a paranormal investigation group – frightening stuff!
Because people brought friends with them, the usual tour groups of 25 people 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 seen! We were taken on a tour of all four 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 therapy, 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, and 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 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 three 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, and sometimes as just a pair or two of eyes appear.
Another young boy, a shadow child known as Timmy by paranormal investigators, is agreeable, bold, and not afraid to come close.
A young girl in a blue dress with matted hair and 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 male 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 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 it 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 have been 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.
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 talk on the EVP readings. This building has so much documentation of its entities that Paranormal Conventions are held 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 it. I wouldn’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. It 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, because of the many trees and bushes.
The owners 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