Waverly Hills Sanatorium is a massive abandoned
hospital that was constructed in 1924 to treat and prevent
spread of Tuberculosis. It is located on the outskirts of
Louisville in South- West Louisville/ Jefferson County in
Kentucky state. Later it was handed over to Geriatrics
medicine in 1962 after first antibiotic streptomycin was
invented to treat Mycobacterium tuberculosis, causative
bacteria of tuberculosis. It was finally closed in 1980 due to
unsatisfactory care for its patients. It is considered to be one
of the most haunted places in United States. So if you like to
explore the paranormal you should not miss this destination. The
first things that comes to your mind when you find yourself
standing next to it is its sheer size. It is huge. You can see
the upper levels of the main building as you approach this
impressive structure. It was constructed
in neo- Gothic style and it screams for a mystery, ghosts and death.
And this sanatorium saw plenty of death during its long history.
The name of the Sanatorium date back to 1883 when
Major Thomas H. Hays bought his family the grounds of the future
sanatorium. His kids were home schooled due to remoteness of
their estate from other settlements. A small one room school
house that was constructed by the orders of the Major became
known as Waverley Hill after Walter Scott's novels and its
protagonist Edward Waverley. Major Hays liked the name and
renamed his whole estate as Waverley Hills.
history of Waverly Hills Sanatorium date back to an act of legislature
passed in 1906 that reserved these lands for a hospital for treatment of
tuberculosis. "White Death" as it was known at the time had no cure.
Unfortunate victims of this disease would be infected by a
Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. It would survive inside their
lungs in white blood cells knows as macrophages forming large
granulomas. Eventually these formations would burst and new bacteria
would spread throughout out the organism without warning. Healthy
individuals experience weight loss, fever, night sweats, blood sputum
and many other symptoms. Without adequate antibacterial treatment people
burned out in a short time and in most cases they would die. People, suspected of the infection had to be isolated in an area far
from major cities and with plenty of fresh air and sunlight. Waverly
Hills proved as an ideal location for that.
Most of residential area
that surround the forest around the hospital did not exist at the time
so it was a fairly extensive expanse of wilderness. In 1907 first
tuberculosis dispensary was opened to accept first patients and just
three years later in 1910 Waverly Hills Sanatorium was opened. It was a
fairly small building with modest capacity of only 40 patients. In some
cases kids of the sick patients stayed with other relatives like in case
of Hazel Howell (pictured right, 1891- 1919). This was not the case for
everyone, however. Often families didn't have the financial means or any
relatives so they brought their kids to the sanatorium. The
administration of the hospital opened an open- air schooling in 1913 to
house all the new comers.
Number of patients grew steadily and in 1923 a bond was issued for
$1,000,000 for construction of much larger building for Waverly Hills
WWI veterans on the steps of the Sanatorium
Hills Sanatorium started its construction in March 1924 and was opened
October 17, 1926. New five- story building replaced the old hospital (opened
July 26, 1910).
Swampy areas around
offered a great location for spread of tuberculosis bacteria and thus
the disease became almost an epidemic. Hospital construction was fought
to be state of the art of its own time and incorporated theories that
were widely spread at the time. It was widely believed that TB can be
cured by sun exposure and plenty of fresh air. The bat like structure of
the building was designed so that it followed natural wind patterns of
the area and did not block it. Most of the windows had no glass and
instead had meshed screens that allowed sun inside the building. The building was five stories high and
contained about 400 rooms for the patients. Corridor that runs through
the middle of the levels allowed access to all rooms in the building.
These long halls that divide the building have
wide open rooms on one side and smaller rooms on the other. Open
spacious rooms were made for those who were in early stages of the disease.
Their beds were wheeled out on the promenade (shown on the picture)
where they lay all day. During winter they were given blankets, but rule
stayed the same. Plenty of fresh air was believed to be the only good way to
safe patients. On the other side of the halls are smaller rooms. They
were made for those who had no chance of survival and were left to die.
Patients were simple transported across the hall from open rooms to more
closed and isolated ones.
The main building was reserved for white patients. Children were
separated and lived in children's unit those cost was $153,000 to
construct. African American (obsolete term used in the documents is
Colored) were kept in a separate Colored unit that was smaller, less
sophisticated at a cost of $212,000.
African American aka Colored Unit
African American Unit that was known at the time as a Colored Unit was
intended to house African- American patients as well as other non- White
races. It is clear that "separate, but equal" does not apply here. The
building was much smaller and had less staff. However the general layout
was similar to the main building. Windows were meant to allow fresh air
inside the promenade. The original building was replaced by a two story
larger hospital. Today both structures have been demolished. Only photos
remain. As far as we know no one tried to explore this area for any
paranormal activity or strange occurrences.
Children's museum was opened to house ever growing number of kids in the
sanatorium. Original living headquarters were not enough to fit all the
residents so a separate wing was constructed. Many patients had no other
options, but to bring their kids here. Unfortunately many healthy
newcomers often contracted the deadly disease and themselves became
patients in the hospital.
Patients and Staff
Nurse in the Sanatorium...
and its patient
Hills Sanatorium lost its purpose when antibiotic streptomycin was discovered in 1943. This proved
to be the best way to fight the infectious disease and soon cases of TB
dwindled. The sanatorium was closed in June 1961, but reopened quickly
in 1962 as a Woodhaven Geriatrics Hospital. Grim history of the building did not end
here. Electroshock therapy was commonly used on senior people to cure
some of the disorders that were badly understood at the time.
Additionally lack of proper funding decreased overall sanitary
conditions of the medical center. The conditions were so bad and old patients were treated so badly
that it was closed in 1981. Remaining citizens were transfered to
Hazelwood Center. The deterioration and overall state of the
building was too expansive to restoration and it was closed.
years several people came forward with their ideas for the hospital.
Some offered minimum state prison within its walls. Others suggested
erection of huge statue of Jesus Christ after demolishing a hospital
similar to that in Rio de Janeiro. The last project even had its own
"Christ the Redeemer Foundation Incorporated" organized by Robert
Alberhasky with the help of architect Jasper Ward and artist Ed Hamilton
who designed the sculpture that was supposed to be tallest statue of
Savior in the World at 270 feet. Now the property
is owned by Tina and Charlie Mattingly since 2001 who offer guided
tours, half- night and overnight stays within the walls of Waverly Hills
Sanatorium. They plan to remodel the structure and turn it into haunted
Bed and Breakfast 120 room hotel, conference centre and a restaurant. They fixed some of the windows, removed
asbestos insulation, secured the exterior brick sidings, but there is
still a lot of work to do to bring the structure to its original
appearance. Fortunately the haunted guides will still continue after the
complete restoration of a four star hotel.
Surgery Room of Waverly Hills Sanatorium is
located on the fourth floor of the main building. It was
state of the art, a medical wonder of its time. Doctors that worked here tried
everything they could to save people who contracted the disease.
Some of the operations were quiet horrific and barbaric by our
modern standards. Ribs were removed (thoracoplasty), then lungs
were removed, small balloons were inserted inside the chest or
thoracic cavity. It was believed that losing part part of the
lung tissue was worth the risk if the rest of the lung could be
cured. Subsequent increase in volume of the balloon
was supposed to "force out" the disease. It was performed as a
last resort to save the patient who was mortally ill. Only about
5% of all people would survive this painful and gory procedure.
Body Chute or Death Tunnel as it is occasionally
called is a long tunnel that is 500 feet (150 meters) long. It
was originally designed for workers that could easily access the
top of the hill. It also raised food, medications and other
things that the hospital needed. Over time however high
mortality rate forced the administration of the hospital to use
the tunnel for lowering bodies down the slope of the hill. It
was believed that keeping the dead out of sight of the living
would beneficially improve the esteem of those who were sick.
Motorized cable system that you can see on the left side of the
left picture is largely rotted away, but many it is not
abandoned completely. It is considered to be one of the most
haunted places in the compound. Don't get too jumpy though.
Light might play tricks on you. Air ducts that are installed
ever hundred feet lets some light and air inside the tunnel so
some of the sightings of ghosts were actually an optic illusion.
Occasionally some people claim that the number of the dead
reached 60,000 people. However it is not quiet true. This is the
number that died in all of state of Kentucky in the same time
period. Waverly Hills
Hospital have records that indicates that approximately 8,212
patients died from tuberculosis on the grounds of the hospital.
Morgue is a fairly small room near the entrance to the hospital.
It was here that every victim of the deadly disease came before
being shipped away. It contains a table for dissection with the
groove around it to collect blood and other fluids from autopsy
of the dead. Additionally it has a box that could contain three
bodies at a time. It is obviously could not hold too many dead
so the process was fairly quick.
Room 502 on the fifth and last floor is one of
the most famous locations in the Waverly Hills Sanatorium. It is
located in a small central tower of the former hospital that is
also the highest part of the building. According to local
legends supported by documents from the archives one nurse hanged herself in this room. She discovered
that she was pregnant. The father of the child who was also one
of the doctors in the Sanatorium refused to care for the child. Some
also claim that she also found out that
she contracted "the white death" or tuberculosis. Since she
didn't want to leave her unborn child be abandoned, she killed
herself. Some believe that she used a sprinkler system pipe, but
it was installed in 1973, long after the tragedy. So there is no
way to tell exactly where she hanged herself.
several decades later killed herself by leaping from a tower to
her death. Although her motifs are unclear, some of her former
co- workers claim that terrible conditions of the Geriatric
Hospital made her depressed and suicidal. The balls that you see
on the right picture above are left for kids. The roof of the
fifth floor served kids of the Sanatorium as a playground. Some
say shadowy figures of dead children are still visible at night.
place is most famous for its haunting and ghost stories that happen
quiet frequently. Most paranormal floor in the sanatorium is believed to
be the fourth and fifth floors of the Tuberculosis hospital. The fourth
level is particularly famous for its ghostly activity. It was the level where surgeries were performed, often
fatal to patients. It is said to be haunted by a little boy named “Timmy”
who is said
to run around the place. He seems to be the most active ghost in the
sanatorium. Many people who visited the place and those who work or
worked there “played” with him. Shortly after setting ball on the
ground it would move around the floor without outside help. Ball left on
the third floor would often end up on the fourth floor. Another ghost
said to roam empty hospital is “Mary” occasionally identified as
Mary Lee. Although there is no certain way to check this guess the
patient by this name did exist (pictured on the left). She came to the sanatorium as a healthy child, contracted the
disease and died within these walls. Her slim, petite figure is said to
be roaming around halls of the main building as well as surroundings of
the hospital. Some people reported seeing her peek through the windows
only to disappear moments later.
Several visitors to the site and some of the volunteers claimed
to have seen doppelgänger on the floors. This term can literally
can be translated as a "double goer" from German. It basically
describes the look alike spirit of a living person. He or she
walks around like a normal human being. Some even claimed that
these ghosts have talked and interacted with the tourists. Many
European cultures believed that if it would encounter your
doppelgänger it would almost certainly mean quick death.
Below is a photo that will probably will be shown
to you if you choose to take a guided tour around the facility
of the former sanatorium. The site where the photo was taken
have no windows at least at the time when it was made. So
reflection would not explain the appearance of a woman behind.
By the way if you were curious why is that all the ghosts of the
Sanatorium appear as white or Caucasian, there is simple
explanation for that. All African- American patients were taken
to a Colored Hospital at a certain distance from the main
building. It was demolished after the closure of the main
building. You can find its former location on the map that is
provided in the end of the article.
all ghosts of Waverly Hills Sanatorium are friendly though. Couple of years ago several guards heard
strange voices in the building and decided to investigate. The followed
the staircase where they though was the source of the commotion. When
they opened the door on the fourth floor four young men (around 19) fell
out. They were scared and shocked. As soon as they were freed they ran
downstairs and outside of the building. The guards managed to catch up
with them only outside. There teenagers told them what happened to them. They
quietly reached the building, avoided
the guards and started to explore the creepy abandoned structure. Once
they reached the fourth floor they started to hear strange sounds.
Eventually spirits began to appear. The kids tried to make a run for it
and approached the closest exit. The door turned out to be locked by
someone or something. One of boys tried to use his ax to break through the metal
door to get out into the staircase. Once you will get there you will see
door with holes made by these men and that is more important you will
see that there is no way anyone can lock the door from the inside or the
Another scary figure is that of big dark shadow of a man that
often scares people. One skeptic was convinced by his girlfriend to
spend the night here. They were in a group exploring the site. This man
suddenly saw someone at a distance entering one of the rooms. He decided
to approach a man and offer company. He assumed it was someone from
another group who was simply lost on the floor. Once he entered the room and
started a conversation the figure turned around and it became visible
that stranger was actually a talk dark ghost that had no eyes. Needless to say the man ran like hell and
screamed like a girl until reaching open air. He never visited the place
The scariest ghost that visitors of the Waverly Hills
Sanatorium have encountered is a so- called "Crawler". He is often seen
crawling on the walls or ceilings. This spirit often moves from floor to
floor straight through floors of the compound with ease. Often it is
seen peeking at visitors from around the corners of the buildings. It
usually disappears right away. It is described
as a dark and threatening figure. Unlike other spirits of the compound
this entity gives off very demonic vibes to anyone who encountered it.
Possible ghost of a child
More pictures of ghosts like apparitions
I had a strange occurrence myself. I still remain somewhat skeptical,
but I have no doubt now something actually happens there. Either time
overlaps where two times exist on one or maybe demons to scare people.
On a first occasion I felt like something was touching me on by left
arm. My initial response was to dispel the feelings as merely brain
reinterpreting might thoughts to a false signal of touching. Muscle
twitches are common then you are under stress and this could be
responsible for my feelings. I looked down on my right hands. In the light of "Exit" sign I actually saw my shirt being pressed
against my arm. It was so distinct and localized as if someone's hands
tried to grab me.
On another occasion I
was in a group of people and decided to leave them for awhile, to
explore the place on my own. Empty hall had several lighted spots left
from a moon light that shined through the doors. Several times these
lighted spots in the hall were crossed by someone silently,
even though no one was in that part of the building. Really strange
thing happened then I was returning back to the group. I actually felt
like something or someone was pushing me either with a fist or a side of
a cart. I decided not to say anything. But when I approached my friends
they all turned around and looked at me speechless as if they saw a
ghost. At this point my heart was pounding, but I decided to act all
tough and even joked if my friends actually saw a ghost. Once they calmed down one of my friends told me something was
actually following me. It was fairly tall and it was distinctly
different from the shape of my shadow. It looked like a lighter more
transparent human figure.
Map of Waverly Hills Sanatorium in 1954
Below is the map of the complex. The plan is aligned so
that the top is the Western direction. Most of the buildings that you
see on the map have been torn down. However the roads and rail road are
still in place. Several buildings are now covered by the dense forest
that shrunk in the past decades due to construction boom. As far as I
know no one tried to carry out any archeological digs around the area.
Many items might be found that can give a greater feel for the time
period and daily life of the people here.
Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Hospital was served by Illinois Central
Railroad that supplied 75 carloads of coal to the medical complex
Lobby (covered with multiple graffiti)
Solarium with patient rooms
X- ray and dark room
Salon/ Barber shop
Entrance to beginning of the Body Shute
Breaker and transformer rooms
Cold rooms for food
Old electric potato pealer
Two Nurse's stations
Kitchen could feed over 500 people at a
Dining room usually seated 328 people,
but could expand to 448 people