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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Visit Waverly Hills Sanitorium With Me, and Test Your Sanity!

Graffiti in the Sanitarium

More ominous graffiti 

Main entrance (see gargoyle on top, barely)
view from the ground

     The Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky, caught my attention on my search to find the most haunted places in the United States, that I'd love to visit.  It is famous for being haunted.  Several Ghost Hunting shows have visited it and come back with "evidence."  It has been rated Number 2 in the television special "Scariest Places on Earth." It has been frequented by many people, both paranormal and ghost hunters and regular people who just wanted to see the place for themselves, They want to see if the stories they've heard are true. I'm also the type that has to see it for myself.  Many regard it as the most haunted hospital in the United States.  The buildings and facilities were put up for sale a number of occasions, and many new potential owners were intrigued and wanted to try to make something else out of the building. Now it is owned by Charlie and Tina Mattingly and the Waverly Hills Historical society. They have decided to use the notoriety of Waverly Hills history and actually promote the stories surrounding the place.  They have made Waverly Hills into a tourist destination.  There are tours and ghost hunting activities that people can do. 

    Commercialization at it's finest, you can order Waverly Hills merchandise online now!

     The following link is for a video that promotes Waverly Hills as a great place to rest, with good, well balanced meals. It made it seem more like a spa than a hospital. In reality, about 63,000 people died of Tuberculosis in The Waverly Hills Sanatorium.

                         Gargoyle on top of Sanitarium, guarding what exactly? 
              On a hospital? How could patients enter such a dark place with hope?

     During the 1800's, Waverly Hills was initially a residential area.  Because of the close vicinity to water, there were many cases of people suffering from tuberculosis.  This was aggravated by the high number of people living there.  In 1910, a small building which had 2 floors was built in Waverly Hills.  This building was intended for people who had tuberculosis.  It started with about 40 patients.  Louisville needed a hospital for the mounting tuberculosis cases in the area, so this filled the imminent need for a small hospital. Then, the area was ravaged by an outbreak of tuberculosis(also known as the White Plague).  This outbreak prompted the construction of a new hospital because the original one could no longer accommodate the vast number of new patients.  As a result, it closed down in 1924.  A new hospital was built to replace the previous one. They needed a more durable structure, and more beds so that patients wouldn't have to be turned away for lack of space. Construction began in March 1924 of  a new, 5 story hospital that could accommodate more than 400 patients.  It was 800,000 square feet and way out from the city.  It was located so away from civilization, in hopes to keep the sick away so they wouldn't infect other people. They were basically banished. This hospital was the most advanced in treating patients with tuberculosis during that time. People with tuberculosis could live in the hospital facilities while getting treated. They made it sound way better than it really was. It was a hellish, cesspool. One "luxury" they allowed patients occasionally was to let them go to their big auditorium and see an old picture show. Exciting. How generous.

                Advertisement: Nurses await you here to tend to all your needs and help you rest 
                and recover.  Reality: Hospital staff awaiting you here at Waverly to experiment on    you and help guide you into the next life.

                                             A solarium. Each floor had at least one.

   The "treatments" for patients with Tuberculosis ranged from the relatively non invasive, to the very invasive, sometimes even causing death. Heliotherapy, was done in sun rooms, using artificial light in place of daylight.  They actually prepped the dying this way too. If they were knocking at death's door and looking pasty white and ill, they had to go tanning. The Waverly Hills Sanatorium is where the first tanning beds in the world were made.  They believed that the dead "looked better" if they were tan.  The staff figured that it would be easier for the families to see than ghastly, pale corpses.  I doubt it really made much of a difference. Dead is dead. Families were grieving for a loved one who died in a horrible way.  A tan wasn't going to help that. There was a different version of Heliotherapy for patients that was much harsher.  They would put the patients out in direct sunlight, on the roof or open porches.  In some cases, patients had to withstand weather conditions even in the middle of the winter.  They would even get snow on the ends of their beds.  I suppose that was the "rest" that the sanatorium promised?

                                          Patients in steam cabinets for treatment
       Most of the chilling stories told about the Waverly Hills sanatorium are frequently based on or connected to it's history.  If patients didn't just die of tuberculosis they would probably die from abhorrent experiments that doctors and staff did on them. It was very sick and twisted. The remedies and therapies for Tuberculosis then, were atrocious. This is why many believe that the hauntings in Waverly Hills are done by vengeful spirits mostly. There was a "Draining Room" where they hung the dead upside down from poles near the body chute. They would slit them from stomach to pelvic area to drain their blood. It sounds so savage, like something from a horror movie. They thought that a supposed bio hazard as Tuberculosis infected blood, would be best filtered through a sewage pipe. Ignorance is bliss. Many people died. Few patients ever would leave Waverly Hills.  Those admitted into the hospital had horrible care and the doctors were testing people like lab rats.  They performed a lot of lobotomies.  Some patients had deflated lungs (Pneumothorax) and the doctors would surgically implant balloons within their lungs to physically expand them.  Some people had ribs and muscles removed to have more room for oxygen intake.  This was called a Thoracolplasty.  Few patients survived these experiments. The few that did, were genuinely mentally affected by their experience there.  The hospital clearly deeply impacted them, as it would anyone I'd imagine.  There is a movie, documentary called, "Spooked," about the Waverly Hills Sanatorium. I found it very interesting and informational. It also has interviews with a few survivors.

What the floor of the Draining room probably looked like

Electroshock therapy room

A TB infected lung, followed by some sort of experiment. A lobotomy anybody?

                                                       The staff at Waverly

        There are a lot of places in the Waverly Hills Sanatorium that are very haunted. The body chute of course, and a lot of ghostly activity has been experienced room 502.  A head nurse died in room 502.  She hanged herself from a light fixture.  She was 29, unmarried, and pregnant, in 1928.  They say she was depressed because of her situation and couldn't bear to live any longer. (how astute!) Apparently, mental patients continued to walk around, ignoring her hanging body.  It was finally discovered by the next nurse who showed up for duty. Talk about a rough day at work!

                                  The much talked about, very haunted room 502

   In 1932, another nurse who worked in room 502, jumped from the balcony of the roof that leads from the room. They say she caught Tuberculosis from a patient and didn't want to suffer the slow agony of death that she had seen with so many patients.  She was killed instantly when her body slammed into the unforgiving ground, 5 stories below.  Maybe she drank the same water the other nurse did, or perhaps the Waverly Hills Sanatorium really can make you a little nutty.  The doctors definitely did, with all of their experimentation.  If ever a place was haunted, this is it.

                          The doorway the nurse ran through leading to the roof she jumped off of

                     The roof, the nurse's final view before throwing herself off the edge
     There is a Tunnel, the body chute or the Death Tunnel as it's commonly known. It was constructed at the same time as the main building.  It began at the 1st floor and went 500 feet to the bottom of the hill.  One side had steps to allow workers to enter and exit the hospital without having to walk a dangerous, steep hill. The other side of the tunnel had a set of rails and a cart powered by a motorized cable system, so that supplies could easily be transported to the top.  Air ducts leading from the roof of the tunnel to above ground level were incorporated every 100 feet to let in light and fresh air. Perhaps the staff would use the tunnel to go outside and take a breather, when the stench of death overwhelmed them.  They went outside to their "happy  place," smoked a cigarette, and went back inside to care for more dying patients.
                                    The Death Tunnel side with the stairs for employees

                                                    Entrance to Death Tunnel

     People were lining up to go get "cured" at the Waverly Hills treatment center.  They had full faith that they could save their lives.  The "word" was that people were surviving the disease, all thanks to Waverly Hills. Specialists were helpless and sent patients to Waverly for treatment. In a desperate search for a cure, people found a faint glimmer of hope in the Waverly Hills facility. As antibiotics had not been discovered when Waverly had opened, treatment consisted of heat lamps, fresh air, high spirits and reassurances of an eventual full recovery.  Lies basically.  People were slowly drowning in their own blood as their lungs filled up. As they would struggle to breathe, the nurses and doctors would reassure them that you'd be fine.  Even as a patient took their last gasping, desperate breathes, they would be reassured.  The nurses tried to keep patients in high spirits.  Then they died and became spirits.

                              TB treatment with sunlight. They were pulled out of their
                                          rooms and brought into the sunlight.

Many children were admitted for TB, and there were many orphans

        Once Tuberculosis hit it's peak, deaths were occurring daily. At one point, they say about 3 people died an hour. .  The sight of the dead being taken away in view of the patients was obviously not to great for the morale. If you are already dying, coughing up your own blood,  you don't want to see someone who died from what you have, getting wheeled casually down the hall in front of you.  The infected lost the will to live.  They became depressed (perhaps they were just making peace with their inevitable dark fates). This contributed to a higher death rate. At this point, the tunnel took on another use.  When patients died, their bodies were placed on the cart and lowered to the bottom where a hearse would be waiting to take them away discreetly, out of patient view, saving morale.  I'm sure they didn't notice when people started disappearing randomly. That's much more subtle. The doctors also believed this way of disposing of the bodies would combat the disease and keep it from spreading.
                                The death tunnel used to remove dead bodies

      To paint a more vivid picture of Tuberculosis, it isn't just a simple cough and a fever that can kill you.  It is spread through the air from one person to another.  The bacteria are put into the air when a person with active tuberculosis coughs, sneezes or speaks.  People nearby may breath in these bacteria and become infected. It attacks the lungs, and then the rest of the body, such as the kidney, spine and the brain.  At the time, it was the leading cause of death in the United States.  In the 1900's, tuberculosis killed one out of every seven people living in the United States and Europe.  There are a few ways TB can kill you.  It can cause you to slowly suffocate as blood fills up your lungs  and you die of respiratory failure.  If you are lucky. Tissue in your lung is killed by TB, and eventually you simply cannot absorb enough oxygen.  Not to mention that TB generally would spread to other parts of the body, if you lived long enough, and cause organ failure.  The death by suffocation was better than the latter.  The persons lungs would fill with "tubercles"(tuberculosis bacteria, and blood) and they would slowly breathe less and less, until they died, from lack of oxygen, which would stress the heart, and it would stop. There can be complications with bones, kidneys, lymph nodes, and many other things.  Some would slowly just waste away because their body couldn't fight the infection.  One day they just wouldn't wake up.  The worst way to die there was of blood loss.  That is when the infection eroded a blood vessel and they bled to death.  Very messy and gory.  There would be blood pouring out of the mouth and nose, coughing and spitting up blood because of internal bleeding.  Then they would die, choking on their own blood, drowning in it.

                                         A depiction of dying of Tuberculosis
     After the introduction of Streptomycin, an antibiotic, in 1943, the number of tuberculosis cases gradually lowered. They were about 20 years to late, but it did lead to fewer patients at Waverly Hills Sanatorium.  With the development of better medications, some patients could just self treat themselves at home. In 1961, the Tuberculosis hospital was changed into an elderly care center.  It was called the Woodhaven Geriatric Center, a nursing home.  It was primarily for treating aging patients with various stages of dementia and mobility limits as well as the severely retarded (or Mentally Handicapped as we now say). These patients went to a place to die, where 63,000 people had already died. They had horrible living conditions, they were simply cast out. Patients were left in wet beds of urine and feces.  There were cockroaches everywhere. And people were dying as a result of doctors being uneducated about mental illness at the time. The Geriatric patients were put through torture and electroshock. The Waverly Hills Sanatorium was again shut down in 1982, allegedly due to charges of patient neglect.
     There are countless stories and supernatural encounters related to the Waverly Hills Sanatorium.  Considering the 63,000 white plague victims and the deaths at the geriatric center, I believe it is haunted.  There have been many ghost EVPs (electronic voice phenomena), videos and photos taken at the sanatorium.  Waverly Hills sanitarium stands as a massive fortress of doom, a monument to pain and suffering, with a Gothic style and gargoyles on the roof. Not the most inviting looking place.

                                 The "Welcoming" sign of the Hospital of horrors

                                   A view of Waverly Hills Sanitarium on the hill.

     Over the years, the Sanatorium has seen it's fair share of Paranormal Investigations from top Ghost enthusiasts throughout the world.  Lights have been witnessed in parts of the building, with no electricity running through it.  Objects have been thrown, people have been pushed and apparitions have been seen. For all of those who have stepped into the Waverly Hills Sanitarium, they are probably happy to have stepped out.  Me personally, I'd love to spend the night. That's just me. There are also self slamming doors, cold spots, screams, human shaped shadows moving around corridors, voices and wailing in the halls coming from nowhere, spirit clouds in different shapes and orbs of light moving inside buildings and on the grounds.  Many people also tell of a hearse coming into the area and leaving with caskets.

                                                      Orbs caught on camera
     There have been sightings of a little boy they call "Timmy" who died of Tuberculosis tragically at a very young age.  Some see him as a full apparition, while others witness Timmy rolling his favorite red ball down the dark and lifeless hallways.  They also hear the pitter patter of small bare feet throughout, and some guests can hear a faint and saddening whimper from beyond.  Shadow people are rumored to run rampant throughout the old sanitarium.  These appear as dark, yet larger than life silhouettes of bodies of a semi human form.  The "Shadow People are one of the most frequently reported phenomenon at the hospital. They can even be seen through windows from the outside of the sanatorium, with lights, with no electricity. Visitors say they felt coldness around their bodies, chills with shadow figures around.  Apparently, every night, shadow people wander around and will come towards you.  You can see patients in windows and doorways.  Shadows pass each other in the hall, trapped in repeated motions before their death.

                                                    A shadow figure

    Among the haunting stories of Waverly, there is said to be a little girl named Mary wandering about with the other lost spirits.  She is said to have very creepy features with no eyes.  She also plays with a small ball, like Timmy. Perhaps they play together. Who knows? She is said to haunt the 3rd floor, running around and playing hide and seek with visitors.  She has been seen crouching in corners and heard calling for help and walking through walls.  She asks people to play with her.  She looks about 6-7 years old and very confused. Understandably. She says "hello" and "watch out."  Perhaps she's looking for an eternal playmate?  On the 2nd floor, there are odors, cold spots, temperatures of 50 degrees or less, footsteps heard, the smell of food, fresh baked bread.  There is also a woman who roams the halls with bloody wrists and chains adorned while screaming for help. Apparitions of children can also be seen in the windows. The 4th floor is active as well, shadows have been seen wandering throughout the halls. Heavy metal doors have been known to slam shut on their own.  The 5th floor is probably the most haunted.  Not only is it haunted by the 2 ghosts of the nurses who killed themselves in the infamous room 502 that I mentioned previously.  This floor housed mostly the mentally insane patients of the hospital.  Activity is frequent within the halls of the 5th floor.  People see the full body apparition of a nurse wearing white.

                                              Apparition of a woman in white

                                                     Children playing on roof

     In the Cafeteria/Kitchen an apparition of a man wearing a white coat and pants has been seen.  He is believed to be a former employee.  Did he perhaps get Tuberculosis from a patient somehow? Sanitation wasn't very advanced back then.  Food has even been smelled though no food has entered these rooms since the closing of the facility in 1980. Was it perhaps this cook in the following picture, or another fellow worker? What happened to them?

        A cook in the kitchen. That advertised well rounded, healthy meals. Yummy.

     Allegedly one night, a security guard walking the corridors of the building stumbled upon a floating head in one of the rooms.  Scared out of his mind, he proceeded to run directly down the stairs and as he reached the bottom, he fell to the ground unconscious. I guess he wasn't the adventurous type. When he awoke, he left and never returned. Another guard has reported seeing the flicker of a TV set from the outside, in a dark room on the 3rd floor.  He went to investigate and found nothing.  At least he didn't pass out.  Other guards were unaffected and used to it. They said it happens all the time.

     In the tours, people claim to see the same things, "creatures" as they say.  Are they really creatures?  Ghosts are a different form of being, that used to be human.  So, to me, it seems disrespectful to call them creatures.  They are lost souls that lived life and died horrible deaths.  They deserve respect and reverence.  They knew they would probably die and still managed to try to cope and keep their spirits up.  That's true strength, looking death in the eyes.

                       The ghost of what appears to be a little boy. Could it be Timmy?

                                        unexplained lights going across hall

                                                 ectoplasm caught on camera

     There are tours but as far as randomly visiting the Waverly Sanatorium solo, on your own schedule, good luck.  The owners have posted a "friendly" reminder that Waverly is Private property and under 24 hour surveillance.  There is also on site security.  There is no Trespassing allowed or tolerated.  The only legal way for you to visit is to schedule a tour or investigation.  That's a bummer but I'd definitely go on a night time tour!  What a place! With such a haunted history. This is at the top of my list of haunted places to visit.

                                                       ghostly image in hallway

       Supposedly these heavy, metal doors slam them selves shut and re open, often. I think the ghosts would need WD 40 just to loosen up the door enough to open with all that rust.

                          Shadowy ghost figures behind tourist in death tunnel

                                                     Graffiti, self explanatory

1 comment:

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