Ok, so full disclosure right off the bat: I believe in ghosts, the paranormal, demons, and all that other super fun and not- at-all-scary stuff. One of my favorite shows is Ghost Adventures (hi Zak) and I really enjoy learning about and visiting haunted places. It may be weird to some people, but I don’t care, I could be into some way worse things. I share this passion with a couple of friends and also with an old roommate. This story takes place with that old roommate. We’ll refer to her as “Nancy” for this blog post.
Nancy and I worked the same schedule (Monday-Friday 8am-5pm), so we would watch Ghost Adventures together in the living room while our 3rd roommate worked nights. I was a bit hesitant to admit that Ghost Adventures was one of my favorite shows, because many people think it’s cheesy or a joke, but Nancy loved the show just as much as me, so we bonded over that (we didn’t know each other very well before becoming roommates – we were each originally friends with our 3rd roommate). One episode we watched was about Waverly Hills Sanatorium, located in Louisville, Kentucky. We realized it was only a short 2-hour drive from where we lived in Evansville, Indiana and Halloween was coming up. It was obvious that we were going to go.
Located at 4400 Paralee Dr, Louisville, KY 40272, Waverly Hills Sanatorium is a MASSIVE, looming 5-story building that sits on top of a hill in Louisville and opened in 1910 to be used as a hospital for the “white death”, formally known as tuberculous. After the hospital closed in 1961, it was used for various things like a nursing home and prison. It is now privately owned by a couple who conducts ghost tours and hosts an annual haunted house in the “body shoot” every October. Like all good, old buildings that are supposedly very haunted, there is no exact number of how many people actually died inside the building. Some say it was as low as 162, others say it was a modest 5,000-8,000, and others try to claim it was upwards of 63,000 (highly unlikely).
Nancy did some research and learned about the annual haunted house, so off we went one night. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Obviously we had already seen the building on the episode of Ghost Adventures, but actually seeing it in person is usually a different story. The 2-hour drive to Louisville was quick and painless, since we left around 7pm.
Getting to the sanatorium is not difficult; however, there was a bit of confusion when we arrived. The staff hadn’t properly blocked off all entrances, so people were turning into one entrance only to find themselves in a deadlock of cars who had also made this fateful decision. Luckily Nancy and I noticed pretty quickly that we weren’t moving and cars were coming back all confused. After getting out of there by sheer determination, we made our way to the real entrance that was just around the corner. This happened in October 2014, so hopefully they’ve smoothed things out since then!
Waverly Hills has a rather large parking lot, so finding parking wasn’t an issue. The line to get inside was an issue. O.M.G., the line was ridiculous!!! The only lines I’ve ever been in that rivaled this were in Russia, and even then those lines moved at a pretty consistent (snail speed) pace. This line barely moved. At all. Even a snail moved faster than this line. A sleep-deprived person with 20-pound weights tied to each leg, who just got done eating a pound of fettuccine alfredo, moved faster than this line. It was beyond ridiculous but nonetheless, we waited in it. The haunted house closed its ticket booth at 11pm, but we were still standing in line well past midnight, and there were a good 250, if not more, people ahead of us. It sounds like I’m exaggerating, and if I hadn’t seen it myself I would think the same. But I promise, I’m not.
It was so bad that I was getting worried that they would send everyone packing and refund our money, but then a worker started walking the line, asking people if they wanted to go on a “mini ghost tour” of the upper floors in lieu of going through the haunted house down in the body shoot/tunnel. While Nancy and I were pretty disappointed to miss out on the death tunnel, we jumped at the chance to get the heck out of that line. Not to mention, real-life ghost stuff is waaaay better and scarier than any generic haunted house fakery. The worker took about 30 people from the line and sent us to the front. Here is where we learned one of the reasons why this line was barely moving. They made everyone sit down and watch a 10-minute show projected onto the side of the building. I’m guessing it was to give the previous group enough time to make their way through the haunted house, as well as allow the workers to get back into place. Either way, I found it to be boring and pointless.
After watching the show, we were finally taken into the sanatorium. It was awesome! It was pitch black and 1000% times better from the get-go than any haunted house, because this was the REAL deal. We had two guides, one in the front doing all the talking, and another in the back, most likely to keep people from wandering off. Nancy and I hung out in the back with that guide, as well as 3 random dudes who were part of the group (they play a role later).
The first spot they took us to was where “Timmy” is. Timmy is a small child, aged 5 or 6, who supposedly died at Waverly Hills, and enjoys rolling a ball back and forth with people. This has been captured on camera, but of course, Timmy did not deliver while we were there. While I believe in ghosts, I’m still logical, so in my opinion the jury is still out on whether the ball rolls because of Timmy, or because of a natural phenomenon or reason.
Once we left Timmy, we continued through the sanatorium. On one floor there was a hallway, with large open spaces to the outside, where the tuberculosis patients laid out because it was thought that fresh air and sunshine would cure them (oh, how far we’ve come). All the patients’ rooms would open up into this hallway, and they’d just wheel them out in their beds for various hours during the day. This hallway (and the one adjacent to it on the inside, on the opposite side of the rooms) is supposedly very haunted, because many patients died in these rooms. The guide told us about various individuals who have supposedly heard this or that in this hallway, or inside these rooms.
Once we explored that part, we switched over to the adjacent inside hallway. Again, we were informed that this was an extremely haunted and active area for ghosts. People reported seeing “shadow people” all the time in this hallway. Here is where things got super duper real for me. As we were walking down this hallway, the first guide was all the way in the front, followed by the main mass of people, and making up the very rear were those 3 guys, the second guide, and Nancy and me. Once we reached the right spot, the guide in front told everyone to stop walking and moving, and to lean up against the wall because she wanted to tell us about the shadow people and have us look for them. Everyone stopped walking and leaned against the wall, and as soon as that happened, the 6 of us in the back all heard the same thing: high heels walking behind us. Yeah, yeah, those who don’t believe probably read that and think “Whatever”, but you weren’t there. The floor of Waverly Hills is all concrete, and there wasn’t a soul moving, let alone anyone moving behind us, since we were in the very back. Plus, I’m a woman, I know what high heels sound like while clomping on a hard surface. Even the guide who was back there with us was beyond freaked out, and she told us she does these tours all the time. We did a little research when we got home and found out that nurses did in fact wear heeled shoes during Waverly Hills’ heyday. I’m not sure if there was an actual ghost walking behind us and she stopped because we stopped, or if it was residual energy from the past. Either way, it was my first, real, legitimate ghost encounter, and it was AWESOME.
I knew that I wasn’t crazy because Nancy, those 3 guys, and the guide all heard it too. We all immediately looked at one another, each with a matching face that was a mixture of bewilderment, horror, and “wow that was amazing!”. Everyone was just as shocked and freaked out as I was. Sadly, we didn’t hear anything after that, and I couldn’t see any shadow figures, no matter how hard I tried. People in the group claimed to have seen some, and perhaps they did (who am I to judge, I just heard a freaking ghost), but I sadly can’t say the same for myself.
Moving on, we went up a flight of stairs, to the room where a nurse hanged herself, also known as Room 502. The legend is that a doctor got a nurse pregnant and then wanted nothing to do with her or the baby. As this was during the 1940s-1950s, being an unwed single mother was unimaginable for most. The nurse was apparently so distraught at the idea that she hanged herself outside room 502, using the large metal piping. There have been various pictures allegedly captured of the nurse, but the picture I took just looks like a pipe. People have said they get chills and “weird feelings of sorrow” while around this area, but I did not.
After hanging around Room 502 for a bit, we were left to wander about a large patio type area, which was used for various things throughout history. Again, I caught zilch on camera. After this we were brought down, back to an entrance to the outside, and our time at Waverly Hills Sanatorium was officially over. We were inside for roughly 45 minutes to an hour, and lord, it was NOT enough time. I wanted to do the overnight tour badly, but unfortunately I moved back to California before I ever had the chance. But who knows, I may just go on one of my visits back to Illinois… so stayed tuned!