Waverly Hills Sanatorium: Do You Believe in Ghosts?

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Ok, full disclosure: I believe in ghosts, the paranormal, the supernatural, and all that jazz. I believe our universe is far too complex and massive to be only the things we can physically see, touch, or understand. Combine that with my love of history, and I really enjoy learning about and visiting haunted places. I share this passion with a few friends and an old roommate. This story takes place with that old roommate. We’ll call her “Nancy”.

Nancy and I worked the same schedule (Monday-Friday 8am-5pm), so we’d watch Ghost Adventures together at night. One episode we watched was about Waverly Hills Sanatorium, located in Louisville, Kentucky. After realizing that it was only a short 2-hour drive from where we lived in Evansville, Indiana, and Halloween was just around the corner, it was obvious that we were going to go.

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Located at 4400 Paralee Dr, Louisville, Kentucky, Waverly Hills Sanatorium is a humongous, looming, 5-story building that sits atop a hill and opened in 1910 to be used as a hospital for the “white death”, a.k.a tuberculous. After the hospital closed in 1961, it was used for various things like a nursing home and then a prison. It’s now privately owned by a couple who conducts ghost tours and host an annual haunted house in the “body chute” every October. Like all good, old buildings that are supposedly very haunted, there is no exact number of how many people actually died there. Some say it was as low as 162, others say it was a modest 5,000-8,000, and a few try to claim it was upwards of 63,000 (highly unlikely).

Speaking of the “body chute”, it’s by far one of the more famous aspects of Waverly Hills. Originally built as means to transport goods, such as medical supplies, it’s seen constant death almost since its inauguration. At the peak of the tuberculosis epidemic, so many patients were dying at the sanatorium, that doctors feared patient morale would be nonexistent if they saw how many bodies were wheeled out daily. That’s when they decided to fully utilize the tunnel as a “body chute”, transporting the dead to the hospitals morgue that way. Doctors also felt like it would lower infection rate. It is now considered to be one of the most haunted spots at Waverly Hills. Unfortunately, we would not get to see it.

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As for how we got to tour the inside of this historic and (allegedly) extremely haunted former TB hospital, without booking a pricy private tour months in advance? By sheer coincidence and luck. As mentioned above, every October, the owners (rather disrespectfully, in my opinion) put on a haunted house through the “body chute”. Apparently, it’s extraordinarily popular. The line to enter the Waverly Hills haunted house was one of the most massive lines I’ve ever seen and it barely moved. We arrived around 10pm, they closed the ticket booth at 11pm, and we were still standing in line past 12am, with at least 250 people still ahead. It was looking bleak, when suddenly 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 in the tunnel. We jumped at the chance.

The worker pulled us and about 30 other people from the line, sending us up to the front. We finally entered Waverly Hills Sanatorium…

And it was awesome! It was pitch black and 100% better than any haunted house, even one in a “body chute”, 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 guys (they all play a role later).


Timmy

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Hallway that lead to Timmy.

The first spot we went to is where “Timmy” hangs out. Timmy is allegedly 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. 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, like a draft.


Open-air Hallway

Saying goodbye to Timmy, we continued through the sanatorium. We moved to the floor with the famous open-air hallway, where they’d wheel the tuberculosis patients outside to. Back then, it was thought that fresh air and sunshine would cure them. All the patients’ rooms along this balcony open up, and they’d just wheel them out in their beds and leave them there for hours during the day. This hallway (and the one adjacent to it on the inside, on the other side of the rooms) is supposedly very haunted, because many patients died in these rooms (because fresh air and sunshine doesn’t cure infectious diseases). Many sightings and experiences take place here.

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Open-air tuberculous hallway showing the rooms and doors where they would roll out patients for their “open air” treatments.

We then switched over to the adjacent inside hallway. Again, we were informed that this was an extremely haunted and active area for ghosts. People report seeing “shadow people” constantly in this hallway. Here is where I had my first paranormal experience of my life (and it wasn’t shadow people).

Ghost story time: As we were walking down this hallway, the first guide was up in the front, followed by the main mass of people, then making up the very rear were those 3 guys, the second guide, Nancy, and me. Suddenly, the front guide told everyone to stop and lean up against the wall, because she wanted to tell us about the shadow people. Everyone immediately stopped walking and leaned against the wall. As soon as that happened, the 6 of us in the back all heard the same thing – the very distinctive sound of high heels clanking behind us. The floors of Waverly Hills are concrete, and no one was moving, let alone anyone behind us, as we were in the very back. Even the guide with us was extremely freaked out. She told us she does these tours all the time and never hears something like that. Afterwards, I did a little research, finding out that nurses did in fact wear heeled shoes during Waverly Hills’ heyday. So, believe what you will. 🙃

As for the shadow people, allegedly, if you stare down the hallway long enough, you are supposed to see shadow figures darting across. Many people were claiming to see them, but, try as I might, I could not.


Room 502

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The pipe and area where the nurse allegedly hung herself.

Moving on, we went up a flight of stairs, to the room where a nurse sadly hung herself, also known as Room 502. The legend goes that a doctor got this 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 so distraught at the idea that she hung herself outside room 502, using the large metal piping. There have been various pictures allegedly captured of the nurse, but I was not as lucky. Many people say they get chills and “weird feelings of sorrow” while around this area.

Inside room 502.
Inside room 502.

Patio Area

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Patio area.

After looking around Room 502, we were left to wander about a large patio area, which was used for various things throughout history. After this we were brought down, to an entrance back to the outside, and our time at Waverly Hills Sanatorium had officially come to an end. We were inside for roughly 45 minutes to an hour, and it was certainly NOT enough time. I always wanted to do the overnight tour, but that ship may have sailed!

Patio area.

Overall, if you’re a lover of history or a lover of the paranormal (or a lover of BOTH, like me), then Waverly Hills Sanatorium is the place for you. Whether you’re there for the historical knowledge or the paranormal aspect, Waverly Hills will deliver. It’s hands down one of the most famous haunted locations in the United States, and you’d be extremely hard pressed to find a “most haunted” list that it’s not on. It’s located within the city limits of Louisville, so not hard to get to if you’re visiting the city or surrounding area. Go and check it out – you may even get your very own nurse to walk with you. 😎👻

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