Waverly Hills Sanatorium was built with the intended purpose of housing tuberculosis patients that were infected in Louisville, Kentucky. Since then, there have been speculations of there being paranormal activities occurring within the sanatorium, along with accusations of there being fabricated evidence of paranormal activities occurring. Throughout time, the speculations have caused many people to visit the sanatorium and for others to conduct research for paranormal enmities. There are as many believers as there are speculators, both create points that could possibly support and refute arguments of both sides equally. Both view points are valid and have been studied intensely through Waverly Hills Sanatorium since claims of paranormal activities were made. The only way to make a decision is through both first and second hand research.
The disapproval of paranormal enmities at Waverly Hills Sanatorium
By: Cory Mayle-George
Right outside the heart of Louisville, Kentucky there sits the estranged hill surrounded by suburbia. At the top of the hill, lays the eerie red and white stone deserted Waverly Hills Sanatorium. The once, Waverly Hills Hospital was used as a tuberculosis waiting ground for those infected with the disease during the wide epidemic in the late nineteen twenties. The massive hospital was created in the hope to treat the infected patients with sun light and fresh air, causing for hundreds of the patients to die gruesome deaths until it closed in nineteen sixty one due to the discovery of antibiotics. The hospital was remodeled from its original state and reopened in nineteen sixty two as Woodhaven Geriatrics Medical where alleged abuse occurred, causing for the hospital to be haunted. The spirits of the patients and staff have been claimed to have remained in the hospital as lingering to receive the treatment they were seeking, at least that is the belief that is expected from visitors. The common misbelief that there is paranormal activity occurring in Waverly Hills Sanatorium but in reality there are many illusions in an elaborate hoax that creates the sense that there is paranormal activity to convince the novice critic. The hoaxed illusions used by the sanatorium are created by the location/structure of the building itself and the psychological affects to make visitors believe that paranormal activity actually exists within the hospital.
The psychological aspect of the hoax is one that is mainly focused upon when creating the sense of paranormal activity. The psychological hoax begins when visitors are considering visiting the sanatorium; the website is intended to insinuate that there are ghosts by providing “evidence” and “ghost hunts” (Blum) for visitors. The intention is to provide and explanation “behavior rendered through belief and desire” (Carruthers) to those who do not believe the paranormal activity. There is also an “accurate” (Society) prediction “that is provided by common-sense psychology. In fact our predictive success is so ubiquitous” (Carruthers) so the underlying paranormal activity that exists in the mind of the visitors, as the advertisers intend for there to be. The false advertisement that there are indeed “ghosts” (Blum), exist to attract people to the hospital. The false advertisement is used to set the misconception that there will be “ghosts” in the hospital and therefore visitors already have the idea that there paranormal activity is there (it is really true) and they misconstrued fake figures from reality. This type of advertisement is solely created with the intentions to give insecurities in the thoughts that the visitors have towards there being no paranormal activity. The psychological effects lead people to ponder whether the hospital is truly haunted by asking, “Can you handle a night in one of America’s most haunted hospitals?” (Society). The question at hand given by the website to attract visitors implants the thought that there must be paranormal activity through “human conscious thinking” (Carruthers) creates the illusion that the statement must be real. The question is an illusion in itself disguising the fact that there in fact, has no paranormal activity in the hospital but draws on the question if people think they are able, doubting the security they once had towards non believing paranormal enmities. Creating the challenge that seems to be implacably impossible to complete, alters the beliefs of the visitors mind that there must be a specific reason that other visitors cannot stay. As a convenient matter of fact, there is “undeniable proof”, (Society) that ghosts are the reason as to why visitors are not able to stay. People are meant to believe that they are completely incapable of staying at Waverly Hills Sanatorium and they conclude that there must be paranormal activity, that keeps most people from visiting there. The legend of “experimental treatments” (Society) occurring in the hospital harp on the harsh reality that unorthodox treatments in current times is twisted in the fact that they were not unorthodox treatments for the early nineteen hundreds. The focus point that paranormal activity is occurring due to the treatments is merely a psychological trick for visitors to believe that such unorthodox treatments occurred, in reality the treatments of “Pneumothorax and Thoracoplasty treated patients from Nova Scotia in the artificial form in 1940”(Hiltz). These treatments were occurring all over the world but are heavily twisted upon to create the sense that Waverly Hills was one of the only places conducting such treatments. Visitors believe that this is a unique site due to treatment of the patient’s, causes a belief that extreme paranormal activity is within the hospital but there is no paranormal activity and patients were treated as all other tuberculosis patients were treated worldwide. The paranormal activity is also attributed to the “heliotherapy and fresh air” (Harrison) due to the fact that the patients (including the children that were infected) were treated to therapy of the sun and plenty of fresh air that was thought to believe to help cure the tuberculosis in the patients. In reality, the treatments that the patients received were not uncommon around the world. During the winter the patients “remained warm with thick electric blankets” (Harrison). The psychological mind trick that is misconstrued by Waverly Hills Sanatorium and “ghost hunters” (Blum) is that the private ghost hunting sessions are all of legitimate status and all documentations are real. In reality, the documentation of such paranormal activity in the private session is far from verified by any credible source. These sources are misconstrued as ‘legitimate’ but the paranormal activity is created to source the idea that ghosts exist instead of encountering true data that concludes that paranormal activity exists. This information plays of the psychological effect that evidence has been found and it is true but in reality, this is falsified information to create the sense that paranormal activity is true. The psychological effects that are created, make visitors believe that there are paranormal activities occurring but in reality they are hoaxes fabricated through human assumption that are false evidences.
The pictures and videos that exist as evidence can be attributed to the pareidolia effect, double exposure used to make “ghosts” in the hospital. The photographic evidence has been tampered with from its original stage to aid the sense that ghosts exist in Waverly Hills Sanatorium so that the “truly haunted” attraction will continue to receive visitors. In the pareidolia effect, there is a mind game in such that the original pictures are taken out of focus “misperception involving the capacity of people to see, with blind certainty”(Marsching) and there are shapes that make the mind perceive that ghosts exist but, in reality they are just figures of other objects that portray peoples figures. Also, the mind hoax that is created through the displacing the light of the hospital to create the illusion that ghost figures are there but in reality they are shadows of objects casted into the hospitals halls. These misinterpretations of the “facts” (Society) give visitors the notion that paranormal activity is actually occurring but in reality, they are “professionals” unethical research used to give Waverly Hills business. The legends of the people who resided there when the hospital was operational, draws on unfortunate stories that are very in every sense reality but, are twisted into an imaginary world of paranormal activity, that is in every way not true. The mental connection between the stories of real people that lived in the hospital and the hospital itself, allows for people to believe the misconstrued world of paranormal activity. Once visitors arrive to the site itself, the perception of the structure that is presented is there in the almost in shambles form to draw to the affect that the hospital is the place where all of the people who had tuberculosis lived and died and it emphasizes the message that “ghosts do exist” (Society) but in reality, this is a hoax used as a ploy to tie reality with fantasy to create the illusion that everything about Waverly Hills Sanatorium is real. The ultimate mind hoax that is played throughout the hospital is the illusion that the fourth floor is the most haunted by being the only place that is locked due to “the haunted nature of the specific floor”. This act alone of specifically suggesting that there are haunting forces that live on the floor and they need to be locked up due to most of them reside there, places the thought to the visitors that ghost exist. In reality, the fourth floor is locked up due to the fact that there are many unsafe and weak spots that are missing or deteriorating and it is necessary to keep people from wondering beyond the safe points. The misconception is that that the fourth floor is where the paranormal activity is the strongest but, in fact it relates closer towards the reality of safety and liability reasons. There is an extremely large misconception that Waverly Hills Sanatorium has paranormal activity due to the ‘evidence’ that exists and has been ‘accredited’ by Ghost Hunters but, in reality “The facts are twisted forms of multi-media” (Erickson) that discredits the ‘facts’ that stand to manufacture false ideas. There is no paranormal activity; there is only evidence that has been constructed to make the false ideas of paranormal activity seem true.
The location and structure of Waverly Hills Sanatorium itself is instrumental in the creation of the illusion that ghosts exist in providing an explanation for the visitors that seek to find ghosts. The visitors that have hear the doors close in the hospital without any specific explanation as to who closed the door, rather than the reality of what. The hospital is extremely old and the foundation of the hospital has shifted to a slight inclination instead of being on a plane surface. The hospital also has many holes and cracks in the floors, ceiling and walls that have been caused from the exposure to the elements that allows for the air to seep in as it rises up the hill. These elements working in unison creates the illusion that the door is able to close on its own but, in reality the elements and the structure of the building are working together. The “legend” of the hospital being haunted is attributed to the alleged abuse that occurred in Waverly Hills Sanatorium after it closed and re-opened as Woodhaven Medical Services. The possibility of there being paranormal activity does not match up due to there were “infrastructural changes” to the building which caused for the structure of the building to become weaker in the process. The structure of building was compromised and caused for there to be cracks and holes which allowed the elements to reach inside the building. The elements have allowed for animals such as birds and bats to fly into the building, making noise as they sit and fly through the hallways. The noises that the birds and bats make through the hallways can be interpreted as the “spirits” wondering when in fact, they are the sounds of the animals that have wondered into the hospital throughout the years. At times, it looks as though there are figures standing in the halls, the building has no windows but there are loose parts of the buildings structure all over the hospital and the light from the moon are able to be casted through the rooms into the halls. There have been alleged legends concerning Waverly Hills Sanatorium that would prove to be true other than the fact that the structure of the very hospital disproves the “legends” (Society) The most structurally invasive legend of the haunted room of five hundred and two creates the illusion that two nurses (one being twenty nine and pregnant) both committed suicide (one by hanging and one by jumping out of the window). This legend stands as the “proof” (Society) that the hospital is haunted but in fact, the pipe that the nurse allegedly hung herself on was not installed into the building until the sanatorium closed and was re-opened in the early seventies as Woodhaven Geriatric Sanatorium. The legend stands as a mind trick to convince visitors that there were actual suicides that occurred for there to be paranormal activity but, the flaw of the story lies within the structure of the building. The building had been changed from its original state but, later than the ‘legend’ on the nurse committing suicide occurred. The building had been modified with plumbing after the hospital was used as a sanatorium. The structure of the building would not allow for the ‘legend’ to be considered true and has been disproven due to there was not a pipe in which the nurse could have hung herself. The building has disproven many of the ‘facts’ that stand before the visitors of Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Waverly Hills has proven that the only the closest paranormal activity that has occurred, was the structure and location of the building working in unison to create the sense that there is paranormal activity. There is no paranormal activity just illusions that would conclude visitors to believe so.
At the top of Waverly Hill in Louisville, Kentucky there can be found the one and only Waverly Hills Sanatorium, there are many true unfortunate events that took place throughout the buildings history that make the experience eerie and creepy in every sense. The hospital is a truly weird place to visit but nothing abnormally paranormal occurring within the structure. The building has been misinterpreted as a place for paranormal activity and the fact that there have been various fabrications of evidence but there has been more realistic evidence disproving the paranormal activity. Waverly Hills is claimed to be “One of the most haunted places on earth” (Society) but the reality is that Waverly Hills is one of the most misconstrued hoaxes of all time. There are many true facts concerning Waverly Hills Sanatorium and the patients who resided there, all of whom no longer wonder the halls of the hospital. There are historical acts and ‘legends’ that circulate concerning the hospital (mostly twisted facts) that create the sense of ‘paranormal activity’. Since, the building has been misinterpreted through hoaxed illusions (both pictures/videos and the psychological effects) used by the sanatorium are created by the location/structure of the building itself and the psychological affects to make visitors believe that paranormal activity actually exists within the hospital.
The “Terror on the Hill”
By: Hunter Gabbard
The soft whisper of an apparition in the night, a creaking door slammed shut down the hall, and a picture of a faint red haired woman standing in a doorway. These examples are all evidence of ghosts in Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky. This is utter malarkey in some people’s eyes; however, to me it is very real. As a person who has been on the receiving end of some very strange paranormal activity, I had a natural curiosity of one of the most haunted places in the United States.
However, before it was a haunted attraction, it was a hospital dedicated to the treatment of tuberculosis patients in Kentucky. This side does not receive the light that it should and I want to expose what people do not totally understand about this historic place. When Waverly Hills opened in 1911, it was in response to a strong tuberculosis outbreak that had swept through Jefferson County in northern Kentucky. The hospital was erected out in the boondocks of Kentucky where clean country air could be found, which the recommended cure for tuberculosis was at the time (Ransdell and Nation). Tuberculosis was an especially deadly bacterium at the time, especially with no antibiotics. It was an airborne bacterium that attacked the lungs. It involved a particularly nasty, rasping cough, shortness of breath, severe weight loss because of loss of appetite and internal bleeding (Ransdell and Nation).
Originally, Waverly Hills Sanatorium was fairly small, with a small staff. By 1908, it became clear that this tuberculosis outbreak in Northern Kentucky had to be dealt with immediately. A committee of several committed and driven doctors, including Doctors Meyers and Dittmar were assigned to look into a potential building to expand upon (Wilson and Dittmar). Their solution was the already erected Waverly Hills Sanatorium. The committee, with architect Mr. Gaffney, started the expansion with an administrative building to handle all of the paper work, and two pavilions for the treatment of early cases of tuberculosis (Wilson and Dittmar).
In 1910, the Board of Tuberculosis Hospitals recognized the need for a centralized examination office for the diagnosing of tuberculosis. They also saw a need for a supply station and dispensary to deal with shipments of medication and hospital necessities like bandages, swabs and the like (Wilson and Dittmar). The Board also dealt with the treatment of patients before they were to be sent to the sanatorium for further treatment and rest. The Board was not willing to sit around and rest while an outbreak with the magnitude of the one that was hitting Northern Kentucky was happening.
In 1911, Louisville began construction on a new city hospital (Wilson and Dittmar). However, in their plans the Hospital Commissioners saw fit to not include a wing of the hospital for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. As such, the Board for Tuberculosis Hospitals petitioned for a facility specifically for the treatment of tuberculosis patients. The petition was successful and the board received $25,000 for the erection of a hospital for advanced cases of pulmonary tuberculosis (Wilson and Dittmar). The facility then had the capacity to contain and treat up to 50 patients. In the meantime, further construction was approved and the staff was increased to accommodate up to 90 patients, as well as the 400 cases that nurses were treating in house calls around the Louisville area (Wilson and Dittmar).
The hospital grew to include about 170 beds by 1915 and was a great hospital for all of the years that it was open (Wilson and Dittmar). However, in 1946 a new antibiotic was introduced, streptomycin to combat the tuberculosis bacteria. The drug was very effective and because of the steady decline in tuberculosis patients after the drug’s appearance, the hospital went out of business in 1961 (Lefebvre). After the hospital was shut down, it was bought by a new owner who reopened it under the name Woodhaven Medical Services (Lefebvre).
For all of the grandeur and praise that the staff and doctors of Waverly Hills Sanatorium received, Woodhaven Medical Services received the exact opposite. The hospital was open for 21 years before it was shut down in 1982 because of reported patient abuse from a few disgruntled ex-patients (Lefebvre). As for the haunting of the hospital, it is believed that the staff of Woodhaven Medical Services is responsible for some of the spooky tales that come from those grounds. People who visit there believe that the ghosts are there for revenge for what was done to them while they were patients of Woodhaven. However, it is still believed that the haunting has a lot to do with the several hundred patients who died there because of tuberculosis.
My great grandmother was a part of a similar board as that of the Board of Tuberculosis Hospitals. This board was equally as devoted to supplying a competent hospital to patients suffering from tuberculosis. This board was based in Paris, Kentucky and worked towards founding the Paris Tuberculosis Hospital. This hospital is now also known for being haunted, which just supplements the fact that ghosts are present in Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Because my great grandmother, Cecil Lamb passed away when I was 7, I interviewed my grandfather, Gordon Huffer. I had to get a better understanding as to what it may have been like for her while she was working on this board.
From what my grandpa told me, the job that my great grandmother held was very stressful for her (Huffer). My grandpa told me that she would always come home really late and go to bed as soon as she got home. He remembered her being stressed out often from the work load that she was presented with (Huffer). My grandpa told me that her position in the board was to locate funding and to raise the money for the establishment of a permanent tuberculosis facility in Paris (Huffer). She worked hard for the patients because she had firsthand experience with the dangers of tuberculosis when her sister passed away from it in the early 1900’s. She was dedicated to her job and loved doing it.
I had always known that Cecil had been a part of that board, but what I didn’t know was that she was also admitted into the hospital staff as a nurse. My grandpa told me that as soon as she had helped to open the hospital, she began training as a nurse for the hospital (Huffer). This was an especially difficult time for my grandpa because he rarely got to see his mother. Because tuberculosis was so untreatable and deadly, my great grandmother was forced to live in a house for the staff on the hospital’s grounds. This was necessary so that she couldn’t spread the tuberculosis to anyone outside of work (Huffer). Tuberculosis was especially dangerous and deadly, which is why the paranormal stories steming from Waverly Hills are so believable.
There are many rumors and spooky stories surrounding the hospital, the largest rumor being that of the death rate. It is rumored that deaths at the hospital were close to 63,000. This rumor is totally false. Reports and researchers of the hospital have figured that that number is actually closer to around 160 deaths in a single year. This was rare for the hospital to have so many deaths in a single year. Even with the hospital being open until 1981, if 160 people died every year the total death count would be around 11,200 people. That is still a considerable amount of people, but nowhere near the supposed 63,000 that is part of the Waverly Hills urban legend (Conley).
Supposedly the scariest part of the hospital is centered on room 502. There are many myths and superstitions concerned with this room. One of the myths about this room is that there was a crazed patient at the hospital. The patient got upset with one of the nurses and stabbed the nurse to death in room 502. This theory has not been backed up with documentation; however there have been tourists to the hospital who claimed to have seen the patient running out of the front door and down the steps, screaming (Conley).
Another theory, and the more common one of the two surrounding room 502 is that a nurse was impregnated by one of the doctors of the hospital, out of wedlock. This was considered very shameful at the time. Overcome with her predicament, the nurse saw no other option out of her situation other than to hang herself in room 502. To this day people claim to see the red haired woman standing in the doorway of the room. There have even been pictures taken of her while she was standing there. Whichever theory may be true, one thing is for certain, a lot of strange things have been known to go on around and in room 502 (Conley).
For those who don’t know, there are many guards around the hospital to protect it and to make sure that no kids try to sneak into the hospital. These guards are there around the clock and, as one can imagine, they have had some very spooky experiences while patrolling the hospital and its borders. Mike Ransdell got a chance to interview the owners of the hospital, Charles and Tina Mattingly. In his interview the topic of the guards came up, along with some stories that Charles and Tina had heard from them.
One night, a guard was walking around the inside of the building when he swore he saw a woman in a nightgown standing in front of an open window. As he approached this mysterious figure, the woman jumped out of the window. The guard rushed to the window to see if the woman was alright. He peered out of the window only to find that there was no body at the foot of the building. He rushed downstairs to tell the other guards and they immediately searched the premises, but to no avail. They found no body and no evidence to suggest that this woman had jumped to her death, like the guard saw (Ransdell and Nation).
A different night, one of the guards was waiting in the parking lot behind the hospital, waiting for his fellow guards to return with some pizza. As it got darker and darker the guard saw a black hearse approaching him from down the road. The guard thought that he was the target of some cruel practical joke. However, he was not. Two men dressed in white got out of the hearse and ran into the hospital’s morgue on the first floor. They returned a few minutes later carrying a casket. They loaded the casket into the back of the hearse and drove away. At the end of the drive, the guard saw the black hearse vanish into thin air. The guard handed in his resignation that night and was never heard from again by Charles or Tina (Ransdell and Nation). I have had similar paranormal experiences, where things happen that I cannot totally understand or explain. This is what led me to believe that there are ghosts in Waverly Hills.
However, my paranormal experience actually did not happen to me in Waverly Hills. I was all the way in Colorado. My family and I were in town for a family reunion and we stayed at a ragged old resort fairly high up in the mountains. We were assigned a cabin by my grandmother with a couple other families. As were we settling in and getting excited for the coming couple weeks the owner of the resort decided to pop in on us and say hello. At this time, we were told by the landlord that we were staying in a haunted rest cabin. It was used for cowboys seeking refuge after working in mines in the Colorado Mountains. He told us a story about the main cabin in the resort. He said that he lives in that cabin and as he was walking by the front door he saw a man in a cowboy hat and riding chaps standing by the posts on the front porch. As he walked outside to examine further the man disappeared, just like that. I am not a very easy-going person, so this news did not bode well for me.
When we first got to the cabin we had been sitting in a minivan for almost 13 hours so naturally I needed to use the restroom. I went into the kitchen where there was a small bathroom at the back end of it. I went to the closed door, turned the knob and pushed on the door but it did not open for me. It felt as if someone was pushing on the door from the inside of the bathroom. I thought someone might have gotten into it before me, so I apologized and decided to wait for this person to come out so that I could use the restroom. After waiting for a good 20 or 30 minutes I got a little confused. I knocked on the door to see if the person was still in there and maybe I just didn’t see them come out. No one answered my call, so I decided to try and open it again. The door swung free on its hinges when I turned the knob as though I only imagined the resistance on it before.
This happened to me before I had found out that this place was haunted, so I decided to just brush it off at the time. However, looking back on that spooky experience has helped me to realize that maybe there are, in fact, apparitions in this world that have failed to pass on to the next. This is how I know that there are ghosts and apparitions that preside in Waverly Hills Sanatorium.
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium is definitely one of the spookiest places I have ever seen. People know about this frightening place, but they may not know the kinds of things that happened there to make it such a spooky place. I have experience with the paranormal and I know that the reported things that happen are testament to the fact that ghosts exist. The paranormal is very real and in a place like this spooky hospital it becomes all the more terrifying.
Works Cited Page- “The disapproval of paranormal activities at Waverly Hills”
Blum, ML. “Psychology: The Science of Behavior”. New York: Harper and Row, 1971. Second Edition. 34-37. Print.
Carruthers, Peter (George Botterill). “The Philosophy of Psychology”. United Kingdom the University Press, Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1999. 56-57. Print.
Erickson, Jeff. Personal Interview. November 17, 2011.
Harrison, James. Personal Interview. November 12, 2011.
Hiltz, J.E (J.A Myrden). “Breast cancer following multiple fluoroscopies during artificial pneumothorax treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.” Can Med Assoc Journal. 1969 June 14; 100(22): 1032–1034. Print.
Marsching, Jane D. “Orbs, Blobs, and Glows: Astronauts, UFOs, and Photography”. College Art Association. Art Journal , Vol. 62, No. 3 (Autumn, 2003), pp. 56-65. Print.
Society, Waverly Hills Historical. The Real Waverly Hills.com. The Waverly Hills Sanatorium Historical Society, 2010. November 15, 2011.
Works Cited- “The ‘Terror on the Hill’ “
Conley, Mike. “Mike Conley’s Tales of the Weird: Sanatorium has spooky reputation.” The McDowell News 21 October 2009. Document.
Huffer, Gordon. Personal Interview Hunter Gabbard. 12 November 2011.
Lefebvre, Rob. “Louisville, KY – Waverly Hills Sanatorium.” 15 April 2008. Haunted HRM. Web. 8 November 2011.
Ransdell, Mike and John Nation. “Fortress of Fright.” Louisville Magazine October 2001: 28. Magazine.
Wilson, Dunning S and L.J. Dittmar. Report of the Board of Tuberculosis Hospital. Progress Report. Louisville: University of Louisville, 1915. Document.