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The Frightening Story of Kentucky’s Waverly Sanitarium

Are you tired of dragging your family to the same boring vacation spots? Look no further than the lovely historic Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky. Located at 4400 Paralee Avenue, this site has been featured on several paranormal shows such as GHOST HUNTERS and SCARIEST PLACES ON EARTH as one of the most haunted sites in the eastern United States. And now you and your loved ones can book an overnight stay which includes an 8-hour private investigation, shower/bathroom accommodations, and perhaps a few disembodied visitors.

Originally the home of Major Thomas H. Hays beginning in 1883, the property was called Waverly Hill after a schoolhouse that Hays’ had opened with the name inspired by the WAVERLEY novels written by classical author Walter Scott. By the early 1900s, the Louisville area was devastated by a tuberculosis epidemic and the Louisville City Hospital was quickly filled beyond capacity. In July 1910, the Board of Tuberculosis Hospital purchased the home of Hays, maintaining the name Waverly Hill which eventually became Waverly Hills. The former family home was converted into a two-story hospital where the more severe tuberculosis cases were transferred.

Shortly after the opening of the new hospital, a children’s wing was added to the building for young ones suffering from the disease as well as the dependents of those suffering who could not be left to fend for themselves. Continuing to expand, a new five-story, 400-bed building opened at the hospital in 1926. By this time, the sanatorium was a fully functional quarantined community complete with a water treatment plant, post office, fruit and vegetable garden, and livestock. Not even the doctors and nurses were allowed to leave the premises post-entry.

The treatments that were administered to the hundreds of tuberculosis patients at the time were just as severe as the sickness itself. In minor cases, patients were placed next to open windows as it was thought that fresh air was a natural cure for bacteria. Some doctors would even dabble in heliotherapy, exposing a patient’s lungs to ultraviolet lighting under the assumption that it would contain the bacteria. Of course, treating the most life-threatening cases of the disease became a rather bloody procedure. In these cases, inflated balloons were sometimes surgically inserted into the patient’s lungs in hopes of lung expansion. Other techniques involved removing ribs or muscle tissue near the lungs.

Nearly 20 years later, streptomycin, a revolutionary antibiotic, was introduced and tuberculosis cases became more and more rare until the hospital closed in 1961. While many were successfully cured by this miracle drug, countless patients made a darker exit from the hospital… through the “body chute.” With more corpses than Waverly Hills could handle, the body chute was a tunnel that linked the hospital directly to railroad tracks at the end of the hill upon which the hospital sat. The bodies were piled onto a motorized cart on rails and loaded onto the train tracks as quietly as possible to keep the rest of the patients from losing hope.

Waverly Hills soon became the talk of Louisville locals with varying stories of ghost sightings on the premises. Some have seen a young girl running around the third floor of the sanatorium, others have reported a woman with bloody wrists calling out to them for help. But it is the fifth floor, the unit for the clinically insane, that has received the most speculation. It is believed that Room 502 in particular was the site of multiple nurse suicides. Many have reported the sounds of doors slamming and strange lights appearing, and have heard voices pleading them to “get out.”

Over the years, the former hospital underwent numerous changes of hands. Finally, in 2001, Waverly Hills was bought by Charlie and Tina Mattingly, who have been holding haunted tours at the sanatorium ever since. At first, tours were strictly held on Halloween night but with the increasing popularity of the haunted house attraction, tours have become more frequent. And beginning in 2016, overnight stays have been added to the already busy calendar. The Mattinglys have applied proceeds from the tours toward maintenance and restoration of the building. So, grab your sleeping bags and pay a visit to Waverly Hills… and pray that you make it to checkout time.

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