Gallery D

Abandoned Hospital

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The Haunting Of Waverly Hills Sanatorium

By James Donahue

It is said that the empty five-story hospital facility known as Waverly Hills Sanatorium, on a hill southwest of Louisville, Kentucky, may be the most haunted buildings in America. Standing unused and vandalized since the facility closed in 1982, the ghost stories about the place have gained national attention because of various news stories and television documentaries.

Old buildings are often known for the spirits that seem to linger in them. And old deserted hospitals, where people have gone to die, are always known as hangouts for ethereal entities that sometimes appear in empty rooms, at windows or walking down dark hallways. Sometimes they have been captured on film. 

By the very nature of its existence, the Waverly Hills Sanatorium was destined to be a most haunted building. It was used to care for tuberculosis patients from the day the first old wooden structure came into existence in 1910. This was replaced by the massive block and concrete hospital in 1926. An estimated 6,000 patients died at Waverly Hills by the time the antibiotic streptomycin came on the market and brought an end to the horrors of tuberculosis. The center was closed in 1965.

The facility reopened a year later as the Woodhaven Geriatrics Sanitarium, specializing in the care of the elderly. By its very nature it was a place where old people went to die, thus the body count continued to rise. Stories of patient abuse were told and the State of Kentucky shut down the hospital again in 1982.

There is a long concrete tunnel leading from the basement of the sanatorium to the bottom of the hill. It is said the tunnel was designed as a way of secretly rolling out the bodies so patients in the rooms above didn’t notice.
There have been several owners since 1982. There still may be long range plans to refurbish the building as an apartment complex, its occupants can live with the spirits that roam the rooms. There seem to be a lot of them.

There is a story about a six or seven-year-old boy named Timmy who rolls balls around the building. Visitors sometimes bring toy balls with them for the ghost to play with. It is said that sometimes they are rewarded . . . that the new ball rolls around without an visible cause.

There also is a little girl wandering the building. It is said that these children died after being left there years ago, and they don’t realize that they are dead.
Then there is Room 502 where two nurses allegedly committed suicide. The first was the head nurse, allegedly pregnant and unmarried, who hung herself out of shame in 1928. Another nurse was said to have leaped from the fifth floor window from that same room in 1932. Visitors say they have a deep sense of foreboding when they stand in the room.

The ghostly apparition of a man in a white coat and pants reportedly roans the kitchen and cafeteria area. No one knows who he is. They say the smell of food sometimes wafts from the kitchen.

Another ghost that appears as an old woman in chains has been seen at the door. She comes at those who witness her, and there is a distinct feeling that she is crying out for help.

The fourth floor of the building appears to be the most “active” within the building. Ghost hunters and sensitives who walk the building say they see ghostly shadow-like images in the halls and doors frequently slam for no reason.

Psychic Marie St. Claire wrote that she sensed an overwhelming feeling of despair in the building. “I can’t say that there’s necessarily anything evil there, but what I did pick up on was a whole lot of bad feelings and mental pain, which were so strong they made me nauseous. I feel that a lot of this pain came not from the tuberculosis era but from the geriatric era of the hospital.”

Her conclusion: “Waverly is very haunted. I’m not surprised that a place with such a dark history is. I would be more surprised if it wasn’t.”