The Haunted Hospital

Waverly Hills Sanatorium has been a TB hospital, a nursing home, a failed religious monument, and now a paranormal investigation site.

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Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky opened in 1910 to treat tuberculosis patients. In 1911, the new City Hospital relocated all of their TB cases to Waverly Hills, which had erected tents on the grounds to accomodate the overflow. Buildings were added to the institution in 1912, 1916, and 1926. A dedicated staff worked with thousands of TB patients, often contracting the disease themselves. After World War II, the need for a TB sanatorium waned until the hospital closed in 1961.

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Estimates vary, and records have been destroyed, but there may have been as many as 64,000 deaths at Waverly Sanatorium. Tuberculosis, also known as consumption, or "the white plague", had a high mortality rate before streptomycin was introduced as a treatment in 1943. The most common treatment at the time was sunlight, fresh air, and nutritious food. Surgical intervention, including removal of ribs and/or parts of the lungs, was reserved for patients close to death. However, many people owe their lives to the care they received at Waverly Hills.

More Waverly Hills haunted history, after the jump.

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There is an underground tunnel from the sanatorium to the bottom of the hill. Originally a heating duct, this tunnel was also used by the staff to climb the hill in bad weather. During the TB years, this tunnel was also used to transport the dead, so they wouldn't be seen by other patients. The tunnel, also known as "the body chute", was serviced by a winch which hauled supplies up the hill and lowered gurneys with bodies down to the bottom. The tunnel is supposed to be haunted by those who made their last journey through it.

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The tunnel was the subject of the 2005 movie The Death Tunnel. In the film, five college girls fulfill an initiation rite by spending the night in the haunted institution. You can imagine what follows. A documentary named Spooked was also made during the filming of The Death Tunnel.

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There have been reported ghost sightings in Room 502 at the sanatorium, particularly the ghost of a nurse in uniform. There are two legends concerning the room: a nurse committed suicide by jumping out the window, and a nurse who hanged herself in room 502 because she was single and pregnant. Neither story is documented, but neither is completely discounted. Other accounts tell of ghostly appearances by a little girl named Mary and a little boy named Bobby in other areas of the hospital.

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The institution was reopened as WoodHaven Medical Services, a geriatrics hospital in 1962, but closed in 1980 under allegations of patient abuse. Robert Alberhasky bought the property in 1996 with plans to to erect the world's tallest statue of Jesus and a religious center. The statue would have been based on the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, only 20 feet taller. When the plans fell through due to funding problems, Alberhasky, upset that the remaining building was protected by the Historical Register, tried to have the building condemned. He went as far as using a bulldozer to undermine the foundation, but the building refused to collapse.

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Tina and Charlie Mattingly bought the property in 2001 with the aim of completely restoring it. The hospital was deteriorating badly when they took possession. In the first few years of possession, the Mattinglys removed the asbestos and replaced 100 broken windows. Haunted tours helped raise money for the restoration project, which will eventually include a bed-and-breakfast.

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Waverly Hills became known outside of the area when the TV series The Scariest Places on Earth profiled the institution in 2001. Since then, it has become a popular destination for paranormal investigators. Even those who don't believe in ghosts enjoy the site for its history, its controversy, or for its popularity. According to the Waverly Hills Historical Society, guided tours and overnight stays are booked up for the rest of this year. If you want to visit, make your plans early!

The TV show Ghost Hunters did a program on Waverly Hills in March of 2006, which is available in several parts on YouTube. The SciFi Channel series returns to Kentucky this week and will broadcast live from the Waverly Hills Sanatorium Wednesday (Halloween) beginning at 9PM EDT.

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