CLOSE
Original image

The Haunted Hospital

Original image

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

435_waverlypostcard.jpg

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.

435treatment.jpg

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.

435_waverlytunnel.jpg

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.

435_DeathTunnelmovie.jpg

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.

435_room502.jpg

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.

435ChristTheRedeeemer.jpg

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.

435waverlyrestoration.jpg

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.

435_Waverlyfront.jpg

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. The SciFi Channel series returned to Kentucky and did a live broadcast on Halloween night.

Original image
Getty Images (Johnson) / iStock (ghosts)
arrow
History
When Lexicographer Samuel Johnson Became a Ghostbuster
Original image
Getty Images (Johnson) / iStock (ghosts)

Dr. Samuel Johnson is today best known for his Dictionary of the English Language (1755), which remained the foremost authority on the English language until the Oxford English Dictionary appeared more than a century later. The dictionary took Johnson nine years to complete, for which he was paid the princely sum of 1500 guineas—equivalent to $300,000 (or £210,000) today. Although it wasn’t quite the commercial success its publishers hoped it would be, it allowed Johnson the freedom to explore his own interests and endeavors: He spent several years editing and annotating his own editions of all of Shakespeare’s plays, and traveled extensively around Britain with his friend (and eventual biographer) James Boswell—and, in 1762, helped to investigate a haunted house.

Johnson—who was born on this day in 1709 and is the subject of today's Google Doodle—had a lifelong interest in the paranormal, once commenting that he thought it was “wonderful” that it was still “undecided whether or not there has ever been an instance of the spirit of any person appearing after death. All argument is against it, but all belief is for it.” According to Boswell, however, he was more of a skeptic than an out-and-out believer, and refused to accept anything without seeing the evidence for himself. So when the news broke of an apparently haunted house just a few streets away from his own home in central London, Johnson jumped at the chance to perhaps see a ghost with his own eyes.

The haunting began in the early 1760s, when a young couple, William and Fanny Kent, began renting a room from a local landlord, Richard (or William—sources disagree, but for clarity, we'll use Richard) Parsons, at 25 Cock Lane in Smithfield, London. Soon after the Kents moved in, Richard’s daughter, Betty, began to hear strange knocking and scratching sounds all around the house, and eventually claimed to have seen a ghost in her bedroom.

Richard soon discovered that William was a widower and that Fanny was in fact his deceased wife's sister; under canon law, the pair couldn't be married, and Richard became convinced that the ghost must be that of William's deceased first wife, Elizabeth, blaming William’s presence in the house for all of the strange occurrences. He promptly evicted the Kents and the noises soon subsided—but when Fanny also died just a few weeks later, they immediately resumed and again seemed to center around Betty. In desperation, a series of séances were held at the Cock Lane house, and finally Fanny’s ghost supposedly confirmed her presence by knocking on the table. When questioned, Fanny claimed that William had killed her by poisoning her food with arsenic—an accusation William understandably denied.

By now, news of the Cock Lane Ghost had spread all across the city, and when the story broke in the press, dozens of curious Londoners began turning up at the house, queuing for hours outside in the street hoping to see any sign of supernatural activity. According to some accounts, Parsons even charged visitors to come in and “talk” to the ghost, who would communicate with knocks and other disembodied noises.

But with the suspicion of murder now in the air, the Cock Lane haunting changed from a local curiosity into a full-blown criminal investigation. A committee was formed to examine the case, and Johnson was brought in to record their findings and investigate the case for himself.

On February 1, 1762, one final séance was held with all members of the committee—Johnson included—in attendance. He recorded that:

About 10 at night the gentlemen met in the chamber in which the girl [Betty] supposed to be disturbed by a spirit had, with proper caution, been put to bed by several ladies. They sat rather more than an hour, and hearing nothing, went down stairs, when they interrogated the father of the girl, who denied, in the strongest terms, any knowledge or belief of fraud … While they were enquiring and deliberating, they were summoned into the girl’s chamber by some ladies who were near her bed, and who had heard knocks and scratches. When the gentlemen entered, the girl declared that she felt the spirit like a mouse upon her back.

But the committee were suspicious. Betty was asked to hold out her hands in front of her, in sight of everyone in the room:

From that time—though the spirit was very solemnly required to manifest its existence by appearance, by impression on the hand or body of any present, by scratches, knocks, or any other agency—no evidence of any preternatural power was exhibited.

Johnson ultimately concluded that it was “the opinion of the whole assembly that the child has some art of making or counterfeiting a particular noise, and that there is no agency of any higher cause.” And he was right.

As the investigation continued, it was eventually discovered that Richard Parsons had earlier borrowed a considerable amount of money from William Kent that he had no means (nor apparently any intention) of repaying. The two men had a falling out, and Parsons set about elaborately framing Kent for both Fanny and Elizabeth's deaths. The ghostly scratching and knocking noises had all been Betty’s work; she hidden a small wooden board into the hem of her clothing with which to tap or scratch on the walls or furniture when prompted.

The Parsons—along with a servant and a preacher, who were also in on the scam—were all prosecuted, and Richard was sentenced to two years in prison.

Although the Cock Lane haunting turned out to be a hoax, Johnson remained open minded about the supernatural. “If a form should appear,” he later told Boswell, “and a voice tell me that a particular man had died at a particular place, and a particular hour, a fact which I had no apprehension of, nor any means of knowing, and this fact, with all its circumstances, should afterwards be unquestionably proved, I should, in that case, be persuaded that I had supernatural intelligence imparted to me.”

Original image
The King of Kong © Jim Naughten. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery
arrow
geography
The Mountains of Kong: The Majestic West African Range That Never Existed
Original image
The King of Kong © Jim Naughten. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

If you look closely at a 19th century map of Africa, you’ll notice one major way that it differs from contemporary maps, one that has nothing to do with changing political or cartographical styles. More likely than not, it features a mountain range that no longer appears on modern maps, as WIRED explains. Because it never existed in the first place.

A 19th century map of West Africa
From Milner's Descriptive Atlas, 1850

The “Mountains of Kong” appeared on almost every major commercial map of Africa in the 1800s, stretching across the western part of the continent between the Gulf of Guinea and the Niger River. This mythical east-west mountain range is now the subject of an art exhibition at London’s Michael Hoppen Gallery.

In "Mountains of Kong," stereoscopic images by artist Jim Naughten—the same format that allowed Victorians with wanderlust to feel like they’d seen the world—reveal his view of the world of wildlife that might have existed inside the imagined mountains. As the gallery describes it, “he imagines a fictitious record made for posterity and scientific purposes during an expedition of the mountain range.” We’ve reproduced the images here, but to get the full effect, you’ll have to go to the gallery in person, where you can view them in 3D with a stereoscope (like the ones you no doubt played with as a kid).

Toucans fight a snake in two almost-identical side-by-side images.
The Toucans © Jim Naughten. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

Naughten created the images by taking two photographs for each, and moving the camera over some 3 inches for the second photo to make a stereoscopic scene. The landscapes were created by shooting images of Scottish and Welsh mountains and dioramas in natural history museums, using Photoshop to change the hues of the images to make them seem more otherworldly. His blue-and-pink-hued images depict fearsome apes, toucans sparring with snakes, jagged peaks, and other scenes that seem both plausible and fantastical at the same time.

The Mountains of Kong appeared in several hundred maps up until the 20th century. The first, in 1798, was created by the prominent geographer James Rennell to accompany a book by Scottish explorer Mungo Park about his first journey to West Africa. In it, Park recounts gazing on a distant range, and “people informed me, that these mountains were situated in a large and powerful kingdom called Kong.” Rennell, in turn, took this brief observation and, based on his own theories about the course of the Niger River, drew a map showing the mountain range that he thought was the source of the river. Even explorers who later spent time in the area believed the mountains existed—with some even claiming that they crossed them.

Two colobuses stand in a tree on a mountaintop.
The Colobus © Jim Naughten. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

The authority of the maps wasn’t questioned, even by those who had been to the actual territory where they were depicted as standing. Writers began to describe them as “lofty,” “barren,” and “snow-covered.” Some said they were rugged granite peaks; others described them as limestone terraces. In almost all cases, they were described as “blue.” Their elevation ranged from 2500 feet to 14,000 feet, depending on the source. Over the course of the 19th century, “there was a general southward ‘drift’ in the location,” as one pair of scholars put it.

Though geographers cast some doubt on the range’s existence as time went on, the Mountains of Kong continued to appear on maps until French explorer Louis-Gustave Binger’s Niger River expedition between 1887 and 1889, after which Binger definitively declared their nonexistence.

By 1891, the Mountains of Kong began dropping off of maps, though the name Kong still appeared as the name of the region. By the early 20th century, the mountains were gone for good, fading into the forgotten annals of cartographic history.

[h/t WIRED]

All images courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios