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The Waverly Hills Sanatorium (or Sanitarium) is a closed sanatorium located in southwestern Louisville/ Jefferson County, Kentucky. It opened in 1910 as a two-story hospital to accommodate 40 to 50 tuberculosis patients. In the early 1900s, Jefferson County was ravaged by an outbreak of tuberculosis (the "White Plague") which prompted the construction of a new hospital. The hospital closed in 1962, due to the antibiotic drug streptomycin that lowered the need for such a hospital. Waverly Hills has been popularized on paranormal television as being one of the "most haunted" hospitals in the eastern United States. The sanatorium was featured on ABC/ FOX Family Channel's Scariest Places On Earth , VH1's Celebrity Paranormal Project , Syfy's Ghost Hunters , Zone Reality's Creepy , the British show Most Haunted , and Ghost Adventures on Travel Channel. Plans have been developed to convert the sanatorium into a four star hotel which will cater to the haunted hotel crowd as well regular hotel patrons.

The land that is today known as Waverly Hill was purchased by Major Thomas H. Hays in 1883 as the Hays' family home. Since the new home was far away from any existing schools, Mr. Hays decided to open a local school for his daughters to attend. He started a one-room schoolhouse on Pages Lane and hired Lizzie Lee Harris as the teacher. Due to Miss Harris' fondness for Walter Scott's Waverley novels, she named the schoolhouse Waverley School. Major Hays liked the peaceful-sounding name, so he named his property Waverley Hill. The Board of Tuberculosis Hospital kept the name when they bought the land and opened the sanatorium. It is not known exactly when the spelling changed to exclude the second "e" and became Waverly Hills. However the spelling fluctuated between both spellings many times over the years.

Original sanatorium
In the early 20th century, Jefferson County was severely stricken with an outbreak of tuberculosis. There were many tuberculosis cases in Louisville at the time because of all the swampland, which was perfect for the tuberculosis bacteria. To try to contain the disease, a two-story wooden sanatorium was opened which consisted of an administrative/main building and two open air pavilions, each housing 20 patients, for the treatment of "early cases". "In the early part of 1911, the city of Louisville began to make preparations to build a new Louisville City Hospital, and the hospital commissioners decided in their plans that there would be no provision made in the new City Hospital for the admission of pulmonary tuberculosis, and the Board of Tuberculosis Hospital was given $25,000 to erect a hospital for the care of advanced cases of pulmonary tuberculosis". On August 22, 1911, all tuberculosis patients from the City Hospital were relocated to temporary quarters in tents on the grounds of Waverly Hills pending the completion of a hospital for advanced cases. In December 1912 a hospital for advanced cases opened for the treatment of another 50 patients. In 1916 a children’s pavilion added another 40 beds making the known “capacity” around 130 patients. This report also mentions that the goal was to add a new building each year to continually grow so there may have even been more beds available than specifically listed.

Sanatorium expansions
Due to constant need for repairs on the wooden structures, need for a more durable structure, as well as need for more beds so that people would not be turned away due to lack of space, construction of a five-story building that could hold more than 400 patients began in March 1924. The new building opened on October 17, 1926, but after the introduction of streptomycin in 1943, the number of tuberculosis cases gradually lowered, until there was no longer need for such a large hospital. The remaining patients were sent to Hazelwood Sanatorium in Louisville. Waverly Hills closed in June 1962.

Woodhaven Medical Services
The building was reopened in 1962 as Woodhaven Geriatrics Hospital. Woodhaven was closed in 1981 allegedly due to patient abuse. Rumors say that during this time patients were treated for mental illness, and the term insane asylum and other similar terms have been used to describe the hospital during those years.

A tunnel was constructed at the same time as the main building beginning on the first floor and traveling 500 feet (150 m) to the bottom of the hill. One side had steps to allow workers to enter and exit the hospital without having to walk a dangerous, steep hill. The other side had a set of rails and a cart powered by a motorized cable system so that supplies could easily be transported to the top. Air ducts leading from the roof of the tunnel to above ground level were incorporated every hundred feet to let in light and fresh air. Treatment mainly consisted of heat lamps, fresh air, high spirits, and reassurances of an eventual full recovery as antibiotics had yet to be discovered in the early days of the sanatorium. Once tuberculosis hit its peak, deaths were occurring about one every other day. The sight of the dead being taken away in view of patients was not good for morale which plummeted, causing them to lose hope or the will to live and become depressed, which only contributed more to the death rate. With deaths occurring at such a high rate, the tunnel took on another use, and when patients died, the bodies were placed on the cart and lowered to the bottom where a hearse would be waiting to be take them away discreetly, out of patient view, saving morale.The doctors also thought this would combat the disease and keep it from spreading.

Recent developments

Simpsonville developer J. Clifford Todd bought the hospital in 1983 for $305,000. He and architect Milton Thompson wanted to convert it into a minimum-security prison for the state, but the developers dropped the plan after neighbors protested. Todd and Thompson then proposed converting the hospital into apartments, but they counted on Jefferson Fiscal Court to buy around 140 acres (0.57 km 2) from them for $400,000, giving them the money to start the project.

In March 1996, Robert Alberhasky bought Waverly Hills and the surrounding area. Alberhasky's Christ the Redeemer Foundation Inc. made plans to construct the world's tallest statue of Jesus on the site, along with an arts and worship center. The statue, which was inspired by the famed Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, would have been designed by local sculptor Ed Hamilton and architect Jasper Ward. The first phase of the development, coming in at a cost of $4,000,000, would have been a statue of 150 feet (46 m) tall and 150 feet (46 m) wide, situated on the roof of the sanatorium. The second phase would convert the old sanatorium into a chapel, theater, and a gift shop at a cost of $8,000,000 or more. The plan to construct this religious icon fell through because donations to the project fell well short of expectations. In a period of a year, only $3,000 was raised towards the effort despite efforts to pool money from across the nation. The project was canceled in December 1997.

After Alberhasky's efforts failed, Waverly Hills was sold to Tina and Charlie Mattingly in 2001. The Mattinglys hold tours of Waverly Hills and host a haunted house attraction each Halloween, with proceeds going toward restoration of the property.

Private property
The building and surrounding property are now private property with multiple security measures. "No Trespassing" signs are posted throughout the property. Surveillance cameras are installed on the property, including the exterior and interior of the building. Volunteer security guards watch the site around the clock. Since December 2008, plans have been made to turn the building into a four star hotel and restore the fourth floor to its original condition.

Much of the following information comes from a hand drawn map and accompanying pages of building descriptions that were obtained from the Waverly Herald. The exact date is not on the pages that were acquired however it is estimated that it was from the May 1953 issue.
  • Map
  • Map key page 1
  • Map key page 2
Originally the home of the Hayes family, this building was already standing when the land was purchased in 1908. It was used by the sanatorium as a nurses dormitory, and later as staff housing. It was eventually destroyed by fire. See No.15 on the above map The original wooden structure, opened on July 26, 1910, was an administrative building which contained offices, treatment rooms, and a kitchen. It was torn down due to its poor condition. The wooden pavilion buildings were built at various times in the operation of the sanatorium. The first two were standing in 1910 when the original sanatorium opened. One housed 20-25 male patients, the other 20-25 female patients. Later, with the construction of the new Main building, the southernmost pavilion building was moved to the parking lot to make room for the north wing. This building was used as housing for male staff members. See numbers 3 & 11 on the above maps. Also see 2,12,13 for additional pavilion type buildings on the property. This two story structure opened December 18, 1912 and was designed to care for 50 advanced cases of pulmonary tuberculosis. Later, with the opening of the Main building, this building became the Colored Hospital, and later still was used as staff housing. See No.21 on the above map This building was given an official opening ceremony and dedication on October 20, 1926. It was considered state of the art. It is one of the few buildings still standing on the property.


Room 502
An episode of the Sci-Fi Channel television show Ghost Hunters featured the cast's investigation of Waverly Hills, including a local myth about the death of a nurse by murder or suicide in Room 502. Legend says the nurse found out she was pregnant without being married, so she hung herself in the room she was in at the time. The room was also investigated by the show Ghost Adventures in 2010, in which they used a special device called a REM-Pod to detect spirit activity.

Death rate
Some urban legends claim that "63,000 deaths" occurred at the Sanatorium. According to Assistant Medical Director Dr. J. Frank W. Stewart, the highest number of deaths in a single year at Waverly Hills was 152. Stewart wrote that the worst time for deaths was at the end of the Second World War when troops were returning from overseas with very advanced tuberculosis cases. Some independent researchers suggest that since 162 people died at Waverly Hills in 1945, the highest total number of deaths possible over 50 years was approximately 8,212.

"Body chute" or "Death tunnel"
According to one urban legend, the tunnel was a "body chute" where dead patients were tossed, and a body thrown in would make it to the bottom by simple gravity. But actually, the dead patients were strapped onto a gurney and by a rope and pulley system the gurneys were rolled to the bottom and transferred to a hearse. This was done to keep the morale high in the remaining patients.

Waverly Hills in entertainment
  • The Syfy Channel show Ghost Hunters features two episodes that took place at Waverly Hills Sanatorium, March 29, 2006, and October 31, 2007, (a live Halloween special).
  • On July 19, 2001, ABC Family's Scariest Places On Earth was taped at Waverly Hills by Triage Entertainment featuring noted ghosthunter Jay Gravatte.
  • In 2004, the horror film Death Tunnel and the documentary Spooked were filmed at Waverly Hills. Death Tunnel was released by Sony Pictures on February 28, 2006. Spooked premiered on June 7, 2006 on the SciFi Channel.
  • The VH1 celebreality show Celebrity Paranormal Project which premiered on October 22, 2006 was recorded at Waverly Hills.
  • A portion of the documentary Haunted, set to premiere in 2007, was filmed at Waverly Hills.
  • Terror Normal, a paranormal investigative series, filmed "Episode 1: The Ghosts of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium" in December 2006, and was released in February 2007.
  • A French comic book series, Pandemonium by Christophe Bec and Stefano Raffaele, is based on the paranormal events supposed to have occurred at Waverly Hills Sanatorium.
  • On October 31, 2003, the 39 minute radio show Live From Waverly Hills was supposedly broadcast "live" on 91.9 WFPK-FM (Louisville, Kentucky) from a "secret room" of the sanatorium. The cast included a station on-air personality, a ghost hunter, two station interns, a professor of medical history, and a medium who conducted an on-air seance. By the end of the seance, it became clear that it was actually an edited and fictional taped drama (the professor, interns, and medium were actors) as the characters attempted to escape from malevolent forces. Although the show was recorded in WFPK's studio, it did include sound effects made on location from Waverly Hills. The show was written, directed and produced by Adam Watson.
  • An episode of Most Haunted aired on November 25, 2008 featuring Yvette Fielding and her team of investigators who claim to have witnessed various phenomenon and had scratches inflicted on one during their 24 hours spent at the sanatorium.
  • The sanatorium and its legend were featured in a special Halloween documentary on French TV TF1, on October 31, 2009. It was entitled Soirée de l'étrange ("Strange Evening").
  • On October 2, 2010, the Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures broadcast a paranormal investigation in the building.

Sounds of the Underground music festival
Waverly Hills Sanatorium hosted the last show of the touring music festival Sounds of the Underground 2007 on August 11. The show featured prominent acts in the extreme metal and metalcore scene, including Job for a Cowboy, The Acacia Strain, Hatebreed, Shadows Fall, Chimaira, GWAR, Lamb of God and The Number Twelve Looks Like You. Similar festivals or concerts will likely not happen again at the Waverly Hills Sanatorium, due to complaints made by local residents.

Building Activity

  • updated a digital reference and removed 2 media
    about 6 years ago via