Waverly Hills Sanatorium is an abandoned hospital located in Louisville, Kentucky that once housed so many tortured souls. This was a place that was built to house tuberculosis patients in hopes of finding a cure and so patients could get back to their lives and their loved ones.
Unfortunately, this was not the case for so many who walked through those doors and some of those souls still linger within its walls.
One of the most advanced tuberculosis hospitals of its time. Waverly Hills Sanatorium was originally on land purchased by Major Thomas H. Hays in 1883. He was in need of a school for his daughters to attend. He built a one-room schoolhouse on the property and hired a teacher named Lizzie Lee Hawkins. She had love for Sir Walter Scott’s “Waverley Novels” and named the school “Waverley Hill.” This is where the Waverly Hills Sanatorium name originated.
Tuberculosis–sometimes called the “White Plague”–was becoming an epidemic in Kentucky. This prompted the construction of Waverly Hills Sanatorium, which began in 1908. The Board of Tuberculosis purchased the land to build the hospital which was originally a 2-story frame designed to accommodate 40-50 Tuberculosis patients safely.
On August 31, 1912, all Tuberculosis patients from the city hospital were relocated to temporary tents located on the grounds of Waverly Hills as the city hospital was overflowing with TB cases and were not equipped to handle the influx of patients.
The expansion of the hospital had begun for advanced cases to house another 40 patients. In 1914, a children’s pavilion was added with another 50 beds. This increased the hospital’s ability to hold 130 patients. The children’s ward was built not only to house the children with tuberculosis, but also children whose parents were stricken with the disease. The Hospital opened July 26, 1910, at full capacity.
Once the patients, doctors and nurses walked into the facility they became residents and lived inside the Sanatorium. This was a self-sustained community with its own zip code. They grew their own food, and had their own radio station.
Sanatoriums at the time were built on high hills surrounded by woods to create peace and a serene atmosphere. It was thought that fresh air, good food, and sunshine would help cure the disease along with competent medical supervision. The staff did all they could to keep the morale high and keep the patients in good spirits. This was also what was thought to keep the patients alive longer and not succumb to the disease.
The procedures tested out on patients by the doctors were as grim as the disease itself. A lot of the patients did not survive these experimental medical practices. A few treatments included Lobectomy and Pneumectomy which involved doctors surgically removing infected parts of the lung and sometimes the entire lung.
Another procedure, Thoracoplasty, was the removal of several rib bones from the chest wall to collapse a lung. During this time, it was common for the average patient to require 7-8 ribs to be removed.
There was also the” Sun-treatment” which theorized that if a patient bathed out in the sun it would help kill the bacteria that caused TB. The doctors would also insert a balloon into the patients’ lungs and fill them with air to help their breathing. Unfortunately, these procedures were ineffective and led to no real cure.
The staff tried to keep patient morale up by allowing their loved ones to visit. There was a visiting day where the patient’s family members could come into the facility and visit their sick loved ones, not knowing at the time this was an airborne disease.
Unfortunately, many of the patients did not make it out alive from Waverly Hills. The mortality rate was about 1 death per day, a number that grew exponentially as the disease spread. In order to prevent patients from seeing the corpses of dead patients, a special chute called “The Body Chute” was built, which allowed the dead to be transported out at night. There was a railroad that went directly behind the Sanatorium, where the chute ended, and the bodies would be loaded onto the train and taken away.
One of the many hauntings reported at Waverly Hills Sanitorium involves a little boy named Timmy who has been seen with a leather ball and is thought to have fallen off the roof where the kids would play. There was an investigation that went on to find out if Timmy was pushed or fell off the roof and nothing was ever decided.
Another story involves Room 502, where the head nurse would stay.
In 1928 she was found dead in her room, allegedly committing suicide by hanging herself from an exposed pipe or light fixture. She was 29 years old, pregnant, and unmarried. Supposedly she was depressed over the situation and took her own life. Another nurse, who was later in Room 502, was thought to have jumped off the top floor to her death, although it is also thought she may have been pushed. There is no evidence to prove either one. These are just a few of the documented hauntings at the Hospital.
The hospital was closed in 1961 after the discovery of the antibiotic, Streptomycin, that cured TB. Once the patients were administered this cure, slowly the hospital was emptied. After the Sanatorium was closed, it was quarantined and then reopened as a geriatric facility called Woodhaven Geriatric Center, for patients with dementia and mobility limitations. which was closed in 1981. The hospital remains closed to this day.