You’ve decided to investigate Waverly Hills Sanatorium. This is a step-by-step guide to help you navigate one of the most iconic haunted locations in North America. Everything you’ll need to know — recommended gear, how many Red Bulls to pack, the power outlet and restroom locations, and where all the spirits hangout (their names, height and weight, preferential EVP questions, and of course their favorite energy snacks).
Of course I’m lying.
I’m not gonna tell you anything like that. But in my five visits to Waverly, I can offer a few considerations you may find helpful, or at the very least, entertaining.
First off, if you’ve stumbled across this and you have no clue what I’m talking about, here’s a brief Waverly catch-you-up with some info I trolled off Wikipedia. If you’re familiar with the location, feel free to scroll down to How to Survive.
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium is a closed sanatorium located in southwestern Louisville, Kentucky. It opened in 1910 to accommodate tuberculosis patients. The hospital closed in 1962, due to the antibiotic drug streptomycin that lowered the need for such a hospital.
The building was reopened in 1962 as Woodhaven Geriatric Center, a nursing home primarily treating aging patients with various stages of dementia and mobility limits, as well as the severely mentally handicapped. Woodhaven was closed by the state in 1982 allegedly due to patient neglect. Rumors later inaccurately termed Woodhaven as an insane asylum, lending to many urban legends.
A tunnel was constructed beginning on the first floor of the main building and traveling 500 feet 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 (and noise). The tunnel was also used to remove deceased patients at the bottom of the hill and out of sight of living patients.
Some urban legends claim that over 9,000 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. So possibly more or less deaths.
Waverly Hills has been popularized on television shows such as Ghost Hunters, the British show Most Haunted, Paranormal Challenge and Ghost Adventures on Travel Channel. Also popularizing Waverly Hills was the film Spooked: The Ghosts of Waverly Hills Sanatorium, released in 2006, which purports to document paranormal sightings at the site. Waverly is now available for tours and investigations (www.therealwaverlyhills.com).
How to Survive
For paranormal investigators, Waverly is considered an amazing location, and that’s because it is — 100%. It’s became quite a Mecca for paranormal enthusiasts from around the world. The ghostly tales that have came out of there are legendary and lay quite a foundation of haunted historical evidence. The infamous Shadow People, The Creeper, Big Black, the sounds of footsteps following you through the Death Tunnel, the ghost of the nurse that hung herself outside Room 502, and so on. But beyond the paranormal side of things, the facility itself is impressive, as is the hospitality of its owners.
So you ready to go? You have your 200 channel DVR system and a million miles of line? You have a Duracell factory worth of fresh batteries so you can stay charged up and Eveready? Got a black t-shirted troop of militant ghostbusters armed with recorders and protected by white light? Great! I’m sure you’ll have a blast. But from my visits, may I offer some suggestions from what I’ve learned through trial and error?
First off, realize you and your compadres are not TAPS. Don’t beat yourself thinking you need to cover and film every inch of the hospital. Chances are it’s not gonna happen without the support of network television. I have wasted many costly minutes trying to set up cameras and tech down those forever long, dark corridors. Now I’m not saying to have no direction at all (print off a floor plan before you go). Or not to have a gameplan in mind, experiments you want to try — I’m not implying to leave your gear at home either. I’m just cautioning you to be mindful of how enormous Waverly is and do not kill hours of your time trying for the perfect setup because your investigation isn’t going to be perfect.
Isn’t going to be perfect? But I have a new black t-shirt and EMF meter from Spacely Sprockets!
No. Not perfect, no matter what you own gear-wise or what your approach may be. Beyond the raccoons, possums, birds, bats, and other noisy residents I’ve gone toe-to-toe with there, the man-made noise pollution will contaminate every bit of the audio you record. Planes, trains, cars, trucks, motorcycles, river barges — you name it, you’re gonna hear it. Again, not to say you will not catch a Class A EVP, but it is a challenge to establish the difference between a demoniac growl and the howl of an old, muffler-less Ford pickup that’s hauling ass three counties away. You’ll not be able to tag every noise you hear either or you’re gonna sound like an auctioneer at an estate sale.
If Waverly has taught me one thing, it’s take the time to power down, turn your gear off. The amount of personal experiences I’ve had are invaluable to me and my personal growth and spiritual journey seeking answers — the vast majority of those moments have came when the cameras and recorders have been stowed away. I’ve witnessed the Shadow People crossing the halls (3rd and 4th floors). I’ve heard footsteps aggressively run up behind me (4th floor). I watched as a child’s ball came rolling towards me out of the dark down a hallway (1st floor). I felt a video line getting jerked from my hands (5th floor), and so on.
Anomalous occurrences have happened to me so often when my equipment has been turned off, especially at pay-to-play sites, I’m beginning to wonder that after the sheer glut in volume of investigative teams (since Ghost Hunters premiered) tromping in around in the dark, if we’re not the ones doing the haunting. Or, are spirits bored with our redundant questions, annoyed with parlor trick requests, and we’ve possibly left them feeling exploited? And just maybe ghosts think when people offer to cross them over into the light, they feel that those ghost hunters are wacked out (I’d hang my hat on that same sentiment).
The haunting at Waverly is well documented. I’d be amazed if there was any data you could record there to present to the paranormal table that could reiterate that anymore.
Please check it out for yourself, and if you’ve been there before, go back. Be respectful to the spirits and to the building. But do me a slight favor. Go to the far end of the 4th floor and sit down, turn off all your whirly gadgets, your Boo Bear, and let your eyes adjust from going blind because of staring at the damn screen on that new Ovilus 5 you just couldn’t live without. Give it some time. Watch. Listen. Smell. Feel. Let your body be a sensor, let your spirit be the gauge. After all, how often do you get a chance to immerse yourself in an environment that’s that charged by spiritual energy? When you open yourself to personal and physical experience, it’s gonna have a bigger impact than a blip of light on a K2 meter. Trust me. To survive Waverly, to gain fulfillment from your night, play Quiet as a Mouse.
But on the off chance you do get possessed, hopefully your new demonic parasitic pal can help pick winning lotto numbers.
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this post please share it with your friends. The video below is from my Waverly visit summer of 2015.