Waverly Hills Sanatorium is an abandoned hospital located in Louisville, Kentucky, that once hosted so many tormented souls. It is a place built to accommodate tuberculosis patients with the hope of finding a cure and returning to their lives and their loved ones. Unfortunately, this does not happen to so many people who walk through the doors, and some souls are still left inside.
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 needed 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 a love for Sir Walter Scott’s “Waverley Novels” and named the school “Waverley Hill.” This is where the Waverly Hills Sanatorium name originated.
Tuberculosis was becoming an epidemic in Kentucky, is called the “White Plague.” 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 for 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 a self-sustained community where it had its own zip code, grew its own food and had its own radio station.
Sanatoriums at the time did build on high hills surrounded by woods to create peace and a serene atmosphere. It 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. It thought to keep the patients alive longer and not succumb to the disease.
The procedures that were tested out on patients by the doctors were as grim as the disease itself. With no cure at the time, the doctors thought of many different procedures to try to cure the disease. A lot of the patients did not survive these experimental medical practices. A few treatments included Lobectomy and Pneumectomy which was where doctors surgically removed 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,” this was the theory that if a patient bathed out in the sun this 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, eventually leading to more deaths per day in the peak of the disease.
Another thought by the staff to keep morale up with the patients was that they needed a way to carry the bodies out of sight. A special chute called “The Body Chute” was built, which allowed the dead to be transported out at night so the patients would not see how many people died. 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 hauntings that are said to be experienced here is 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, it was left unsolved.
Another story is in 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 due to the discovery of the antibiotic, Streptomycin, that cured TB. However, the cure was not available to reach the patients of Waverly Hills until 1949. Once the patients were administered this cure, slowly the hospital was emptied. Once the Sanatorium was closed, it was quarantined and then reopened as a geriatric facility called Woodhaven Geriatric Center, a facility for patients with dementia and mobility limitations. which was closed in 1981. The hospital remains closed to this day.