Waverly Hills Sanatorium: Wikis


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Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Sanatorium Historic Buildings
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
Waverly Hills Sanatorium main entrance
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Architect: Gaffney, J. J.; Murphy, D. X.
Architectural style(s): Other
Governing body: State
MPS: Jefferson County MRA
Added to NRHP: July 12, 1983
NRHP Reference#: 83002746[1]

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium, located in southwestern Louisville-Jefferson County, Kentucky, opened in 1910 as a two-story hospital to accommodate 40 to 50 tuberculosis patients. In the early 1900s, Jefferson County, Kentucky was ravaged by an outbreak of the "White Plague" (Tuberculosis). The plague caused a hospital to be built on the site of Waverly Hill. The hospital was named the Waverly Hills Sanatorium and it was open for twenty years, treating patients with the then uncurable disease. Although it was considered the best site for treating the disease, the procedures were primitive and grisly. The doctors could not treat the disease, so they tried their best, removing organs, and trying to find a cure. Tuberculosis ravaged the mind, and caused some patients to go insane. More than 6,000 patients died during the two decades that the Sanatorium was open. The infamous body chute was a tunnel and was used for transporting bodies to the graveyard. They thought this would prevent the spread of the disease, and leave the patients from seeing death. The hospital closed in 1962, due to an antibiotic drug that lowered the need for such a hospital. But it remains as a landmark and one of the most haunted hospitals in America.

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, and the British show Most Haunted.

The current plan for the sanatorium is to turn it into a four star hotel that will cater to the haunted hotel crowd as well regular hotel patrons.[2]



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 now so far away from any existing schools, Mr. Hays decided to open a local school for his daughters to attend.[3] He started a one-room schoolhouse on Pages Lane, and hired Lizzie Lee Harris as the teacher.[4] Miss Harris loved her tiny school nestled against the hillside, and remembered her fondness for Walter Scott's Waverley novels, so she named her little school house "Waverley School".[5] Major Hays liked the peaceful-sounding name, so he named his property "Waverley Hill" and the Board of Tuberculosis Hospital kept the name when they bought the land and opened the sanatorium.[6] 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.[7][8][9]


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". [3]

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.[10][11]
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[12] making the known “capacity” around 130 patients.[13] 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 wouldn’t be turned away due to lack of space,[14] 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, which was also located in Louisville, and 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. Urban myths say that during this time patients were treated for mental problems 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 traverse a dangerous, steep hill on foot. 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 TB hit its peak and deaths were occurring about 1 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. The doctors also thought this would combat the disease and keep it from spreading. 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. Sometimes the bodies were dragged, other times thrown to the bottom. Because of this, it was nicknamed the "Body Chute", or "Death Tunnel".

Recent developments


"Simpsonville developer J. Clifford Todd bought the old 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 km2) from them for $400,000, giving them the money to start the project."[15]


Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro

In March 1996, Robert Alberhasky bought Waverly Hills and the surrounding area. Alberhasky's Christ the Redeemer Foundation Inc. had plans to construct the world's tallest statue of Jesus on the Waverly 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.[16]

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.[17]

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.[17]

As a result, Alberhasky abandoned the Waverly Hills property. In order to recoup some of his costs, Alberhasky attempted to have the property condemned so that it could be torn down and redeveloped. That notion was denied by the county, and James Melvin then attempted to undermine the structural foundations of Francesca by bulldozing around the southern perimeter in order to receive insurance money.[16]


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.[18][19]

Private property

The building and surrounding property are now private property with multiple security measures. "No Trespassing" signs are posted throughout the property. Security cameras are installed in various spots on the property, including the exterior and interior of the building. Further, volunteer security guards watch the site around the clock.[citation needed]

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.


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 dorm, and later as staff housing. It was eventually destroyed by fire.
See No.15 on the above map

Original sanatorium

The original wooden structure, opened in July 26, 1910, was an administrative building which contained offices, treatment rooms, and a kitchen. It was torn down due to its poor condition. [4]

Pavilion buildings

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.

Hospital for advanced cases

This two story structure opened December 18, 1912 [5] 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

Main building

October 20, 1926, was the official opening ceremony and dedication of the new building. This state of the art building is one of the few buildings still standing on the land.


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 she caught tuberculosis, and did not want to go painfully, so she hung herself in the room she was in at the time. 502.[20]

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.[21] Some independent researchers have suggested that 162 people died at Waverly Hills in 1945, so the highest total number of deaths possible over 50 years was approximately 8,212.[22][23]

"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. Once TB hit its peak and deaths were occurring about 1 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. The doctors also thought this would combat the disease and keep it from spreading. 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 take the bodies away discreetly, and out of patient view, saving morale. Sometimes the bodies were dragged to the bottom.

Waverly Hills in entertainment

  • The October 31, 2007, live Halloween special of SciFi Channel show Ghost Hunters took place at Waverly Hills Sanatorium.[24]
  • On July 19, 2001, ABC Family's Scariest Places On Earth was taped at Waverly Hills by Triage Entertainment.
  • In 2004, the movie, Death Tunnel and the documentary Spooked, were filmed at Waverly Hills. Death Tunnel was released by Sony Pictures on February 28, 2006.
  • The March 29, 2006, episode of the SciFi Channel show Ghost Hunters was taped at Waverly Hills.
  • The documentary Spooked premiered on June 7, 2006 at 9:00PM EDT on the SciFi Channel.
  • The VH1 Celebreality show Celebrity Paranormal Project which premiered on October 22, 2006 was taped 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 sanitorium.
  • 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 ").

Sounds of the Underground

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, as seen in this Courier Journal article:

Courier Journal
Wednesday, August 22, 2007 "PLEASURE RIDGE PARK
Waverly Hills rock concert was its last
Neighbors outraged by noise, vulgarities"

Which went on to say:

There will be no more loud rock concerts at the old Waverly Hills hospital in Pleasure Ridge
Park like the one on Aug. 11 that upset nearby residents, metro officials say.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. http://www.nr.nps.gov/. 
  2. ^ Davis, Alex. Spooky Waverly Hills may return as hotel Courier-Journal August 7, 2008
  3. ^ article from Waverly Herald, circa 1953 paragraph 7 line 1
  4. ^ article from Waverly Herald, circa 1953 paragraph 7 line 6
  5. ^ article from Waverly Herald, circa 1953 paragraph 9 line 4
  6. ^ article from Waverly Herald, circa 1953 paragraph 11
  7. ^ Postcard (with 2nd E) Located in display case in the laundry building at Waverly.[1]
  8. ^ Postcard (without 2nd E)
  9. ^ Endowment booklet (with 2nd E) -
  10. ^ History of Waverly Hills from the Waverly Herald, pages 3 & 4
  11. ^ Report of the Board of Tuberculosis Hospitals page 3
  12. ^ History of Waverly Hills from the Waverly Herald, page 12 paragraph 2
  13. ^ Report of the Board of Tuberculosis Hospital written by Dr. Dunning S Wilson (Medical Director of Waverly Hills) and L. J. Dittmar (President of the Board of Tuberculosis Hospital)[2]
  14. ^ Sanatorium Has Waiting List for Treatment, Effective In Early Stages - The Louisville Times Dec 5 1928
  15. ^ "Famed hospital now a white elephant" Courier-Journal article in Neighborhoods South-End section Aug 13-14 1986 page 1
  16. ^ a b "World tallest Christ statue planned for Waverly Hills." The Courier-Journal [Louisville] Mar. 1996: 1.
  17. ^ a b "Jesus statue 'would take a miracle'." Kentucky Post 12 Dec. 1997: 1.
  18. ^ http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5hygJ1vj634dC5AXlNnorzOsYdbig Haunted houses mix big-budget scenes and settings for ghoulish getaways, By John Seewer (CP) – Oct 2, 2009, The Canadian Press
  19. ^ http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20091003/ZONE08/909240332/1003/BUSINESS Waverly Hills Sanatorium Haunted House, Louisville Courier-Journal
  20. ^ GhostHunters Episode 214 Waverly Hills Investigation (2003-03-29)
  21. ^ Sunrise/Sunset-Autobiography written by Dr. J. Frank W. Stewart who was Assistant Medical Director at Waverly Hills. Worked at Waverly Hills from 1945-1955
  22. ^ http://freepages.history.rootsweb.com/~waverlymemorial/Facts/deathrate/drmain.html
  23. ^ http://whsmemorial.tripod.com/
  24. ^ Interview with Jason and Grant from Ghost Hunters
  • Spooked: The Ghosts of Waverly Hills Sanatorium, (2006) documentary.

External links

Coordinates: 38°07′48.53″N 85°50′30.22″W / 38.1301472°N 85.8417278°W / 38.1301472; -85.8417278


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