SPOOKED: Case File 05: Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Ivestigations Conducted By The Louisville Ghost Hunters Society: The Waverly Hills Sanatorium By Keith Age.Excerpt from the soon to be released book: "HAUNTED LOUISVILLE"

Imagine yourself choking. Not being able to get air in to your lungs because your throat is closing up inside from something unseen, congesting and constricting the tissues like invisible hands. Your chest feels like it’s ready to explode and your lungs feel like they are on fire. Finally, able to cough, clumps of bright red blood spew from your mouth as the inner walls of your lungs have started to disintegrate. The buzzing and dizziness that you feel in your head is from the constant fever you keep and made worse by the lack of oxygen going to your brain. Capillaries explode in your eyes due to the violent coughing spells and leave your eyes spotted with broken capillaries or a violent crimson red. Your skin has now turned a ghastly pasty white color because your body has stopped producing enough red blood cells to keep the pigment in your skin.

These graphic descriptions can only provide the modern reader with a hint of what millions suffered from in the early history of America -- the dreaded and deadly “white death” known as tuberculosis. The plague swept through the country for centuries, claiming entire families and sometimes entire towns. It was a terrifying and very contagious disease for which there was no cure.

In 1900, Louisville, Kentucky had the highest tuberculosis death rate in the country. This was due to the fact Louisville is such a low valley area and before development, was basically all swampland and perfect breeding ground for the Tuberculosis bacteria. As with many other towns and cities across the country, hospitals were needed to care for the sick. In 1910, a wooden, two-story hospital with 40 beds opened on one of the highest elevated hills in southern Jefferson County to try and contain this ravaging disease.

Officials soon found that this small hospital was simply too small, as they were soon housing more than 130 cases of tuberculosis. Louisville needed a much larger facility and money began to be raised for its construction. Land was donated and $11 million was used to started construction on the new hospital in 1924.

The hospital, known as Waverly Hills, was opened in 1926 and was considered to be the most advanced tuberculosis hospital in the country. If a patient had any chance of surviving the disease, Waverly Hills was the place to come for treatment. Of course, treatment in those days was primitive at best, meaning that many simply came here to die. In those days, it was believed that the best cure for tuberculosis was plenty of nutritional food, plenty of rest and plenty of fresh air. Many patients came to Waverly and were actually cured and became well enough to once again enter society. For those not as fortunate, Waverly was the last place they ever saw. Records have been lost, but it is estimated that tens of thousands died at Waverly. At the height of the tuberculosis epidemic, it is reported that one patient an hour died.

The doctors and nurses volunteered their lives to try and find a cure for this disease. Many of them lived and died there with the patients. A number of different experiments were attempted in search for a cure. Some of these experiments may sound barbaric, or even pointless, by today’s standards, but others are now common practice. The lungs were exposed to ultraviolet light to try and stop the spread of the bacteria. This was done in early versions of “sun rooms”, using artificial light to mimic the effects of sunlight. Patients were also placed on the roof or on the open porches on the upper floor to take in air and sunlight. Keeping in mind that fresh air was thought to be a cure for the disease; the patients would often to be placed in front of the open windows in both summer and winter. Photographs exist that show many of the dying literally covered in snow but still placed outside in hopes that their lungs would expand in the clean, country air.

Many of the treatments were much harsher -- and much bloodier. Balloons were surgically implanted into the lungs and then filled with air to try and expand them more, often with disastrous results. Hydrotherapy often caused pneumonia. But some experiments were useful and these procedures are still used today.

Pneumothorax was a procedure that consisted of deflating the infected area of the lung for a period of time and then letting it heal. Thoracoplasty was a very invasive surgical procedure where the chest of the patient was opened and then cords of muscle and up to seven ribs were removed. The opening was then closed up with the idea that the lungs would then be free to expand further and allow more oxygen into the lungs. This bloody procedure was only attempted as a last resort because fewer than 5% of the patients ever survived it.

In many cases, entire families came to live at Waverly Hills. Some were cured but many others left the hospital through what was called the “body chute”. This was a tunnel that led from the hospital to the railroad tracks at the bottom of the hill. It consisted of a motorized rail and cable system where the bodies were placed and lowered down on one side of the tunnel and steps led up and down on the other. A small steam plant on the property heated the tunnel, as well as the hospital and provided warmth for the maintenance workers that lived off the property. This was their entrance and exit for work. The tunnel was totally enclosed from the Morgue wing of the hospital. The purpose of this was so that the patients couldn’t see how many bodies were leaving the hospital. It was believed this would negatively affect their morale as the doctors discovered early on that the mental health of the patients was just as important as their physical health.

Because of the procedures and experiments that were performed at Waverly Hills and other hospitals around the country, tuberculosis was declining worldwide by the late 1930’s. It wasn’t until 1943 though that a young graduate student at Rutgers University by the name of Albert Schatz discovered Streptomycin, the first real medicine against the disease. By the mid 1950’s, tuberculosis had been largely eradicated because of this antibiotic. In 1961, Waverly Hills Sanatorium was closed because there was no longer a need for a tuberculosis facility. The buildings were reopened in 1962 as Woodhaven Geriatrics Sanitarium.

There have been many tales of patient mistreatment and unusual experiments that have filtered down from the hill over the years. Some have been proven false, while others unfortunately have turned out to be true. Electroshock therapy was widely used, although it was considered to be a very effective treatment in those days. Even today, it has been used with great results but now, as it was then, tragic losses sometimes occurred. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, a time of budget cuts for facilities of this type, there were many well documented cases of horrible conditions and unusual treatments at mental institutions all across the country. Apparently Woodhaven was no different because the state of Kentucky closed it down in 1982 due to patient abuse. The buildings, contents and land were auctioned off and the doors were locked for good.

The building and land changed hands several times over the next 18 years. The second owner of the property wanted to tear all the buildings down to construct the world’s largest statue of Jesus Christ. He succeeded in demolishing all of the buildings except for the main hospital and was only stopped by an injunction because the building is on the National Historic Register’s “endangered” list. He then decided that if he couldn’t legally tear it down then he would do everything in his power to get it condemned. He let vandals come into the building and tear it up. After breaking windows, porcelain sinks, toilets and doors, they began spraying graffiti on every available wall. The owner then dug around the foundation, in some places as deep as 30 feet, to try and make the foundation crack. If this happened, then he believed he could get the building condemned and would be able to legally tear it down. Fortunately, the structure refused to give way and his efforts failed. The area where his extensive digging took place can still currently be seen.

By 2001, this once regal and majestic hospital had been ravaged by time, the elements and vandals and was a shell of its former self. Waverly Hills had now become every town’s “haunted house”. Vagrants took to living here and kids broke in for the rush of finding a “ghost” or just to get high. It started to get the reputation of being haunted and rumors had it that satanic rituals were taking place within its walls. There were tales of a little girl running up and down the third floor solarium playing hide and seek with trespassers, of a little boy playing with his leather ball, of rooms lighting up as if there was still power to the building, doors slamming, disembodied voices, a hearse driving up and dropping off coffins and an old woman running from the front door with her wrists bleeding screaming “help me, somebody save me!” The years went by and the owner decided to sell the property to the new owners, who took possession in 2001.

In that same year, the Louisville Ghost Hunters Society was asked to come to Waverly Hills to find the “hot spots” for Triage Entertainment, who were producing a segment of Fox Television’s “Worlds Scariest Places”. LGHS Vice President Jay Gravatte, founder Keith Age and several other members arrived in the early evening. Jay would be featured on the show as the Waverly “historian” and his task would be to guide the girls through the building.

Keith Age:

It had been several years since I had actually been inside the old hospital and once we entered, we started to see the extent of the damage that time and vandals had done to this building. Eighteen years of trash, dust and dirt had collected in the hallways from where the windows had been broken out. Debris and trash was two to three feet deep in some places. The floor was like walking over hills.

We decided to explore the morgue wing first. As we descended down this almost totally pitch black hallway, my electromagnetic field meter started clicking and within moments was jumping up the scale. One of the main pieces of equipment that is used in ghost detection is an electro-magnetic field meter, or EMF meter. It is believed that ghosts are a form of energy and that when they present they disrupt the natural electro-magnetic fields in their vicinity. EMF meters detect these disturbances, and while it is not solid proof of the presence of a ghost, it is a good indicator. The meter should not have gone off in the building unless something magnetic was encountered as there had been no electricity provided to the top of the hill since the middle 1980’s. The poles had been knocked down at that time and the wires all removed. Strangely, the meter continued to react to something though -- and whatever it was, it was moving.

We followed the signal to a small room. A cinder block wall partitioned off half the room. This wall was built so that you could see through to the adjoining room. On the far side of it, we could see a lot of graffiti on the walls and by the door there was a box with light bulb sockets with some writing on it. As I got to the center of the room, the meter spiked to the top of the scale and squealed to a pitch that I had never heard it make before. The meter pegged all the way over and it made an audible noise like glass breaking and the needle froze at the highest position. It stopped squealing and actually started to get warm in my hand. The meter then got so hot that solder actually melted on the circuit board and started to drip out of the meter.

I pulled the battery out to try and stop it from doing even more damage and that’s when we noticed it was getting colder in the room. This was a hot summer’s evening and more than 80 degrees and very humid outside. Naturally, this part of the building would be cooler since there was hardly any light coming in and the thick concrete walls and marble floor would diffuse the heat from outside but not as cool as it started to become. The temperature now dropped from 74 to 52 degrees. The chill soon faded and we left the building to get another meter and to consult the floor plans that we had for the place. I was a little surprised to discover that the chamber had been Woodhaven’s electroshock therapy room.

After going back into the building, we returned to the room and examined it more closely. The room that had been used as the observation area had a bathroom leading off from the back of it and also had a narrow entrance to the room next door. But the most interesting aspect of the room was the electrical panel with light bulb sockets on it. This panel had once been used to show how much current was being sent to the patient.

There was no further activity with the meters or unusual temperature changes and so we continued down the hall. As we walked, we noticed that the far end wall looked as if it was getting closer to us. Puzzled, we stared and tried to figure out how this could be happening. There was no denying it though -- it was getting closer. Then, we began to hear sounds like scratching and scraping. It came closer and when it was no more than 20 feet away, we realized what was happening. No one had been down this part of the corridor in years and we had just disturbed a huge colony of bats. It looked just like a dark wall as it came down the passageway toward us! I was in the lead and ducked down, as did the person in front of me. Others ducked into a side room until the bats passed and luckily, no one was injured or hurt, including the bats.

At the end of the hall, we came to a room on our left that had a thick metal door, the kind that you often see on freezers. Upon entering the room, we saw that it was approximately 15 feet deep, 15 feet wide and 20 feet from floor to ceiling. There were 8 poles that were connected to the ceiling from the floor and from these poles were four more that were connected to the walls crossways. There was a drain on the right side of the floor. We later learned that this was what was called “the draining room.” During the heyday of the tuberculosis hospital, people were dying so quickly that bodies had to be hurriedly removed from the hill to make room for other victims. The problem was that the people of Jefferson County did not want the infected bodies coming down carrying disease. There was no cemetery at Waverly, so the bodies couldn’t be buried. The officials were forced to authorize the best remedy they could. The last stop for the dead inside of the hospital would be the “draining room”. The corpses would be hung from the poles in the room and then slit from sternum to groin so that all of their bodily fluids would drain out. Once this was completed, the bodies were taken down, placed on the gurney and then transported down the body chute. Later on, as tuberculosis became less threatening in the 1930’s, the room was used as a smokehouse to cure the meat that was raised and slaughtered on the grounds.

From here, we went upstairs to the cafeteria and kitchen. One of the “legends” of Waverly tells of a man that can be seen walking around in a white coat here and smell of food cooking that comes wafting from the kitchen. What we found wasn’t spirits but still pretty shocking. The second floor of this wing was so damaged by vandals and the elements that it was utterly devastated. The ceiling was collapsing in some areas of the hall and had fallen down in other areas. The doors to the kitchen had been knocked down and were lying in the hallway. These doors provided walkways over puddles of water, mud and debris. The murky pools had been formed by the leaking roof. The kitchen was in shambles and it looked as if a bomb had exploded in here. There was only one gigantic oven left. Tables that had been built into the walls were broken and all of the windows had been shattered. Some of the window casings were so deteriorated that they were falling out of their frames. The ceiling was simply no longer there. It had become just a mess of wires, pipes and rotted tile panels.

The cafeteria hadn’t fared well either. A huge mural that had once graced the walls had been splashed with paint. The ceiling was caving in and in the middle of the floor was a huge radiator that had been ripped out of its moorings and left there. But it was after our initial inspection that we heard several footsteps around us, the sound of a door closing and the smell of fresh baked bread in the air. There was no logical explanation for these things. They simply happened and several of us were there to witness them.

We soon abandoned the area for the front entrance with only one further incident. It would not be until our film was developed that I discovered that something very unusual had happened at that moment. As we had walked back down the hallways, we passed a stairwell and my EMF meter suddenly went off. Several photos were taken and one of them shows what appears to be a light bulb at the landing of the stairs. There were no light bulbs left in Waverly at that time, no glass on the windows to reflect anything and had been no electrical service to the hill in more than 18 years. I simply couldn’t explain what turned out in the photograph -- any more than I could explain the other incidents that involved electricity and lights. There had long been stories of lights being seen in the windows at night and one time, a security guard actually reported what seemed to be a television playing in one of the rooms on the third floor. From the ground, he could see what appeared to be the distinct flicker of a television in a dark room. Going upstairs to investigate though, he found no lights or televisions of any kind.

After this incident with the stairwell, we climbed to every floor in the building but encountered nothing else strange until we got to the fourth floor. The EMF meters again began to pick up unusual readings and we also recorded a number of temperature drops. This also faded away but we found other anomalies on the fifth floor of the hospital.

The fifth floor of Waverly consists of two nurses stations, a pantry (#501), linen room (#503), medicine room (#504) and two medium sized rooms on both sides of the nurse’s stations (#506 & #502). Room 502 has tales and rumors all its very own and is the place that every local curiosity-seeker has heard about and wants to explore. This is where (the legends say) people have jumped to their deaths, other have seen images moving in the windows and disembodied voices have been heard telling people to “get out”.

There is much in the way of speculation about this area but what is known is that mentally insane tuberculosis patients were housed on the fifth floor in these two rooms. Nurse’s stations 502 and 506 looked over these two rooms in 18 hour shifts. The patients had to go to a half door at these stations to get their food and medicine or to use the restroom, which was adjacent to the nurse’s station. In 1928, the head nurse in room 502 was found dead in this room. She had hanged herself from the light fixture in an apparent fit of depression. According to further research, she was 29 years-old at the time, unmarried and pregnant. It is unknown just how long she may have been left hanging in this room before her body was finally discovered. Her death was ruled a suicide by the county coroner’s office. And this was not the final tragedy to occur here…

In 1932, another nurse who worked in room 502 jumped from the balcony of the roof that leads from the room and was killed when she struck the ground several stories below. We have yet to find any records that indicate why she did this act. There are also no records, despite what the legends say, that anyone other than the above mentioned nurse was ever pushed or jumped from the roof of Waverly Hills.

When we got to the fifth floor that night, we were accompanied by one of the owners. We went into room 502 and almost immediately, the EMF meter reacted to something here. Even stranger, the temperature suddenly rose around us from 86 to 98 degrees. It continued to climb so high that we actually backed out of the room. The owner wanted to see what was happening and as they walked into the room, the meter continued to react but the temperature dropped suddenly down to 68 degrees. This lasted for just a few moments and then stopped. We searched the room to try and find anything that would have caused this to occur but could find nothing artificial or natural to explain it.

After inspecting the rest of the rooms on the roof, we went back downstairs to talk with the director from Triage and to explain where the “hotspots” in the place were located. Jay would be the one who would then deal with the participants in the show.

Jay Gravatte:

My job on that night was simple -- take five girls through Waverly Hills for the Fox’s “reality” series. My main duty was to explain to them some of the history and paranormal activity surrounding the abandoned hospital. Everything we encountered was to be recorded and broadcast as an episode of the show but what occurred that night was anything but simple.

It began on an unusually hot July day, as I arrived at Waverly Hills. I was introduced to the director of the show and he explained how he "wanted" me to do my tour and history lesson. I explained very early on that I did not want to be involved with a show that was going to be rigged. I was then informed that nothing was to be 'spooked up' whatsoever. At close to 8:00 p.m. I was finally introduced to the young ladies I was to play guide to. Before we had even entered the old hospital, the girls felt apprehensive. All they could see was this hulk of a building as it sat there like a conquered and battered ruin.

As we stood in front of the main entrance, I told them of an apparition that had often been seen in that location: a woman running out of the front door, her hands and legs in chains, spectral blood dripping from her wrist and ankles, crying and pleading for help, only to then dissipate into thin air. I led their eyes to a third story window, where a young girl of about seven or eight years old has been seen, and peering out from the windows. This set the mood for the night to come….

Finally we entered the building and I swung open the old main doors and led the girls inside. We spent several moments looking around the lobby where we stood. The girls, the three people from the production company, and I then entered a room directly adjacent to the main entrance. When the Sanatorium operated here, it was the medical director's office, but now it became the girls “safe room”. Chairs, food, and water were set up if the girls needed a break while filming or needed a place to retreat to if things became too much for them to bear. After unloading their sleeping bags, flashlights and other equipment, I proceeded to take them down the medical wing on the first floor. This meant a trip through the so-called “death wing” in which the morgue and autopsy room were located. I was then asked by the director to pull out one of the old trays from the freezer unit, in the autopsy bay. Unbeknownst to me, it had been rigged with a cable, to pull back in on itself. At that point, it didn't though. We then traveled down the hall and out the sliding door at the end to the body chute, the converted coal tunnel that was used to transport dead patients from the hospital to the crematorium located down the hill.

As we proceeded into and down the 485 foot tunnel, one of the girls finally succumbed to the eeriness of her surroundings. She was ready to give up. After a quick pep talk from the others, she decided to weather it out for awhile longer. We then reentered the hospital and headed up toward the second floor dining area. Keep in mind again that it was a hot July day with no wind whipping around us what so ever. I began telling the girls about "Ralph", a ghostly maintenance man who has been seen wearing a white, buttoned-down shirt and white pants. The girls and I begin walking down the corridor and as I am talking, one of them starts to see a red glow beginning to illuminate the entire end of the hallway.

Of course, the girls began screaming and proceeded to nearly run myself and the film crew down. I managed to calm them down and re-tell them about Ralph. At this point, you have to understand that Waverly is in horrible shape. As we are standing there discussing Ralph, a piece of the ceiling swings down and nearly decapitates a cameraman from Triage! Once again, the building was filled with the sound of screaming young women.

Finally, after escorting them back to the "safe room" for a break, I took them on an extremely brief tour of the third, fourth, and fifth floors. I explained about all of the legends associated with Waverly, from the apparition of the little girl on the third floor to the nurse that was hung in room 502 up on the fifth floor. I was then instructed to take them back down the medical wing on the first floor, and as we rounded the corner near Occupational therapy, which is adjacent to the morgue, one of the old heavy wooden doors slammed shut right in my face! At this point, I jumped back, I'll admit it. It takes a lot to unnerve me, but this did the trick. These doors are thick, and rusted on the hinges, and nearly immovable. Suddenly, something comes bouncing down the hallway at us, and old time bottle cap from a soda, it turns out. This made the girls finally break down and scramble back down the hallway to their safe room. Two of them could no longer deal with everything that was happening.

At this point, I'd been there for over five hours, which equals around seven minutes in television time. By this point, it was nearly 1:00 in the morning and the director decided that I was to leave the girls in the building “by themselves“, so to speak. That was fine with me and I gathered my equipment, along with the town girls who chose to leave. We said our goodbyes and walked right out the front door. Unfortunately, the crew caught me saying "I am so glad to be out of there" and it ended up in the show. Of course, I was -- I wanted to go home and take aspirin for the headache that had been brought on by the sounds of screaming -- but not for the reasons that it appeared in the final cut of the program. I walked away from this experience a little wiser on how the media interprets the paranormal when they are only looking for ratings.

I would later ask the girls what had occurred after my departure? This was months before I would see the final aired episode and they told me of noises that had followed them in the building, doors slamming, being touched and even observing things move on their own. This stuck a chord, because during the times that the investigative team of the Louisville Ghost Hunters Society has spent exploring Waverly Hills, we have had this type of activity happen with great frequency.

Troy Taylor:

One of the first questions that people ask me when they learn what I write about for a living is whether or not searching for real ghosts ever scares me. For a very long time, I assured them that I was never frightened during these outings to haunted places and for the most part this was true. My reply would have to change though after I experienced Waverly Hills for the first time.

I first heard about the old hospital from Keith about the time that he and the Louisville Ghost Hunter’s Society first got access to it. In fact, the meter that had been destroyed in the former electroshock therapy room had been purchased from my company and when I heard about what had happened to it, I asked Keith to return it to me. I then sent the meter to my distributor, who has been in business for more than a decade and is an expert on electromagnetic field meters, and asked him to look it over. He had never seen anything like the damage that had been done to the meter before -- and he had no explanation for what could have caused it.

The first time that I visited the hospital was in September 2002. I was in town for the first Mid-South Paranormal Convention and one of the places that I asked Keith to show me in Louisville was Waverly Hills. I was already interested in the history of the place and had heard about the investigations that had been conducted there. I was anxious to see it and so Keith arranged a tour. It was literally a dark and stormy night when we arrived at the hospital and it had been raining all day. I was looking forward to seeing the place, no matter what the weather, and not because I was convinced that I would meet one of the former patients face to face -- it was simply to experience the place for myself. By this time, I had traveled all over the country and had been to hundreds of places that were alleged to be haunted. I had felt just this same way before exploring all of them, so Waverly Hills was no different. To me, it was just an old, spooky building with a fascinating history. The fact that it was alleged to be haunted simply added to the experience. I have long since abandoned the idea of going in expecting too much. This is likely why I was so surprised by what actually happened that night.

After meeting with the owners, Keith and I went inside and started our exploration of the building. Once we were away from the activity going on downstairs, the surroundings fell silent. The only thing that I heard in the dark building was the sound of our own footsteps, our hushed voices and the drip of rain as it slipped through the cracks in the roof and splashed down onto the floor. Keith led me through the place and pointed out the various rooms, the treatment areas, the kitchen, the morgue and on and on. We climbed the stairs to the top floor and I saw legendary room 502, as well as the lights of Louisville as they reflected off the low and ominous-looking clouds that gathered above the city.

During our excursion, I mentioned to Keith that there had been one floor that we had missed -- the fourth. He explained that this was the only floor in the building whose entrance was kept locked and he had waited to save it for last. I remembered then some of the stories that had been passed on to me about this floor. Many regarded it as the most active -- and the most frightening -- area of the former hospital.

The most unusual experience that I had heard about was when Keith was in one of the rooms here. He had been walking along the corridor of the fourth floor with an EMF detector and was followed by two members of his group with a video camera. He started to picking up readings with the meter and he was led onto one of the former treatment rooms. The intensity of the magnetic energy in the room continued to increase and the strongest readings seemed to be in the southeast corner of the room. Keith was standing in the corner, looking at the changes on the meter scale, when an empty plastic soda bottle came seemingly out of nowhere and struck him in the back. As he turned to see what had happened, an overhead fluorescent light fixture suddenly came loose from the ceiling with a loud crack. With one end of it still anchored to the ceiling, the other end swung loose and hit Keith in the side of the head. The long burned-out bulb that remained in the fixture shattered when it collided with Keith and showered him with glass. Before he even had time to react, he heard the sound of a brick scrape across the concrete floor. The noise came from the opposite corner of the room and when he looked over, he saw the brick moving across the floor towards him. With a lurch, it shot directly at him and as he scrambled to get out of the line of fire, it hit him in the small of the back. Needless to say, he quickly retreated from the room. The other investigators had not seen where the brick or the soda bottle had come from, but they had clearly heard the brick move and had seen both objects strike Keith. This is still regarded as one of the most chilling events to occur in the building.

It would not be the only time that Keith would see an object move in the building though. I was present on one other occasion, along with a tour attendee and authors Alan Brown and Dave Goodwin. In September 2003, I returned to Louisville for another conference and that night, we took a group tour of the old hospital. As we were climbing the stairs and going past the fourth floor landing, the group of us at the front of the line clearly saw the heavy metal door open up a few inches and then slam shut under its own power. Keith was just a few feet away from it at the time and he jumped in surprise. No one had been near the door and at the time, the floor was still locked so there was no way that anyone could have gotten on it to manipulate the door.

A year earlier though, when I entered the fourth floor for the first time, I got the distinct feeling that something strange was in the air. I make absolutely no claims of any psychic ability whatsoever but there was just something about this floor of the hospital that felt different than any of the others. What had been nothing more than just an old ramshackle and broken down building suddenly seemed different. I can’t really put into words what felt so strange about it but it almost seemed to be a tangible “presence” that I had not encountered anywhere else in the place. And right away, eerie things started to happen.

We had entered the floor in what I believe was the center of the building. Behind us was a wing that I was told was not safe to enter. Sections of the floor had fallen in and this area was off-limits to tours and visitors. The strange thing about it was that both Keith and I clearly heard the sounds of doors slamming from this part of the building. I can assure the reader that it was not the wind either. The wind was not strong enough that night to have moved those heavy doors and this clearly sounded as though someone was closing them very hard. When I questioned Keith about who else could be up there with us, he explained me about the floors. I investigated on my own and determined that he was correct --- there was no one walking around on that part of the fourth floor.

As we started down the hallway, Keith told me about some of the other experiences that had been experienced by investigators on this floor. The experiences involved the strange shapes that had been seen. The sightings had started the previous October when, on consecutive nights, investigators were able to see what looked like human shadows moving up and down the fourth floor hallway. One of the shadows in particular actually appeared to look around corners at them and all of the shapes passed back and forth across the doorways. Keith added that sightings like this had occurred at other times as well and happened most often when no flashlights were used in the corridor.

I switched off my flashlight and we walked down the corridor using only the dim, ambient light from outside. The hallway runs through the center of the building and on either side of it are former patient rooms. Beyond the rooms is the “porch” area that opens to the outside. It was here where the patients were placed to take in the fresh air. There was no glass ever placed in the huge outer windows, which has left the interior of the floor open to the elements ever since. On this night, the windows also illuminated the corridor, thanks to the low-hanging clouds that glowed with the lights of Louisville. We walked down through the dark and murky corridor and I began to see shadows that flickered back and forth. I was sure that this was trick of the eye though, likely caused by the lights or the wind moving something outside and so I urged Keith on for a closer look. It was where the corridor angled to the right that I got a look at something that was definitely not a trick of the eye!

So that the reader can understand what I saw, I have to explain that the hallway ahead of us continued straight for a short distance and then turned sharply to the right. In the early 1900’s, most institutions of this type were designed in this manner. It was what was dubbed the “bat-wing” design, which meant that there was a main center in each building and then the wings extended right and left, then angled again so that they ran slightly backward like a bird, or bat’s, wings. Directly at the angle ahead of us was a doorway that led into a treatment room. I only noticed the doorway in the darkness because the dim light from the windows beyond it had caused it to glow slightly. This made it impossible to miss since it was straight ahead of us.

We took a few more steps and then, without warning, the clear and distinct silhouette of a man crossed the lighted doorway, passed into the hall and then vanished into a room on the other side of the corridor! The sighting only lasted a few seconds but I knew what I had seen. And for some reason, it shocked and startled me so badly that I let out a yell and grabbed a hold of Keith’s jacket. I am not sure why it affected me in that way but perhaps it was the setting, the man’s sudden appearance, my own anxiety --- or likely all of these things. Regardless, after my yell, I demanded that Keith turn on the light and that he help me to examine the room the man had vanished into. After my initial fright, I became convinced that someone else was on the floor with us. Keith assured me we were the only ones there but he did help me search for the intruder. There was no one there though, he was right, whoever the figure had been, he had utterly and completely vanished.

As of this writing, I was not the first person to have seen this mysterious figure on the fourth floor and it’s unlikely that I will be the last. However, for me, this put Waverly Hills into a unique category for there are not many places that I will firmly state are genuinely haunted. Before I can do that, I have to have my own unexplainable experience and hopefully, it will be something that goes beyond a mere “bump in the night”.In this case, it was much more than that because I actually saw a ghost. In all of my years of paranormal research, I can count the times that I have seen ghosts on just two fingers and one of them was at Waverly Hills. In this case, seeing really was believing.

See more about the History of Waverly Hills


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