Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Location: 4400 Paralee Lane, Louisville, KY Map
Ghost and visitor tours of Waverly Hills Sanatorium:
Tel. 502 933 2142
Office open: Mon- Fri
9am- 5pm (closed 1- 2pm) EST
Wed 9am- 1pm EST



Description of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Waverly Hills Sanatorium located in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, was built in 1908 and opened two years later as a hospital to treat tuberculosis patients.

In the early 20th century, an epidemic of tuberculosis broke out in Jefferson County. Initially, a building was built for about one hundred and forty patients. As the epidemic spread, a larger hospital was needed. In March 1924, construction began on a new five-story building that could accommodate over four hundred patients. The building was opened on October 17, 1926. The hospital was closed in June 1961.

One of the most well-known legends of Waverly Hills is the story of Room 502. It tells of a nurse who committed suicide by hanging in this very room. A few years later, another nurse jumped off the roof of a building because she was already infected with tuberculosis and found out she was pregnant, and out of wedlock. Another story is the Death Tunnel - the tunnel of death. It is a tunnel that was built to remove the corpses of deceased patients and hide them from other patients as well as from the world. The harvest of the epidemic was removed and kept from the regulars of Waverly Hills, so as not to incite panic in them. In the hospital, medical experiments were performed on patients.

Waverly Hills has undergone restoration work and is open to the public.



Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Waverly Hills has a long and colorful history. Unlike other buildinds after its closure the sanatorium seems to have a history of its own despite decades of neglect.


The name of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium dates back to 1883 when Major Thomas H. Hays bought his family a vast estate on the grounds of the future Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Back then the area of Waverly Hills was not heavily settled. Rolling meadows and forests covered hills surrounded the former private residence of Major Hays. His kids were home schooled due to the remoteness of their estate from other settlements. Eventually a separate building for a home school was constructed on Page Lane. Major Hays also hired a local woman Lizzie Lee Harris to teach his kids. She apparently was very fond of Walter Scott and literature in general. She even named a small one room school house, that was constructed by the orders of the Major, Waverley School after one of Walter Scott's novels and its protagonist Edward Waverley. Major Hays like the name and renamed his whole estate into a Waverley Hill that later became simply known as Waverly Hills. THe name stuck and later gave a name to a new Tuberculosis hospital knows today as Waverly Hills Sanatorium.


First Building of Waverly Hills Sanatorium

The history of Waverly Hills Sanatorium date back to an act of the legislature passed in 1906 that reserved these lands for a hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis. "White Death" as it was known at the time had no cure. Unfortunately, victims of this disease would be infected by a Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. It would survive inside their lungs in white blood cells known as macrophages forming large granulomas. During dormant periods, patients don't suffer or experience any symptoms, but during active stages, these formations would burst and new bacteria would spread throughout the organism without warning. Previously healthy individuals experience weight loss, fever, night sweats, blood sputum, and many other symptoms. Without adequate antibacterial treatment, people burned out in a short time and in most cases, they died. People, suspected of the infection had to be isolated in an area far from major cities and with plenty of fresh air and sunlight. Waverly Hills Sanatorium proved as an ideal location for that.
Most of the residential area that surrounds Waverly Hills Sanatorium today did not exist at the time. Instead, it was a fairly extensive expanse of wilderness. In 1907 first tuberculosis dispensary was opened to accept first patients and just three years later in 1910 Waverly Hills Sanatorium was opened. It was a fairly small building with a modest capacity of only 40 patients. That, however, got filled fairly quickly. On August 31, 1912, all tuberculosis patients from the City Hospital were moved to a temporary make-shift camp around Waverly Hills Sanatorium. People lived in tents for just three months until the new building for advanced cases was not completed on December 1912. Its capacity reached 50 people, but it allowed some more free space for incoming patients. Later the building for advanced cases was turned into a Colored Hospital for non-white patients of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium.

Waverly Hills Sanatorium

In some cases, kids of the sick patients of Waverly Hills Sanatorium stayed with other relatives like in case of Hazel Howell (pictured right, 1891- 1919). This was not the case for everyone, however. Often families didn't have the financial means or any relatives so they brought their kids to the sanatorium. In 1914 a children's pavilion was added that with a total of 50 beds. Growing number of incoming children forced administration to cut few corners and add new beds with available space, making live there crowded and fairly uncomfortable. Additionally the administration of the hospital opened an open- air school in 1913 to house all the newcomers and provide them with quality education.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium grew steadily. New wooden buildings were added to a medical complex to house all the patients. However the expanses grew steadily and it became apparent that a new grander brick and concrete building had to be erected. Number of patients grew steadily and in 1923 a bond was issued for $1,000,000 for construction of much larger building for Waverly Hills Sanatorium.


Current Building of former Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Waverly Hills Sanatorium started its construction in March 1924 and was opened on October 17, 1926. The new five- story building replaced the old hospital (opened on July 26, 1910). Swampy areas around Louisville, Kentucky offered a great location for the spread of tuberculosis bacteria and thus the disease became almost an epidemic.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium construction was thought to be state-of-the-art of its own time and incorporated theories that were widely spread at the time. It was widely believed that TB can be cured by sun exposure and plenty of fresh air. Architects of Waverly Hills James J Gaffney (1863- 1946) and Dennix Xavier Murphy (1854- 1933) took this into a consideration. The bat-like structure of the building was designed so that it followed the natural wind patterns of the area and did not block it. Most of the windows had no glass and instead had meshed screens that allowed sun inside the building. The building Waverly Hills was five stories high and contained about 400 rooms for the patients. Corridor that runs through the middle of the levels allowed access to all rooms in the building. These long halls that divide the building have wide open rooms on one side and smaller rooms on the other. Open spacious rooms were made for those who were in the early stages of the disease. Their beds were wheeled out on the promenade (shown in the picture) where they lay all day. During winter they were given blankets, but the rule stayed the same. Plenty of fresh air was believed to be the only good way to save patients of Waverly Hills. On the other side of the halls are smaller rooms. They were made for those who had no chance of survival and were left to die. Patients were simply transported across the hall from open rooms to more closed and isolated ones.

Waverly Hills Sanatorium Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Woodhaven Geriatrics Hospital (Waverly Hills Sanatorium)

Waverly Hills Sanatorium lost its purpose when antibiotic streptomycin was discovered in 1943. This proved to be the best way to fight the infectious disease and soon cases of TB dwindled. The sanatorium was closed in June 1961, but reopened quickly in 1962 as a Woodhaven Geriatrics Hospital. Grim history of the building did not end here. Electroshock therapy was commonly used on senior people to cure some of the disorders that were badly understood at the time. Additionally lack of proper funding decreased overall sanitary conditions of the medical centre. The conditions were so bad and old patients were treated so badly that it was closed in 1981. Remaining citizens were transferred to Hazelwood Centre. The deterioration and overall state of the building was too expansive to restoration and it was closed.


After final closure of the Hospital of Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Over the years several people came forward with their ideas for the abandoned Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Some offered minimum state prison within its walls. Others suggested erection of huge statue of Jesus Christ after demolishing a hospital similar to that in Rio de Janeiro. The last project even had its own "Christ the Redeemer Foundation Incorporated" organized by Robert Alberhasky with the help of architect Jasper Ward and artist Ed Hamilton who designed the sculpture that was supposed to be the tallest statue of the Savior in the World standing at incredible 270 feet. No sculpture was ever erected here, but the main building of Waverly Hills medical complex was badly damaged as the owner allowed vandals to loot every part of the original building as they could. Most of the damage you see today in the eerie hallways and abandoned rooms dates to that period.
Now the property is owned by Tina and Charlie Mattingly and The Waverly Hills Historical Society since 2001 which offers guided tours, and half-night and overnight stays within the walls of Waverly Hills Sanatorium. They plan to remodel the structure and turn it into a haunted Bed and Breakfast 120-room hotel, conference center, and restaurant. They fixed some of the windows, removed asbestos insulation, and secured the exterior brick sidings, but there is still a lot of work to do to bring the structure of Waverly Hills to its original appearance. Fortunately, the haunted guides will still continue after the complete restoration of a four-star hotel.
The main building of Waverly Hills Sanatorium was reserved for white patients. Children were separated and lived in children's units those cost $153,000 to construct. African American (an obsolete term used in the documents is Colored) were kept in a separate Colored unit that was smaller, and less sophisticated at a cost of $212,000.


African American aka Colored Unit of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Waverly Hills Sanatorium Waverly Hills Sanatorium  Waverly Hills Sanatorium

African American Unit Waverly Hills that was known at the time as a Colored Unit was intended to house African- American patients as well as other non- White races. It is clear that "separate, but equal" does not apply here. The building was much smaller with only 50 beds and had less staff. It was originally opened on December 18, 1912 as a building for advanced cases of Tuberculosis. After the main building of Waverly Hills was opened the building was transformed into the Colored Hospital. However the general layout was similar to the main building. Windows were meant to allow fresh air inside the promenade. The original building was replaced by a two story larger hospital. Today both structures have been demolished. Only photos remain. As far as we know no one tried to explore this area for any paranormal activity or strange occurrences.


Children's Unit of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Children's unit of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium was opened to house ever growing number of kids in Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Original living headquarters were not enough to fit all the residents so a separate wing was constructed. Many patients had no other options, but to bring their kids here. Unfortunately many healthy newcomers often contracted the deadly disease and themselves became patients in the hospital.

Waverly Hills Sanatorium Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Lobectomy and Pneumonectomy

Ablation of the Phrenic Nerve
treatment method for Pneumothorax: artificial, using specific equipment to cause the affected lung to collapse and thus prevent the disease from getting worse (according to the state of medical knowledge at the time).

Finally, the Sanatorium simply offered patients to take "good air, good food" cures under the supervision of competent medical personnel.



Original buildings

The plans were designed by architects James J. Gaffney and Xavier Murphy.



The first building was completed on December 21, 1912, it included an administrative building and two pavilions on either side of the main building. Forty patients could be accommodated there.

The administrative staff at the time included a doctor, a nurse and three student nurses. On the first floor of the main building were offices, the pharmacy, a classroom and laboratories. The upper floor was the nurses' living area.

Somewhat overwhelmed by the scale of the epidemic, the hospital expanded, first in 1915, a pavilion with a library and play area for children; then by major works begun in March 1924 to raise the building to five floors. The new sanatorium was opened on October 17, 1926.


Site rehabilitation projects

Woodhaven Geriatrics Hospital
The buildings were reopened in 1962 as Woodhaven Geriatrics hospital as a geriatric hospital, but following numerous complaints of patient mistreatment, the hospital was forced to close permanently in 1981. Urban legends were born at that time, suggesting that the place had become an asylum for the insane and the insane.



Two years after Woodhaven closed in 1983, the estate was bought by Clifford Todd, who wanted to make it a state prison.

This project was a failure in particular because it ran up against the opposition of local residents; and to bail out, Clifford Todd tried to make it a residence with apartments: it was a failure for lack of sufficient funds to mount the operation.


The statue

In 1996, Robert Alberhasky had the idea of a two-part project for Waverly hills. The first phase would consist of erecting a 46 m high statue there, a statue representing Christ the Savior, like the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

The second phase of the project, meanwhile, was much more mercantile: a chapel, a souvenir shop, stalls were to be built there.

Once again, and like all the other projects before, it was a failure. The owner thus let the buildings deteriorate over time, even leaving the building at the mercy of vandals who ransacked the interior of the premises.

After a year of operation, and in order to recover his stake, Alberhasky tried to destroy the buildings by mining the base of the building to shave it, in the hope of reselling the land for a good price.

It was stopped by a court conviction at the request of the National Register of Historic Places, the equivalent of the French National Commission for Historic Monuments.


Restoration of buildings

In 2001, new owners, Charlie and Tina Mattingly, bought the house and planned to transform the place into a luxurious 4-star hotel.

Today, Waverly Hills Sanatorium is being restored by its current owner. It offers a variety of tours and stays at the sanatorium, commercially exploiting the "haunted place" aspect to attract paranormal investigators or simply curious people.


Folklore and urban legends

The tunnel

What is true :
Faced with the rise in mortality within the hospital, it was decided to build a tunnel called Body Chute or Death tunnel (“Tunnel of death”), intended for the collection of corpses.


Urban legend

The bodies were transported at night so as not to frighten the patients. The title of the horror film "Death tunnel" refers to this famous tunnel (the filming took place in the hospital and in the tunnel).


Room 502

One of the best-known legends of the sanatorium is that of room 502, located on the fifth floor. This tells that two nurses from the sanatorium committed suicide in this room, one aged 29 would have hanged herself in 1928 because she was pregnant following a relationship with the director of the hospital but not married, which was frowned upon at the time; and moreover in turn suffering from tuberculosis. [ref. necessary] The other, for no known reason, would have jumped out of the window, into the arms of Bonaventura, who failed to catch her, which resulted in her death. This one attracted a lot of curious people but everyone who came in saw shadows moving around the room and heard voices saying "Get out!"

The rooftop courtyard
It would seem that the children were singing a song, “ring around the rosie” which means round on the back of the hand (the children were suffering from tuberculosis) while making the rounds. Even now, people would testify that they hear children singing a song on top of this roof.