Thursday, November 10, 2016

Waverly Hill Tuberculosis Sanatorium - Louisville, KY (The Pucker Effect)

4400 Paralee Dr.
Louisville, KY 40272

           Over the years I have given dozens of interviews for various newspapers, magazines, television and radio around the country. Most are always conducted in the normal fashion and almost always include the same question: “What has been the most active place you have investigated?” Although I have spent years visiting hundreds of reportedly haunted locations in every nook and cranny of the south, my answer is always undisputedly the same: Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Sanatorium.
           For centuries, one of the many deadly diseases that ravaged the human population was tuberculosis. TB, as it is most commonly known as, is an infectious airborne disease that most regularly affects the lungs and respiratory system, but can also spread to other portions of the body. As with many of these mysterious deadly diseases, regular experimentations were conducted in attempts to find a cure. In most cases, these attempts proved to be futile, as you were left with painful procedures and a growing body count.
           As I mentioned with the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, early medicine was basically a guessing game. Doctors “brought the pain” so to speak, as medieval-like procedures were conducted and concoctions containing who-knows-what were administered to often unwilling participants. The race to find a humane cure for tuberculosis would not be spared, as many of these attempts were torturous and often proved just as deadly as the disease itself.

           Artificial Pneumothorax was one of these techniques, as you see in the archive photo below. It was a way of collapsing, or deflating a portion of the lung, theoretically giving that part of the lung a
chance to heal. Another benefit of collapsing the lung in certain areas is that it would close off any holes that may have been caused by the disease. A more invasive procedure was thoracoplasty, which involved actually opening up the patient’s chest cavity and removing up to several rib cage bones. This was also done to collapse the lungs when deemed necessary by the doctor. On average, most patients would require the removal of seven to eight ribs. Surgeons regularly felt it safe only to remove two or three ribs at a time, which meant sometimes patients had to endure several surgeries before the thoracoplasty was complete! There were some cases which involved literally cutting out a diseased portion of the lung. This procedure was called a lobectomy, and is still used today in some cases of lung cancer. It might be noted however that thoracoplasty was only performed as a last ditched effort to save a patient if all the other forms of treatment did not help.
          Fortunately, further research found that one of the most successful treatments for TB at the time was also the easiest and most painless, as it was under doctors’ noses the whole time. Well, I should say atop their heads, as natural ultraviolet treatment from the hot sun called heliotherapy
Children on the rooftop of Waverly Hills undergoing
served as treatment to the bones, joints, skin and eyes. There were several reasons for the use of heliotherapy. First of all, the sun acted as a bactericide killing the tubercle bacillus organisms which caused the disease. When patients were exposed to moderate hot temperatures for extended periods of time, studies showed that it was sufficient at killing the bacteria and cleared up infections. Also, ergosterol (crystalline steroid alcohol), which is present in the skin is converted by the sun’s rays into vitamin D, which was believed to do further damage to the tubercle bacilli and help to destroy it.

          In the mid to late 19th century, large tuberculosis hospitals began popping up around the country to treat the ever-increasing population of those infected. Large open areas called solariums were often part of these hospitals, as patients were literally lined up along these porches to absorb as much sunlight and fresh air as possible. As these large hospitals were being built throughout the country, one in particular would be erected in the city of Louisville, Kentucky that would truly change the landscape for TB hospitals and would later become synonymous with the huge death toll related to the deadly disease.
         The need for a hospital was greatly needed in Louisville due to its proximity to the swampland,
Old photo showing one of several solariums.
which made for perfect breeding grounds for the tuberculosis bacteria. To try and contain the disease, a two-story wooden sanatorium was opened and initially consisted of an administrative/main building and two open-air pavilions, each housing twenty patients. 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, especially as the number of TB cases continued to skyrocket.

          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. The land that would be used for the hospital was purchased by Major Thomas H. Hays in 1883 as the Hays Family home. Since the new home so far away from any existing schools, Mr. Hays decided to open a local school for his daughters to attend. He started a one-room schoolhouse and hired Lizzie Lee Harris as the teacher. Miss Harris loved her tiny school that nestled against the hillside, and remembered her fondness for Walter Scott's Waverley novels, so she named her little school house "Waverly School". Major Hays liked the peaceful sounding name, so he named his property "Waverly Hill" and the Board of Tuberculosis Hospital decided to keep the name when they bought the land and opened the sanatorium.
           By December of 1912 a hospital for advanced cases was opened on the grounds for the treatment of fifty patients. By 1916, a children’s pavilion added another forty beds making the known capacity around one hundred thirty patients. 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.
Overhead shot of the massive Waverly Hills hospital.
Due to the constant need for repairs on the original wooden hospital, there was the need for a more durable structure, as well as a need for more beds so that people wouldn’t be turned away due to lack of space. Construction of a five-story building that could hold more than four hundred 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 of 1961.
           Although Waverly Hills only operated for roughly forty years, enough death and tales of terror could last for centuries. Some say the death toll of patients at Waverly soared well over a hundred thousand, other say the number is significantly less. Regardless, the number is so large, the hospital came with its very own “death chute”; a five hundred foot tunnel with an incline from hell! Half of the tunnel is made up of steps while the other half is smooth concrete. It is said that this tunnel was used to dispose of the thousands of patients that died on a regular basis.
           As with a location that contained so much death, one can only imagine the amount of haunted tales at Waverly Hills. The stories are literally endless and it gets to the point where fact and fiction becomes clouded. As with the previously mentioned Myrtles Plantation, many of the tales seem to be elaborated but they sure make for a hell of a set of stories! One of these is the infamous draining room.
          The area known as the draining room is situated near the morgue of the hospital. It is said that
The infamous death tunnel!
this room was created in an effort to rid the dead bodies of infected fluids and to make the bodies lighter for transport through the "death tunnel." Stories say that after a patient died, doctors would hang the dead on tall poles in the room with drains at the bottom. They would then cut the bodies from sternum to groin, or as I would say, “rooter to tooter”, so that the bodily fluids would drain from the body. Jefferson County townspeople didn't want bodies brought to the town for fear of infection, so this was the alternative. From the draining room, they were placed on gurneys and escorted down the death tunnel.

           However this legend is said to be completely untrue. The room in question is clearly labeled as the Transformer room on the 1924 and 1962 mechanical drawings. The large metal door is stamped with "Fire Protection". There are openings in the wall between this room and power distribution next door where electrical wiring passed through the wall. Also, hospitals do not, nor did they ever have anything to do with preparing the bodies in any way. That job would have been completed by the funeral director hired by the deceased members’ family, or if no family existed, the funeral director contracted by the county.
            Another legend is the dreaded Room 502, which was made infamous by local legends about two suicides that occurred in the room. In 1928, a Waverly Hills nurse, Mary Hillenburg, supposedly hanged herself from a fixture in the room after becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Other stories say that she became pregnant by a doctor that was already married and the doctor performed an abortion that went wrong. When the nurse had died the doctor allegedly had staged her suicide. As we have
Room 502, home to many tales of terror!
learned throughout this blog, time can often take the facts from history and take them in directions we would have never imagined. Searches of Kentucky death indexes have revealed that only two people by the name of "Hillenburg" have died in Louisville. Both died significantly later than the rumored date, and in fact well after Waverly Hills closed. Other vague stories tell of a nurse jumping to her death from the rooftop but that has neither been verified.

             As with the Myrtles, whatever the case may be, there is little dispute that Waverly Hills is not haunted. It has been featured on numerous television programs and is easily said to be one of the most haunted locations in the country. After years of hearing of this infamous hospital, I knew I had to investigate it! Fortunately, in 2007 we would have the honor to conduct a full overnight investigation of the hospital which was truly an honor and well worth all the time and money.
            We arrived at Waverly around 9pm and were in awe at the site of the massive hospital as it is truly a site to see. We were promptly greeted by our chaperone/security guard for the night, Donnie, who was an awesome guy! After a brief intro on the hospital, we signed the proper liability waiver forms and were ready to begin setting up our equipment. Quickly, we found out that this task was going to be a little harder than expected due to the fact that there was only one working power outlet in the entire 5-story structure! We nervously began to think of a way to get around this obstacle. After some thought, we decided to put a DVR system on floors 1-4 in the sun room. We would then run extension cords out of the sun room windows, down the exterior building walls, and into the second
Present day shot of one of the solariums.
floor containing the one active power supply. The 5th floor, which was only a partial floor, was simply covered with handheld cameras on tripods.

             Thirty minutes later, we had the entire building covered and ready to go "lights out"! Prior to the actual investigation, we decided to have a group meeting in the adjacent guest building. While the group cleared the hospital, Brandon and I proceeded to the 5th floor to setup a handheld camera. The hospital is most notable for its children hauntings, which primarily reside on the 5th floor, as that was the area that once served as the children’s ward. While there, we placed children’s toys on the floor as control objects for the resident spirit, "Timmy", to play with. By this time, the entire group cleared the hospital, leaving Brandon and I completely alone in the 5-story hospital. As we made our way to the 4th floor stairwell, we got a brief EMF spike. As we stopped to check it out, we began hearing very heavy footsteps above us, as if multiple people were running back and forth! I will be the first to say that this was one of the first and only times I really got spooked! I can best describe what I felt as a sensation I would later coin as the “pucker effect”. I will let your imagination run wild as to what I am referring to! I knew right there that this was going to be one hell of an investigation!!
               In addition to the children, another common type of reported activity are the infamous "shadow people". As always, I was quick to try and debunk this activity, wondering if it could simply be matrixing mixed with eye trickery. Little did I know that I would soon find out that these shadows would not be so easily explainable! During the entire night, I think every single member of the group saw, what they feel, were these "shadow figures". The most memorable time was when several of us were all sitting in one of the hallways and we saw, plain as day, what looked like the black figure of a young girl in a dress. There was no transparency to the figure, as we could not see through it! I often described the anomaly as those solid black cutouts you find in people’s yards for Christmas. It looked just like one of those slowly walking across the hall.
The former morgue and storage drawers we laid in.
One of the more interesting rooms was the original morgue on the first floor, which contained an autopsy table and a set of body storage drawers. The common thing to do by investigators was to lay in one of these drawers and be pushed completely in the storage unit. While in there, it is said you can see shadows above you and voices can be heard. Of course, we had to try it! I’ve been called crazy for doing this but when would I ever get such a chance? The experience was unsettling to say the least!
             Another common occurrence reported through the night were the audible sounds of unknown voices, primarily the laughter of children. Several members heard what sounded like children’s laughter. In one incident, as I bent down to pick up a toy ball, Brandon and I both heard a very loud "shhhhh", right behind us. Of course, no one was there when we turned around. The rest of the night went on similarly: Strange noises, random EMF spikes, and plenty of BATS!! We officially
Strange light anomaly we captured.
wrapped up around 6:00 am, breaking down and packing up all the equipment. After we made the long trek back home, we were very eager to begin going over the hours of audio and video. We didn’t want to be too certain that we would come up with evidence, but we were pretty hopeful that we would at least obtain 1-2 EVP’s and possibly a photo or two.

            We were amazed when we came out with some of the clearest and most chilling EVP’s we would ever capture to date! There is nothing more spine-tingling, yet heart breaking, than capturing the voice of children when you obviously knew no children were present. However, in some of these recording, whether the spirits are residual or intelligent, they sound to be curious and playful. Instead of concluding such a long blog with an even more drawn out conclusion stating how awesome Waverly Hills is, I will simply leave you with these recordings, as they truly speak volumes!

-“Ignore Us
-Child’s Voice saying “Yea it was
-Voice mimicking Brandon saying “Walk it Out

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