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Thriller Thursday: Tuberculosis Terror

Due to this post from Roni Loren (thank you for the warning, Roni) I’ve decided to remove most photos from Thriller Thursday. I hope you’re still able to enjoy them!

More than a hundred years ago, consumption was a dreaded term. The diagnosis was nearly as disheartening as hearing “you’ve got cancer” today. Fatigue was often the first sign, followed by weight loss, fever, lack of appetite, and the persistent and eventually bloody cough.

Tuberculosis wasn’t entirely understood at the turn-of-century. It was romanticized at times because the victim didn’t die in a splatter of blood and glory, but rather faded away.

Henry David Thoreau died of Tuberculosis in 1862 at the age of 44.

Although easily curable today, Tuberculosis ran rampant throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Doctors often prescribed fresh, dry air (this is why Doc Holliday headed West) to help the lungs grow stronger. In 1910, a small, tw0-story Tuberculosis hospital opened in Louisville Kentucky. It quickly became overrun with sick patients and expanded to a mammoth facility in 1924. Considered one of the most modern in the world, the new structure was able to house more than 400 patients.

Aerial view of Waverly Hills during its heyday.
Waverly Hills Sanitorium is believed to be one of the most haunted places in the world. Louisville Ghost Hunters Societyhas conducted many investigations on the premises, and their results are terrifying. They’ve heard ghostly sounds, spotted lights that couldn’t be on, had objects hurled at them, been struck by unseen hands, and have spotted apparitions.

In a building where unimaginable suffering occurred for decades, it’s no wonder the paranormal activity is intense.

Patients in the solarium-like porch way. Doctors believed patients needed plenty of fresh air and sunshine—hence the lack of glass in the windows.

In addition to the fresh air treatment (patients were subjected to this even in the winter. TB sufferers are said to be the reason heating blankets were invented), numerous experimental procedures were introduced. Pneumothorax (surgically collapsing a portion of the lung so it heals) and thoracoplasty (opening up the chest and removing up to 3 ribs at a time so the lung would have more room to expand and heal) were two of the most popular. Fewer than five percent survived the pneumothorax attempts. Patients were also exposed to ultraviolet light in an effort to stop the spread of bacteria.

Historians believe between 40,000 and 60,000 people died in Waverly Hills Sanitarium—some from the disease and many others from experimental procedures.

So many perished at Waverly that a tunnel was dug from the lower level of the hospital out out to a field away from the main section of the hospital. Kept out of sight from the living patients, the “body chute” was a sad and busy place. Some accounts claim more than forty bodies per day were sent down the chute during the highpoint of the TB siege. A motorized wench system guided the bodies down the tunnel while hearses lined up at the end and staff wheeled the dead away.

There’s no electricity in the body chute. Imagine pitch darkness with only flashlights to guide you, much like the Las Vegas Tunnels featured in Into The Dark. The chute is reported to be on of the most haunted areas of the Sanitorium. Voices have been captured on tape (EVPS), as well as unexplainable mists, cold spots, and apparitions.

This video is long, but it’s a visitor’s experience in the spooky body chute at Waverly Hills.

The body chute is far from being the only haunted spot at Waverly.

A man in a white coat has been seen walking in the kitchen, and the smell of cooking often wafts through the room. These instances occurred long before any renovations took place, when the kitchen was in ruins: broken windows, fallen plaster, puddles of water, and debris from the leaking roof.

The third floor is known to be incredibly active. A ball is often heard and sometimes seen bouncing down the hall or stairs. Ghosts of both a little girl (with no eyes) and a little boy have been seen. The boy’s ghost has been nicknamed Timmy, and many visitors have had encounters with him.

In this video, ball is thrown at paranormal investigators during a live investigation in September, 28. The ball appears at about a minute into the video. There are numerous videos of investigators encountering the ball on You Tube.

The fifth floor of the hospital is a magnet for ghost hunters. It’s believed that mentally insane TB patients were housed on the fifth floor, far away from others but still able to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. Patients were isolated on either side of the nurse’s station.

Room 502 rivals the body chute for most haunted area of the Sanitorium. Legend says that in 1928, a nurse was found hanging from the light fixture. Many believed she’d committed suicide because she was unmarried and pregnant.

A second (alleged) suicide of another nurse occurred in 1932. She jumped from the balcony for unknown reasons.

Room 502 today.

Apparitions of a female nurse in white have been seen by numerous visitors, and disembodied voices have been caught on tape.

Waverly’s fourth flour is known for its shadow people—unexplainable moving objects with an eerie human like quality. Most skeptics have ruled out the headlight theory, as the Sanitorium sits on top of a hill.

At about :10 into this video, Jay and Grant from TAPS encounter the shadows with their thermal camera.

People have reported seeing lights on in the building at night although there was no electricity and no glass to reflect light. A guard claimed to have seen the flicker of a television from a room on the third floor. Children have been heard playing on the roof—the spot where they were taken for “heliotherapy” during their time at Waverly. A hearse has been spotted in the back of the building dropping off coffins, and a woman with bleeding wrists has been seen (and heard) crying for help. Slamming doors and loud footsteps in the empty building are a common occurrence.

Patients at Waverly in the early 1900s.

Tuberculosis patients aren’t the only ones said to have suffered at Waverly Hills. Streptomycin was discovered in 1943, and the antibiotic began to rid the population of the disease. The hospital closed in 1961 but was reopened as the Woodhaven Geriatrics Sanitarium a year later. Electroshock therapy—believed to be effective during the time period—was widely used. Budget cuts in the led to filthy conditions and mistreatment, and Kentucky closed the facility in 1982 due to patient abuse.

Waverly Hills is among the most legendary places in the country, and the past decade has seen the landmark go through a large renovation. While still maintaining it’s creepy authenticity, the owners have perserved the building for ghost hunters and history buffs alike.

The Sanitorium is now owned by Charlie and Tina Mattingly. Tours are offered through their site. Waverly has long been at the top of my list to visit, but this is an experience not for the faint of heart.

Do you have the guts to go into the black body chute or play ball with Timmy on the third floor?

45 comments on… “Thriller Thursday: Tuberculosis Terror”

  1. Wow – what a great post! I am always freaked out by the “vibe” I get even in modern hospitals and medical facilities – I know it is just me and my hypersensitivity to the environment but I always feel both sad and a little scared, and can’t wait to leave. I can only imagine the reaction I’d have inside Waverly! I didn’t realize that Thoreau had died of TB!

    • Thank you! I get those vibes too. They’re awful. I’ve also had the experience of the air thickening, that pressing feeling against you when something strange is going on. It happens a lot at my Mom’s. It’s thrilling but scary. I know I’d be freaked out at Waverly but how fun would it be? I didn’t know about Thoreau, either.

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

  2. What a great post! Hats off to you for going down in that tunnel. I don’t know if I could do it knowing how many dead bodies went down that chute. What a creepy, creepy place.

    • Thanks so much, but I haven’t been down it. That was a video I got off youtube. I would if I had the chance to visit, thought! Thanks for stopping by:)

  3. Exceedinly creepy. I got chills just reading about it. I hear you on the vibe thing. I worked in a hospital for 6 years and never quite got used to it. I can’t imagine stepping into a place where so many people died like that. It’s sad that such brutal surgical were used but I wonder how many surgical procedures/medications from today will look brutal in 100 years.

    • Thanks, Sonia! I’ve seen several investigations at Waverly, and most of them were very chilling. I’m sure the atmosphere is charged. I couldn’t work at a hospital—too much sadness.

      That’s a good point. Who knows how medicine will (hopefully) continue to evolve?

      Thanks for commenting!

      • Sadness, yes. But also bravery and love. I’ve seen a 9 year old with more courage than I can imagine having. And a dying woman who went around cheering others up. It was hard to see death and suffering, but it taught me a lot too.

  4. Stacy, I got chills reading and so thankful I live in the time we live in – those awful experiments and procedures. Tortuous and fatal! I would love to visit Waverly Hills. My grandmother died of “consumption” back in the 30s.

    • I’m glad, lol. I’m sure the doctors meant well, but yes, just awful treatment of the patients. I can’t imagine living in that era. Sorry about your grandmother – that had to be a hard way to go.


    • Lol. I would be freaked out but I would love it. As long as I wasn’t by myself. I’d need a big group. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Places like this are spooky – not merely because of the stories of hauntings, but also the truth of what happened there. I knew a lady whose father was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and her recounting of the experience was heart-wrenching. I would head down the tunnel with you, but then you know, I’m a skeptic! However, I’m certainly curious and willing to open my mind to whatever is there. Waverly certainly seems like a good candidate for the presence of ghosts. Well-researched post, Stacy. Very interesting!

    • Very true, Julie. Just the idea of all that history and sadness is very creepy. I can only imagine what it was like for your friend’s father. TB patients suffered a lot before the antibiotic was discovered.

      If ever there was a place to chance a skeptic, Waverly’s it. Glad you enjoyed, and thanks!

  6. Excellent post, Stacy! I knew nothing about Waverly’s, but I’m well-acquainted with tuberculosis as my grandmother’s family died of it. I would freak out going there! I don’t have the guts. Wish I did. This was such a fun read!

    • Your grandmother’s family died of it? Wow, how sad. I don’t think anyone in my family has (that I know of). So glad you enjoyed it! Thanks:)

  7. I have been trying to get to this for a day now! I came over here, read a little and saw I didn’t want to just zoom through the material. I wanted to savor it. (as sick as that sounds) Anyway, I really enjoyed this. As I told you, I had never heard of Waverly. Love the videos. Despite my desire to sit through every video, I had to save the long video for later. But the other two were very very creepy. Great research on this place. 😀

    You know what we need to do? We need to go on a tour of totally haunted places.

    • That’s the one drawback of Thriller Thursdays – they’re long. I knew you’d like it! I couldn’t believe you’ve never heard of this place. They are really creepy, and Ghosthunters had some wicked experiences there.

      Yes, we do! I thought the same thing the other day. Would be so much fun, lol.


  8. Great spooky post for Halloween, Stacy. I love stuff like this, as long as there no dripping blood and guts! Never heard of Waverly, but 40 bodies a day . . . that’s a lot of dead people down a chute. Bravo . . . and Happy Halloween.

    • Thanks, Nancy! I love anything spooky. Not so much on the gore, at least not for Halloween. Doesn’t scare me, just grosses me out. Waverly is just a sad and fascinating place. Thanks, and you, too!

  9. Fascinating place and history, Stacy. Love the pictures and videos. No, I don’t think I’ll take the challenge to go into the body chute or play ball with Timmy!

    • Lol, thanks. Waverly is definitely fascinating. I would be scared to death in the body chute, but I’d do it. Couldn’t resist;)

  10. I shy away from ‘scary’ stuff…I just don’t like to be scared. However, this article is quite informative and very interesting. I enjoyed it wholeheartedly! I did not watch the videos…(Yep..that’s the chicken in me…lol) but learned so much. Great research – and you organized the information well. Hope you have a terrific week, Stacy! 😉

    • Thank you so much. It’s always good to hear someone who isn’t into the scary stuff enjoyed the article. Glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you have a great week as well.

  11. Fantastic post, Stacy — very informative and interesting. Although the subject is really sad, it is also very suitable for this time of the year (Halloween). You have a real gift for writing amazing posts.

    • Thank you. This post was long so I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yes, it is very sad. Thankfully medicine has come a long way. And thanks for the compliment:)

  12. eeeeekekkkeee….creepy! I would sooo not have the gut to wonder the dark halls to see if I could run into some ghost or have a ball thrown at me. I would lose my shit! LOL! I’ll just stick to reading and watching videos….so thanks for sharing. Fantastic read!!

  13. Jessica R. Patch

    You have the most interesting posts. I’m sitting here reading this to my friend at work and talking about how many hours you have to put into researching these topics. Pays off! Great stuff!

    • Thanks so much! I do put in quite a bit of time for Thursday posts, and sometimes I worry they’re too long. Really appreciate the compliments!

  14. It took me a while, but I finally read this. There were several sanatoriums here in Colorado Springs due to the temperatures and sun. I haven’t heard of any haunted places though. I’ll have to check into that.

    • Hi Stacy! Yeah, I know the TT posts are really long. I need to work on getting them down. Let me know if you find any. Thanks!

  15. Pingback: Here There Be Ghosts | Sonia G Medeiros

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  17. Great article thanks for including our investigation video in your write up. For anyone that hasn’t visited Waverly Hills should during the course of there life..It is a very interesting place, with a ton of history that should never be forgotten.

    • You’re very welcome. I’m glad you liked the article, and I’m jealous of your visits to Waverly. It’s on my list!

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