WAVERLY HILLS: THE HISTORY & THE HAUNTINGS

S03EP07

SYNOPSIS

A much requested episode on the history of Waverly Hills, a Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Kentucky. These days, it features in just about every bad cable TV show on ghosts all around the world, but whats the reality behind the decrepit walls that are left standing today? And how much truth is there to the ghosts that allegedly walk the halls?

Thomas, C. C. (2007) With their dying breaths: A history of Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Sanatorium. C C Thomas, 2007 

Opening of Waverly Hill Sanatorium (1910, October 2), The Courier Journal, p. 18.

Waverly Hill Sanatorium Dedicated Tomorrow (1910, October 11), The Courier Journal, p. 10.

Dedicated to the Cause of Humanity (1910, October 13), The Courier Journal, p. 12.

Mullin, E. (2016). How Tuberculosis Shaped Victorian Fashion. [online] Smithsonian. Available at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-tuberculosis-shaped-victorian-fashion-180959029/[Accessed 25 Mar. 2019].

Schuleit, A. (n.d.). State Hospitals of Massachusetts: Historical Overview.[online] 1856.org. Available at: http://www.1856.org/historicalOverview.html [Accessed 25 Mar. 2019].

Shafer, S. (2014). Waverly Hills hospital rezoning likely. [online] Eu.courier-journal.com. Available at: https://eu.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2014/02/21/waverly-hills-hospital-rezoning-likely/5710001/ [Accessed 25 Mar. 2019].

Lovan, D. (2013). Former TB hospital now attracts ghost hunters.[online] NBC News. Available at: https://www.nbcnews.com/business/travel/former-tb-hospital-now-attracts-ghost-hunters-f8C11496194 [Accessed 25 Mar. 2019].

Spooky Southcoast. (2006). Charlie Mattingly of Waverly Hills.[podcast] Available at: https://spookysouthcoast.com/ [Accessed 26 Mar. 2019].

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Waverly Hills: The History & The Hauntings

Intro

Waverly Hills, a name now infamous among Paranormal Researchers, enthusiasts and more than likely casual onlookers alike. Waverly was a Tuberculosis Sanatorium built on the outskirts of Louisville, in the early 20th Century as a coping mechanism to an epidemic that was tearing through the United States and the state of Kentucky. In modern times, it’s fallen to ruin, but found a new form of fame by taking a seat as allegedly being one of the most haunted locations in America. But does the history match up with the hype of the endless cable TV specials and spin off B-Movie horrors influenced by the skeletal ruin? Today we dig into the history of the Sanatorium and discover at least some of the realities of Waverly hills. This is Dark Histories, where the facts are worse than fiction.

The White Plague

Responsible for over 1.6 million deaths in 2017 alone, it has infected billions over it’s 70,000 year life, killing Ancient Egyptian kings, described in the bible and written of profusely by Ancient Greeks and Romans. Known as Phthisis, the white plague and consumption, so named for the diseases propensity to consume the victim, causing huge weight loss. Tuberculosis has killed more than any other infectious disease and more than HIV, influenza, black death and the bubonic plague combined. Historically, victims had less than a 50% survival rate and many household names including Lord Byron, George Orwell, Paul Gauguin, Frederic Chopin and Eleanor Roosevelt have all fallen victim. Savagely infectious, 1 in 3 persons coming into contact with a sufferer were likely to contract the disease themselves.

In the early 19th through to the mid 20th Century, Tuberculosis was a common killer in the United States and Kentucky routinely lead the charts for the diseases high death rate. It launched into it’s epidemic state during the industrial revolution, with the vast emigration and movement of people who grouped tightly together in new cities, all with a poor understanding of infectious diseases. Several generations of one family might huddle in under one roof, making conditions in these industrial cities cramped, which, coupled with their lack of proper sanitation, became a menagerie of disease.

Tuberculosis was a slow, steady killer, eating away at a victim over a prolonged period. Symptoms were not always easy to spot at first, with a general feeling of being under the weather a poor descriptor for catching a disease in its early life. It would develop, over time, into a cough, low grade fever and weight loss. Chest pains, throat ulcers, coughing up blood and pale skin would follow, eventually leading to the victims infected tissue dissolving as the disease slowly ate away holes in the lungs, a common form of Tuberculosis, making it difficult to breathe or talk. The doctors called it “The graveyard Coughs”. For those 50% that were lucky enough to survive, relapse after a brief remission was commonplace.

One of the most common and well known symptoms of Tuberculosis is coughing up blood after the disease infected the lungs, but it was also possible for it to affect the central nervous system and brain, sending the sufferer into a state of poor mental stability and straight off to the insane asylums, with all their 19th Century creature comforts. In Victorian Britain, it was responsible for 1 in 4 deaths, and in the United States, it’s estimated to be closer to 1 in 2 deaths, though with no adequate way of recording deaths available at the time, some have estimated it as high as 80%. It spread through the population as quickly as it would spread through the body of the sufferer, leaving behind little but decay.

Amazingly, given this description, it was for a time, considered quite fashionable to have the disease. It was thought by many that due to the high number of artists, musicians and writers who had the disease, that it played a role in artistic talent. Victorian era women would aspire to a form of bizarre “consumptive chic”, with the weight loss and pale skin caused by the diseases propensity to cause weight loss in its victims as their appetite was steadily diminished. The constant, low grade fevers it caused would redden the cheeks and lips and with attitudes not so entirely different to today, these were all traits which were pushed onto women as attractive traits to emulate. Tight fitting corsets launched into fashion, along with the widespread use of makeup to whiten the skin and rouge the cheeks. Darkly, handkerchiefs were carried, the sufferers of Tuberculosis would cough blood into them whilst the fashionistas simply folded them neatly into their pockets.

As understanding of the disease and the way in which transmitted diseases were carried, many of the fashions changed to accomodate and by the 1880s as strides were made in this understanding, long skirts became seen as a neat way to collect filth and disease from the street and in men too, beards, which were so common in the first half of the 19th Century came to be seen as a safe haven for noxious germs. Before this time, bad smells, bad spirits, open sewers, hereditary traits, rich diet or lazy attitudes were all at one time or other blamed for the spread of Tuberculosis. The discovery of airborne transmission may have been a breakthrough, but it had an effect on more than just the fashions of the day. Public health warnings were issued and laws written up that commanded Tuberculosis sufferers to report their condition to local health officials with their names being made public knowledge. Landlords refused to rent to the victims and beauty parlors, barbershops and health spas refused to serve them on the grounds that they were too infectious. This, in turn, lead only to a sharp about face in public flaunting of the disease and rather than the icon of high fashion it once was, it now made the disease a dark secret, leading to sufferers holding back the truth about their infection until it was far too late for doctors to do anything about it to help them.

The Birth of the Sanatorium

In truth, even if the sufferer did admit to the disease, doctors could do little to aid them. The most common treatment being rest, relaxation and fresh air, away from the pollution of the cities. Sanitariums built in the hills and mountains on the outskirts of towns sprung up in the late 19th Century to house victims and played the role of both giving them a quiet location to rest and relax and as a way to quarantine the disease away from the cramped cities which only fostered the spread.

In America, Massachusetts was the first state to build a state funded sanatorium, originally called Massachusetts Hospital for Consumptive and Tubercular Patients and later, Rutland Heights State Hospital, which opened in 1895. Built among the hills and woods of Rutland, it was no coincidence that it stood overlooking the valley below. Since the 1840’s experiments in using “fresh air” as a treatment for illness had been commonplace, from the casual suggestions of seaside breaks to seeking more extreme sources of clean air, such as the treatment proposed by Louisville Physician Dr John Croghan, who opened up a cave on his property to a select group of tuberculosis sufferers, offering them the chance to live underground, full time for one year, convinced that the pure air would work as a cure. He made accomodations for 100 patients to live self sufficiently in the cave system, with dormitories, doctors office and his own dwelling by the entrance, but in September 1842 when the project opened, only 10 sufferers had signed up. Croghan forged on regardless, however he had not foreseen the challenges of living underground and the boarders found their dormitory stoves, not equipped with any exhausts, bilging out smoke that suffocated the dwellings. Mould and mildew was a constant problem due to the high humidity and eventually the project was forced to close prematurely after just 5 months, in which time, 3 of the 10 patients had died. Dr Charles Wright, another Louisville physician said of the patients after a visit to the caves,

“Those patients who remained in the cave presented a frightening appearance. The face was entirely bloodless, eyes sunken, and pupils dilated to such a degree that the iris ceased to be visible, so that no matter what the original colour of the eye might have been, it soon appeared black.”

After the project was abandoned, the longest patient to survive was Oliver Hazard Perry Anderson, who dies in 1845, far outliving the other 9. Croghan recognised his failure, but still held out hope for his pure cave air, until his own death from Tuberculosis in 1849.

Still, Croghan had been an early adopter of a trend that continued and sanatoriums sprung up throughout the US, built in locations thought to be conducive to exposing the “patients” to the freshest air possible. By the turn of the century, Colorado and Kentucky had the highest tuberculosis death rates in the whole country, with 1 in 8 deaths in Louisville attributed to the disease. The Hazelwood Sanatorium opened in 1907, with a startlingly deficient 16 beds for Tuberculosis patients. The downtown Louisville outreach program, “The Tuberculosis Dispensary” at 121 West Chestnut Street, ran entirely by volunteer physicians had 7 nurses on its roster, servicing 400 patients. Louisville was in dire need of a bigger facility.

Waverly Hills

10 miles from the center of Louisville, 300 feet above the Ohio river lay a large patch of farmland. It was remote, with the only operating buildings being a small dairy and Chesterfield train station. The land had been bought by a man named Major Hayes who had built a small 1 room school for his daughter. The teacher, Miss Lizzie Lee Harris, named the school Waverly Hill after a series of books written by Sir Walter Scott. Now, in 1908, with the death rate peaking in Kentucky, the state bought the land using money raised from bonds and a statewide property tax. They built the original sanatorium at a cost of $150,000 and ran in on a co-operative basis, with all large cities of Kentucky putting forth members who sat on the board. It was a large, two story wooden structure, designed by local architect James J Gaffney and also consisted of an admin building and two buildings which would house the sick, one for those thought curable, and one for those less fortunate, the whole campus sat on 174 acres of land. They retained the name of the school built by Major Hayes and Waverly Hills Sanatorium formally opened two years after its inception and after a brief delay to its original opening ceremony date, on 12th October 1910. In a speech given on the opening day by L. J. Dittmar, president of the sanatorium, spoke of the future plans,

“This is, as you see, is but the beginning of a tuberculosis hospital. Our needs are still many, and the extension of this plant is limited only by the amount of money placed at the disposal of the board to carry on this work”

And work certainly needed carrying on. Dr A M Forster was employed as the medical Director and the first thing he wrote off on, was the addition of 8 new beds, pushing the capacity up to 48. All Tuberculosis patients in the local area were promptly moved to the new sanatorium at a further cost of $25,000, however it soon found itself at capacity and then some. Many of the original patients spent their first year at Waverly camped in canvas tents on the small campus grounds until adequate space could be made for them in December of 1912. During that first year, life at Waverly was rough and it continued in a similar manner for the first 10 operating years of its life. A H Bowman, president of the Jefferson County board of Tuberculosis Hospitals said of Waverly,

“There is not room to isolate patients, and in fact the building is so crowded that we have no place for patients to die… Patients are crowded together in an insanitary inhuman manner, because of the lack of room.”

After much politicking in the local community, expansion was green-lit and space for a further 435 patients was made with large building projects, funded by the taxpayers and in local bonds at a cost of $750,000 to Louisville residents and $300,000 to Jefferson County. By 1923, a further 200 staff, 80 acres of land and another 100 beds had been added to the by now, sprawling campus, that offered stays at the hospital free for long term residents of those cities whose residents had contributed to its building and expansion. The largest building was finished in 1926, standing five stories high, boasting fire resistant fittings, a new concept at the time, a cinema, kitchen, solarium, several laundries, a dentist, library, bakery. Each bed had its own telephone, electric light and bell signal. It also boasted modern treatment rooms and surgeries. It now also, finally, had space for the treatment of the black community.

Given that Tuberculosis was such a readily spread disease, nurses were employed who had already had in the past, or even were current sufferers of Tuberculosis themselves. The staff lived on the campus grounds, meaning that many were either endangering themselves, or in the very least, placing themselves in the direct firing line of the disease in order to help others, a fact that is often overlooked in modern day retrospectives on large tuberculosis institutions.

Treatment at Waverly Hills

Treatment at Waverly was varied, though the bulk was simple rest and relaxation. This would go further than you might think for rest however, with patients being denied almost every form of entertainment with nothing to do but lay in bed and sleep. This stretched to books and even food, which would be scaled down to only those that were deemed bland and boring enough as to not over excite a patient. That said, nutrition played a big role in the treatment at Waverly, with patients being fed three meals per day, despite suffering from severe lack of appetite brought on through the tuberculosis.

Fresh air was seen as one of the other predominant forms of treatment and many areas of the hospital were built with large window frames containing only mesh rather than window pains to allow the fresh air to circulate. There were also large porch areas, all open air, 24/7 365 days of the year. Patients were often wheeled out in their beds to lay in the porch areas no matter the weather or season. Fortunately blankets were not in short supply at Waverly, so patients could be wrapped in several layers of blankets, lying on newly invented electric blankets to keep them warm whilst they lay in these open air porches in the depths of winter.

This often had the secondary effect of exposing the patients to the sunlight, another common form of treatment. Waverly was home to several Solariums, on the first, third and fourth floors as well as sunlamps that could be clipped to a beds headboard, exposing the patient to UV light for between 3 and 30 minutes. The sunlamps were most often used for treating patients with Tuberculosis in their joints, skin, bones and eyes.

On the more surgical end of the spectrum, waverly had several methods of treatment they regularly performed, ranging from the minor, such as cupping, a common treatment still used on a fairly large scale today, to the more extreme, last resort surgeries, like Pneumonectomies, removing patients entire lungs and Thoracoplasty, where patients ribs were removed, three at a time to remove the pressure from the chest cavity. Only around 5% of patients survived a Thoracoplasty surgery and it was only used in cases that were considered to be worth trying such last ditch efforts, as they would leave the few survivors disfigured and even a positive outcome did little but extend the patient’s life for a short period, leaving many to not find it worthwhile.

In between these extremes, there were numerous other surgeries performed at Waverly, such as Pleurectomy, whereby only the diseased sections of a patients of lungs were removed and avulsions, a process that artificially paralyzes a patients diaphragm, making breathing shallow and difficult, but deemed as a solid way to allow the lungs to recover with less stress and movement.

On the non-invasive end, treatments at Waverly could often simply test a patient’s susceptibility to sheer boredom. Patients were made to lie in certain positions for hours upon hours, sometimes strapped to the bed or lying flat on their backs with weighted bags on their chests to stop the lungs from moving excessive amounts. With all stimuli removed so as to not encourage over excitement, there was nothing for these patients to do but stare at the ceiling.

With no outpatient program, the average stay for a patient at Waverly was 444 days, and so there did have to be some things for them to do, or at least, those deemed far enough along in their recovery and the Sanatorium did provide a range of work and education programs, from literature to basket weaving. Occupational therapy rooms ran workshops, making brooms, tablecloths, baby clothes and other small items, which were often sol to the public on open days. There were woodworking lessons, along with leather cutting, toy making, book binding and dressmaking workshops, all with an aim to teach the patient a skill they might be able to utilise in the real world once their stay at the Sanatorium came to an end. For entertainment and leisure, there was a salon and barbershop on the first floor and an auditorium on the second, where guest speakers and entertainers came to give shows and lectures to the patients once per week.

Closure

And so life continued more or less in this vain for several decades. Upon it’s opening, it was a state of the art facility, for a disease which was rampaging through the nation, dominant in kentucky, but by the 1960s, once a cure for tuberculosis had been found, the hospital found itself facing obsoletion. It had already been the victim of cutbacks and mergers in the 1940s and by the mid-1950s, 31 tuberculosis hospitals across America were shut down. The hospital, once full to capacity now found itself having empty beds for the first time, with much of the good work done by the nurses and physicians that worked both at the sanatorium and on the hospitals numerous outreach program that had been working tirelessly to both treat and educate people in the downtown Louisville area, taking over from the earlier dispensary.

By 1961 however, it was seen as a huge drain on the community and was finally shut down in June 1st of 1961, with the remainder of the patients transferred to Hazelwood Hospital and only a skeleton staff retained for maintenance and guard duties. Although the crew that remained was small, the hospital and its grounds were so large, that the maintenance bill was still costing the state upwards of $70,000 per year just to maintain and efforts were made to sell the property, to little affect.

“The great problem we have is that the thing is so cock-eyed big we can’t get rid of it”

Said Dr Stuart Graves Junior, the head of the Health and Welfare Council of Waverly Hills Committee. There was some interest though, after all, the hospital sat on a large swath of land that was valuable in its own right, but most deals fell through due to the renovation costs becoming far too prohibitive once the options were explored by prospective buyers. In 1962, the Negro Ward, one of the older buildings on the grounds was bought by the state of Kentucky and leased to the Kentucky Geriatric Foundation for the creation of a hospice for the elderly. The hospitals name was changed to Woodhaven Medical Services, rooms were painted in bright pastels and handrails were added with the total cost of renovations capping out at $312,000. It opened its doors to the public in October of 1962 with 200 patients, 25 doctors, a psychiatrist and 22 nurses. The rest of the land was later sold off, including 273 acres for the purpose of creating a state park which opened in June 1966.

Under the name Woodhaven, life at Waverly was not quite as state of the art as it had been during it’s earlier days as a tuberculosis hospital. It took patients over the age of 62 upon its opening, however, later it would lower the age limit to 18, taking in mentally handicapped adults of all ages. It was a severe strain however, to keep the old building in line with modern standards and suffered from overcrowding and stories of neglect by the staff towards patients. In august of 1980, an elderly patient named Claude Lefter, who was confined to wheelchair, fell from a 5 feet drop from a hallway onto a loading dock below, dying in the accident. The state made a report, which alarmingly highlighted 47 violations, including urine and feces being found on the floors, walls and furniture of many of the halls and patients rooms, roach infestation, overcrowding, lack of clean linen, cold food being served to patients, poorly kept records and medications and a general lack of care for patients, who were often underweight, dirty and untended too, sometimes for hours on end. Harsh penalties were drawn up and the owners were given an unfeasibly short amount of time to clean their act up. In September fo the same year, it was closed down, with the remaining patients transferred. Waverly’s days as a functioning institution were over. In 1983 it was auctioned and the land split up for various commercial projects, including a retirement community and a prison, both of which fell through either due to financial difficulties or local protest. One of the more audacious plans was proposed by Robert Alberhasky, who bought the property in 1996 in hopes of building America’s own version of the famous Christ the Redeemer that stands tall overlooking Rio. The plans called for a 270 foot statue, making it the tallest religious figure in the world, however after a year of fundraising, the project had only mustered $3,000 and was scrapped.

And so the building stood, falling slowly into disrepair, housing gangs, homeless and being looted of any shred of value until 2002, when Charlie Mattingly, a local whose father had worked in the Sanatoriums kitchens from 1937, when he himself was just 17 years old, bought the property for $230,000 and later, the adjoining 80 acres of land for $800,000 with an eye to turn it into a Non profit health centre and haunted B&B, though somewhere down the line this plan became a Hotel and Convention centre. Either way, eye watering estimates placed the cost between $20 – 45,000,000 in renovations alone. Mattingly and his wife, however, thought the building too beautiful to let fall to decay,

“I’d heard a rumor it was for sale and I inquired to a real estate agent who sent me a picture of the building with a wrecking ball next to it. I thought ‘They can’t tear  it down.’ I’d heard stories about it all my life. ”

“We’re just trying to get it to a point where somebody can come in and say this could be something, we’re trying to save a historic building. And we’ll do it.”

Fortunately for Charlie, he discovered that Waverly had become famous more recently for more than just it’s history as a Tuberculosis hospital.

A New Life for Waverly

When Mattingly first bought Waverly, his first point of call was just to stop further deterioration to the building due to weather, along with cleaning up the mess that had been left by years of decay and trespassers. Mattingly soon found a disconcerting trend among some of the trespassers, not simply at the sanatorium to find shelter, cause trouble, or loot, they were there to hunt ghosts.

“I wasn’t aware of all the paranormal activity when I first got hold of the place, it just came on me, I discovered it myself. As I discovered it I would run into other people who would tell me similar stories.”

As Charlie Mattingly was taking video footage of the building to send to contractors and to survey the work that would need doing, he noticed upon playback that their were patches of discoloration on the walls that didn’t exist when he went back to check, as well as several shadows, orbs and various other lighting anomalies. He sent the footage off to whom he vaguely calls “People” and the birth of the Sanatorium as we know it today began. Thanks to his efforts in restoration, inserting new windows, doors, ceiling repairs and wall renovations, the building was made safe to visit and it has since been featured on numerous TV shows, made into films, radio plays and books, all focusing on the strange phonenomena that Mattingly stumbled upon. Today, people have visited in the thousands in hopes of seeing the ghostly goings on at Waverly for themselves, so what exactly is it that so draws them in?

Ghosts, Lore and Local Legends

When approaching the paranormal aspect of Waverly, the big question is, what came first? In a bizarre chicken and egg scenario, we are forced to ask,did the ghosts come to Waverly before Charlie Mattingly, or did Charlie Mattingly introduce the ghosts to Waverly? Some tales can be confirmed, whilst others can be roundly debunked, but many lay in the territory of local lore and legend, at least, that’s how Mattingly would have it believed.

The total number of deaths at Waverly would no doubt have been high. Tuberculosis was certainly cruel and viciously destructive, but the actual, true count is unknown. Tina Mattingly has spread around a number in the 60-70,000 range via various ghost hunting TV shows, but in reality, that number is highly likely to be inflated as the math just doesn’t add up. Frank J Stewart, the Sanatoriums assistant medical director recorded the highest number of deaths per year to have been 153 during his time working at the hospital, a far cry from the numbers needed to hit the Mattingly’s figures, which would sit it around 2.7 deaths per day, or 985 deaths per year, on average and that’s if we were to count the entire life of the hospital from 1910 until 1981.

Regardless, the site would certainly have seen it’s fair share of death. So exactly what is it that people see at Waverly? One of the most persistent legends is of a nurse named Mary Hillenburg, who, upon finding herself pregnant and with zero prospects of marriage on the horizon, hung herself outside room 502, on the fifth floor of the main building. As time has gone by, the story has gotten slightly more gruesome and by 2006, as told by Charlie Mattingly, she had now attempted to give herself an abortion, which was successful to a degree, flushed the fetus down the toilet and then hung herself, which is why when they found her body, she was covered in blood. Staff then allegedly went down to the sceptic pond that flushed out the hospitals toilet water and pulled out the aborted fetus, in order to give it a proper burial. Various other mediums and psychics have retold the same story, introducing their own twist, spicing it up with murder and torture. The story gives us a name though, so who was Mary Hillenburg really?

This whole affair apparently took place in the 1930s, or perhaps as told by some, in 1928. Maybe the stories confuse those of another nurse, who threw herself off the roof in 1932. Either way, both tales of suicidal nurses place them on the fifth floor due to the vicinity on the nurses station. The big problems with both stories are numerous however. Firstly, the nurses station was situated on the first floor, rather than the fifth and I could find no records of either deaths in any of the Kentucky papers for the period between 1928-1939 and there are no death records for women with the surname Hillenburg before 1964, and of the two that did die between 1964 and 2000, neither were named Mary. Proponents of the story believe it was kept a secret, covered up, to protect the hospital and most of the earliest accounts point to a local family named Thornberry who worked at the hospital spanning generations for the stories origins. One of the Thornberry family allegedly found the body and saw the nurse hanging for himself and so, the truth of it all lies only in verbal lore, passed down through the generations

One of the rumours surrounding waverly that does have a solid footing on the side of truth is the “Death Tunnel”, so named because staff used it to transport bodies from the hospital to awaiting hearses for them to be taken to funerals or collected by families. At 500 feet long and sloping downwards at a 30 degree angle, the tunnel remains open today. The “Death Tunnel” actually started life as a way to transport coal from the train tracks below, up the hill to the hospital. As time went on, workers used it as a more efficient way to carry goods up to the hospital and eventually, it actually did find it’s more macabre use, which has given it is moniker of Death Tunnel or Body Chute. In order to transport the bodies out of the hospital in a more discreet way, staff would lower bodies on a gurney, tied to a system of pulleys to the bottom of the hill for their transport away from the hospital.

Most of the other ghosts of Waverly are impossible to verify or deny, due to their circumstantial nature, but include shadow people, often seen throughout the building,

“Every time I went in there to do work, it was just like someone was looking over my shoulder. I used to jump up because I thought a homeless person or a trespasser was walking through the building, but when I would go to run after the person, or investigate what I thought I saw, they would just disappear.”

Existing throughout the hospital, at a range of sizes, the smallest of these shadow people resemble children and stalk through the corridors, barely visible in the dark, but have been noted to surround people silently as they walk the corridors.

There is a “man in white”, who appears to have a poor temperament and is most often seen hanging around the minor treatment room, leading most to speculate he was a surgeon or doctor. Then you have “Timmy”.

“Usually on the third floor, we’ll leave a ball laying around on the third floor and as as we go through, we’ll note what room or where on the floor its at and then when we come back, we’ll see if the ball has been moved, just about like clockwork the ball is always in a different place. We can’t always confirm that someone didn’t move it or the wind didn’t blow it, but it is kinda odd that every now and then the ball will move on its own… It doesn’t happen all the time, most of the time you’ll just look at it and it won’t do anything, but the few times it does move, it is very unnerving. You’ll say ‘okay timmy, throw us the ball’, or ‘kick us the ball’ and it doesn’t move very much, it just sits there and it just sits there and then this one time it just might turn over once or twice.”

Timmy also has a friend named Mary, the spirit of a young girl who apparently enjoys playing hide and seek with tourists and ghost tours as they walk the third floor halls. Mike Flickner, a guide at Waverly Hills, said he has been convinced for years of the places haunted nature.

“I’ve locked doors before and watched them unlock themselves and open up. I’ve seen a tub of concrete slide by itself,”

Whilst it should be irrelevant, the building itself certainly looks the part of a classic haunted building. It’s dilapidated walls scratching out into the grey skies above, it’s corridors vast, winding and full of history that most would rather not know, how much of the stories that surround it and add to its mystique are based in truth or exist purely in celluloid remains an unknown but nevertheless, it retains its draw for those with curious minds.

Conclusions

The history of Waverly is not quite the house of horrors it’s made out to be today by cable TV shows looking to hype a good atmosphere to cover up for a poor end product. In reality, Waverly was a modern, high tech facility that supported a community with up to date healthcare and selfless nurses and physicians. The truth to the later, more modern lore behind the building is a different beast. Stories rarely start from nowhere, they grow in stature, find themselves hyped, blown up and in the case of waverly, at times overplayed and overreaching, but at their core they all sprout from a seed planted by a simple tale. It seems fair to discount a lot of the stories as told by the television specials, but Whether or not you believe the stripped back legends, the true horror can’t be denied, that no matter the state of the institution, there is much to fear of being strapped to a hospital bed, staring at the ceiling with weights stacked on your chest, barely able to breathe whilst waiting to die to a disease that held no prejudice, transferred invisibly through the air and infected at an alarming rate.

When Charlie Mattingly found out the vast sums of money it would cost to renovate the hospital, he was quoted as saying,

“I knew the only way I could ever restore this old building was to make it famous.”

Stage 1 complete.

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