The Death Tunnel of Waverly Hills
The early 1900s was an especially dangerous time to live in Louisville , Kentucky. This was when a strange disease known as the “white death” was sweeping through the nation. We now call it tuberculosis, but at the time, all Louisville citizens knew was that it made people cough up blood – and if you got it, there was no cure.
Their town was hit the hardest out of anywhere in the nation. Those who caught the sickness were sent to Waverly Hills sanatorium to be experimented on until they died painfully. When Waverly Hills first opened in 1924, it was considered one of the best hospitals to treat tuberculosis. In reality, they were doing almost everything wrong.
For example, patients received plenty of fresh air and sunshine to combat the bacterial infection, which did seem to help them to a certain degree. However, this same logic meant they were left by open windows all year long.
It wasn’t uncommon to see a person dying of tuberculosis while covered in piles of snow that had drifted in from outside, or else dying from the blistering Southern heat in the summer. Sometimes they were left on a porch, but other times the patients were left on a roof to survive the elements.
Other tuberculosis-sufferers were forced to undergo much stranger treatments that seemed to border on pure torture. Their lungs were exposed to ultraviolet rays in an effort to stop the bacteria from spreading, and sometimes large chunks of their lungs were removed as well, if not the entire lung itself.
It also wasn’t uncommon for doctors to crush a nerve that controls your breathing so that one lung would be effectively paralyzed. This resulted in permanent shallow breathing and all sorts of other deformities. Waverly Hill patients would also sometimes have as many as 8 of their ribs removed.
Since tuberculosis causes the lungs to swell with infection, surgeons performed this procedure so that the infected lung would have more room to expand – but it didn’t really help. In fact, it almost always resulted in a painful collapsed long, which is why less than 5 percent of the patients survived this procedure.
Perhaps the worst treatment of all involved surgically implanting balloons directly into the lungs and then filling them with air. Clean air was thought to help fight the infection and strengthen the lungs, but it really did nothing other than increase the patients’ suffering as they slowly died in misery. Even though these operations all had a low survival rate, doctors just didn’t know what else to do. So many patients died at Waverly Hills that moving the bodies out became a real problem.
Staff didn’t want anybody to know just how many people were dying under their care, so they created a tunnel specifically for getting rid of the dead. This “death tunnel” started at the hospital morgue and opened up at the bottom of a hill by the railroad tracks. The bodies were then lowered into the trains and sent away. It wasn’t uncommon for entire families to pass through the death tunnel at one point or another.
Fortunately, as tuberculosis became less of a threat, the hospital became less needed. It was eventually transformed into the Woodhaven Geriatrics Sanitarium – which is basically like a retirement home from Hell. Here, electroshock therapy was administered on a regular basis, and rumors of the elderly being terribly mistreated was also standard practice.
A lack of funding meant that the treatment was just awful. In 1982, the facility was condemned and shut down by the state for good. The property has since become the subject of many ghost stories as told by anyone brave enough – or foolish enough – to go exploring.
Most stories especially seem to center around a mysterious fifth floor, which is supposedly where the mentally insane tuberculosis patients were kept. This way, they were properly isolated from the general population, but could still get fresh air and sunshine. Ghost hunters who come up to the fifth floor often start to feel paranoid and anxious, and this might be because of the previous staff as much as the inpatients. As the story goes, a head nurse once committed suicide on the fifth floor in Room 502.
She was 29-years-old and pregnant when she tied a knot around her neck and hung herself from a lighting fixture. In 1932, another nurse is said to have jumped from the roof. She, too, worked in Room 502. No records exist to confirm this story, but many locals say there was a cover up to keep it under wraps. To this day, if you go into Room 502, you might see shadows in the windows or even hear a voice sharply order you to “get out” immediately. Ghost sightings aren’t just limited to the fifth floor.
A man dressed in a white chef’s coat is often seen walking around in the kitchen, where visitors can smell fully-cooked meals. Sometimes you can even hear his footsteps along with the smell of freshly baked bread in the cafeteria area.
There’s also a little boy with an old 1930s leather ball to play with, and a woman with bleeding wrists who comes screaming at you for help. Other than that, slamming doors, shifting shapes, and lights in the windows despite a lack of power are all commonplace. Of course, there is no shortage of video evidence to support all of these paranormal claims.