Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Waverly Hills Sanatorium
As far as reportedly haunted locations go, Waverly Hills Sanatorium is a legend. The hospital building was completed in 1926 and was considered to be one of the most modern facilities for treating the disease tuberculosis. Patients with TB had to be quarantined away from the general public. Before antibiotics, the prescribed treatments involved plenty of rest, fresh air, and sunlight. The hospital had long porches called solariums where the patients would be wheeled outside, even in the winter. Electric blankets were invented specifically for sanatoriums to assist in this practice. If the weather was too inclement to take them outside, the patients would sit under sunlamps in the hope that the ultraviolet light would kill the bacteria. If these treatments didn't work, the last resorts were Pneumothorax and Thoracoplasty. Both surgical procedures seem downright brutal by today's standards, but back then, it was all they had. Pneumothorax was a way of collapsing part of the lung and giving it a chance to heal. It also closed any holes the disease may have caused. Thoracoplasty involved opening the person's chest and removing some of the rib cage bones. It was only safe to remove a few at a time, so many patients had to endure the agonizing procedure several times before it was complete.
Of course, no discussion of Waverly is complete without mention of the Body Chute aka the Death Tunnel. At the height of the epidemic, patients were dying every day. In order to keep up the spirits of the living, the staff discreetly removed the dead bodies using the underground passage, which employed a rail car wench system. It was originally constructed to bring supplies and heat up to the hospital, but also served as a good way for the staff to get up and down the hill in the winter. Over the course of the years, approximately 30,000 people made their last trip down the hill in this fashion.
After the invention of antibiotics, sanatoriums were no longer needed. Waverly was closed down, disinfected, and re-purposed as WoodHaven, a geriatric home. It was closed down in 1980 by the state due to patient abuse. The building sat abandoned for many years. In that time, the legends surrounding Waverly only grew...
Many specters are said to still haunt the premises. One of the most famous stories is the nurse of room 502. According to the tales, she was unmarried and pregnant. Supposedly, she was so overcome with grief at her situation, she hung herself in room 502. Her presence has been felt by many, especially pregnant women. They are said to get very sick and dizzy when they go into this room. A few years later, another nurse committed suicide by jumping out the window of 502. No one knows why she did it.
A homeless man and his dog lived here while the building sat unused. He fell down an elevator shaft to his death, but is often seen along with his ever-loyal dog who never left his side. There have been many reports of disembodied voices and poltergeist activity, but to me the most unsettling involve the children's ward. In that area of the hospital, voices have been heard singing "Ring Around the Rosy." Creepy!
Waverly Hills was bought several years ago by Charlie and Tina Mattingly who have been working tirelessly to restore and preserve the site. Every year they put on one heck of a haunted house! My friends and I went a few nights ago, and while we had to wait for four hours in line, it was absolutely worth it. It was a great show, and the tour seemed to go on forever. It was very dark, so my shots of the exterior didn't come out as well as I had hoped. They also do overnight visits, but they sell out quickly! We were going to go this summer, but they were already booked up, so make those reservations early.
I have been to this place twice and can tell you from personal experience that there is an energy here. Whether you believe in these things or not, it isn't anything I can really describe except a feeling of imposing. The building and the grounds resonate with something more than we can see and I can't wait to go back to find out more!