Saturday, June 1, 2013

Waverly Hills: The Abused Patients

In the 1940s and 1950s the numbers of tuberculosis patients dropped in the United States when antibiotics were discovered that could treat this highly contagious disease. 

This was a major breakthrough because in the 1930s one out of every twenty-one people that died in the US was from tuberculosis. Most of these victims were young people and women. 

Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky opened in 1910 to address the ever-growing population afflicted with this disease. Forty years after it closed its doors in 1961 this building is still considered one of America’s most haunted.

In the US the typical treatment for Tuberculosis patients before antibiotics was: rest, a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, a lot of fresh air and sunshine and
sometimes surgery to remove diseased areas of the lung. 

A large number of patients did not respond and died. 

Waverly Hills is extraordinary in that a larger percentage of its patients died. The sanatorium had over 63,000 patients die during the fifty-one years it was open. At the height of the epidemic one died every hour. So what caused this higher mortality rate?

One reason is the fact that many of the staff neglected and mistreated the patients under their care. 

Another more compelling fact is the hospital’s unscrupulous doctors. Despite the fact that Waverly Hills was considered one of the best TB hospitals in America, many treatments that were used on patients were unproven at best and unethical at worst. 

One procedure that was used was called pneumothorax--this involved deflating the infected area of the lung and then letting it heal. 

An even more invasive treatment used was called thoracoplasty-this involved opening up the chest and removing several ribs, the idea behind this procedure was to allow more room for the lungs to expand and take in more oxygen. Only five percent of the patients that endured this survived.

Even more disturbing is that patients who it was assumed would most likely die were used as guinea pigs. A wide variety of unproven procedures where performed on them. 

One procedure involved inflating patient's lungs with surgically implanted balloons. Other patients were subjected to hydrotherapy, which often resulted in pneumonia and then death.

Mercifully, in 1961 Waverly Hills’ doors closed for good. But another sanitarium opened in its place. 

Unfortunately,Woodhaven Geriatrics the hospital that took over the space used treatments that were even worse than Waverly. 

Woodhaven doctors used electroshock therapy on many of their patients. In 1982 the state of Kentucky charged this sanatarium with abuse and closed it down. 

What people have heard and seen in the following years indicates that this building's tragic history has left many disturbed souls behind. 

This ghostly activity is centered in very specific areas of the former sanatorium. The hospital’s “death tunnel” is one of these areas.

This tunnel originally built to aid construction workers bring in and take out the supplies they used took on a much more morbid task. The hospital staff realized that it could be used to discretely remove the bodies of the dead without alarming the other patients. 

On a daily basis the bodies where placed on a motorized cart and removed from the hospital via this body chute. Voices are heard in this area and witnesses have seen dark specters move about further down from them in the tunnel.

Another creepy part of the hospital is known as the “draining room”. It is stated that the local townspeople were afraid the bodies that were transported through their community would spread the disease. 

Hence the hospital decided to hang the bodies on hooks in this room in order to drain their body fluids, blood etc. This also made the bodies easier to transport since they were lighter. 

Some skeptics state this story is just a myth, that this area was used as a transformer room. But this does not explain the hooks, or the eight large spearheaded poles that are in this room.

Waverly Hills has all the typical activity associated with hauntings--lights flicker, doors slam, voices and footsteps are heard but the activity witnessed goes beyond this. 

One tragic sighting is that of two children on the third floor in the solarium. A young girl is seen running up and down and a young boy is seen chasing after a ball. 

Other witnesses have seen a phantom hearse at the sanatorium’s back door delivering coffins. One elderly female patient is seen and heard. She is described as having bloody wrists wrapped in chains, she is seen running out the front door screaming for help.

Two other ghosts seen at Waverly Hills are staff members--nurses. Room 502 is considered another very haunted area. 

In 1928 a nurse by the name of Mary Hillenburg hung herself in the doorway of this room. It is said she was desperate when she found herself pregnant, infected with TB and unmarried. 

Another version of this story states that the father of Mary’s baby was a married doctor at the hospital. He performed a botched abortion, which ended in Mary’s death. He then hung her body to make it look like a suicide. Mary’s ghost is seen in this area. 

Yet another young nurse at Waverly Hills committed suicide by jumping off the roof of the sanatorium. Her ghost is seen as well.

*  Unfortunately, tuberculosis is on the rise again in the US. Today 15 million Americans have what is called latent TB. Most of these people were foreign born and exposed to TB in their country of origin. 

The following Travel Channel video shows pictures of Waverly Hills through the years. It talks about some of medical treatments used and the most haunted areas, which includes the first floor morgue.

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