Friday, October 9, 2009

Run, Don't Trot

Magnet # 59: I Trotted Though Louisville, Kentucky

Material: Rubber

Purchased By: Me

Peaceful, pastoral Louisville is actually home to one of the most creepy and reportedly haunted spots in America - Waverley Hills Sanatorium. This place has a long history of suffering, pain, and death which may have led spirits of some of the tormented to stick around permanently. Despite its peaceful name, this is not a nice destination to relax and spend some leisurely time sipping bourbon. But, if you want a good shot at an encounter with the supernatural, Waverly Hills is open for tours. Some well-traveled supernatural junkies hold that this is one place they've come face to face with the spirits they've been searching for.

It all began in 1910, when the original two-story sanitorium was opened specifically to deal with all of the tuberculousis the area had been dealing with. Because of its proximity to low-lying swampland, tuberculosis hit Louisville harder than most areas in the country.  So the original site soon proved to be not large enough to accomodate the overwhelming amount of patients being brought there, and, in 1926, a new, much larger institution opened its doors. It was the most advanced sanatorium of its day. Unfortunately, it still adhered to the ineffective, some might even say barbaric, medical practices of the time.

Some treatments practiced at Waverly Hills might have piled up a body count large enough to rival that of the disease itself.  Balloons were sometimes placed in patients' lungs and ribs and muscles in the chest were removed, all in the hopes of letting in more air.  It was also believed that fresh air was necessary to cure the disease and, to that end, patients were placed on the porches built onto each floor and left there, even if it was snowing and the snow fell on them, sometimes causing frostbite and hypothermia. With all of the suffering and torment going on there, it's easier to believe that the spirits of some of these miserable souls have been too upset to simply pass on.

The building is said to be bursting with supernatural energy these days.  Lights turn on and off randomly, voices cry out, visitors claim to feel something touching them when no one is there, and shadowy figures appear from nowhere.  One in particular wears a white coat and is thought to have been a doctor there.  The fourth and fifth floors are said to have the most supernatural energies, and Room 502 is particularly notorious.  There, two nurses died - one by hanging herself and the other by falling out of the window.  It's not known whether she jumped or was pushed.  One of the creepiest features of the building has come to be known as a "body chute" or "death tunnel."  It was originally created as a mechanized tunnel traveling from the first floor to the bottom of the hill on which to transport supplies.  But as more died, the management decided to quietly take bodies out of the sanatorium this way rather than in full view of the patients, destroying their morale.  As far as I can tell, there are no hauntings in the tunnel.  

When I was in Kentucky earlier this year for Larry Elmore's art class, dedicated art student that I am, I tried to get Larry to take us by Waverley Hills. He didn't but he did tell us about when the Ghost Hunters came by to investigate the site. One of them (Jason, I think) is a longtime fan of Larry's and visited him at his studio. I have seen his autographed photo there. They ordered pizza, and when the delivery guy showed up, he was amazed to see one of the Ghost Hunters there. He started fawning all over him, and the Ghost Hunter interrupted and pointed out that Larry Elmore himself is a pretty big deal. The delivery guy shot back with "yeah, but I bring him pizza all the time."

Okay, so that last bit doesn't exactly fit with the rest of this creepy post. But I figured with all the death and suffering that I'm posting in keeping with the month's theme, I'm going to toss in some humor whenever I can. And, who knows, maybe on my next trip to visit Larry in Kentucky, I'll manage to get out to Waverly Hills and experience it for myself.  That could make for an interesting post...


  1. I think I will avoid Waverley Hills Sanatorium - if and when I am ever in KY, but thanks for the creepy tale.

  2. You're welcome - I think it might be kinda fun.