About the Author
Mark Leslie is the author of Creepy Capital and Tomes of Terror, as well as many other books on the fascinating and paranormal, and is editor of Campus Chills and Tesseracts Sixteen. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Shadow people, spectral nurses, ghostly children, and distorted human forms crawling along ceilings: these are just some of the disturbing things people have encountered at Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky.
Originally a two-storey building, the sanatorium eventually grew to be a massive structure. In fact, in its heyday Waverly Hills was like a small city ― self-sustaining and possessing its own zip code.
Waverly Hills operated as a sanatorium, or tuberculosis hospital, housing and treating over four hundred patients at a time for many years. It closed its doors in 1961 after the development of streptomycin, an antibiotic proven to be effective in treating tuberculosis, rendered the facility obsolete. It reopened the next year as Woodhaven Geriatrics Hospital but was closed by the state in 1981 due to allegations of patient neglect and abuse. With a history like that, is it any wonder that Waverly Hills has been called one of the most haunted places on earth?
One thing Waverly Hills is known for is the sheer number of shadow people purported to reside within its walls. Shadow people are exactly what the term implies ― people-shaped shadows. Except that these shadows don’t have a source ― there is no one standing in a light to cast them.
They just are. Shadow people take on several different shapes, everything from clear representations of humans to wispy or smoky mists. Though there are exceptions, usually shadow people are formed of darkness so dense that light cannot penetrate them.
Theories about what causes shadow people are widely diverse, running the gamut from overactive imaginations to ghosts, demons, aliens, or even time travellers. Whatever they are, and whatever they want, many who have witnessed a shadow person have been irrevocably changed by the experience.
The Body Chute
Waverly Hills Sanatorium is massive, and it sits atop a very big hill, so getting supplies up to it could be a nightmare. It was also a cold trip to the bottom of the hill for staff in the wintertime. To solve this problem, they built a five-hundred-foot-long tunnel from the hospital to the base of the hill. One side of the tunnel had stairs so people could get up and down; the other side was a sloped “slide” used for carts and railcars ― things with wheels. In time the facility began using the tunnel to transport disturbing cargo ― human bodies.
Urban legend says the tunnel found this purpose when the hospital death rate peaked ― the stories say one person was dying at the facility every hour, but thankfully the real rate was much lower than that ― an average of 104 deaths per year, peaking at 152 deaths per year around the end of the Second World War.
Many people attribute the unnerving feeling they get within the tunnel to the passage of so many freshly deceased; others say it is merely claustrophobia and echoes. Whatever the primary cause, people have reported disturbing shadows, the sound of footsteps, and voices that can’t be explained within the tunnel’s walls.
Perhaps one of the most spectacular occurrences in the body chute, or death tunnel, as some prefer to call it, happened to Brian and Justin of the Johnsdale Paranormal Group. They spent a significant amount of time in the tunnel conducting an EVP session and using an infrared camera to take photographs in the eerily dark location.
While they were standing midway between the top and bottom of the tunnel, Justin spotted something down near the bottom ― a glowing ball of bluish-purple colour. At first it just hovered in place, but when they turned off the infrared camera, eliminating any external light, the ball of light started to change. It began to undulate, and its shape altered.
Using the regular camera, Brian started taking pictures, one after another, in rapid succession. Looking at the photos in sequence, it appears the large dark-purple blob is moving quickly up the tunnel toward the investigators before vanishing.
What was it? A bizarre shadow or something else completely? Did it go past them? Through them? Into them? We’ll never know for sure, but the photographs certainly make you wonder.
The First Floor
The first floor of Waverly Hills contained some patient and treatment rooms, but its primary purpose was to contain the various things required to maintain a hospital ― a small morgue, a salon, a dentist’s office, and administration offices. It has since undergone extensive renovation and restoration by the current owners of the hospital, and the first floor currently contains the security office (trespassers are an ongoing problem at Waverly) and a gift shop.
The first floor is not a hotbed of paranormal activity the way some of the other floors appear to be; however, compared to most everywhere else in the world, the first floor is still plenty haunted. In fact, Josh, a Waverly Hills tour guide, told WHIPGhostHunters that there have been a high number of EVPs reported on the first floor.
An EVP is when sounds recorded on electronic devices are interpreted as being the voices of spirits. The voices are frequently not heard by the people recording them at the time. Often only when the recording is played back are EVPs discovered.
In one first-floor treatment room, Josh reports a visitor asking, “Is anybody here?” When they played back the tape of the session, they
heard a voice respond clearly, “Well, why are you here?”
The Second Floor
The second floor of Waverly Hills is not well reported upon. This might initially lead you to believe it’s not a very active location in the property, but Josh, the same tour guide (who by the very nature of his job spends a significant amount of time all over the hospital), says he’s had more paranormal things happen to him in the second-floor cafeteria than in any other room in the building.
One of Waverly Hills’ distinguishing features is its solarium. Fresh air and sunlight were believed to be some of the best ways to treat tuberculosis, so Waverly Hills Sanatorium was built so that the entire length of one side is a solarium. While the hospital was operational, that side had a copper mesh over its massive windows in an effort to keep critters out, but still remain open to the Kentucky wind and sunshine. Every day patients would be wheeled out of their rooms and into the solarium to take advantage of these healing elements.
There are a lot of windows in Waverly Hills ― in part due to this solarium ― so tour guides and visitors to the hospital frequently ask
spirits to tap on a window to demonstrate that they are there. One time in the second-floor cafeteria, the spirits were asked to tap a window to say hello. On that occasion something or someone tapped on every single window in the room, moving all the way along one direction, then stopping and tapping them all again in the reverse order. Was this a freaky coincidence, or a spirit trying to make a point?