- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Dundurn (August 5, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1459737865
- ISBN-13: 978-1459737860
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #614,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Haunted Hospitals: Eerie Tales About Hospitals, Sanatoriums, and Other Institutions Paperback – August 29, 2017
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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.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium: The Most Haunted Location on Earth?
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?
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This was an absorbing read, and I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys spooky tales, dark legends, and all things mysterious.
This book takes mostly North American "hospitals"-- sanatoriums, hospitals, poor farms, and asylums -- and gives you a brief run-down of the history of each as well as the most famous ghosts and hauntings. Many of the hauntings are preceded by references to some of the therapies that the authors speculate might create traumatized spirits such as thoracoplasty (yikes!), lobotamies, and shock therapy.
I think the most interesting one for me was actually the stories of the island off of Venice in the short section on haunted hosptials around the world where plague victims were burned. It almost made me want to go there...almost.
There's a slightly odd tangent on sleep deprivation in modern hospitals perhaps creating walking zombies out of the medical professionals near the end, and the book rounds itself out with a shorter catalogue of some famous prison hauntings mostly in North American and the British Isles.
Definitely worth a read for even those of us who are skeptics, and for those who are more open to belief, it certainly gives you a bunch of road trip destinations to check out!
As Parrish notes in her introduction, “Day after day the most extreme of human experiences play out within the walls of hospitals. The most intense emotions are experienced again and again. Birth. Death. Trauma. Suffering.” It’s little wonder, then, that so many stories of paranormal happenings are tied to these institutions.
This nonfiction book is a compendium of stories drawn from interviews, forum and website posts, books of ghost stories, and videos from shows like Ghost Hunters. It is clear that Parrish and Leslie (both curious skeptics) cast their net wide and did a lot of research to bring some of the most notable and chilling tales from haunted hospitals, asylums, as well as prisons that housed the criminally insane.
These stories span two hundred years and come from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Italy, and in many ways feel like a ghost tour you might take on vacation – or in your own city around Halloween. Some tales are quite involved and Parrish’s talents as a speculative fiction writer are on full display. You can imagine strolling through the streets of Montreal to the student residence repurposed from a hospital/orphanage where over fifty children burned to death in 1918. You can picture navigating mazes of tunnels beneath sprawling institutions, past the body chutes and the basement rooms where especially unruly patients might be shackled in earlier times. Other entries are more like quick stops along the way, a short blurb in a haunted guidebook (this is especially the case with the ‘Prisons’ section at the end of the book).
As with ghost tours, Haunted Hospitals, is also a great ‘gateway drug’ for those of us interested in history, medical ethics, and how societies have viewed and treated physical and mental illness. It offers good historical context and facts about the buildings as well, and touches on controversies around redevelopment, urban planning, and whether people should use these institutions for haunted tours and other ‘terror lite’ experiences.
Parrish and Leslie challenge us to imagine what it’s like for cities and institutions overwhelmed by tuberculosis, Spanish Flu and the plague to deal in a humane manner with patients. And while they dedicate the book to medical professionals who devote their lives to healing, they face issues of overcrowding, neglect, and patient abuse head on, as well as allegations of medical research and experimentation.
There were two stories, however, where more digging and contextualization (and a bit less sensationalism) was needed. First, the tale of “Nurse Emmie” at Rolling Hills Asylum, a purported member of a ‘satanic coven’, seems to lean heavily on the 1990s-era hysteria over satanic cults that proved to be mostly unfounded. Second, the transcribed 1935 news story of Dr. H.E. Zimmerly in Pennsylvania is problematic. If you have some background on the history of women’s reproductive health, it sounds very much like he was simply performing abortions – illegal at the time - for poor young women with nowhere safer to turn.
Like haunted tours of these hospitals and the communities that surround them, it’s tricky to balance the entertainment factor of creepy stories with the history and deeper meanings within them. Generally, Parrish and Leslie do a good job walking this line, giving us the chills we crave while educating us about changing ideas of medical care, criminalization, and mental illness.
This is a fun and thoughtful book, and anyone interested in medicine mixed with the paranormal will find stories to stimulate the imagination – and give you goosebumps.
If you’d like to go deeper into the subject of haunted buildings in the United States, and get a bit more of an academic bent on the topic, I recommend you check out Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey.