Waverly Hills Sanatorium
The Underground Tunnel Known as the Body Chute
|Waverly Hills Sanatorium
The Underground Tunnel Known as the Body Chute
Back before the sanatorium was ever thought of, the
land was purchased by Major Thomas H. Hays in 1883. Major Hays needed a
school for his daughters to go to, so he started a one room school house
down on pages lane and hired a woman whose name was Lizzie Lee Harris
as the teacher.
Miss Harris loved her tiny school nestling against the
hillside, and remembered her fondness for Scott's Waverley novels, so
she named her little school house "Waverley School." Major Hays liked
the peaceful sounding name so he named his property "Waverley Hill" and
the Board of Tuberculosis Hospital kept the name when they bought the
land and opened the sanatorium.
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium, located in southwestern Louisville-Jefferson County, Kentucky, opened in 1910 as a two-story hospital to accommodate 40 to 50 tuberculosis patients.
was reaching epidemic proportions among the public in Pleasure Ridge
Park, Kentucky. The little TB clinic was being filled with over 140
people, and it was becoming very obvious that a much larger hospital
would have to be built.
In the early 1900s, Jefferson County, Kentucky was ravaged by an outbreak of the "White Plague" (Tuberculosis). The plague prompted the construction of a new hospital.
Although at the time, the hospital was considered the best site for treating the disease, the procedures were primitive and grisly.
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium
began with a two-story frame building, with a hipped roof and half
timbering. Construction on this building began in 1908, and it opened on
July 26th, 1910.
This building was only designed to safely accommodate
40-50 tuberculosis patients. Tuberculosis was a very serious disease
back before antibiotics were discovered.
People who were afflicted with
tuberculosis had to be isolated from the general public and placed in an
area where they could rest, stay calm, and have plenty of fresh air.
Sanatoriums were built on high hills surrounded by peaceful woods to
create a serene atmosphere to help the patients recover.
Waverly Hills 1931
The doctors experimented, removing organs
and trying to find a cure. Tuberculosis ravaged the mind, and caused
some patients to go insane.
Government Tuberculosis Film
A segment from a 1931 Government Tuberculosis Film.
More than 66,000 patients died during the
time that the Sanatorium was open.
The infamous "body chute" was used
for transporting bodies to the graveyard. Doctors thought this would
prevent the spread of the disease, and leave the patients from seeing
The hospital closed in 1962, due to an antibiotic drug that
lowered the need for such a hospital. But it remains a landmark, and
allegedly one of the most haunted hospitals in America.
The building and surrounding property are now private property with multiple security measures. "No Trespassing" signs are posted throughout the property.
Security cameras are installed in various spots on the property, including the exterior and interior of the building.
Further, volunteer security guards watch the site around the clock. Since December 2008, Plans have been made to turn the building into a four star hotel and restore the fourth floor to its original condition.
Some urban legends claim that "63,000 deaths" occurred at the Sanatorium. According to Assistant Medical Director Dr. J. Frank W. Stewart, the highest number of deaths in a single year at Waverly Hills was 152.
Stewart wrote that the worst time for deaths was at the end of the Second World War when troops were returning from overseas with very advanced tuberculosis cases.
Some independent researchers suggest that since 162 people died at Waverly Hills in 1945, the highest total number of deaths possible over 50 years was approximately 8,212.
A tunnel was constructed at the same time as the main building beginning on the first floor and traveling 500 feet (150 m) to the bottom of the hill.
One side had steps to allow workers to enter and exit the hospital without having to traverse a dangerous, steep hill on foot. The other side had a set of rails and a cart powered by a motorized cable system so that supplies could easily be
transported to the top.
Air ducts leading from the roof of the tunnel to above ground level were incorporated every hundred feet to let in light and fresh air. Treatment mainly consisted of heat lamps, fresh air, high spirits, and reassurances of an eventual full recovery as antibiotics had yet to be discovered in the early days of the sanatorium.
Once TB hit its peak, deaths were
occurring about 1 every other day.
The sight of the dead being taken away in view of patients was not good for morale which plummeted, causing them to lose hope or the will to live and become depressed, which only contributed more to the death rate.
The doctors also thought this would combat the disease and keep it from spreading.
With deaths occurring at such a high rate, the tunnel took on another use, and when patients died, the bodies were placed on the cart and lowered to the bottom where a hearse would be waiting to be take them away discreetly, out of patient view, saving morale.
Due to constant need for repairs on the wooden structures, need for a more durable structure, as well as need for more beds so that people would not be turned away due to lack of space, construction of a five-story building that could hold more than 400 patients began in March 1924.
The new building opened on October 17th, 1926, but after the introduction of streptomycin in 1943, the number of tuberculosis cases gradually lowered, until there was no longer need for such a large hospital.
The remaining patients were sent to Hazelwood Sanatorium in Louisville. Waverly Hills closed in June 1962.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium - Ghost Adventures
Waverly Hills Sanatorium was the final destination for thousands of
hopeless TB patients. The Ghost Adventures crew investigates its dark
Legends of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium include:
There is a local myth about
the death of a nurse by murder or suicide in Room 502. Legend says the
nurse found out she was pregnant without being married, so she hung
herself in the room she was in at the time.
Some urban legends claim that
"63,000 deaths" occurred at the Sanatorium. According to Assistant
Medical Director Dr. J. Frank W. Stewart, the highest number of deaths
in a single year at Waverly Hills was 152. Stewart wrote that the worst
time for deaths was at the end of the Second World War when troops were
returning from overseas with very advanced tuberculosis cases.
Some independent researchers suggest that since 162 people died at
Waverly Hills in 1945, the highest total number of deaths possible over
50 years was approximately 8,212.
"Body Chute" or "Death Tunnel"
According to one urban
legend, the tunnel was a "body chute" where dead patients were tossed,
and a body thrown in would make it to the bottom by simple gravity. But
actually, the dead patients were strapped onto a gurney and by a rope
and pulley system the gurneys were rolled to the bottom and transferred
to a hearse. This was done to keep the morale high in the remaining
Waverly Hills Sanatorium - Paranormal Challenge
"For years people have searched for evidence that ghosts walk among us."
The land that is today known as Waverly Hill was purchased by Major Thomas H. Hays in 1883 as the Hays' family home. Since the new home was far away from any existing schools, Mr. Hays decided to open a local school for his daughters to attend.
He started a one-room schoolhouse on Pages Lane and hired Lizzie Lee Harris as the teacher. Due to Miss Harris' fondness for Walter Scott's Waverley novels, she named the schoolhouse Waverley School.
Major Hays liked the peaceful-sounding name, so he named his property Waverley Hill. The Board of Tuberculosis Hospital kept the name when they bought the land and opened the sanatorium.
It is not known exactly when the spelling changed to exclude the second "e" and became Waverly Hills. However the spelling fluctuated between both spellings many times over the years.
Haunted Waverly Hills Sanatorium - Ghost Hunters Live
According to one urban legend, the tunnel was a "body chute" where dead patients were tossed, and a body thrown in would make it to the bottom by simple gravity.
But actually, the dead patients were strapped onto a gurney and by a
rope and pully system the gurneys were rolled to the bottom and
transfers to a hearse.
This was done to keep the morale high in the remaining patients.
of the Sci-Fi Channel television show Ghost Hunters featured the cast's
investigation of Waverly Hills, including a local myth about the death
of a nurse by murder or suicide in Room 502.
Legend says the nurse found out she was pregnant, so she hung herself in the room she was in at the time.