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.

Tuberculosis 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
Government Tuberculosis Film


A segment from a 1931 Government Tuberculosis Film.

The doctors experimented, removing organs and trying to find a cure. Tuberculosis ravaged the mind, and caused some patients to go insane.

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 death.

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 history.

Legends of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium include:

Room 502

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.

Death rate

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 patients.




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.


An episode 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.
 




Ghost Evidence