During the 1800s and early 1900s, America was ravaged by a deadly disease known by many as the “white death” --- tuberculosis. This terrifying and very contagious plague, for which no cure existed, claimed entire families and sometimes entire towns. In 1900, Louisville, Kentucky had one of the highest tuberculosis death rates in America. Built on low, swampland, the area was the perfect breeding ground for disease and in 1910, a hospital was constructed on a windswept hill in southern Jefferson County that had been designed to combat the horrific disease. The hospital quickly became overcrowded though and with donations of money and land, a new hospital was started in 1924.
The new structure, known as Waverly Hills, opened two years later in 1926. It was considered the most advanced tuberculosis sanatorium in the country but even then, most of the patients succumbed to the disease. In those days before medicine was available to treat the disease, it was thought that the best treatment for tuberculosis was fresh air, plenty of nutritious food and lots of rest. Many patients survived their stay at Waverly Hills but it is estimated that hundreds died here at the height of the epidemic.
While the patients who survived both the disease and the treatments left Waverly Hills through the front door, the majority of patients left through what came to be known as the “body chute”. This enclosed tunnel for the dead led from the hospital to the railroad tracks at the bottom of the hill. Using a motorized rail and cable system, the bodies were lowered in secret to the waiting trains. This was done so that patients would not see how many were leaving the hospital as corpses. Their mental health, the doctors believed, was just as important as their physical health.
The buildings and land that made up Waverly Hills were auctioned off and changed hands many times over the course of the next two decades. By 2001, the once stately building had nearly destroyed by time, the elements and the vandals who came here looking for a thrill. Waverly Hills had become the local “haunted house” and it became a magnet for the homeless, looking for shelter, and teenagers, who broke in looking for ghosts. The hospital soon gained a reputation for being haunted and stories began to circulate of resident ghosts like the little girl who was seen running up and down the third floor solarium, the little boy who was spotted with a leather ball, the hearse that appeared in the back of the building dropping off coffins, the woman with the bleeding wrists who cried for help and others. Visitors told of slamming doors, lights in the windows as if power was still running through the building, strange sounds and eerie footsteps in empty rooms.