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waverly hills

The Ghosts of Waverly Hills

Though the U.S. is home to dozens of abandoned hospitals, each with a reputation for ghosts, one facility stands out from the rest: Waverly Hills. The former sanatorium regularly tops “most haunted” rankings and has appeared on just about every ghost hunting show in America. Here’s why the hospital has become so popular among fans of the paranormal.

The History

waverly hills sanatoriumWaverly Hills Sanatorium opened its doors on July 26, 1910 and housed thousands of patients suffering from tuberculosis. The facility originally accommodated between 40 and 50 patients, but expanded to hold over 400 at a time.

Waverly operated for over 50 years, but a new antibiotic drastically eliminated tuberculosis cases, and the hospital closed its doors in 1962. A renovated Waverly reopened as Wood Haven Medical Services a year later, but closed in 1980 after officials found appalling evidence of patient neglect.

Though death estimates vary widely, at least 6,000 people died at Waverly Hills during its 50+ years in operation. Patients often suffered through agonizing treatments during their time at Waverly, including electroshock therapy and experimental surgeries that involved collapsing a lung. The practice of placing heavy sandbags on a patient’s chest was also common. More often than not, the excruciating treatments were not effective.


Now a tourist attraction, Waverly Hills is reportedly home a number of ghosts. There are the standard haunted tales of disembodied screams, moans, and shadow people, as well as stories that are unique to the hospital. One of these tales involves a ball-rolling child named Timmy.

Legend has it Timmy was a six or seven-year-old boy who died at Waverly but has yet to move on. Visitors often bring toy balls to the hospital and invite the ghostly child to play. The balls sometimes move, seemingly of their own volition, but critics say a draft or an uneven floor is to blame for the movement, not a ghost child.

ghost boy

The ghost of Timmy?

Room 502

Another creepy legend involves a pregnant nurse who allegedly committed suicide in Room 502. Some tales claim a doctor impregnated the nurse and then wanted nothing to do with her. Devastated, the woman hanged herself from an exposed pipe or light fixture. Other versions claim it was the hospital’s owner who impregnated the woman and that she jumped from the room rather than hanging herself. Regardless of the tale, many Waverly visitors are convinced that an anguished entity lurks in Room 502.

ghost picture waverly hills

Alleged ghost of former patient Mary Lee

The Death Tunnel

An underground tunnel leads from Waverly’s main entrance to the bottom of a steep hill some 500 feet (or 150 meters) down. Staff used the tunnel to receive supplies in the winter when the hill was both inconvenient and difficult for suppliers to ascend. However, it’s likely that doctors also used the tunnel to get rid of bodies. One legend claims that tuberculosis claimed one patient per hour during the height of the epidemic and that doctors used the tunnel to remove the dead without upsetting the living.

The so-called “death tunnel” is now a paranormal hotspot, visitors say, complete with eerie shadows, unexplained footsteps, and disembodied voices. It’s also known among investigators for providing chilling EVPs.


Charlie and Tina Mattingly, the current owners of Waverly Hills, plan to turn the facility into a four-star hotel catering to history buffs and those intrigued by the supernatural. Some worry the transformation will eliminate the spooks, but given Waverly’s paranormal reputation, it seems unlikely the ghosts will be scared off by a little noise and dust.

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  • Bear1000

    Sounds spooky. Just out of curiosity, which state is it located at?

  • Lloyd64

    Kentucky. City of Louisville, with a metro area population of about 1.3 million.

  • Eyesup

    Waverly Hills is in Louisville, Kentucky. The hospital sits above Dixie Highway in the Pleasure Ridge Park area. I grew up there and was in high school during the late 70’s. During the winter with the leaves off the trees, I could see it sitting on the hill from my bedroom window. It was common knowledge the place was (is) haunted. I know people who’ve visited and done the overnight tours. Spooky is an understatement. It is most definitely the real deal.

  • claudinem

    in regards to the ball that mystery was debunked a cpl of yrs ago when a parapsychologist from most haunted placed a ball in the room and then it rolled out of the room and into the hallway,, floors arent level, nothing mysterious there sorry

  • Brian Parsons

    The big problem is with a little bit of research most of the claims about the hospital are wrong. The staff embellishes many of the stories beyond ridiculousness while twisting facts they know about the facility and attempt to fool or scare people during tours to see fake activity (on my tour the guy tried to have us believe an 8′ orange ladder was “the creeper” although he didn’t expect someone to actually walk down the hallway armed with a 250 lumen flashlight). The main issue with this facility is that it sits on a hill surrounded by houses, roads, and mainly a whole lot of noise. The ghost of a dog that barks? We heard at least five different dogs that live in the surrounding area barking that night. Numerous voices were heard of people who lived close to the building. This place is a sham.

  • Marilyn

    I once watched a TV Show that was about the Waverly Hospital where it showed the owners of the place. Their daughter decided that she wanted to do an all niter Ghost Hunt at the hospital and invited a group of her friends from school. After touring the place for a couple of hours…..suddenly down the long hallway, they hear the Morgue’s body storage drawers slide open and then close. As they walk towards the sound….they hear it again and begin to freak out. The girls ran down the halls as fast as they could screaming all the way to the exit doors while leaving their sleeping bags, pillows, food and drinks behind….vowing they will never step foot inside the place ever again.

  • Ryan Privee

    That pic of Mary Lee is spooky, I don’t see how that was faked?

  • hu

    the only thing is it move forward then back ward then in circles then to its original spot

  • hu

    that actually was faked they really found out that it was the wind doing it they didn’t run out originally

  • mystery29

    I live really close to Waverly Hills but I’ve never been….so creepy…

  • mystery29

    I live there

  • mystery29

    It’s in Kentucky