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.
Waverly 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.
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.
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.