The Cub’s True Kentuckiana Story: Waverly Hills

Waverly Hills Sanatorium, an area with a grisly past and undoubtedly haunting experiences, has drawn countless visitors for decades, from the generic, home-grown Ghost Hunter to the teenage thrill seeker.  What exactly is it that draws so many people to a hospital that used to house dozens of people that were infected with tuberculosis?

To understand the pull effect of Waverly Hills, one must first learn the history.  Originally opened in 1910, the Sanatorium was constructed to house tuberculosis (TB) patients, with a capacity of around 50 at the time.  The word Sanatorium may sound as though it was for insane patients; however, a Sanatorium was built on a hill to allow the patients fresh air (which the TB patients need).  In Waverly Hills, patients were able to rest, get fresh air, and, most importantly, be isolated from the general public.  The disease was highly contagious, and Pleasure Ridge Park in Kentucky was nearing an epidemic because the antibiotics to fight TB were not around.

The main building that is standing on the hill today was constructed in 1924 and could hold around 400 TB patients.  Opening in October 1926, the Sanatorium became one of the top places to go for TB treatment.  From 1910 through 1961, over 6000 people died from TB at Waverly Hills, with thousands more moving through the hospital.  In 1961, an antibiotic was invented to combat TB, and the spread of the disease was easily controllable.

The treatments of the time were generally based on natural fixes; getting fresh air, sleeping, using the sun to help heal the disease.  Many windows in the Sanatorium were only screened in which allowed plenty of fresh air to move throughout the hospital.  Heliotherapy and using Sunlamps was also common, where the ultraviolet rays and heat were used to destroy the bacteria that caused TB.  There were various arts and crafts programs within Waverly, such as basket weaving, that the patients could use to break the boredom of bed rest.

That stuff isn’t as important as the Legends that run through the history of Waverly Hills.  One of the more well known legends is Room 502.  According to the legend, a young nurse committed suicide by throwing herself out of a 5th floor window.  Some say that she did it because she couldn’t leave to see her family, others say she found out she was pregnant out of wedlock.  Another urban myth is the death rate: it has been said that over 63,000 people died in the Sanatorium.  This was disproved by an assistant director who said the maximum deaths in one year were 152.

The ghost sightings and other paranormal activities around Waverly Hills give it a chilling place in our mind.  Maybe you’d like to visit?  For $50, you can stay for 4 hours, or, for $100, if you have the guts, you can stay for 8 hours, overnight.  Think you can do it?  After January 3rd, 2011, you can sign up for tours again (they are all booked through then).   If staying for a night of terror with just a handful of friends isn’t your thing, maybe going for the 2 hour tour, at $22, is more for you.  At any rate, Waverly Hills is a place that has struck fear into the hearts of thousands of people, and will continue to for years to come.  Maybe it’s your turn to have fear struck into your heart?

Written By: Brandon Smedley, Editor


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