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Investigating the haunted sanitarium at Waverly Hills

Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the abandoned sanitarium known as Waverly Hills is considered to be one of the most haunted places on earth.

The building was designed to accommodate 40-50 tuberculosis patients starting in 1910, many of whom died from the disease. It’s believed around 9,000 people died in Waverly Hills.

I was able to sit down with Chelsea, a 25-year-old college student from Tulsa who was brave enough to spend the night at Waverly Hills with a ghost-hunting team in May 2010. Be sure to check back next Tuesday for the rest of my interview with Chelsea, where we delve deeper into the supernatural realm and discuss what it’s like to be a real ghost hunter in a profession where imposters are celebrated (and often become famous).

Chelsea: “When my ghost-hunting team, the now disbanded Ghost Scene Investigations of Tulsa, went to Waverly Hills, we had the place to ourselves with minimal staff elsewhere on the grounds, and not in the main building where we were.

Ghost Scene Investigations at Waverly Hills. Chelsea is the one holding the sunflowers.

Ghost Scene Investigations at Waverly Hills. Chelsea is the one holding the sunflowers.

The spooky shenanigans started on our public tour. We were in the main building on the floor that is well known for shadow* activity. Our tour guide was going on and on about how he had been assaulted by a ghost on that floor, really laying it on thick, while a shadow person was behind him. We tried to get his attention, but he was so focused on his spiel that he didn’t hear us. I could feel the exasperation of the shadow person: ‘Hi, I’m over here. I’m what you want to see–hello? Pay attention to me.’

I had been ghost hunting for six months before Waverly and had never had a problem with getting too scared to do my job. Waverly Hills had a new level of darkness that I had never experienced. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, let alone a ghost creeping up on me.

corridor at Waverly Hills by Chelsea Copeland

My team and I would be going to, of all places, the body chute. The body chute is an uncomfortable place, atmospherically, completely aside from what had taken place in that area decades ago. It’s muggy, wet, and the floors are at an incline so you never truly feel balanced. On one side is the stairs and the other is the flat plane that was used to slide the bodies down to the bottom. I thought that since it was a fairly precarious spot and known to be active, we would be cautious. Nope. My team leader wanted to be as daring, or stupid in my mind, as he could be. He went all the way to the bottom, which meant we had to as well. You never go anywhere alone while on an investigation and you stay as close as possible for safety reasons and so there is another witness if something paranormal should happen.

He ordered our flashlights off and I thought he was nuts, but went along with it. Since the body chute didn’t have power, we went in with minimal equipment, just a PX spirit box (a spirit box is a tool for communicating with paranormal entities. It uses radio frequency sweeps to generate white noise, which theories suggest give some entities the energy they need to be heard) and our recorders. We started our session and we were getting intelligent responses from the PX right off the bat. It was to the point we were practically having a conversation with the spirit.

Then it changed. The PX said, ‘beware’ and that was my cue to get out of dodge. I kept trying to get my team to end our session and leave but we were still getting responses which were no longer as friendly. Then, all of a sudden, we heard a click. Our PX had shut off on its own. The PX had a stiff toggle switch to turn it on and it was placed far from everyone else. If someone had made a move for it, you would have heard the person get up and walk over to it. Thankfully, that was when we all stampeded out of there.

Morgue at Waverly Hills

Morgue at Waverly Hills

Sometime during the night, another ghost hunter from Missouri went in the body chute by himself and he came out completely changed. He left the team and we haven’t really heard from him; he wouldn’t tell us what happened. All we have from his session was an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon). It’s all garbled and staticy and it just doesn’t sound right.It’s creaky and poppy and moany and groany. It sounds like the gates of Hell opening and it makes your eyes water just listening to it. You can’t listen to it more than once. We only had access to the file (as it’s standard procedure to wipe all recordings from our equipment once they’re on a computer) for a short time before it just disappeared.

Of course, I don’t learn and came back to Waverly Hills years later, this time with my teenage nephew in tow. We only went on the public tour because we were just passing through. He wasn’t as scared as I was, but I could tell he was a bit uncomfortable at times. Being the protective auntie, I took him aside and said, ‘It’s not a sad place. They were happy when they were alive. They were comfortable here, had friends here. They wanted to hang around a little longer.’ He cheered right up and it was very special moment for me to be able to pass that on to him. Of course, we had experiences then as well. We heard an old swing set creak, even though it is no longer in use, and we had several encounters with shadow people.”

The swing Chelsea and her nephew heard move

The swing Chelsea and her nephew heard move

*Shadows, or shadow people, are a type of ghost. Ghosts can either appear as shadows or your classic ghost (how they looked in life).

Would you be brave enough to stay in a haunted place overnight? Have you heard of or visited Waverly Hills? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be on a ghost-hunting team?

Next week, Chelsea will return with more stories about being a ghost hunter!

All photos by Chelsea Copeland

1 part newsletter, 1 part unnerving updates,
2 parts sneak peeks of new projects.

36 Comments

  1. I’d take the public tour, but I wouldn’t want to stay there overnight, even with a large group. I wonder what that one guy saw?

    Reply
    • JH

      That appears to be the question of the day, Alex. Sadly, we’ll never know, unless he sees this post and comes forward. I hope he does!

      Reply
  2. I might venture to go on a public tour but definitely not staying overnight and never would I turn off a flashlight.

    Reply
    • JH

      Fair enough. I’d love to do an overnight, but I’m crazy like that.

      Reply
  3. I like slides, but going down a body chute, in the dark, at a haunted sanatorium? Nope. A daytime tour would be fine, but I have trouble enough sleeping in a nice hotel. Fascinating interview. Makes me want to find the guy and shake the answer out of him–what happened on that chute, dude?

    Reply
    • JH

      Well, if it helps, no one is supposed to sleep during an overnight ghost investigation. They might miss something!

      I’d love to know what happened too. Guess he isn’t talking, by the sounds of it.

      Reply
  4. I have heard of this place and it does sound unnerving but I would stay overnight as long as I was with a small group. When so many people died in one spot and at a time when treatment wasn’t the best, I bet there would be u settling things happening. I wonder what the man did experience?? Hey, yesterday I am sitting I my home, the tv room and I hear 3 knocks on the front door which was open to the veranda…no one was there and my hubby was no where to be seen. I haven’t experienced something like this in a long time so I thought it was pretty cool.

    Reply
    • JH

      Wow, that’s spooky, Birgit! What do you think it was?

      A couple of times when I’ve been working late at night recently, there’s been a very loud knock on my picture window. I’ve been afraid to look.

      Reply
      • I think it was the ghostly as I call him. A man died in my home in the mid 70’s and when I first moved in, I heard different things…so did my mom even though she was a sceptic. When I told him I will always respect the home even though I am changing things up, the noises stopped. I’m not sure why he knocked but my hubby has heard things but just thinks it was me or the animals and it can’t be.

        Reply
        • JH

          Wow, that’s really interesting, Birgit…and a little sad. The poor guy. Thanks for sharing.

          Reply
    • JH

      Hmm…interesting. You’re the first taker so far!

      Reply
  5. Went in the body chute by himself? Now that guy is some kind of crazy! Yikes.
    I met a Winnipeg paranormal investigative group once. They were pretty cool people. Everyone has their passion. 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      I wonder if that’s the same group I met–the ones who were going to investigate the museum. I’ve often been tempted to go along on an investigation, but I suspect it would be really boring.

      Reply
  6. Goodness. I had chills the entire time while reading about her account. I wonder what possessed the ghost hunter to go into the body chute by himself. Gosh, that is so creepy.

    I’ve always been fascinated by ghost hunting. I’ve watched many TV shows about it and have always wanted to try it out myself, but in less haunted places.

    Reply
    • JH

      According to Chelsea, those shows are a tad…exaggerated, to say the least. I’ll get into that with her in part 2.

      Thanks for saying the post gave you chills! That’s a huge compliment. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Interesting stories. I would not stay over night, but I would go on a tour. You can definitely get a vibe from a place. I’m glad she said that the people were happy there when they were alive.

    Reply
    • JH

      Yes, that’s something the security guard told her. Unlike Poveglia in Venice, where the plague victims were left to die. Don’t think anyone was happy at that place.

      Reply
  8. Stay overnight in a haunted place? I seriously doubt it. 🙂

    Just reading about the EVP recording from that one man gave me the chills and had me looking around the room.

    Reply
    • JH

      Aw, is it wrong that I love it when one of my blog posts can freak people out? 🙂 It’s not easy to scare folks these days. Unless you’re talking about the US election….

      Reply
  9. No thank you. I’ve heard about this place before, and I have no interest in messing with that stuff. I’d rather hang out in the most inspiring places on earth, if you know what I mean.

    Reply
    • JH

      I guess it depends on what you mean by inspiring. I love visiting the supposedly haunted and spooky places in the world–they inspire me with lots of novel and blog post ideas.

      One writer’s trash is another one’s treasure, and vice-versa….

      Reply
  10. I’ve been with a group in a cave and we turned off all of our flashlights, but I wouldn’t do it there.

    Reply
    • JH

      Ooh, that must have been creepy, Diane! I’d say that took guts.

      Reply
  11. I really don’t want to hang out anywhere called the Body Chute.

    Reply
    • JH

      I can’t understand why…

      Reply
  12. I’d do the public tour, but only if it was during the day and sunny out.

    Reply
    • JH

      That’s a good way to see what the fuss is about without scaring yourself silly.

      Reply
  13. I’ve heard of Waverley. Definitely not a place where I would want to spend a night.

    Reply
    • JH

      Chicken! 😉

      Reply
  14. It’s always bad news when someone (or more than one) on the team wants to be reckless. We haven’t had any ghost hunting experiences, but there are some friends my husband will not scuba dive with anymore because they insist on pushing the boundaries of common sense.

    Reply
    • JH

      Yikes! Ghost hunting is one thing, but scuba diving + pushing the boundaries of common sense = very bad idea. I don’t blame your husband. Those friends have a death wish.

      Reply
  15. I did research on Waverly and a bunch of other abandoned places for Alex’s A – Z Challenge 2014. The places I found were so cool! Waverly is definitely the scariest!

    Reply
    • JH

      I’d love to go someday. It’s always interesting to hear from people who’ve explored these places…especially the ones who got to stay overnight!

      Reply
  16. Answer: Absolutely not. No way. Not ever. Offer me anything and my answer remains unchanged. That is one totally forever to be avoided place.

    Reply
    • JH

      Are you sure, Lee? You sound uncertain. 😀

      Reply

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