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.
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.
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.
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.”
*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