Friday night. April 15th. For most, or at least since the dawn of my generation, April fifteenth is tax day. Back in ye olde days it was just a given – no one really knew why or bothered to look it up. Why is this important?
Because I’m a member of a Meetup group that organized an event seemingly far scarier than taxes – a trip to Waverly Hills Sanatorium. For those of you who have never heard of Meetup it’s like the days when people used to create clubs for those interested in reading, writing, watching movies, doing photography, collecting stamps, etc. only it’s now taken online. If interested go to Meetup.com. Now that’s covered what exactly is Waverly Hills?
The skinny: in 1926 a giant hospital dedicated to the treatment and research for a cure for tuberculosis opened off of Dixie Highway. The facility was made for $1.1 million, housed several residents and was renowned for being the nation’s TB “go-to” treatment center. Of note: the electric blanket and headphones were created there. After thousands of deaths and the creation of antibiotics Waverly shut down in 1962 and became a geriatric home until 1980 when it was closed by the state.
So this gigantic former TB hospital/geriatric ward sat on the hills above Dixie Highway vacant for at least twenty years. During that time several homeless, as well as gangs and others, frequented the place and made it their home. The purported ghost of a homeless man and his dog were supposedly offered up as a “sacrifice” by some group. In 2001 the place was bought and is considered haunted by several including paranormal investigative team TAPS (from the show “Ghost Hunters”).
Back to Friday night. I invited my uncle along because neither of us had been. With the proliferation of media about the place being haunted our curiosity was more than piqued. We were amped. Psyched. Ready to take on whatever spook, spectre, spirit, poltergeist, shade, ghost, or any other supernatural entity that might be residing in Waverly Hills. Armed with my Canon 40D, flashlight, and sense of adventure we set out to see what could be seen.
The first stop the basement gift shop where we had to wait out until our 10pm calltime. The giftshop had every bit of merchandising you could think of from t-shirts to shotglasses to hats to bookbags along with refreshments. Our tour at 10 with the viewing of a collection of clips relating to the place from “Ghost Hunters” to other TV shows that interviewed the owners of the place. I sat with Meetup members Scott and Rob who had never been to the site, either.
After the video finished and people took their restroom breaks the entire group of fifty (us four with the Meetup and everyone else) divided in half and the one I was with went toward the “death chute.” The Death Chute was the hospitals “discreet” way of removing the dead by hauling them down to a tunnel that has steps on one side and a smooth ramp on the other and all on an 11% grade. Traveling down the 500 feet to the “pick up” point isn’t the problem; it was returning to the top. I was winded before getting to the “third of the way there” point.
Our next destination: inside Waverly. Let me set the atmosphere first: light rain with occasional flashes of lightning. The humidity had me sweating in the dark. We went single-file up a staircase to the first floor which housed the morgue. Walking by the rooms surrounding it we peered into the decrepit vacancy of what had once been. Everything felt hollow. Rusted. Old. Neglected. Our tour guide stopped at the morgue and told an anecdote about letting a friend stay ten minutes by himself on one of the metal slabs. The guy wanted to leave the building IMMEDIATELY.
We went up another staircase to the next floor as the tour guide proceeded to relay more history of the place. The second floor contained the chapel and the breezeway where TB patients would have their beds wheeled out for a breath of fresh air. He talked about the creation of wireless radios, headphones, and the electric blanket.
By this time the tour is more about soaking up the abandoned feel of the place, its barren vacancy, than really being “haunted.” I’m looking for shades, spooks, orbs, stuff moving around, voices, anything but finding nothing.
The fifth floor. First off was the fact that the fifth floor’s roof at one time contained a playground where kids with TB would play. And there’s Room 502 which is where the nurse was found hung outside. Room 502 is actually the nurse’s shower room.
Back to the fourth floor. Our group of twenty-five is split and the one I take veers to the right. My uncle volunteers and, following the assistant tour guide’s instructions, walks toward the end of a hall. He stops, opens a door, and then turns around. Raising his arms he keeps his shoulders level and spreads his legs apart. The assistant says to watch the breaks in the light cast on the floor. She calls out to something but I have no clue if it responds. A girl to the left of me goes “Oh my God! I saw something!” and winces away. Her boyfriend sees something, too. The assistant asks if my uncle is waving his arms and he replies, “No.” Apparently there was something behind him making it look as if he was. He would later say that he didn’t feel anyone or anything behind him. I couldn’t tell and I didn’t know if it was because of my bad depth perception or diabetes.
Saving the “best for last” the tour guide took us into the operating room. Why an operating room? At the time Waverly had been researching ways of curing TB. One way including expanding lungs only to find that once a rib was broken it couldn’t be replaced. He shown his light against the ceiling and pointed out the old operating light. It’s in this room that he says he was attacked by “Big Blackie,” a malevolent spirit that will do anything and everything. He was the one that TAPS had footage of being attacked. This room was the only one in which I felt anything and that anything was dark; the kind of place that tells you itself not to stay there long.
By midnight we were back to our cars again. My uncle and I were a little brought down that we didn’t see or experience anything however we would both love to go back. The place is just that fascinating to be in. Is it haunted? I’m willing to believe. I’m hoping to go back again and take more pictures with my camera. I might be able to catch something then.