Saturday, October 6, 2012


~Article by Marie Robinson 

Perhaps the most famous and allegedly most haunted sanatorium in the United States. It started out as a schoolhouse in the 1880's. When the White Plague hit in the early 1900's, the building was used to house tuberculosis patients for treatment and containment. The number of deaths in the hospital are greatly exaggerated to keep up its sinister reputation; urban legends insist that 100,000 patients died, but the reality is something like 8,000 (which is still a lot). Because the world of medicine was so limited, most people just had to suffer or undergo some nasty procedures.

As T.B. affects the lungs, the doctors thought it would be a great idea to insert balloons into the lungs to help them expand, or remove the muscles and bones around the lungs. Needless to say, these operations proved unsuccessful and most resulted in death. In 1962, the building became Woodhaven Geriatric Center and was used for the treatment of dementia and the severely mentally handicapped. It was closed in 1982 due to patient neglect.

One of the legends surrounding the building is that of room 502, where a nurse was believed to have killed herself. Legend says she discovered she was impregnated by the sanitarium owner out of wedlock, and had contracted tuberculosis. She hung herself from the light bulb wire and now is said to haunt the floor. In fact, the Fifth floor is supposed to be the most spiritually active.

Another infamous part of the building is the body chute, or the death chute. At the height of the White Plague, deaths occurred in Waverly once every other day--the bodies were removed there a tunnel, where the bodies were placed in a cart and slide down to the bottom where a hearse would be waiting. The doctors thought that keeping the dead out of sight of the patients would help morale. Since then it has become a spot of much interest to paranormal investigators.
Waverly Hills has been visited by countless paranormal groups and many TV shows. One of the groups to investigate was SyFy's Ghost Hunters, whom I am a biiig fan of (you can make fun of me).
I'd imagine you'd get the full effect of the place after nightfall....

If you get the unsettling feeling as if you have been here before, it may because it was the filming location for the wonderfully creepy film "Session 9". It is also thought to be the inspiration for H.P. Lovecraft's short story "The Thing on the Doorstep". This was the place of nightmares for the mentally unsound, as the hospital was a frequent practitioner (even rumored to be the creator of frontal lobotomies).
Again, if you have seen "Session 9" (one of Christine's favorite films), I'm sure you can easily (and reluctantly) recall the climax of the film. They also used electroshock therapy and straitjackets--even on children. At one point the hospital was vastly overcrowded, patients were even kept in the basement. A labyrinth of intricate, and presumably terrifying, tunnels exist under the hospital and connect all the buildings on the land; the land that was in fact owned at one time by John Hathorne, a notoriously cruel judge that oversaw the Salem Witch Trails. The hospital was closed due to mistreatment of patients... can't say this is on any list of vacation hot spots, but it is on a list here ;).

Originally called the Athens Lunatic Asylum, this was a hospital for veterans, children, and the criminally insane. Sounds like a good mix, right? It opened it's doors in 1874 and it didn't take long for the beds to fill. People were being diagnosed with insanity for all kinds of (ironically) crazy reasons; epilepsy, masturbation, menopause and something called "menstrual derangements"--I don't know what that is, but it sounds terrifying.

The stain that was left by Margaret Shilling's body
This hospital covered pretty much every inhumane treatment of the "insane". There was hydrotherapy, electroshock, psychotropic drugs, and of course--lobotomies. Although there were fully trained doctors, there were also staff members with no experience or qualifications.

Now it is said that the grounds are haunted with the tortured souls who died there. One very true story is about a patient who was playing a game of hide and seek in 1978. She hid in a closed off tower that was used to quarantine the ill. The patient, Margaret, took off all of her clothes, folded them neatly in a pile, and lay down on the floor in front of a window. Her body wasn't found for several weeks and when it finally was discovered it had left a peculiar stain on the ground where she lay, and it remains there today.

Notorious for horrifying mistreatment of patients, this hospital for the mentally insane opened in 1872. Patients were left in rocking chairs in the hallway all day, and this was pretty much the only activity they were allowed, some were strapped down in their beds so long that their skin had grown over their restraints, and some were chained nude for months. In 1913, Kansas passed a sterilization law that allowed forced castrations to habitual criminals, the epileptic, the retarded, and the insane; the majority of them were performed at Topeka State Hospital. 1992, a therapist who worked at the hospital named Stepanie Uhlrig was murdered by a patient under her care named Kenneth Waddell. There is an unmarked cemetery on the grounds, and while it holds over 1,000 people, there are only 16 headstones.

The oldest institution for mental illnesses, and now widely recognized is as one of the finest, but back at it's start it was a place much more sinister. It's original name, Bedlam, has since become a word in the English language that means confusion and uproar. Patients were treated dreadfully--the dangerous ones chained to the floor. In the early 18th century a penny's admission could get you into the hospital and allow you to peer into the patients rooms and laugh at them--even poke at them with long sticks.

Poveglia is a small and strange island, with a most peculiar history. Completely off limits to tourists, the abandoned island served to be a sort of "dumping ground" for plague victims during the black plague. It also holds a bell tower-turned-lighthouse, the only structure that remains of a 12th century church, and an insane asylum, or as the locals now insist, an old-folks home. During the 16th century outbreak, plague victims were crowding the island, and there were so many deaths that they had to form mass graves--some held over 1,000 bodies in them.

...the vampire!
 In one of the mass graves archaeologists found a 16th century vampire! Actually, it was a skeleton with a large stone between it's jaws, but this was how they dealt with alleged vampires back in the day--placing a stone in their mouth in hopes that they starve to death. They're called shroud eaters, look them up, they are awesome!

 The most famous legend of the island is that there was a mad doctor who butchered and tortured his patients at the insane asylum. He ended up jumping from the bell tower, but before he could die from his fall, a mist rose up from the ground and strangled him to death. Pretty cool, right?


Anonymous said...

The reason why America has always had difficultys dealing with supposedly crazy people is that America has always seen itself as being very strong. Being crazy equates to weakness, something that America has no interest in being associated with.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen how they deal with "crazy people" in any other countries? Get out of your house sometime and take a look around. The entire world is ugly, not just America.

Anonymous said...

True, but no matter how badly crazy people might be treated in America they`re still treated a hundred times worse in every other country in the world, proving of course that America is very much the lesser of the two evils and the greatest nation the world has ever seen.