1 thing I DIDN’T expect after visiting Waverly Hills Sanitarium

I’m sure it’s a whacky coincidence but about 3 days after I toured Waverly Hills Sanitarium and MILDLY dissed the tour in a totally FRIENDLY way, I became bed-ridden with a horrid upper respiratory infection.

Whacky coincidence, right?! Hah. Hah. Hah…. GULP!

Hmmm… haunted abandoned tuberculosis sanitarium

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Wide-eyed and impressionable tourist with the best intentions ever

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A SLIGHTLY cynical but ultimately SUPPORTIVE review

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Home in bed with a nasty, nasty, icky infection in my lungs, throat and head.

Go fig. Coulda happened to anyone for any reason. I’m SURE nothing followed me home…

Happy Haunts,

Susan

ps. What do you think? My cough’s not sooooo bad.

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9 things to expect and experience when visiting Waverly Hills Sanitarium

Well, that was fun.

August, 2015. My BFF and #1 gal-pal-haunt-a-holic compatriot Char and I made the trek from Milwaukee, WI to Louisville, KY for a 3-day weekend getaway. Because we are who we are, our definition of fun is traveling for 7 hours to tour one of the reputedly most haunted places in the USofA. We are gleefully ‘those people’.

We had absolutely no idea what to expect. Hopefully, these insights will serve you when making a similar trek – which I encourage you to do. Waverly Hills Sanitarium (and Louisville) are worth the drive.DSCN5045

Nuts and Bolts…

  1. BOOK IN ADVANCE. We took the 2-hour 8pm Friday night tour because the 4-hour overnight ‘investigation’ is booked solid far, far in advance. That’s my first tip. Book your tour far, far in advance if you want to do the 4-hour investigation. It’s your best shot at having a paranormal experience. Note: they also have an 8-hour version, but I’m too old to stay up that late so never even considered it.
  1. IT’S HOT, DARK, HUMID AND CREEPY. Bring a flashlight, wear closed toe shoes and prepare to sweat.
  1. SECURITY. Security is tight. You’re checked in at the gate. Watched by the parking people. Escorted into the gathering / souvenir shop. Checked in again. There are 2 people trailing each tour in addition to the tour guide. All are obsessively dedicated to ensuring that no-one wanders off in search of adventure. Plan to stick closely with your group or encounter an implied cattle prod.

The Atmosphere…

  1. WAVERLYLAND? We went because we wanted to experience haunted Waverly Hills Sanitarium. There is an unfortunate level of less-than-well-executed ‘Disneyland-ish-ness’ that tries to get in the way. I was a little discomfited by the tee-shirts and cheesy HallowDSCN5113een paraphernalia for sale. It’s hard to ignore the enormous wall of endlessly looped episodes of paranormal reality tv that featured Waverly Hills. I was severely turned off by the full-body Pinhead dummy that greeted the start of the tour and later having to walk through some Halloween season haunted house deco that they keep up all year around. I had to actively ignore my concern that what I was really in for was Waverlyland. If you can do that successfully, you can have fun on this tour. It does take a conscious decision, but if you make it, you’ll have a good time.
  1. IT’S HUGE. Expect to be awed at first glance. It’s immense with a capital immense. The building is surrounded by dense woods and suddenly spreads before you as you drive up the short access road past the gate. Goosebump-worthy. Allow yourself time to gape while ignoring the stares from the many Waverly employees whoDSCN5084 are keeping a close watch on you as you get out of your car.
  1. PARANORMAL EXPERIENCES / GATHERING EVIDENCE? PROBABLY NOT. On the 2-hour tour, you will be in a group of about 30 people, all of whom are also hoping for a paranormal experience. At the same time your tour is happening, there’s another going, following a different route to the same stops. With that kind of foot traffic, chances of having a personal paranormal experience are slim. Thinking of sneaking in some subtle evidence gathering? Nope. You are not allowed to use any recording devices (so much for EVP’s) or flash photography (so much for clear photos). You will get some cool history about the building and hear about other people’s ghostly encounters, though.
  1. OPPORTUNITIES TO EXPLORE. That said, there are 2 opportunities on the 2-hour tour to explore. Well, more like 1.5 opportunities. On the 5th floDSCN5110or, you and your 29 best friends are allowed a little time to wander around and take photos – with flash (the only time allowed). The draw is room 502 where there are lascivious stories are about a pregnant nurse who hung herself. We are quickly disabused of the legend by the tour guide. Her spiel consists of, “You’ve probably heard about XYZ in room 502. Well, it’s not true. It never happened.” But, then she goes on to relate creepy experiences that pregnant women have had in room 502. Hmmmm…
  1. SHADOW PEOPLE. The other – very cool – opportunity to explore-ish is on the 4th floor where there are reports of active shadow people. Standing in the deep dusk, looking down a dark, dark, dark corridor with sDSCN5086mall smatterings of light from windows, you can easily imagine that you see movement. Maybe we did. Maybe we were so desperate that we matrixed it all. Who cares? It was uber scary. Bonus: Char and I muscled our way into the line of 3 sets of people who were allowed to walk to the end of the hall alone while everyone else watched. We successfully managed to freak the crap out of ourselves.
  1. BODY CHUTE. At it’s height as a 500-bed tuberculosis treatment hospital, Waverly Hills averaged a death an hour. The need to transport bodies off the grounds but not within sight of patients who were trying to get well, led the staff to repurpose an underground tunnel that became nicknamed the Body Chute. It is one weird sensory experience. They let you walk down the narrow, 600-foot slanted concrete chute. I went about ½ way and then let everyone pass me by so that I could walk back up relatively alone. Too many laughs, echoes and noise from the rest of the group to pick up on anything otherworldly but the funhouse effect made me tilt.

So, yes I did think it was fun and worth the trek. Because I decided to. I devoured the things that were cool and ignored the things that were hokey. I adjusted my expectations and looked for opportunities to let my imagination run amok. I was on an adventure far-ish from home with my best friend and fellow aficionado.

What could be better?

We Are Not Alone — Paranormal Trade Shows

J-Random Trade Show ZombiesTo me, the words ‘trade show’ conjure images of zombie-like packs of business people prowling around a convention center clutching one of those plastic vendors bags. They stop at every booth and grab all the swag they can, while assiduously avoiding eye contact. You know what I mean.  You’ve been there, too.  Later, after the fugue wears off and you sort your booty, reason returns and the questions begin.  What are you going to do with all this useless crap? Why do you have that brochure? You have no need to purchase vermiculite by the truck load or to get your gutters replaced by solar compost receptacles.  To whom can you give this pencil with the sparkle eraser?  Into the trash it all goes.

Trick or Treat!Now, imagine yourself at the newest trend in trade shows – the Paranormal Convention. What’s going to end up in your bag here?  It may feel a bit more like trick or treating than killing time away from the office.  Of course for those readers who are already afficianados of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and comic book cons — attending a paranormal convention may already be  de rigueur.

In structure, a paranormal themed convention is pretty similar to any other trade show.  There are workshops, guest speakers, a vendors room and a big party where people far from home hit on each other.  Of course, with this theme, the big party may also take the form of an actual ghost hunt — for a nominal fee.

For us in the Midwest, all roads currently point toward Ohio.  The next big paranormal convention coming up is Extreme Para-Con 2009 in Cincinnati on December 11, 12 and 13.  Info at http://www.extremeparacon.com/.  In between, there aren’t a lot of local-ish choices on the calendar yet.  After Cincinnati, the next one I’ve been able to suss out is in Dayton, Ohio in August of 2010. Check it out at http://www.ohioparacon.com/.  There’s a more comprehensive list of upcoming events and recent passings at http://www.allconferences.com/Society/Paranormal/

So, Hello Milwaukee and Wisconsin!  Is it time for our own paranormal convention?  I’ve got some goodie bags that need fillin and don’t want to drive all the way to Ohio to do it.

Happy Haunts,

Susan

Introducing “A No Safe Haven Caper” — An Audio Preview

Welcome to the World!  Introducing our newest Haunt Spots tour, “A No Safe Haven Caper”.  All new audio stories and adventures await the final key ingredient — You.

In this newest exploration of Wisconsin’s ghosts, you will experience a haunt so deeply rooted that the spirits moved with theHaunt Spot From "A No Safe Haven Caper" buildings, trek haunted trails with their own legend trip, and investigate a tragic road to nowhere.  This tour includes one Bonus Haunt Spot — a haunted theatre.

Details…

Time of Day / Access:  All destinations are accessible during daytime hours.  The first destination must be explored by 9:00 pm, and the third and fourth by 10:00 pm.  Explorers must be able to walk uneven terrain and to cover at least 1 mile in distance. Exploring after dark will require flashlights – and a big sense of adventure.  Estimated total tour length is 3.5 to 5 hours.  We suggest that you arrive at your first Haunt Spot no later than 6:30 pm.

General Tour Area:  The tour route begins approx 15 minutes west of Milwaukee and then heads southwest down I-94.

Starting Points:  Caper Company provides directions from Milwaukee, Waukesha, Madison, Mequon, Racine, and West Bend.  Other starting points are easily available upon request.

Special Tour Price: Only $26.00 per downloaded itinerary.  Offer expires 12/31/09.

Click the link to hear an audio snippet for the first destination on “A No Safe Haven Caper”.

Happy Haunts,

Susan Scot Fry

Caper Company Tours LLC — What’s Your Ghost Story?

My Haunt Spots Caper – by Guest Blogger, “E” – Part 4 and Final

When last we met up with our Guest Haunts Blogger “E”, they had intrepidly faced their whole tour.  Join us for the conclusion of this expedition…

10:00pm
We headed back to our rendezvous point.  It was warm by the fire, and we gladly partook of cookies and beverages and gushed excitedly about our evening’s adventures.  Next time I’m taking more people, and I’m going earlier in the evening, right up until dusk!  Going in the dark was great and creepy, but we couldn’t actually see very many details, and we couldn’t ignore the real risk of being three girls out at night in secluded, unlit areas.

I loved the tour so much! It was totally worth it (even though we ended up skipping #3), and it was so much creepier than I anticipated.  We went in with a “yes!” attitude, and we ended up laughing at ourselves more and more as it got scarier.  And we didn’t have to do any work or research ahead of time – everything in the tour package was ready to go and user-friendly. I haven’t felt this spontaneous and adventuresome in a long time!  Thanks, Caper Company!

Thank you, E!

My Haunt Spots Caper – by Guest Blogger, “E” – Part 3

When we left Guest Haunts Blogger “E”, they were making their way to their third Haunt Spots tour destination of the night…

9:00pm

After a brief detour and some more driving, we arrived at our third location.  Although it was public property, it was pitch black, secluded, and deserted.  A long and steep hill stretched down before us, with a trail head somewhere at the bottom.  We listened to the chilling lore for this Haunt Spot.  As we listened, though, another vehicle came into the parking lot and parked.  There was a soft blue glow from inside, probably from a laptop.  The lone person remained in his car as we finished the audio track.  I suggested that it would be unwise to exit the car and venture down into the darkness when another stranger was watching us.  Besides, what fun and exploration could we possibly have in such darkness?  There was no moonlight through the clouds.  We decided to be on the safe side and skip it.

After another modest drive, we arrived at our fourth destination.  The area was peaceful, despite its odd surroundings.  We settled down and listened to the last audio track.  We were a little nervous, I had a headache, and we were all kind of hungry.  There was a particularly creepy tune featured in the audio here, and we noticed more static coming from my tape-deck adapter at this location.  As we exited the car, I realized I was wearing my old-fashioned engineer’s hat, and we’d just been informed there was an abandoned railroad nearby!

While fumbling with our cameras, we suddenly heard the same creepy tune from the CD!  But it was only the unexpected tones of my partner’s camera notifying her of its low battery.  She says she charged it fully before leaving.  We approached the site trepidatiously and stopped to listen for any spirits, but we heard nothing.  It was too dark to see much, especially after we’d stood by the site marker and flashed cameras in each other’s eyes.  It was much colder here.  Since we couldn’t see enough of the terrain to walk around, we got back into the car where it was warm.

Tune in for the thrilling conclusion of Guest Blogger “E”‘s Haunt Spots Caper…

My Haunt Spots Caper – by Guest Blogger, “E” – Part 2

A Hard Luck and Loss Caper(Continued from Part the First)

When we left Guest Haunts Blogger “E”, they were making their way intrepidly around their first Haunt Spots tour destination…

8:00pm
Just then, we heard the faint sound of a bell ringing.  I immediately checked my watch and confirmed that it was eight o’ clock, and as we listened, we heard it toll the hour.  After the bell struck eight, it continued to chime beautiful music.  I took a few seconds of video and caught some of the bell’s music.  It sounded like it was coming from one of the buildings, but muffled, as if perhaps the bell tower was all boarded up.  We walked one circuit around the area, but I became concerned that there could be unsavory characters here in the dark, of the very much alive and human sort, so we didn’t explore any further.  We went directly back to the car, feeling that it was good to head out under our own free will, sufficiently spooked but not scared senseless.

We drove to the second Haunt Spot nearby.  Again, we parked and listened to the provided audio.  The story hit a particular chord with me, and I didn’t doubt its truth for a moment.  The area seemed much more hospitable, but I was not inclined to do much exploring in the dark.  We walked over the hillcrest as directed, and we were astonished to see the upper level of the building revealed.  It hadn’t been visible at all from the parking area.  We left very soon, though, because I had to find a restroom.

To Be Continued…

The Weather Outside is Deliciously Frightful. Who Do You Want To Take Exploring?

Milwaukee area weather is on our side.  It’s gray and drizzly now and slated to be gray and less-to-non-drizzly by Saturday late afternoon.  Sunday should be stellar.   I’ve got a good imagination, but when the atmosphere cooperates to naturally set the scene, it’s happy dance time.

Some great friends are converging this weekend and we’re going to see WHT’s production of Dracula at The Alchemist Theatre on Sunday afternoon.  Afterwards would be perfect for heading out on a Haunt Spots tour.  Head out in late afternoon… explore some Haunts while there’s still plenty of light outside…  Granted, the idea of going while it’s still light is appealing to me, especially since I’m scheduled to go out on a nighttime tour on Monday.  Yes, you read that right.  I’m going at night.  Gulp.  I’ve got 3 good friends going too, so I should be safe.  Check that – one person in the party is my husband, Ron.  Am I really going to be safe from his sense of humor?

If you went on a ghost tour, who would you most want to go with?   Conversely, who would you absolutely refuse to go with?  Why?

Happy Haunts,

Susan

My Haunt Spots Caper – by Guest Blogger, “E” – Part 1

Haunt Spots Explorer extraordinaire “E” created a wonderful write-up of her recent Caper Company ghost tour and has given me permission to re-post it on our Haunts Blog.

A Haunt Spots tour is an opportunity to spend a good amount of time exploring real Wisconsin haunts, so naturally E’s account of her night of ghost hunting is pretty extensive.  So, we decided to post it in serial form.  Here’s part the first.

“My Haunt Spots Caper”

With one bag for my exploring gear and one bag for my first aid kit, I considered myself prepared, although this certainly fell under the category of “packing light” for me.  I always come prepared, and I always arrive early.  This was my first time taking a Haunt Spots Tour from Caper Company, so I didn’t want to leave any details to chance.  (At least, no more than I was already signing up for!)

7:00pm

My two partners and I gathered in front of a crackling fireplace and listened to the “before you go” audio track before heading out in my car.  It rained for a little while, and we suddenly wished we’d packed some of those warm chocolate chip cookies we’d left by the fire.  Arriving at our first Haunt Spot destination, we found it cold, dark, and damp.  We parked, shut off the engine, and listened to the corresponding audio track.  It sounded like there was a lot of activity here!  We got out, looked at our surroundings, and excitedly took some photos of each other.  We were feeling eager to test our steel by setting off into the unknown.  With our gear in hand and slung over shoulder, we headed down the hill into the darkness.  Although the immediate area was deserted and still, it was comforting to see and hear the freeway in the distance, reminding us that we were still near civilization.

As we came into close range of the haunted area, I took a photo of the building that loomed before us. You can’t see the building in my photo because it’s too dark, even with the flash.  But what the photo did capture was a Great and Terrifying Mist!  (Susan Scot Fry note:  Click this link for the photo!)  My partners tried their cameras, but no mist appeared in their photos.  I took a second photo too, but there was no more mist.  We never even saw it with our eyes.

As we walked farther into the area, the three of us suddenly heard a distinct human male voice shout “Hey!” from behind us.  Assuming we’d been seen by a security guard, we walked back to the intersection where we could make ourselves visible.  Although we stood there for a good minute and looked intently back toward the parking lot, there was absolutely no one there.  So we continued walking in.

To Be Continued…

Can I, in Good Conscience, Send You Deep Into the Haunted Woods at Night?

Yes.

It’s actually a little late to ask.  Our first Haunt Spots ghost tour already does just that, if you opt to go after dark.  It includes a haunted trail to explore.  People who go at night report that it can be mighty scary if there are only two Explorers.  Parties of three and four going out at night are able to help each other be brave.  So, the answer is simple – I should just strongly suggest that parties of three or four are best if you’re going to go out after dark.  Done and done.  That takes care of that, right?

Not really.

I ponder this question because our upcoming tour route is much, much more in-depth in terms of ‘in the woods-i-ness’.  The final destination on tour 2 is a commitment.  When I write the stories and create your Capers, it’s with a daytime version of your Haunt Spot in mind.  I need to envision the same place at night and write for that experience as well.  Gulp!

When we researched this Haunt Spot, it was daylight (of course) and for a change, I was with two other researchers instead of just one.  Strength in numbers = Good.  Envisioning the same research trip happening at night invariably has an army going with me in my head.  I’d want to be surrounded by people armed to the teeth.  Armed with what, is another story.

It comes down to why you do this.  I love hitting the road, history, mystery, companionship of shared experiences, heightened senses, and reaching to feel whatever a place has to offer.  I’m not in it to be scared.  Much.  It’s an unavoidable occupational hazard, and it happens.  But, I’m not expressly in it to be frightened.  Some people are.  More power to you!  You go test those limits.  Just know that it’s your choice.

Oh, and you signed a waiver.

Pleasant Dreams,

Susan