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?

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I Love Ghost Hunters. Again.

It’s Wednesday!  I love Wednesdays!  I used to anyway — before I OD’d on Ghost Hunters.

I used to even have an “It’s We-e-ee-ea-nd-nes-daaay!” song that’s I’d sing when I woke up in the morning.  Such glee.  There were going to be at least 4 hours of my favorite show on tv that night.  Sad, but true.  The Wednesday song was for a tv show.  In my defense, I rarely actually watched any of it besides the new episode, but it was the perfect background noise for working on Caper Company.

I hardly ever inhaled.

Too much of a good thing?

A couple of nights ago, I was flipping and discovered that the National Geographic channel has jumped on the paranormal reality show band wagon.  Just like it’s nearly unheard of to run across a theatre without a ghost, there are fewer tv stations out there who do not have some sort of paranormal investigation show.

Am I headed for burn out?  Are we all?

We don’t have to be.  It’s not inevitable.

Any immersive hobby can rapidly evolve from interest to obsession to lifestyle choice.  It’s delicious to be enthralled with scratching that itch.  It’s like falling in love.  Once the flush has worn off, it’s important to understand that that’s what it was.  Falling in love.

I’ve turned a corner and I like Wednesdays again.  Maybe because I’ve got tiny, wobbly legs on Caper Company and have moved past the honeymoon stage.  I don’t have to quit.  I can still love it.  In doses and with loving perspective.

What’s your obsession?

Happy Haunts,

Susan Scot Fry

Has Ghost Hunters Jumped the Shark?

Ghost Hunters Academy StudentsI admit up front — it could be just me.  I could be going through a seasonal down-swing in my devotion to the whole paranormal reality tv show phenomena.  The shine of Jay and Grant may have dimmed.  The Klinge brothers antics may be inadequate to overcome my malaise.  Zaks’ hair jell and muscle shirts might have lost their edge.  Or it could simply be post Thanksgiving turkey tryptophan narcosis.  Whatever the reason, I have to ask — have the producers of Ghost Hunters jumped the shark with their new series Ghost Hunters Academy?

Am I jaded or is there something about the show’s attempts at being edgy that ring a desperation alarm bell?  Being the gruff guy helped make Jay popular, so are they’re trying it on Steve for size?  Steve has always been a bit of a scamp-in-training– in that ‘let’s see if I can trick Tango into eating this’ sort of way — so I can understand their decision to ramp him up into a full-blown hand-slapper.  But still…

Ghost Hunters debuted October 4, 2004, so they are in their 5th season.  Happy Days was also in it’s 5th season when Fonzie took to his water skis.  But heeeeyyyyy Happy Days also lasted another 7 years afterward.  With the rabid fan devotion of GH — within who’s ranks I proudly remain —  I don’t think we need worry about losing our lads J&G to the gentility of running their haunted New Hampshire country inn too soon.

What do you think?

Happy Haunts,

Susan

And, Now — The Conclusion of LM’s Halloween Haunt Spots Adventure

Welcome to part 3 of 3.  LM and her crew of intrepid Haunt Spots Explorers have made their personal paranormal connections and are inspired to think of those who’ve affected them…

“One of our group members has suggested that next Dia De Los Muertos, (not today, unfortunately, because it’s a bit too last minute,) we go back out there for a proper Day of the Dead picnic. I asked if this means we have to cook for 4,000 and she laughed and said no — just as long as we have SOMETHING there for them to pay them proper memory and respect. I pointed out that they probably don’t eat much anyway, what with being transparent and all.

All in all, the entire group agreed that it was a fantastic day, and couldn’t stop talking about how the person who decided not to go with us was silly and had missed out on an amazing experience. I was so happy to have been able to share that day with them, and to make them all so happy too. Like I said, things that I try to organize generally don’t go well — parties, excursions, adventures, etc. But this worked out VERY well. (Oh yes…thanks for including nearest addresses and GPS coordinates on the itinerary, as well as descriptions of the area. In classic “me” fashion, I got us lost at least once on the way to every single location, but we were still able to find our way there.)

Thank you so much for this, and I hope to post our pictures soon. (You will LOVE the one of our youngest expedition member at the EB, suddenly struck by a “writer” moment where she just HAD to sit down and take out her notebook.)

Happy November to you, and thanks again on behalf of my friends for a fantastic Halloween!”

— LM

(PS from Susan…  No, LM — Thank YOU!  And, by the by — the spirits of PF are happy to have met you and your friends.  They look forward to your next visit.)

An Excellent Halloween Haunt Spots Exploration

Welcome to our newest Guest Blogger “LM” — now known as the Infamous LM of Haunt Spots Tour Leader Extraordinaire fame.

LM has shared her wonderful write up of their Halloween Haunt Spots ghost tour exploration.  Enjoy, part the first …

(ghoOOOOOOOOOOoooost!   —  read on, you’ll get it…)

A Hard Luck and Loss Caper at Night 006

EB from A Hard Luck and Loss Caper

Susan —

We had an absolutely fantastic Halloween expedition! The entire group was thrilled to have had a day like last Saturday, and I was thrilled that something I planned actually worked out for once.

We ended up having one too many people to all fit in one car, so we split into two cars and then just regrouped at the parking lot of each location to huddle in my car and listen to the audio CD. Our token skeptic had a lot of fun chiming in with ”

OoOoOoOo…!” at various moments, as well as mimicking fake ghost coughing at appropriate locations. He also declared that, since it was Halloween, we couldn’t just say “ghost” — we had to say it “ghoOOOOOOOOOOoooost!” All day long. Every three seconds. Every rock, tree, and twig we came across was somehow a “ghoOOOOOOOOOOoooost!” Likewise, I assured him that it was a “ghoOOOOOOOOOOoooost” that kicked him in the shins repeatedly, rather than me. (No worries,though — it was all in good fun. After we were done for the night and headed home, he asked if we could please put the audio CD back in so he could listen to all the stories about the places we had just been. I asked if he wanted to skip past the M one, since we didn’t actually go there, and he said no — he wanted to hear it.)

The first two places we stopped, we didn’t find much in the way of activity. Rather, we just soaked up the absolute October beauty of it all. At least two of our explorers wanted to stay there for hours, I think, and thanked me repeatedly for bringing them there. We had one unexplained experience at WP — ironically, witnessed by our skeptic. Four of our group had continued down the path by the waterside, while two of us remained behind to take more pictures. As we went to catch up with the others, the skeptic reported that he’d seen a reflection of a person in the water and assumed it was us — but upon looking up, couldn’t see us approaching from where he stood. We thought maybe it was a trick of the angle or the brush obscuring the path and tried recreating it later, but we couldn’t.

(to be continued…)

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…

This Tour is Totally Creepy at Night and… I Loved It!

Tonight’s “A Hard Luck and Loss Caper” was fun, fun, fun!  I went on my own tour with some great friends and my husband (my best boy friend) and am happy to report that a great time was had by all.

It was rainy when we started out and we made the first Haunt Spot when there was still just enough light to negotiate the terrain.  Braving the light rain only added to the ambience.  After all, none of us are made of sugar and weren’t going to melt.  A Hard Luck and Loss Caper at Night

This may be in the ‘kiss and tell’ category, but Im spilling the beans on my buddy Amanda.  She got progressively more creeped-out as the night went on.  (Yay!)  By the time we were checking out our final destination, she was ready to pack it in.  The creep-outed-ness had taken it’s toll.  She was a trouper though and tried to tough it out so that we could check out our last destination.

It’s quite a different experience when it’s men and women going together.  I’m taking a huge risk in making generalizations, but it’s late and I’m going to chuck PC out the window.  Guys on a Haunt Spots tour are generally a bit more gung-ho and will plunge in.  They remind me of Jack Skellington discovering Christmas.  Women are more into soaking up the atmosphere and seeking the feelings the location sparks.  If you can find a happy balance, then everyone has fun.

Oh, guys – if you’re looking for a date where you get to be the hero – this tour may be a distinct option.  Unless you get scared too.  In which case, you might want to bring along a date you can cling to.

Thanks, my intrepid fellow Explorers.  I’m looking forward to our next one.

Happy Haunts,

Susan

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…

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…