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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New Paranormal Reality Show on… Animal Planet (?!)

Uh huh.  It’s official.  Everybody and his hairy cousin is jumping on the paranormal tv bandwagon.

The latest entry is “The Haunted” on Animal Planet.  Yes, Animal Planet.  It’s about spirit dogs, ghost cats and spectral lemurs (okay, I made that one up) and the places they haunt.  In the style vein of Discovery Channel’s “A Haunting”, this new show seems nicely done.  It’s about quality storytelling, and I hand it to Animal Planet here. The storytelling is good.

Live pets are also heavily featured as “The Haunted” explores the theory that animals are sensitive to paranormal activity. From their “About” page…

“Animals are commonly believed to be more sensitive than humans. According to psychics, they are capable of sensing spirits that cannot be seen or heard by even the sharpest minds. THE HAUNTED chronicles true, chilling and terrifying stories of animals and their owners who are experiencing the unexplainable.”

Check it out for yourself at http://animal.discovery.com/tv/the-haunted/ If you watch their video clips, you have to get past their sponsor ads. But if you’re used to hulu, it’s not so bad. They’re short.

Their next episode is on December 6th at 9pm CST. Add this to the line-up and I’m never going to get out of the house. Bliss.

Happy, Hissy, Haunts,

Susan

ps. All opinions here are mine. If I could get a sponsorship from Animal Planet to flog their show, you’d hear me shouting joy from the rooftops. 😉

But, hey – I will happily mention BlogSurfer.us in this post!

Is it Too Soon?

KnifeEd Gein?  Maybe yes, maybe no.

Jeffrey Dahmer?  Probably.

The 14-year old boy who was brutally killed in Whitnall Park?  Yes.

You won’t be surprised to discover that, in the course of researching Haunt Spots, I run across a lot of murders.  Sometimes, it’s a fit of passion that ended tragically.  Sometimes, it’s more extreme — as illustrated by these first two names.

If the crime occurred long ago, the energy of the area may have become tolerable and the crime has passed into folklore.  There’s no magic number of years, though.  The boy mentioned earlier was killed in 1974, but there will need to be many more years before his story could be considered for a Haunt Spot.  The energy is too painful.  His story is too heart-breaking.

There are still plenty of bullys to encounter.  On the “A No Safe Haven Caper” tour, Explorers go through a mini-cleansing before leaving one Haunt Spot.  It’s for their well-being and my conscience.  No-one wants that meanie to follow you home.

Conscience does make cowards of us all, Hamlet, Act III Sc. 1.   Hey!  I’m not a coward!  My conscience is a personal gauge of right and wrong.  Far be it from me to censor anyone, but I’m responsible for the quality of your experience.  It’s my job to help Explorers have a good time.  If I think a Haunt Spot is too dark or too fresh, I’ll ask other opinions.  Thus far, the opinions have all agreed.  There are a few locations that you may never see.

They aren’t my stories, but I get to tell them.  I do so with a sense of adventure but also a sense of care.  So, no you don’t get all the haunts.  Some should be left, if not in peace, in respectful solitude.

For now.

Happy Haunts,

Susan

Super Light for Spectral Detection

Confession — it’s all about the day.  Sunny day, everything is sharp.  Cloudy day, everything is movie-set atmospheric.  Either way, we win.

Another confession — It was this time of year when I got hooked on researching Wisconsin haunts.  Night time chill didn’t matter because we went out during the day.  The natural atmosphere of some of the places we explored was ramped up to the nth degree when combined with the look of bare trees or the dusky cloud cover.  Those impressions are such a part of my memory that when I re-visit a Haunt Spot later, I’m often surprised at the difference.  If a place has got it, it’s got it — but this time of year is special.

Be Brave and Happy Haunts,

Susan

 

The Possible Passing of “A Hard Luck and Loss Caper”

EB from A Hard Luck and Loss Caper

Heads Up!  Have you been considering experiencing Caper Company’s first Haunt Spots tour “A Hard Luck and Loss Caper” for yourself?  You may want to go soon.  Recent news articles indicate that the first destination may no longer being accessible as of April 2010.  So, what’s the rush?  This Haunt Spot is all outdoor exploration, so when this spate of good fall weather finally turns winter-foul, it may make outdoor explorations a little more of a challenge.  Right now, this stop is good fun for spooky adventures during the day and into the night.

I’ve long suspected a possible shelf life on our access to this creepy area.  It’s one of my favorite places to explore though, so it had to be on Caper Company’s inaugural ghost tour.  I’ve been out there several times and get a chill every time.  It’s a massive, old, red-brick building complex and looks like you’re walking onto a movie set — but perhaps not the sort of movie where everyone makes it out alive:)

Now, it’s looking more and more like this complex may be restored, renovated and re-occupied during 2010 starting with the completion of the land sale in April.  Oh, to be able to get into the area during renovations!  It’s widely reported that that’s when paranormal activity kicks into high gear.

I’ve got to get out there again myself.  One final farewell.

Happy Haunts,

Susan

Haunts in Ozaukee and Walworth Counties

There are wonderfully chilling reports of paranormal activity in Lake Geneva, Delavan and Whitewater that IMy 'Dream' Haunt Spot suspect are going to make for some creepy Haunt Spots tours.  I’m itching to check them out.  Same for the Cedarburg, Mequon and Kaukauna areas.  So, here’s your heads up — it’s field research time for that countryside and I’m looking for suggestions.

What are the ghost stories that you’ve heard for Ozaukee and Walworth Counties?   The Haunt Spots rules…

A — Haunt Spots focus on spaces that the general public can get into — which saddens me a teeny, selfish bit because I adore haunted residence stories.  But alas, if I can’t ever send an Explorer there to check it out for him or herself, I must be strong and refrain.  Except perhaps when sitting by the fire in our library with the lights turned low.  Then I get to indulge to my hearts content.   But I digress…..

Rule 2 — We steer away from any haunting in a place that requires you pay an admission fee.

3rd — There is no rule 3.

So, what are your ghost stories?

LM’s Halloween Haunt Spots Adventure… Part 2

And, LM’s Halloween Haunt Spots Exploration continues…

(More ghoOOOOOOOOOOoooosts!)

After WP, we stopped for food at this AMAZING Indian restaurant about 6 miles away from the park. Tiny place, looked kinda sketchy from the outside, but it was incredible. (Royal India Restaurant. Tell your friends.) Two of our group pulled out a notebook and started an impromptu Nepali / Hindi language lesson, which our waiter eavesdropped on and must have decided he liked us. We all got free chai and a free appetizer.

I wasn’t sure how much further our group would want to continue, seeing as it was cold and dark and at least two of them were not wearing appropriately warm footwear or coats. I asked them if they wanted to continue to the last location, or just skip it and go home now that we were all warm and full of comfy food. They all insisted they wanted to continue.

PF was by far the most active place we went. By the time we got there, it was well past nightfall, though the moon provided some decent light. (Oh — and we met up with another Caper tour! We met this couple at WP and asked them to take our picture, then encountered them again at PF. This was just WAY too much coincidence, so I asked if they were on your tour and they said yes. Our skeptic, on the other hand, insisted that they were “ghoOOOOOOOOOOoooosts!”)

Walking out into PF was a bit creepy for several of us, simply by virtue of the fact that we knew we were walking over unmarked graves. We got to John Schwab’s headstone at the center and stood there for awhile, talking and taking a few pictures, and then I stopped and realized something.

I realized we were alone. Just the six of us. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t have been a particularly profound thought, except what I realized was that this entire time, I had been feeling as though we were standing in the middle of a crowd. It was so matter-of-fact that I hadn’t questioned it before, but at that time I stopped to think about it. This was not, in fact, a crowded plaza — but it sure felt like one. I asked if anyone else had the same feeling and they all immediately responded that yes, they did — they just hadn’t wanted to mention it, or weren’t sure how.

All except our skeptic, of course. In stark contrast to us, he said he felt VERY alone — like his back was exposed, and someone was about to steal his wallet. He was exceptionally creeped out, and I think it was pure politeness to the rest of us that kept him from demanding that we leave right then.

Then, as soon as we crossed outside the fence surrounding the field, the feeling went away. For all of us.

(to be concluded in part the third)

What’s Your Personal Primary Paranormal Sensitivity?

keeping an eye on ExplorersAt a recent gabfest of Caper Company Researchers and Explorers, we told spooky and fun tales of our Haunt Spots experiences.   As we chatted, a thread emerged.  It became obvious that each person had an individual primary type of experience or interaction.  This primary type of experience was not the only thing that happened to people, but it seemed more predominant than others.

It comes as no surprise that if you’re in tune with atmosphere, one sensitivity will exhibit itself more often.  There are Caper Company Researchers who always seem to capture EVP’s or unexplained phenomena in photos.  There are Explorers who hear things, smell things, feel things… you name the sense or experience and there’s someone who tunes into it.   I’m going to call this your Personal Primary Paranormal Sensitivity – or PPPS, for short.

I’ve had various odd things happen when researching Haunt Spots.  For me, a common phenomena is buzzing from electrical interference.  How about you?  What’s your PPPS?  If it doesn’t immediately spring to mind, think about your answer to the question, “What’s your ghost story?”   How do you tell your story?  Is it of strange noises?  Have you ever captured something on film?  That may be your primary sensitivity.

So, I’ve told you mine.  What’s yours?

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?

There I Was, Innocently Checking Out Our Final Haunt Spot…

Hey, I’m just beta testing here.  Now’s not the time for a paranormal experience.  Oh, yeah?

Last night, we were checking out the final destination in Caper Company’s newest tour “A No Safe Haven Caper” – scheduled to debut on Thursday.  We need to make sure that the written directions will get you where you need to go, that the Caper is all do-able, etc. Check — check — check.  Couple tweaks here and there and it’s looking good.  We’re on track to get this baby off the launching pad.  Haunt Spot From "A No Safe Haven Caper"

(actual stream of consciousness) “Oookaaay…  what’s that smell?  OMG!  It’s the smell I described in this tour at this destination.  Is it?  Yes, it is!  It’s an honest to goodness confirmation of one of the reports of paranormal activity for this Haunt Spot.  Yes!  Wait!  Augh!  Get me out of here!  Hey, does Ron smell that too?  Yes!  Wait!  He never detects anything paranormal.  Does that mean that this place is especially potent or … what?  Who cares!  Get me out of here!”

This experience reminded me of something one Caper Company fan wrote to me recently about how it doesn’t matter how many time she visits this Haunt Spot destination — something always seems to happen.  Ditto.

When you least expect it.

What’s Your Ghost Story?

Susan