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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Some Spooky Summer Fun

Psychic-Magic Magazine’s Summer Issue is out and yours truly has an article in it!  Granted, it’s a wee more tongue-in-cheek than the usual fare for this e-zine, but hey – so am I!

I had a lot of fun writing the article “Would You Stay Overnight in a Haunted Hotel” and having it come out in re-print at this moment in time is just a big old spooky reminder – I’m ready for a haunted road trip.

Back in June, I found a place I’d like to go – on purpose – overnight – with lots of back-up.  I think it’s time to put that road trip together.  In the meantime, here’s a re-print of the original article…  (Enjoy!)

WOULD YOU STAY OVERNIGHT IN A HAUNTED HOTEL?

By Susan Scot Fry

Not me. Not on purpose, that is.

I’ve done it by accident.

I’d just finished with my 4 month business incubator and had a brand spanking new biz plan in my lap. It was heavy, so I did what I always do when facing a life transition. Road trip. I packed an overnight bag, just in case, and headed north.

My first stop was a labyrinth in West Bend. I’m a fan and had been looking for a new one to check out, so it seemed as good a place as any. If you like your labyrinth overlaid with English country cottage charm next to a busy street, then this one will do it for you. Me, not so much. But, hey, at least I made it there and walked it. It’s all part of the road trip experience. The endless possibilities of ‘where next’ lay be-fore me. Which meant one thing. Lunch. A grilled ham and cheese sandwich later and I’m looking toward the road again.

The wonder of traveling with a GPS means that you’re never without a nearby antique mall. One mall leads to another, kind of like M&M’s or BBQ potato chips, and I’m far enough northwest to wonder, “Do I turn around and head home or commit to an overnight somewhere? Hey, I’ve never been to Fond du Lac. That’s on Lake Winnebago. I’ve always wanted to see Lake Winnebago.”

That’s how I ended up in Fond du Lac’s haunted hotel. It’s just the sort of place I’d pick, too. Not because it’s haunt-ed, but because it’s a very old building in the old downtown, and it’s reasonably priced to boot. It’s got a bar and a res-taurant on site. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places. I’ve struck gold!

Now it’s a Ramada, but it used to be called the Hotel Retlaw. When I checked in, alarm bells went off in my head. Where had I heard about this place before? Why is this so familiar? Why does the place feel peculiar? Well, duh, Susan!  It’s on just about every haunted places index I’ve ever read. It wasn’t until I was in my room that it dawned on me. A cell call to my husband, who did a quick search on the interwebs, confirmed my suspicions. I’d checked into a haunted hotel.

I might have wondered about ghosts even if I’d not had my suspicions googled. The hallways were creepy and a bit disorienting. In my room, it felt like something was at either door—the one from the hall and the one from the bathroom. I did a lot of whistling a happy tune, which is what I do when I’m para-nervous. “Oh, la, la, la, it’s all my imagination, la, la.”  At about 12:30 that night, I forced myself to turn off the light and try to get some sleep. Try being the operative word.

Fond du Lac and environs has some stellar hauntings, so I’m sure there will eventually be a Haunt Spots tour of the area. I’ll save the full story of the Retlaw Hotel for then.

So, the question remains. Would you stay at a hotel simply because you knew it was haunted? I might, if I weren’t alone and if I had the nerve to explore more.

You?

Caper Company’s Haunt Spots tours are your chance to explore Southeastern Wisconsin hauntings. Haunt Spots tours are * Self-guided audio tours; * Multi-destination road-trips; * Available almost any day you choose; * You explore at your own pace; * A whole new kind of ghost tour. Susan Scot Fry and the Caper Company team (it takes a village to raise the dead) are living the dream. Please visit them at www.CaperCompany.com.

What’s Your Ghost Story?

Milwaukee, WI – October 2, 2009 – Presenting Caper Company Tours LLC and their inaugural Haunt Spots tour.

A Future Haunt Spots Destination

A Future Haunt Spots Destination

We’ve all heard ghost stories that begin, “This really happened to a friend of mine.”

Have you ever wanted your own ghost story? Here’s your chance. Just in time for Halloween, Caper Company makes it easy for you to explore fascinating Wisconsin haunts for yourself. The inaugural Haunt Spots tour – A Hard Luck & Loss Caper – features a route of spirited destinations that begins less than 15 minutes west of Milwaukee.

Haunt Spots tours are self-guided road trips. You download the tour itinerary and audio stories from the Caper Company website at http://www.CaperCompany.com and explore at your own pace. No guides, no crowds, and no one spoiling the fun.

As you travel to each destination, you and your friends listen to an audio story filled with history and reported ghostly activity. Each tour also includes a detailed “Caper” which guides you through the step-by-step process of making your own personal paranormal connection.

Halloween is an especially spooky season, but spirits lurk year round. Likewise, Haunt Spots tours are available 7-days a week, any time of the year. One low fee per tour and gas for your car make this an inexpensive staycation alternative.

Each destination is personally explored and researched by Caper Company. With over 30 more Wisconsin haunts ‘ready-to-go’, Caper Company plans to add a new tour every 2 weeks.

Caper Company is the creation of Susan Scot Fry, former Entertainment and Public Relations Director for the Bristol Renaissance Faire. Susan draws from her passion for the paranormal and years of interactive entertainment experience to create this unique new ghost tour.

Intrigued? Check it out for yourself at http://www.CaperCompany.com or SusanScotFry@CaperCompany.com.

Who knows? Your next ghost story you hear may be the one that happened to you.