Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Part 1 -- Waverly Hills

In honor of Halloween, I thought I'd re-share one of my personal ghost experiences.  This is a trip that my friend Eric and I took in 2011 to the Waverly Hills Hospital.  It was actually featured on Yahoo today:

In any case, here's the story from 2011:

Sooo, a lot of you have sent me messages this summer gently asking if the Eric/Kimbo trip to an unusual location had actually taken place or if we had scrapped it in light of my getting married…no worries, people, we took our vacation back in June. I’ve just been too busy to write about it until now. However, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that my wedding did cause some conflict concerning our proposed vacation…though, oddly, NOT from my actual husband.

It was my friend, Martha, who objected in the most strenuous terms.

Which—when considering all the other wacky destinations we’ve been to—has to have some of you questioning what on earth could cause this kind of reaction—or overreaction, if you will.

Nothing major…We were just going to Zorb.

Zorbing, for the uninitiated, is rolling down a mountain in a giant hamster ball.

For some strange reason, Martha found this disturbing. “Are you out of your damn mind?” She screamed (but she says that every year). And then “You’re getting MARRIED this summer!” (but I already knew that). “You could break an arm or a leg,” she finished dramatically. “Or your stupid neck!” (but I really think the Zorb waiver of liability is a formality…and probably an exaggeration of the dangers…)

“We’re going,” I told her. “And the night before we’re staying at the Indian Village Motel in a concrete teepee. And it’s going to be FULL ON AWESOME!!”

Which is when she pulled out the big guns. “I will call your mom,” she threatened. “And tell her how dangerous it is, and how much you’ll be drinking and…and…EVERYTHING!”

Well played, Martha. Well played.

Back to the drawing board…or Ouija board…or, to be completely accurate, Travel Channel’s Most Haunted Destinations…which is where I found the Waverly Hills Sanotarium, a former hospital for tuberculosis victims—particularly those who were terminally ill and/or insane from the disease.

A place in which so many poor people died that they installed a “body chute” to get the bodies out quickly and discreetly (yes, like last season of American Horror Story, though no Leatherface in residence). It is, I’ll have you know, considered one of the top five most haunted places in America…and for a nominal fee, they let you explore the entire abandoned, electricity free, building ALL NIGHT.

It was awesome! (As awesome as rolling down a mountain in a giant hamster ball? Jury’s still out…guess we won’t know the answer to that until NEXT SUMMER).

In any case, the overnight excursion is truly an OVERNIGHT excursion; it starts at midnight and ends at 8AM. And the managers are brutal about punctuality…the building is huge and the managers wander through all night, making sure everyone is OK; they don’t have time to run back to the main gate and let in people who are so inconsiderate and stupid that they can’t arrive on time.

How many of you think Eric and I had a teeny tiny little issue with punctuality?

We got off to a good start, we really did. After a little prompting from my then fianc√© (now husband!), Opie, we figured out what state the sanitarium was in and actually looked up directions…which told us that Louisville, Kentucky is approximately 4 hours and 45 minutes from St. Louis. So, we decided to leave at 5, thus arriving in Louisville around 9:45.

Which means we, of course, got on the road about 5:35.

No worries, we told ourselves. We had plenty of time. This would put us in Louisville around 10:15ish—well before the 11:30 mandatory attendance time.

And then we got cocky. We started making excellent time, so excellent that we decided to stop for dinner…we drove though South-Western Illinois (also known as the Barren Wasteland of no Subways) searching high and low for vegetarian sustenance, wondering if Chuck Wagon Charlie’s was as redneck a place as it sounded (it was!) and seeing how many times we could cut the same truck off on the highway before the driver actually flew into a rage and shot us.

And all the while we were hysterically congratulating ourselves on our unprecedented punctuality.

“We’re going to make it there AN HOUR EARLY!” we crowed exuberantly.

Right up until that awful moment that we crossed the Kentucky border and we learned those horrible words “Eastern Time Zone.”

Yep, that’s right, the time in Louisville is exactly one hour ahead of the time in St. Louis.

Which is when we both freaked out a little…I mean, we had already paid in full, they don’t give refunds and we had nine minutes to make a journey that the GPS estimated at 22.

And, to be honest, there was some wailing and gnashing of the teeth…and some devout wishing that we were the kind of people who planned ahead. People who plan ahead never have these problems.

On the other hand, people who DON’T plan ahead seem to have an uncanny ability to create plausible excuses for these kind of problems.

“What highway are we on?” I screamed at Eric. And then called the manager of the sanitarium and explained how the construction on that particular highway was really delaying us but we were desperate, and oh so sorry, and had driven hours just to explore and on and on and on.

And the long and the short of it is that he agreed to let us in as long as we made it by 11:50.

We basically flew into the building at 11:49.

Flew in and immediately realized that two giggling, ridiculous, amateur ghost hunters had NO BUSINESS in the group of freaks who routinely gather in the Waverly Hills Sanotarium.

First of all, everyone else had ghost hunting equipment…and REAL ghost hunting equipment, not just a little voice-activated tape recorder but Spirit Boxes and EMF meters and other things I’ve never seen before….and types of people I’ve never seen before, at least not in real life. There were several people with backpacks full of equipment and strap on headlights, there were a lot of grim, unsmiling people all in black, there was a couple who refused to leave each other’s sides for a second—even crowding into the single stall bathroom together, and there was this huge guy who looked like a bearded, bad ass biker dude—until I realized he was wearing a SKIRT and a rhinestone hair clip.

And then there was the jackass couple who arrived late, lost their entry pass in the confusion, laughed throughout, and actually brought a sleeping bag like there was going to be time for napping—

Wait, that was us!

But far worst of all were the people who LOOKED sane on the surface, and then they get in your face and start furiously telling you to stop laughing because the haunting of this place is REAL…it’s REAL! And you realize that they’re crazy too.

We had one of those couples in our group.

This woman and her husband (who’s a COP by the way and therefore licensed to carry a GUN), come to explore the sanitarium on the last day of EVERY SINGLE VACATION they take. And when they explore the place, they enjoy scampering around the top floor kicking a ball to the ghosts and waiting for them to kick it back.

“And you know what?” Officer Freak Show asked, pointing at his wife. “The ghosts love Jesse. They pull her hair, and push her, and one time we even took one home with us. IT’S REAL!”

I would like to repeat, this guy OWNS A GUN.

Later in the exploration, they very excitedly showed us a picture they took inside the building of a picture on the wall that, if you looked very closely and had:

A. Been experimenting with Hallucinogenic drugs
B. Suffered from a deep-seated psychosis

Then you could see the outline of an angel in one picture and an outline of a devil in the other.

Or, as I mentioned a little too loudly to Eric, the reflection of their flash on the plastic protecting the picture.

And, side note here, what kind of sick universe have we wandered into when I am the voice of reason?

In any case, I think it’s safe to say, those people HATED us.

I think it all started when we were exploring the top floor where there had been several questionable deaths. Eric and I were hunkered down in the room where a suicide had taken place, trying to get in tune with the spirits (difficult with the amount of giggling and whispering we were doing) when I decided we needed to go out and make friends with the other 2 couples exploring the floor with us….largely because they had an EMF meter and other cool ghost hunting equipment that I was hoping they would share. As I was walking out into the hall, my iPhone burst into sudden life, playing 80’s music at full volume. At first I was just embarrassed because the music was freakishly loud and it did surprise the crap out of all of us…then, as I fumbled to turn it off, it occurred to me that there are a number of steps that have to occur for music to play:

Turn on the power. Slide the key lock to off. Choose the iPod function. Choose the playlist (we weren’t listening to 80’s in the car). Choose a song or hit shuffle.

I didn’t do any of those things, my phone was in my purse…and the odds of all of these happening by accident are pretty long.

Which I mentioned to the group, thinking this would be a bonding supernatural type experience. One couple agreed. The Freak Show cop and his wife looked at me like I was a moron and the guy snapped “Well, OF COURSE…look where you are!” and shook his head in disgust.

And EMF or no EMF, I can’t handle someone talking to me like I’m an idiot…so I spent A LOT of the rest of the night sarcastically yelling out “Look where you are!”

I think this is just one of the reasons that couple decided to switch groups at the half way point, sticking Eric and I with the annoying teenage girls who were exploring the place with their mom.

But this ended up working out fine because the thing about teenage girls is that most of them really want to be liked…so, sure, they were even gigglier and chattier than Eric and I but they had NO PROBLEM sharing their ghost hunting equipment…or leading the way on the trek to the bottom of the body chute…or climbing in morgue drawers…or asking the manager of the place to stay with us and try to call up ghosts, leading to some freaky temperature changes and strange sounds.

In any case, this is getting long (as usual) so I’ll wrap it up by saying yes, it was freaky. Not as freaky as the Axe Murder House in Iowa but freaky just the same. It could have been our imaginations, but we did see things moving in the shadows and heard strange whistling in the distance. Our borrowed EMF meter did go crazy in the morgue and that “energy” stayed with us until we got to the body chute…and then was gone when we returned to the morgue. The temperature in one of the patient rooms did drop two degrees in less than a minute and we did both get weird, icky feelings in the same places. In addition, there was the iPhone issue and the new batteries in both my video camera and the voice activated tape recorder went dead the first time we used them in the building.

So, while we won’t be storming up to strangers yelling “IT’S REAL!” we’re definitely checking the “successful vacation” box and considering getting an EMF meter of our own—though we’re still leaning toward Zorbing next year!



  1. That sounds just like the place on American Horror Story! Do you watch it? They have a death chute, too.

  2. I do watch it...I actually wondered if the producers knew about this place!