Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Spooked: The Ghosts of Waverly Hills Sanatorium


I had a chance to watch the Sci-Fi premiere of the documentary,'Spooked: The Ghosts of Waverly Hills Sanatorium'. The documentary is a spin-off of the movie, 'Death Tunnel' (Booth, 2005), which follows five sorority pledges that are locked inside Waverly Hills as part of their initiation. From the start, I thought this would be another ghost hunt by pseudo-scientific paranormal detectives. While pseudo-science did make sporadic appearances in the form of EVP (electronic voice phenomena)recordings, orb photos, temperature readings, and phantom photography, a large portion of the film revolved around the history of Waverly Hills. The history of Waverly Hills sanatorium was the most intriguing aspect of the film. The sanatorium opened in 1926 in Louisville, Ky, as an expansion to the Waverly Hills hospital. The purpose of the sanatorium was to quarantine and treat patients from Louisville and Jefferson County (KY) for tuberculosis. I was amazed to learn that just in Louisville there were 63,000 TB deaths between 1912 and 1935! The film was effective in portraying the suffering of the TB patients housed at Waverly Hills Sanatorium. The staff was so concerned about the mental stability of their patients that they used a tunnel on the side of the building to take the dead bodies out so the living patients would not be reminded of their possible fate. The tunnel used for this purpose was later deemed the, "Death Tunnel". This film would have been far more effective if it were to focus on the history of Waverly Hills Sanatorium and the horrifying effects TB had on the patients, rather than the ghosts that are believed to inhabit the sanatorium. The only part of their evidence that caught my eye was that of a small girl that shows up in some of their photos. I am a sceptic when it comes to any paranormal "evidence", however, whether these photos are real, fake, or the product of "creative lighting", doesn't change the fact that they are creepy as hell! I was annoyed everytime they played their EVP recordings. All I ever heard was jarbled, static-filled nonsense, with nice subtitles to let me know what the "ghost detectives" heard. Newsflash: if your EVP recordings need subtitle clarification, then there is nothing phenomenal about them. I got a laugh out of one of the guys that would walk around the rooms and take temperature readings and say things like, "see, over here it is 62 degrees, but in this room it's 58 degrees"! Yeah, because we all know temperature in any huge multi-level building will be constant throughout. To reiterate, the only aspect of the film that was interesting was the history of the sanatorium, which included footage of patients, the "Death Tunnel", and interviews with former patients. There was also an eery story about a nurse that hung herself in one of the rooms. If anyone is interested in the history of the sanatorium, there is a great website that is dedicated to the memorial of the patients at Waverly Hills Sanatorium/Woodhaven Geriatric Center. Watching this film reminded me of a great horror movie about a group of workers that are removing asbestos from an old, abandoned asylum. The movie is called Session 9 (Anderson, 2001), starring David Caruso. While I don't recommend 'Spooked: The Ghosts of Waverly Hills Sanatorium' to anyone but history buffs, I do highly recommend Session 9.

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