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Ohio Valley Haunts
Category:  Professional Venue
Reviewed 10/3/14
Waverly Hills Sanatorium
click logo above to visit their website
4400 Paralee Dr.
Louisville, KY  40272
(502) 933-2142
$20 + $5 parking
Fri/Sat 8 PM - 1 AM
gates open 7:30 PM
WAVERLY HILLS SANATORIUM: Upon arrival at "The most haunted place on Earth," and just prior to entering, guests are treated to a magnificent light show projected onto the massive, awe-inspiring structure that once served as a tuberculousis hospital for the terminally ill.  Images of ghosts appear in windows, along with a beating heart that appears to bring the building to life as the entire facility "expands" and "contracts" looking as though it's breathing!  Blood oozes, and outlines of bed-ridden patients are seen, followed by skeletons tumbling downward from above like rain!  Several windows illuminate as if someone flipped on a switch, and a nurse is seen hanging, in an auspicious flashback to the legendary room 502!  Skulls and bats materialize out of thin air as the entire superstructure bursts into flames and crumbles to the ground!  As the brilliant presentation concludes, entrance is gained through an intimidating arched opening that's protected by an impressive iron gate that leads into foyer of the facility itself.  An initial photo-op begins the excursion through dimly-lit hallways that immediately piques the interest of a sultry, female vampire that stalks progression beyond upright coffins that provokes the emergence of her snorting master in advance of a live, casket surprise.  Eerie sounds fill the air as a ghost-like apparition haunts continuance past a mysterious weeping woman dressed in black cautioning, "Don't go in there!"  Not heeding her warning discovers an abandoned laboratory, imprisoned skeletons, and a vial creature slithering and crawling upon the ground!  Forging onward past drop-down wall panels and a legless man maneuvering with the aid of a walker escorts the path into a child's bedroom, where a distraught damsel pleads for help, then into a cob-web infested area where an oversized fiend armed with an axe blocks advancement, while eying an innocent girl swaying back and forth on a swing!  A baby nursery is on the horizon, as are a few mechanical startles in advance of strobe-lit announcement written in blood that reads, "You're next," that leads to a confrontation with a mentally unstable gal sporting Freddy Krueger-like claws that entices the appearance of the notorious Nightmare on Elm Street villain himself!  More spider webs compromise furtherance that eventually chaperones the route into a dual, opposite spinning vortex that accesses a clown populated zone that yields through a triple claustrophobic passage into a 3-D section of vividly painted walls, more tormenting jesters, and a polka dot room startle that gives rise to the assault of poisonous snakes, and the invasion of a gigantic, sharp-toothed, bloody mouthed monster!  A lifeless morgue waits in the wings, as does a run-in with Michael Myers, and an elaborate Saw scene that finds two frantic hostages, one chained around his ankle to a bathtub, and the other around his wrist to a toilet both equipped with hacksaws, and with the only option for freedom being dismembering their own limbs!  Jigsaw pounces onto the set admiring his captives' self-inflicted wounds!  Body bags guard the way out, but connect into a devious torture chamber of severed human appendages, some of which dangle from their suspension up above!  A brief skirmish with a unjust witchdoctor unveils an appalling voodoo room littered with bones, followed by an altercation with a contemptible culprit cradling a heart, while displaying recently amputated fingers and toes.  Candles light the way through "falling snow," and onto a series of cabins occupied by a variety of screeching antagonists, then it's into the cave of a crouched troglodyte that has his sights set on a screaming, soon to be victim!  Decapitated heads, laser dispersion, and a mirror maze are still to come, followed by a conflict with an enraged brute and his vicious guard dog that fades through a succession of events exposing the seven deadly sins - wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony, each accompanied by appropriate enactments of each form of "Idolatry of Self" including a gunpoint showdown (wrath); a jealous lady obsessed with her own beauty that springs an attack from behind a vanity (envy); a man gorging himself with food (gluttony); a talkative adversary demanding our personal property such as hats, glowsticks, etc. (greed); a lazy, bed-ridden individual (sloth); an injured young lass with bloody gauze bandaged around her nose (pride), and an area comprised of a collection of women's panties that finds an offender standing over a helpless woman tied to a bed (lust).  From there, the course moves past secured doors, through lockers concealing sudden outbursts, through flickering lights, and body vaults, that ultimately climaxes with a psychopathic chainsaw chase-out of The Waverly Hills Sanatorium!

LENGTH - 8½, 19 minutes. 
ACTORS - 8½, A rather populated cast roams the darkened hallways at Waverly Hills.  Costuming is appropriate throughout, and makeup use is outstanding in the sense that some characters are dripping with blood!  Wrath girl with the gun delivers the most enthusiastic performance demanding to know, "What did you do?"   Female Freddy is likewise memorable for pulling on her own hair, crawler is a nice effect, whispered warning of "Don't go in there" is most intimidating, and is best attired and troglodyte has the most impressive appearance.  Witchdoctor was misplaced in the torture chamber, and would be far more impressive if seen in the voodoo room chanting some indiscernible spells and claiming a victim. Overall intensity and aggression could be raised to improve the score.  Total Characters = 43.
SCARINESS - 9, The authenticity of the facility itself provides a remarkable, arguably unmatched atmosphere that provides for a good portion of the spookiness on its own!  It's often rather dark inside, especially in connecting corridors, and plenty of unnerving mood music enhances the experience.  Scares aren't overly threatening in nature, thus could be bolstered by a few acts of violence. 
DESIGN - 8½, A Duke's mixture of scenes make up this season'st theme, which would be far more effective if concentrated along the lines of a hospital setting and exploiting the storied history of the facility with abundant doctors, nurses, dying patients, hangings, room 502, etc.  This is what people come to Waverly expecting to see, and while change is good, not taking advantage of this well-known, legendary background is most unfortunate.  Clowns just don't belong here.  Scenes themselves are adequate, but not elaborate, and transition zones are mostly undecorated.  Occasional quite time exists where not much is happening, but they're not really "dead spots" because they serve to play on one's emotions by instilling fear, anticipation, and anxiety over what might happen next, but some entire scenes are unoccupied like the lab for example, which shouldn't be the case.  Lengthening endurance would prove beneficial, and impressive scares are necessary to take the show to the next level, along the lines of one of OVH's all time favorites - bed levitation seen ONLY at Waverly several years ago.  Given the remarkable impression that radiates just from the sight of the facility itself, you just have to take advantage of its naturally intimidating presence by building a strong storyline centered around its lore.  Introductory light show is fantastic, and not seen elsewhere.
PROPS - 8½, Décor is mostly as expected along with a few standouts that include the impressive, bloody-mouthed monster; apparition; thunder and lightning; triple, different-sized claustrophobic passage; and dual, opposite spinning vortex.  Additional high-impact props would raise the score, and increasing pneumatic/mechanical/animatronic density wouldn’t hurt either.
VALUE - 8½, Just stepping foot inside Waverly provides a certain amount of value in and of itself!  Cost of admission is $20, which is in line with the price being charged by other seasonal attractions in the area.  $5 parking fee adds to the out of pocket expenditure, but profits from which are donated to The WHAS Crusade For Children, and each paying vehicle receives a coupon valid for $5 off their onsite zombie shoot.
RATING:  8½, Built in the 1920's to house dying tuberculosis patients, The Sanatorium is purported to be among the most legitimately haunted places in the world!  It's been featured on Ghost Adventures, Scariest Places on Earth, and Syfy Channel's LIVE 5-hour Halloween night broadcast of Ghost Hunters back in 2007!  Thousands of people lost their lives at Waverly Hills.  The annual haunted house serves as The Sanatorium's primary fundraising event, with proceeds going towards its preservation and restoration.  The haunt itself scores higher because of the atmosphere of the building itself than it otherwise would if generically staged elsewhere.  Any opportunity of visiting this remarkable structure shouldn't be missed.  Who knows?  Maybe you’ll witness the shadow people while you’re here!

Waverly Hills Sanatorium