They peer at you through the windows as you enter the door to their private hell. They follow you through the halls and scream out in desperation hoping that you may be the one who will finally release them from their prison. They whisper in your ear, and they cry out in anguished pain to the visitors that cannot see them, and they beg for freedom to the ones that can. You have just entered the world of the mentally insane, and although they are deceased entities from another era, they are very much still with us in spirit.
The massive building known to locals as the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum with the grand architecture housing these lost souls can hardly be ignored, but visitors do not normally travel for miles to Weston to talk about the obvious features on the exterior of the haunted asylum. The West Virginia state facility was once the home to the state’s mentally insane residents in an effort to make their lives better or so the medical professionals of the time so thought.
The larger than life building that features a massive clock tower directly in the heart of the hospital was constructed between 1858 and 1881, and is notably the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, and is reported to be the second largest in the world, the Kremlin being the first. The psychiatric hospital soon opened its doors in 1864 and ran its course up until 1994 when modern practices dealing with the mentally ill changed how they were to be treated. Updated facilities, medications, and counseling became the alternative treatment in favor of the inhumane practices of the past.
The Gothic revival design of the building then known as the Weston State Hospital lacked in warmth, but American architect and Confederate artillery commander Richard Snowden Andrews was enamored with the style and proceeded on with plans that would see it finished, no matter what the cost. The work was initially conducted by black prisoners, and later skilled stonemasons from Ireland and Germany were brought in for the finishing touches.
1864 would be the beginning of the torture that lurked within the walls of the massive rock building, and by the mid 1950’s a staggering 2,400 mentally ill, along with drug addicts, alcoholics and epileptics were all living in crowded and unclean conditions. Asbestos demolition contractor Joe Jordan from nearby Morgantown, WV purchased the deteriorated asylum and 300 acre-grounds at auction for a mere $1.5 million dollars in 2007, and immediately began maintenance on the property.
Unfortunately the tortured souls once housed within the walls of the inhumane estate are somehow stuck in limbo. Many of the residents simply did not belong in the facility and it is as if they are crying out this fact to anyone that will listen. The torture that must have been suffered from patients at the hands of inexperienced doctors that used little to no care is unthinkable by today’s standards.
The medically untrained neurologist, Dr. Walter Freeman haphazardly performed ice-pick lobotomies and used electro-shock therapy with the idea that it would cure some of the patient’s mental ailments. The amount of deaths that took place within the walls of the lunatic asylum were documented well into the thousands, which could very well be why the facility was named one of the most haunted places in the United States. Due to these reports of inhumane acts, owner Joe Jordan called in the TAPS team to do an evaluation of paranormal activity of the grounds.
Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, founders of The Atlantic Paranormal Society aka TAPS, both warned against provoking the restless spirits of the asylum, because soon after the investigators began taunting the ghosts they begin to show signs of activity. Grant claimed that the old Weston State Hospital showed signs of “an intelligent haunting,” meaning that someone who was once alive within the hospital is trying to communicate with those passing through in the present.
The Travel Channel also looked into the vast amount of reports from visitors claiming to have witnessed apparitions, strange noises and whispers while visiting the asylum. They aired a seven-hour live broadcast on October 30, 2009 which included their findings of any hauntings that exist at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Weston resident Sue Parker once worked at the asylum for 30 years as a psychiatric aide and in the admissions department. She claims that the fourth floor was haunted because she used to have to go up there after medical records, and that she could hear the spirits following her.
Heritage and ghost tours of the asylum run from March through October and cover an extensive part of the facility. The heritage tour covers the history of the facility and its patients along with the various wards and practices that would have occurred daily in the lives of the people staying there. Details of the tour include medical procedures of that era, the civil war and a gold robbery that aided in West Virginia becoming a state. Touring all four floors is advised, but is somewhat costly at $30.00 a person.
The ghost tours are the most popular and they are a ghost hunter’s paradise. It runs $40.00 per person, but it is the most fun if you are into the chaotic hobby of seeking out the paranormal. It entails a two hour grand tour of all of the reported hot spots, along with a view of how the mentally insane lived and died. Visitors on these tours have reported thick air, squeaking gurneys being pushed, pressure, odd smells, cold spots, noises, whispering, screaming from the electro-shock area and the feeling of being touched or pushed.
The grandest tour of them all would be the all-night public ghost hunt that starts at 9:00 p.m. and ends at 5:00 a.m. that is if you live through it without having a heart attack first. Groups of ten people are ushered through the darkest corridors and rooms in a bone chilling hunt for the liveliest spirits that they can find. The cost of this special overnight tour runs $100.00 and consists of 1 1/2 hour intervals spent searching on each of the four floors. If your mind doesn’t run away with you then your tired brain will.
A few reasons a normal functioning person could be admitted to the asylum from 1864 to 1889: Obvious laziness or a lack of motivation, egotism, the broken hearted, women with female diseases from depression to menopause, mental excitement, colds, physically disabled, sexually promiscuous, snuff, greediness, imagined female troubles, homeless, poor, gathering in the head, exposure and quackery, jealousy, religion, bad hygiene, asthma, bad habits and political excitement.
Abandoned farms, a bake-house, and other out-buildings are located roughly a half mile from the main building, and a few surviving headstones remain intact. Other then the lively ghosts that are still roaming the hallways this is the only tell-tale sign of the people that once resided at the asylum. The name Jasper Wyatt is clearly marked on a tombstone that is in fair condition, and is located in one of the three patient cemeteries found on the premises, however many of the graves are unmarked and void of markers symbolizing that anyone has visited in the last decade.
Interesting Tidbits on the Haunted Asylum
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was recognized as a Historical Landmark in 1990.
During the 1930s and ‘1940s, it is believed that Dr. Freeman performed more than 3,500 lobotomies.
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum sits right in the heart of the town of Weston, WV
The month of October at the asylum features a Fall Fest and Witches Ball.
The Civil War wing is visited by a deceased soldier named Jacob.
Warnings from ghosts to leave the building have been heard by thousands of visitors.
Cameras and video equipment are welcome at the facility. Bring extra batteries.
Literature provided by the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum indicated horrible conditions for the patients, and isolation from friends and family of the patients was strongly encouraged.
Location: 71 Asylum Drive in Weston, West Virginia. Phone: (304) 269-5070