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Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Cynthia Hoover travels to historical sites to discover there rich history.

Looking for a new budget friendly travel destination? Perhaps you enjoy historic destinations or the paranormal. One place fits the bill for both. Consider the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum for its rich historical influence, and the paranormal activity surrounding it. Breathtaking constructions, beautiful grounds make this an excellent destination for any photography enthusiast. Located in Weston, West Virginia and not being a usual tourist destination, you won’t find overpriced accommodations. This destination can fit into any budget, and you are sure to have plenty of stories to tell family and friends.

In the past I went along with 4 other friends to visit the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum to attend the haunted house and take flashlight tours of the historic mental institution. Though I have lived in West Virginia since I was a small child, I had never been there before. The mental hospital located in Weston, West Virginia is a historic landmark, though not remembered for the reasons you would expect. Despite being the largest hand-cut masonry stone building in America, the asylum is better known for the horrid deaths, and experiments that took place within the walls.

My group and I took two 'flashlight tours', as well as attending the haunted house appropriately titled 'Malice'. Although a massive building the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was only ever meant to house 250 patients, though it was documented to have 2,400 hospital patients. All with a very diverse mix of mental disorders ranging from the criminally insane, to simple cases of mania or depression. If you are a fan of the paranormal you may have seen Ghost Hunters and other similar shows confirming the presence of the paranormal within the hospital walls.

Available Asylum Tours

The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum offers many tours. Each tour is very different and offers its own unique experience. Tours also vary in price so you can expect to see some cost more than others. The available tours are at times limited to the season. The large building has no heat or air conditioning the dates of operation run so that the weather is not too hot or cold for clients. They are generally open from late March, to early November. When it comes to touring the mental facility, you have several diverse touring options.

The following touring options are available:

  • Flashlight Tours
  • Photography Tours
  • Historic Tours
  • Cemetery and Farm Tours
  • Criminally Insane Tour
  • October Ghost Hunts
  • Private Ghost Hunts
  • Paranormal Tours

The tours are always on a first come, first serve basis and you many need to make reservations. Some tours will include a discount when booking a large group as well. Tickets can be purchased online for many of the tours I have mentioned, and others may require you calling the office to make arrangements.

Photography Tours

Are you a social butterfly looking to add unique photos to your Instagram feed? Perhaps a photographer looking to add rich photos to your portfolio. The asylum has you covered they offer photography tours. Photography tours are a much higher price and will run you $100 plus tax. Photography tours are semi guided with no historical information provided. Taking this tour will give you access to:

  • The Medical Center
  • Kirkbride Interior
  • The Grounds
  • Building Exteriors
  • Geriatric Building

Photography tours are available during both the morning and afternoon. If you choose to take both tours you can expect a discount rate on both. If you do not want to take both tours you have two time slot options.

Photography tour time slots:

  • The Morning Tour 8am - 12pm
  • Afternoon Tour 12pm - 5pm

You must check in a half an hour in advance for the photography tours. These tours are semi guided, so you will have plenty of time to explore and take photographs. You could spend both tour times in the facility and still not view all the building has to offer. Though there are many unique areas to the building that would make amazing photographs. Though you will not have any of the historical facts given to you by the guide.

Heritage Tours

If you want to soak in all the history, you can about the mental facility. There are many historic tour options to choose from. You can choose from two available heritage tours to soak in the facility’s rich historical facts and information.

The following tours are available:

  • First Floor Tour
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The first-floor tour costs $10.00 and you can expect it to last around 45 minutes. With the tour you can expect to view two patient wards while learning about those who were instrumental in pioneering the humane treatment for the mentally ill. Then a visit to the Civil War section to learn about a Gold Robbery that helped West Virginia become a state. As well as how being a border state influenced the area. This is a basic tour but a perfect choice for any history buff.

  • 4 Floors and First Floor of the Medical Center

Taking this tour will set you back around $30.00 and be prepared to spend about 90 minutes going through the tour. It includes all the rich historical information and touring of the first floor. You will then go on to learn about the 1935 fire that destroyed 4 of the hospital wards. It will also take you to the doctor's apartments, and the nurse quarters. A visit to Ward F will show you where the most deviant of patients lived during their stay at the asylum. Touring the first floor of the medical center will provide you with an abundance of information about the treatments that went on in the hospital. The historic fasts will also shed some light on how the Asylum was instrumental in helping the local community make it through two wars, and the depression. If it is within your budget, I recommend this tour. You learn so much about the asylum on this tour and how it had a great impact throughout history.
Both tours cover some unique information:

  • The treatment of the mentally ill before humane treatment regulations.
  • How the Kirkbride theory is a nationwide influence.
  • How the Civil War effected the construction of the oldest parts of the Asylum.
  • Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylums socio-economic influence throughout history.
  • Fascinating facts that are unique to the facility and their history.
  • Medical treatments throughout the years.

If you are more interested in history than the paranormal these tours would be a great choice for you. Tour guides are well trained at providing you with details and were very pleasant throughout the experience.


Ghost Hunts and Paranormal Tours

If learning about the paranormal side of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is your thing, you have some great options for touring. These tours vary, and there are several that are available during October, that you may not find during the other months of the year.
October Ghost Hunts:

  • Main Building
  • Medical Center, Geriatrics, Forensics

These tours cost $100.00 per person and will run from 11:30pm - 6:00am. You will be required to check in no later than 11:30, where you will be paired with a guide for the ultimate paranormal experience.
During other months you have the same options to take the Ghost Hunts, though the times change. The off-season tours run from 9pm - 5am.

  • Paranormal Tours

If hitting the paranormal hot spots is what you want, then these tours are for you. The paranormal tours will set you back $40.00 per person and reservations are required. This tour will take you to 4 of the mental facility’s paranormal hot spots. Remember to bring your EMF meters, recorders and photography equipment for the 2 hour expedition. This tour runs from 10:30pm - 12:30 am.

  • Daytime Paranormal Tours

Interested in the paranormal but not really wanting to be there late at night then daytime tours are for you. The daytime paranormal tours will differ from the nighttime tours. Still photography is allowed but it must not interfere with the tour. Having been there at night I completely understand this rule. Keep in mind if you are more interested in capturing something tangibly paranormal you should probably opt for the nighttime tour. This tour runs for 90 minutes, available every day except Monday. Tickets for these tours are $35.00 available onsite only. The tickets go fast and are first come first served, so it is best to call and book your group ahead whenever possible.


Cemetery and Farm Tour

This is a very unique tour that will have you sitting as you ride in a truck through 269 acres of the Asylum grounds. Discovering 130 years of the institutions agricultural history, and visit three on site cemeteries. The tour is offered every Sunday through August. The times available are:

  • 1:30pm
  • 3:00pm
  • 4:30pm

This tour takes you on a 4.5 mile ride that lasts around an hour. The cost is $15.00. What I have seen of the grounds around the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum it is breathtaking, and well worth the cost to sit and ride through more of the beautiful landscape surrounding the hospital.


Special Events and Attractions

The Asylum has many special events in the month of October. If planning a trip, I do suggest considering a visit during October if it is possible.

October events include:

  • Fall Festival
  • Costume Ball
  • Haunted House

The annual events attract people from all over West Virginia, as well as many traveling from other states. I was surprised at the amount of out of state license plates I saw in the parking areas. Having attended many other haunted houses in many other locations and states. I can tell you that they are kid stuff compared with Malice, the asylums annual haunted house. I attended during the fall festival, and just like other festivals, there was some great family fun activities. They have costume contest, vendors, crafts, karaoke and talent competitions.

The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum annual haunted house Malice is a terrifying thrill ride of evil through another building on the hospital property. Tickets for the haunted house are $25, and worth every single penny! They also have VIP tickets available for anyone who does not want to wait in line, though those were almost double the basic ticket price. We all had to sign a waiver before we could purchase tickets to enter and experience the evil within. I told you, this is not kid stuff, the waiver is very serious, and they do a spectacular job of scaring the wits out of visitors. Large warnings are posted for those with health conditions to avoid entering the horrid haunted house. Those with heart conditions, panic attacks, breathing issues and a long list of other health issues should avoid the haunted house altogether.

This is not your average haunted house and is much longer than I expected. The haunted house is a self-guided experience and each group has an assigned leader. They choose a leader based on whoever is the first in line when they are ready for the next round of thrill seekers to enter. The leader stays at the front of the group as you navigate through hallways, stairwells and large rooms. Navigating the haunted house takes about 30 to 40 minutes. The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum began preparations for Malice months in advance of the debut, and the experience proved that practice does indeed make perfect.

Malice is a haunted house that you will experience with all your senses. The scenes, actors, lights and displays are all designed to thrill and chill you to the bone. Unfortunately, there were no photographs or recording equipment allowed, so I cannot offer any visuals for the experience. Imagine if you will, some of the deepest darkest scenes of horror movies like Hellraiser, Saw, and Silent Hill, this experience tops them all. The actors do not touch you, but they do get up close and personal, all while staying in character! Perhaps one of the creepiest elements were the small children that were dressed as patients running around.

I am amazed at the amount of talent that all these local West Virginians possess. There were some award worthy performances by many of the actors. The mad Doctor that wanted my brain for experiments did an impeccable job of giving me the creeps while admiring my brain. I'll never be able to do the experience justice with my words. It truly is something that anyone who loves horror films or Halloween should make a point to go experience before the end of the season. If you ever wanted to be in a horror film, this is for you! It is truly like your running from your deepest fears as you navigate the evil corridors of Malice. Even if you skip taking a tour or two make a point to experience Malice.

The Asylum's annual Costume Ball is always a huge hit, and many of my friends attend every year. You must be 18 to enter as drinks are served, costumes are not required for entry, though cash prizes are awarded throughout the night for best costumes. So dress up enjoy the ball and maybe win a little cash! This event also provides live music throughout the event.

These are just a few of the fantastic special events hosted at the Asylum, I follow their Facebook page so I can stay informed of all the upcoming events.


Zombie Paintball Ride

Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum also has Zombie Paintball Rides in October starting at 11:30 pm, it looked like a fantastic experience as well. I cannot say how fun it is as I did not buy a ticket for it. If you have been preparing for the zombie apocalypse, a visit to West Virginia's most famous haunted house is a great chance to test your survival skills.

The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum webpage will give you more detailed information on securing tickets, and booking large groups to attend tours.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Cynthia Hoover


Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on October 11, 2016:

Lol Nell, it was great watching others run and scream! I do not scare easily but it was a very creepy experience well worth a visit. I would imagine it would be worth a second trip just to see all the things I may have missed the first time through!

Nell Rose from England on October 11, 2016:

You got me at Hellraiser! lol! I would have ran and ran like forrest gump! lol! sounds fun though, if not slightly scary!

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