Cynthia Hoover travels to historical sites to discover there rich history.
Traveling and looking for a destination with rich history? Then consider The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and take a flashlight tour. The travel expenses and costs for the trip are well worth the experience. The low cost of lodging in the area, and low cost activities make it perfect for someone traveling on a budget. The tours offered in this historical building are a unique experience.
A trip to the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is sure to be a once in a lifetime experience. That is of course unless you decide to go again and take in one of the many other tours and experiences they also offer. The tours are best shared with friends as you will no doubt be talking about them for days or even weeks to come.
A Brief History
Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is a historical building located in Weston West Virginia. The building houses a rich history surrounding the mentally ill. Patients suffered horrible treatment within its walls. The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is a beautiful architecture structure. The building is a mix of Tudor Revival and Gothic Revival design styles. Architect Richard Snowden Andrews designed the massive structure. From 1864 until 1994 the then 'Weston State Hospital' would house the mentally ill. Including an entire wing dedicated to house criminals. The facility closed down in 1994 as patient treatment regulation became enforced. The building housed more than 2,000 patients. Well over capacity in a building designed to house only 250. Patients ranged from criminals, drug addicts and even children with learning disabilities.
The historical building and grounds have been on several popular paranormal television shows. All confirming the paranormal activity within those long echoing walls and chambers. The facility designed to be completely a self-sustainable community of sorts. Spanning over 600 acres there was plenty of room to include a farm, dairy, waterworks and even a cemetery.
Paranormal Flashlight Tours
Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum often hosts special events. During these events flashlight tours are available. Since I was there during the Fall Festival I was able to take a few of these tours. There are also many tours you can take outside of special events. Though special event tours are not the basic tours offered daily. There were three available flashlight tours the evening we attended:
- Child's Play
- The Departed
- Trial and Error
The ticket price for each tour was $10 before taxes. My friends and I opted for taking both the 'Trial and Error', and 'The Departed' flashlight tours. If time constraints had not been an issues we would have likely opted for the third tour as well.
These tours are a fabulous way to immerse yourself in the rich history of the lunatic asylum. The tour guides are very well educated through their training. Each of my tours had a different guide. The staff was well organized with ushers sending us to the appropriate area to wait for the tour guides. Imagine a large foyer with 100's of people crammed in all awaiting entry to the hospital wards. Despite everyone being shoulder to shoulder everything moved very fast without issues.
These flashlight tours provide a wealth of information you can expect to learn:
- Specific patients housed in the wards
- Treatment types the patients received dating back to the opening of the facility
- Civil War history and how the hospital played a pivotal role
Those are a few of the topics you will learn about on a tour at the mental hospital. Tours are available in specific packages for specific areas. They offer walk in tours from March to November usually starting at noon and ending at pm. You can check the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylums website for specific booking information.
The flashlight tours split into two parts. Each part consisting of half paranormal and half historical information. The tours start at dark, so we did wait in line for a bit before the doors opened to allow us entry into the hospital. As soon as it got dark the lines started moving rather fast as we all entered the huge structure. As we made our way into the main lobby the interior was amazing. The craftsmanship in the ceilings and exquisite molding was breathtaking.
Our first tour was Trial and Error, and it lead to the upper floors of the hospital. To say this was is a massive structure is an understatement. As we pulled up in our car to park I shocked at how large this building was. This is the largest building I have ever seen in person.
Our tour guide was informative as we went through the dormitory areas. These areas housed the criminal element. I must admit the mental institution reminds me a bit of the Stephen King's 'Rose Red'. Because it is so massive, and I do imagine I would get lost at night if on my own. I stayed in the back of the tour group, so I could take it all in. Allowing me to observe while limiting any interference in my photographs. Though my camera did take photos on its own a few times throughout the tours. I also had a few instances where my camera took a completely back image. Despite great lighting.
There were times that I would look back to the long stretch of hall behind and think swear that it changed. The best part about the first tour was the entire group was respectful and listened. Allowing us all to soak in historical information and paranormal facts. The mental institution echoes like no building I have ever encountered before. So, when a group is busy talking among themselves it becomes a roar, and you are unable to hear your guide.
The Departed tour took us outside of the main facility to cafeteria, kitchen and morgue. The tour guide gave information about the civil war history of the mental facility. As we exited the backside of the building we were standing on what was once another part of the facility. That part of the structure had collapsed years earlier, now nothing but green grass. I wish the facility was still completely intact. So, I had a chance to go through the tunnels that connected to the main facility from the annex buildings. I must admit that I was expecting a morgue like what you would find today. Or a morgue like what you see on television - a wall of small drawers with slide outs for bodies.
This morgue was a small dark and damp room. It had a small two drawer refrigeration box, to house any patients that passed while in the facility. There was a silence that swept over our tour group as we stood in the morgue. All no doubt were thinking about the fact that many patients had passed through. The morgue was very small. It was beside what was the facilities employee break room. The break-room being beside the morgue was no accident. The facility directors put the break room next door on purpose. So they could maximize employee productivity and limit those taking extra-long breaks.
I spent weeks pouring over the images I took on my iPhone while on tour in the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. My only regret is not taking a better camera. I do have many images, and many of those seem to have 'something' in them. Something that none of our group remembers seeing with their eyes as we went through.
There is a strange pull to go back and tour more. At some point I would love to book a day or an overnight stay. To be able to tour without the constraints of a guided group tour. Unfortunately no video allowed, still photographs only during my tours. I do have a few suggestions on items to take if you want to tour the facility:
- A high end camera that will pick up images in the dark/night vision filter
- Audio Recorder
- Flash Light
Despite having an iPhone that takes stellar photographs. On this particular tour the majority of my images did not come through very well at all. Images with flash seem to be shadowy with a blue hue and it makes it hard to detect anything in the image. An audio recorder is something I wish I had thought to use. Since I could have instead used my smartphone to record versus all the images I took. There were several points throughout the tour where I thought I heard my name. Could have been power of suggestion because our tour guide was great. Or the lingering presence of someone that had not crossed over trying to get my attention. I may never know.
Keep in mind no lights are on during these tours. The large wards and small stairwells are completely dark. The tour guide with only a small flashlight. I did not take my own flashlight and I can tell you it is dark. adding to the thrill of what you hear echoing in the halls. The large facility has no heat or air. If you plan a trip you will likely find some areas seem very cold and the next ward hot. Take a jacket something that is not bulky for the area's you will want to carry rather than wear it.
Daytime Images of Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
It does not matter if you believe in the paranormal or not. The visual aspect alone borders is creepy when touring areas of the mental wards. There are some people who may not want to attend one of these tours:
- People with heart conditions
- Those prone to anxiety attacks
- Anyone with claustrophobia
Despite the foreboding size to the building and large wards. There are some tight and narrow area's and stairwells. These would be horrific for anyone who suffers with claustrophobia. We had some scares on our tours. Seeing a shadowy figure behind myself and friend as we lingered back in the civil war section. As well as a few doors locking us in a section at one point. We ended up taking an alternate exit from that area. Those with panic or anxiety disorders would have likely been in distress. Even those with heart conditions may want to exercise caution. They may likely have no issues at all but I think it is worthy of noting.
Worthy of the Cost
The trip to the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is in itself a beautiful trip. The scenery along the drive through West Virginia is beautiful. Full of dense forest covered mountains with breathtaking views.
If you love historical sites, or the paranormal this needs to be a destination you check out. You could spend days taking tours to enrich yourself in the history. It is rich with architecture, grounds, patient treatment, and the Civil War history.
Paranormal enthusiast will no doubt find the facility a great place. Sure to keep them wanting to go back again and again. I know I am itching to get back and take more tours of the vast facility to cover all the wards and areas I have not seen yet.
Tours are inexpensive for the historical knowledge you gain from taking them. Taking a day trip or even an overnight stay would still be a low cost vacation. There are plenty of other places nearby too. You enjoy shopping, dining, activities and lodging to complete a vacation even if only a few days stay. Not too far away there is a very large outlet mall. You could spend an entire day shopping till your hearts content.
© 2018 Cynthia Hoover
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on April 06, 2018:
Larry, yes Ghost Hunters did at least one episode there that I know of and a few other paranormal shows as well. There is an energy you feel as you walk the facility. A few of the wards we walked through had me a little on edge though I had no real explanation for the feelings other than our guides were exceptional at storytelling. It was easy to imagine walking the halls with the patients who had been left to wander without much supervision or care.
Larry W Fish from Raleigh on April 06, 2018:
Wow Cynthia, I can imagine a tour of that place. I can imagine that as you go through there you can feel the presence of the mentally ill. Has the TV show Ghost Hunters ever gone through there? The mentally ill were treated so badly years ago.