There's tons of abandoned asylums dotted throughout the USA — remnants of a time when mental health was still something misunderstood by medical professionals, and where many of the treatments were truly barbaric. Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV was one of those facilities.
Construction on the building began in 1858, and continued until 1861 when it was interrupted by the beginning of the Civil War.
"Following its secession from the United States, the government of Virginia demanded the return of the hospital's unused construction funds for its defense; before this could occur, the 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry seized the money from a local bank, delivering it to Wheeling, where it was put toward the establishment of the Reorganized Government of Virginia, which sided with the northern states during the war. The Reorganized Government appropriated money to resume construction in 1862; following the admission of West Virginia as a U.S. state in 1863, the hospital was renamed the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane." - wikipedia
The building, which was designed in the Kirkbride Plan style, was self-sufficient, meaning it had its own farm, waterworks, and even a cemetery located on the 666 acres of land (spooky!). The long staggered "wings" of the asylum were built specifically to bring in fresh-air and sunlight, and to give patients privacy, which was something many were not used to during that time period. By October 1864, before construction was officially complete the first patients were admitted and the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was a success.
The pre-asylum era for people suffering from mental illness was a terrible and cruel time period. Many without families were locked in prisons alongside criminals, often times chained to walls, naked and in terrible conditions regardless of the season. Those who did have families were shamefully hidden away in attics, basements, and even holes in the ground, so as not to embarrass their families. By the 1800s things began to change, and thanks to reformers like Dorothea Dix and Thomas Story Kirkbride, metal illness began to be seen as something treatable instead of condemning.
Initially the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was only supposed to hold 250 patients, but at its peak in 1949 the asylum was holding upwards of 2,600 people in dangerously overcrowded conditions. At the time the hospital was home to people being treated for various conditions including, "epileptics, alcoholics, drugs addicts, and non-educable mental defectives", but by 1949 local newspapers were reporting on the poor sanitization and dangerous conditions at the hospital. Unable to keep its doors open any longer, Trans-Allegheny officially closed in May of 1994.
For many years the asylum had a reputation for being an extremely dangerous and violent place with many reports of patients attacking and even killing one another. There are stories of female employees who were raped and killed by patients not being properly monitored thanks to overcrowding and understaffing. One woman's body was even discovered after two months at the bottom of an unused staircase, where she had been killed and dumped.
Many believe that all of this death and violence that took place inside the hospital helped to create one of the most haunted buildings in the country, and often visitors report having run-ins with spirits still trapped inside. Many of those experiences include the sound of gurneys being moved, screams coming from inside the electro-shock room when there is no one else around, and strange shadows. The most active part of the building is rumored to be the fourth floor, where many have experienced banging, screaming, and even the spirit of a soldier named Jacob who has been seen walking the empty corridors in the night.
In 2007 the building was bought at auction for $1.5 million and even though the National Historic Landmark offer both historical tours and ghost tours, the survival of the building is still at risk. Guests are invited to take one (or all) of the 5 unique historical tours, and fans of the paranormal are in luck because TALA offers 8-hour ghost hunts of different wards depending on what you're interested in.
Historical tours run between March 29th to November 2nd, but make sure to book your appointment ahead of time. The hospital offers day time ghost hunts, and flashlight tours that will run you anywhere between 10 to 40 bucks, which for a 2 hour guided tour is pretty darn awesome.
Trans-Allegheny is one of those places you have to see to believe, and knowing that all the money goes towards the restoration and preservation of a National Historic Landmark is a pretty awesome too. With Halloween season just around the corner it's the perfect place to get scared in the name of preserving history!