Built with the hope of healing, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum evolved into a house of horrors…
Nestled among the picturesque hills of West Virginia you’ll find the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, a monstrous building and grounds with an equally monstrous history. The main building, with its hand-cut stone masonry and inviting steeple and the lush grounds surrounding it give off a peaceful vibe, but if you’ll step inside like we did, you’ll find anything but peace.
(Photo gallery at the end of the post)
Trans-Allegheny’s Original Noble Purpose
Built in the mid to late 1800s with large wings and plenty of natural light and fresh air, the Trans-Allegheny was built to embrace the leading thoughts on mental health at the time. In its first decade or so of existence, the facility functioned as planned with roughly 250 people housed in its rambling wings. Beyond the walls of the main building, the grounds featured a dairy, a farm, a cemetery, and water & gas wells- making it practically self-sufficient.
Things turn dark for the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Unfortunately, by the end of the century, the number of patients had skyrocketed well beyond the number it could comfortably house and feed.
At the end of the 1930s, the place was housing over 1,300 people.
In 1949, the Charleston Gazette reported on the horrible conditions- bad sanitation, poor lighting, and frigid temperatures. The report led to some upgrades, but the number of patients kept rising to a peak of 2,400 in the 1950s.
As equally disturbing as the conditions was the treatment of the patients. Across America in the early part of the 20th century, mental health patients suffered horrible treatment by “innovative” doctors. Most notably for the Trans-Allegheny patients was the arrival of a now-notorious doctor Walter Freeman, a man who performed over 4,000 lobotomies in his career.
The lights finally go out for the Trans-Allegheny
Despite the horrid conditions and questionable medical practices taking place at the asylum, the place didn’t close its doors until 1994.
In 1962, the Mental Retardation Facilities & Community Mental Health Construction Act was passed with the goal of reducing the number of patients in facilities like Trans-Allegheny by 50% by 1982, and in 1994 the place was shuttered and remaining patients moved to another hospital.
Eventually, the grounds were auctioned off for 1.5 million. (Today, the asylum is open for tours- more on that later.)
Hauntings at the Asylum
With a past as dark as the Trans-Allegheny’s, it’s no surprise there are said to be several different spirits that haunt the halls. Today, the place is a hotspot for paranormal investigators and anyone just wanting to have the living piss scared out of them.
One such person is Marissa Kashino who summarized some of the spirits said to haunt the place for the Washingtonian:
Our guide told us about some of the hospital’s better-known spirits, including a little girl named Lilly who was born in the asylum, a man named Jesse who died of a heart attack in a bathtub, Civil War soldiers, and a patient who was brutally murdered by his roommates…
Julia and I set up in a room allegedly haunted by a spirit named Jim James. We placed a Maglite on the floor and asked Jim to turn it on. The light was Julia’s, but I inspected it and it seemed totally ordinary. A few beats passed—then it came on. By itself.
Tour the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
As we mentioned earlier, you too can tour the place just as we did or on one of their haunted tours. They also host special events and tours throughout the year.
Even though we toured the asylum in broad daylight, a creepiness hung heavy in the air as we walked the halls. Whether you buy into the ghost stories or not, it’s an eerie feeling to tour somewhere where so many dark things happened.
For more on their available tours, visit their website.
Rally North America for the win
We just wanted to say thanks to Rally North America for taking us to the asylum. Rally North America is a fun-filled scavenger-hunt style car rally that has raised a tremendous amount of money for various charities. Learn more about their amazing efforts, join in on their next rally, or donate to a team by visiting their website.
Read more & see additional pictures from our sources: