Creepy, cooky, really… ok this isn’t the Addams Family! But when I’m talking about anything in the realm of horror, haunted, scary or oddity the theme song comes into play. Why wouldn’t it? It’s my favorite movie after all which gives a base understanding of why I just love visiting places that bring out the unknown and oddity wonders of life. So when we planned our road trip through West Virginia my number one place to visit on our itinerary was the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.
A Little History
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was also known as the Weston State Hospital opened their doors in 1864. The design of the Asylum was based on the Kirkbride Plan. It was originally constructed to hold 250 people but held upwards of 2,000+ in the 1950’s. The Asylum closed their doors to patients in 1994 where it stated abandoned until the property was purchased by Joe Jordan in 2007.
Jordan opened the hospital to the public in an effort to raise money for restoration. The tours that are available can be combined to customize your experience from photography tours and paranormal to historical tours.
Insane Asylums bring a world of excitement and mystery to many. The phenomena of lunatic and insane asylums can be founded through horror movies, tv shows, and literature that surround the idea and concept of human fascination on sanity and the fear of the unknown. Historically speaking mental illness has had many battles between treatment options and the definition of each disease. From horror stories of abuse and murder to stories of asylums being used as a form of imprisonment, there are many reasons for people to believe in abandoned asylums being haunted. Think about it, most movies that revolve around an asylum involve some form of horrific event in the characters life that makes them become “abnormal” to the rest of the world. From movies such as ‘Girl Interrupted‘ or shows like ‘American Horror Story – Asylum‘ and novels like “The Shining” by Stephen King, the drama of insanity is idolized for a thrill.
However, for many, it was real life. At the height of the construction of Asylums in the United States, there were over half a million institutes. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum has dived directly into the heart of this phenomena by opening up their doors for tourist and the curious minded on not only the history of the asylum but the everyday life and the possibility of hauntings left behind.
When you enter the Asylum you will be required to sign a waiver on one of the few computers they have set up in the front hall before purchasing your tickets. There are a few different tours you can take, combining the tours together if you would like to learn more than the basic tour. We combined the 4-floor historical tour along with the criminally insane tour, despite the excessive heat we were able to cater to our love of history, my love of all things odd and I got some pretty amazing photographs as well. They also offer paranormal and photography tours for those interested.
Each tour you spend the majority of your time inside the buildings. Because of the conditions and the restoration occurring throughout the buildings, there are not a lot of locations to sit while on the tour so if you have issues standing it’s recommended that you use caution. The 1-floor historical tour is handicap accessible (there are steps to get into the building, I’m not sure if there is a separate door for wheelchair entrances) while the rest of the tours do require the ability to climb stairs. It is recommended that you dress based on the weather as there is no air conditioning and the windows are not able to be opened therefore heat and cold air get trapped inside the buildings during the winter and summer.
Our tour guide was great, she surprised us by informing us that she had only been doing tours for about two months at the time of our tour. The training in which they provide the guides is outstanding and extremely professional. Dressed in a white nurses uniform they walk us around the building, talking about the history of the buildings use, development and patients who were housed in the asylum. Hearing about and learning of individual patient stories made the tour much more enjoyable vs. just the basic history of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.
You will gain an understanding of how the nurses worked, one story that stood out to me was when the Asylum was overcrowded that nurses had to walk back to back for their own protection when attending their wards. Other things that might be surprising to visitors is that certain patients had a regular availability to head into town for shopping or a meal. With little-known information about the mentally ill in today’s world this concept might seem odd considering that the Asylum was supposed to be a location where patients are removed from the general population.
Located in a small town the Trans-Alleghany Lunatic Asylum stands out from the architecture of the businesses and homes in Weston, WV. The town offers visitors a chance to grab a bite to eat before or after their tour, browse some antique stores and slow down from everyday life in this small town. While out and about in the town you might be surprised to meet someone who once worked at the Asylum years ago before it was abandoned. Just as we did when we stopped for some Ice Cream.
The Portly Passengers provides plus size inclusive travel tips and advice for anyone who is looking to explore the world. From seat sizes on airplanes to exploring museums, restaurants, and nature Melissa & Peter have the experience and stories to help guide you through it.