Not only is it October — the spookiest month of the year — but we also saw a Friday the 13th fall in this month. As such, the reporters from MetroNews’ North Central division are going to visit four of the most haunted and/or most frightening places in North Central West Virginia. Consider this your area primer on where to go for regional scares this Halloween.
WESTON, W.Va. — For around 130 years, the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, formerly the Weston State Hospital, housed anywhere from a few hundred to nearly 2,500 people who were deemed in need of treatment for mental illness.
And, with a history of lobotomies, actual on-site murders, and an already haunted feel, the 242,000 square foot building has become a breeding ground for urban legends and reported paranormal activity since it closed in 1994.
“With the amount of lost souls here, you can’t not believe that something was left behind,” Morgan Brake, a tour guide and paranormal believer said.
Since closing, the Asylum is now a popular tourist attraction in Lewis County. In the old tuberculosis wing, you can have your normal range of frights — killer clowns, a haunted house, and the trappings that come with that. During the day, you can take historical tours of the Asylum’s main four-story building. But at night, the adventurous, the skeptical, and the true believers likely will find themselves on a flashlight tour of the “hottest spots” of reported paranormal activity.
“If you’re in it to come in the day time and do our daytime tours, that’s great,” Brake said. “That’s fine. But if you want to get a little bit of the spooky side too, you can come take a flashlight tour. They are half historic, half paranormal tours. So, there’s a little bit for everybody.”
Brake said — and she strongly believes it — that minor paranormal activity is fairly common on the tours at any time of the day. There have been reports of unexplained hair grabbing, lanyards being tugged by mysterious forces, and unexplained noises.
“Paranormal activity can happen at any time,” she said. “It’s not really specific to day time or night time. Especially if you are looking for it, sometimes you will get it. But it’s usually the things that will happen not expecting it that is really interesting about it.”
But, Brake said, you don’t have to be a believer to either enjoy the Asylum or to work at the Asylum.
“I think it helps if you do, but we’ve turned a lot of non-believers into believers,” she said.
There are three paranormal tours this year, including the As Seen on TV Tour. That tour brings interested parties into the wings of the asylum that were investigated on paranormal-hunting reality television docs — and includes parts of the third and fourth floor. Living quarters, wards for violent men and women, and even a room where a long-forgotten murder occurred make up part of that 30-minute tour.
“You never really know what to expect, especially if you’ve never been here,” Brake said. “Sometimes you hear things from TV and the social media sites, and when you finally come down to check it out for yourself and you’re not really sure what you are expecting, I think that really exceeds your expectations because you are given something totally unknown.”
Brake said the skeptical are always welcome (the author, for his part, considers himself a skeptic and still found himself reasonably frightened by his surroundings). At least, she said, you may gain a historical appreciation for the building; or perhaps an appreciation for the evolution of treatment of mental illness in the United States.
But Brake, now in her second year of guiding tours, said part of her belief comes from her grandmother, who worked at the Asylum before it closed.
“She tends not to talk about it,” Brake said. “There’s a lot of people who have worked here who will tell you anything you want to know, and there’s some people who won’t speak a word. And for her, she’s one of those people who really doesn’t like to talk about it.”
In addition to historical tours, paranormal tours, and the haunted house, the asylum is also home to much longer overnight tours. The believers report actually apparition sightings in addition to the usual inexplicable haunts.
“There’s a lot of things that have happened that lead me to believe that the paranormal is absolutely real,” she said. “You can’t deny it — especially when it’s right there in front of you.”
Alex Wiederspiel and Brittany Murray contributed to this report. In our next installment, the two reporters will find out what makes Moundsville the home to one of the spookiest buildings in West Virginia.