“Have i Gone Mad?”
“I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But i will tell you a secret, all the best people are.”Alice in Wonderland
Want to know what we like to do on rainy October days? Our October calendar comprises of three things, reading the spookiest book we can find with a cup of coffee, curling up under a cozy blanket to watch horror movies, and going to eerie places like visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. October is the month specifically designed for exploring the disturbing, the old, and the eerie. And the one place that pops into our head, embodying all these characters is the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.
You will find the asylum nestled in a tiny town called Weston, which is located in West Virginia. This former hospital tells a fascinating story about the history of mental illness in the States. So, trade your couch for coats and grab your keys, because we are visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum to explore the stories hidden behind its walls.
Visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum – A Quick Glance
Visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum – A One of a Kind Experience
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum – Bright Beginnings
In the year 1864, just after West Virginia achieved sisterhood and just before the end of the Civil War, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum opened its doors. However, the construction of the hospital took two more decades to complete. The Gothic and Tudor Revival architecture of the building evoked a sense of ominosity and foreboding, however, its early days were anything but. The hospital was constructed in accordance with the Kirkbride plan, which was created by the psychiatrist Thomas Kirkbride.
The design allowed for fresh air, and light to enter the building, and nature was given the honorary seat. The doors were positioned in such a way that if one was to open them, the sunlight would flood through them, filling the space with its golden hue. There were also plenty of spaces for the patients to gather and socialize. Moreover, the grounds were landscaped in such a way that if someone were to look out the windows their eyes would be met with calming views of rolling hills and openness, nothing that would suggest that they were locked in by wrought iron gates.
In the initial days performances and art therapy were part of the hospital’s culture and a person who was a patient there reflected fondly on their experience stating:
“But I remember the Thanksgiving thing was great. We had great turkeys. And the Christmas thing was wonderful… it was like a fairy tale atmosphere. You know what I mean? It’s like, I must be in heaven. I’m not in a nut house. I’m in heaven.”
The patients at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum were treated with respect and dignity. The enormous building, designed to house no more than 250 patients, offered them ample room and space to roam around. The hospital provided fresh and nutritious food to its patients and had its own farm and dairy. However, the calm and nurturing environment of the asylum did not last for long.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum – Beginning of an End
A big part of the people who made the history of Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum were never meant to be there in the first place. The hospital that was initially designed to house only 250 patients started admitting more and more, cramming the place. The once cozy rooms became overcrowded so much so that bed-sharing measures were implemented that allowed people eight hours of rest before they had to give up their beds to someone else. A hospital that was meant for only 250 swelled to 2,600 patients.
Overcrowding at the hospital happened when they started admitting people due to an incredible variety of reasons, not just mental illness. Some presented medical conditions like rabies, asthma, and tuberculosis. Some on the other hand were admitted for the most bizarre reasons: indigestion, doubting one’s ancestry, insubordinate wives, religious and political excitement, and being kicked in the head by a horse. Should have admitted the horse instead of the poor man, it clearly had anger management issues.
If you think about it, pretty sure each and every one of us would have been admitted to the hospital with our anxiety, and depression and how can we forget, unexplainable stomach aches. Some children accompanied their mothers, many were also born within the hospital’s four walls, and some were dropped off in front of the hospital gates.
Spine-Tingling Medical Treatments at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Thomas Kirkbride believed that those suffering from medical illnesses should be holistically cared for and that is the criteria he implemented in the hospital. However, that didn’t last for very long, and soon controversial treatments, therapies, and medications made the lives of Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum patients a living hell. The hospital employed the usage of Chlorpromazine known as Thorazine to treat psychotic patients, however mostly it was used to keep the patients in a catatonic state. An opiate, Laudanum was also regularly provided to the patient to treat pain.
While on the tour you will be taken to the hospital’s apothecary where you will be given a peak into the kinds of medication that was used by the hospital. The hospital staff also used insulin shock therapy, which places patients in comas as well as electroconvulsive therapy commonly known as shock treatment. Lobotomies were also performed in the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Dr. Walter Freeman was the one who popularized the concept and brought it to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. He would conduct lobotomies for a price of $25 per patient and also encouraged crowds to watch as if they were a theatrical show.
The patients underwent transorbital lobotomies or icepick lobotomies in which an icepick-like instrument was inserted into the patient’s eye socket until it connected with the brain tissue. The lobotomy was a cruel and horrific procedure, leaving the patients completely altered, unable to perform even basic self-care. Many also died at the table during the procedure.
The Hell that Was Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
As the conditions of the hospital declined, countless patients suffered at the hands of overworked, diabolical staff and at the hands of their peers. There is a room in the hospital, where a patient was brutally murdered by two others. First, they tried to hang the patient and when that failed, the two men placed the helpless patient’s head under a bedframe and started jumping on it. They stopped once the bedframe touched the floor. Overcrowding, poor care, and mental illness created a lethal combination that compelled patients to take their own lives as well as of their peers.
The staff also confined some patients in solitary rooms for days and even weeks. Once an inmate, who was a former wrestler and ended up in the hospital due to injuries that rendered him emotionless and violent, was forcefully detained in the solitary room. The patient started beating down the metal door and ended up ripping off its hinges.
Even though some people ended up leaving the asylum many died there. When a patient passed away, the next of kin was notified by the staff of the passing. However, in many cases, no one came to retrieve the bodies for burial. So, the unclaimed patients were assigned a number and then buried in the cemetery of the hospital. They were issued simple gravestones that reflected nothing but their number. As time passed, many gravestones were removed, and some even repurposed, making it impossible to virtually identify the location of the buried bodies.
The Haunting of Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
The history of Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum weaves a rich tapestry of stories. A place that was plagued by desperation, torture, and neglect had to have its fair share of ghost stories. The hospital is open for overnight paranormal tours, if you are up for the thrill of your life, however even a visit during the daylight will raise the hair at the back of your neck.
The walls of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum are brimming with tales, including the story of a playful child Lily, who spent her whole life confined within the stifling four walls of the hospital. Her laughter still echoes in the halls of the hospital and may have reported seeing balls rolling on their own near Lily’s room. The patient, Dean, who met his demise at the hands of his peers, squashed by the bedframe, still haunts the room where he passed away.
Some visitors have reported hearing eerie screams resonating down the hallways, some have witnessed doors slamming on their own, and some have seen orbs of light floating in the air. So, if you are a paranormal fanatic with zero heart conditions and a strong bladder, visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum on Halloween will do you a whole lot of good.
Visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum – Where to Stay?
When visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, there are a few places in and around Weston where you can stay:
- Hampton Inn Weston – $174 per night
- Quality Inn – $89 per night
- Super 8 by Wyndham Weston WV – $89 per night
- Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Weston, an IHG Hotel – $189 per night
- The Inn At Plantation – $63 per night
Visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum – An Immersive Tour
When visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum make sure to be on your guard, you never know what or who might be watching from the darkest corners. When you enter the grounds of Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, you will be greeted by the towering building that holds harrowing stories within its foundations. A group of workers dressed as 19th-century doctors, nurses, and orderlies will greet you at the doors of the asylum.
From there your tour guide will take you through the wide expanse of the building, explaining everything along the way. When visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum lobby make sure to pay extra attention to the glass above the front door, as when the light shines through it, it creates a rainbow. This glass was installed as a means to keep the patients calm.
On the left side of the clock tower building, a large four-story building lies, where tuberculosis patients were kept. When a patient contracted the disease, they were immediately moved to this building. At the end of the building is a caged open area where families used to visit their loved ones. The area was created in order to prevent physical contact and further spread of the disease. Nowadays the building serves as the Haunted House that is opened to the public around Halloween. Delaying visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum until Halloween sounds like a pretty good idea right now, because who wouldn’t want to tour a haunted house in the middle of an asylum.
When visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, the next place, where your guide will take you is the Medical Center where shock therapy and lobotomies are performed. Visitors are only allowed on the first floor of the building as it hasn’t been restored. This was also the place where the bodies of the dead were kept. Behind the Medical Center, you will see the cellar and the building that housed the most dangerous patients. The windows of the building are reinforced with bars that are only inches apart to prevent escape. This building is however off-limits and those visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum aren’t allowed entry.
Afterward, your guide will circle you back to the Clock Tower Building. In the building, you will visit the second floor that housed the doctors working in the budling, the third floor, where patients were kept and the fourth floor where the nurses slept. Each room on the third floor was painted a different color so that illiterate painters could easily find their way back. At the end of the tour, you will be taken back to the first floor where you will be left to explore the museum of the hospital.
Visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum – Cost
Heritage 4 Historic Tours – Visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
|Photography Tour||Morning photo tour – $100 + taxAfternoon photo tour – $100 + taxBoth – $150 + tax|
|VIP Tour||$35 + Tax|
|Discover the Asylum Tour||$125 + tax ($10 + tax for lunch box)|
Ghost Hunts – Visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
|Ghost Hunts: Main Building||$100 + tax|
|Ghost Hunts: Medical Forensics, and Geriatrics Buildings||$100 + Tax|
|Private Ghost Hunts||$150 + tax (minimum of 10 people allowed)|
You can book your tours and tickets by visiting the visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum website.
Visiting 5 Real-Life Haunted Houses
If visiting the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum wasn’t enough to satiate your appetite for all things creepy, check out or list of 5 haunted houses that you can visit over the spooky season to quench your thirst for the eerie and the paranormal.