At its inception, the sprawling manor imagined by Dr. Thomas Kirkbride was built to house 250 souls at its maximum. There were plenty of windows for natural light and fresh air to soothe the minds and bodies of those living there. It was intended as a break, a place where those with mental health conditions could seek professional treatment.
At its peak, it housed over 2500 souls. The halls were crowded, unsanitary medical conditions were rampant and those living there were clutching to the gates and screaming for passerby to please free them. The sprawling manor was transformed from a place of rejuvenation to a place where people lived and died in terror and pain.
Although it may sound like something from a summer horror blockbuster, it’s actually the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, W.Va. The now privately owned asylum sits in the middle of a town that reflects the loss of jobs and income when the asylum closed. However, every October, traffic in the area increases as people looking for a thrill flood the gates at the asylum.
The asylum offers a haunted house and flashlight tours during the Halloween season.
Recently featured on The Travel Channel, The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum provides plenty of scares for the thrill seekers. “Forsaken” is the theme this year and features asylum patients, creepy children and tall creatures perched on stilts all hoping to elicit screams from those taking the tour. Although the actors aren’t supposed to touch those taking the tour, they will approach and interact with them. The tour runs about 20 minutes, but the line can get extremely long on Friday and Saturday nights. Since this is the last week and Halloween, plan to be there early and be prepared to wait. Hot chocolate and coffee are available to fight the chill while in line. The haunted house is $20, and opens at 6 p.m.
For those who want a little less of a jumpy experience, the flashlight tours offer an experience not soon forgotten. Tours depart starting at 6 p.m. and last 30 minutes which includes 15 minutes of a historical tour, and 15 minutes of paranormal experiences and lore. There are three tours available, and are $10 each.
The Seclusion Tour, The Treatments Tour and The Kirkbride Tour take visitors to the darkest areas of the asylum with only a single flashlight and guide to help them through.
The Treatment Tour, which is one of the most popular, lets people walk through the rooms where countless procedures were performed. The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was a popular stop for Dr. Freeman and his Lobotomobile where he would perform as many as 100 icepick lobotomies in a day. Dr. Freeman did not support the use of anesthetics while lobotomizing his patients, cleaning his instrument between patients or wearing gloves to perform the procedures. Laws in West Virginia allowed him to lobotomize anyone in the asylum without consent from the family, including minors. His youngest patient was four years old.
After a night of thrills, considering travelling just a few miles down the road to Stonewall Resort for a warm drink at TJ Muskie’s lounge which is open until midnight. The premier resort offers great accommodations for those looking to make the trip an overnight experience.