GHOSTLY TRAVEL: A TRIP TO THE HAUNTED ASYLUM

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A little over three years ago I kicked off this blog with a post about my stay at the Cashtown Inn near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – made famous by its appearance on an episode of the Syfy show, Ghost Hunters.

I’ve always been intrigued with anything paranormal. I lie somewhere between skeptic and believer, in which I don’t rule out anything, but don’t obsess over it either. Most people agree that some force exists that we cannot see, whether they be angels, demons, wayward spirits or residual energy.  That common belief has piqued people’s interest in shows like the aforementioned Ghost Hunters and the comparatively successful Ghost Adventures.

The imposing facade of the former Weston State Hospital

The imposing facade of the former Weston State Hospital

What these shows (and the ghost hunting hobby in general) has really done is create a new generation of explorers. Ghost hunting can be done on any kind of budget and doesn’t need to involve expensive, long distance travel. This new frontier is essentially peering into a world we don’t know (and don’t know if it even exists) and potentially making a historic and monumental breakthrough. Yes, this leads to a hobby in which junior high-schoolers are rubbing elbows with “serious” hobbyists (as far as I know, no real scientists are investigating the spiritual plane these days) and you get a lot of bogus claims to go along with the few compelling ones.

The first floor of the asylum, with a view towards the nursing station (window opening towards the back right)

The first floor of the asylum, with a view towards the nursing station (window opening towards the back right)

That said, I always like to see things for myself and a day trip to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia allowed me to experience one of the most reputed haunted hot spots in the country first hand.

Paint is peeling in many rooms, but it is quite apparent here. It's oddly beautiful in a way...

Paint is peeling in many rooms, but it is quite apparent here. It’s oddly beautiful in a way…

Making the day trip to Weston from D.C. in one day is an undertaking in itself, while the driving is generally easy (and the scenery beautiful), you will be amassing at least 500 or so miles on the road. For a day tripper, that may be a bit much, but it’s certainly doable.

Parts of the structure are being restored to the original look. Here is a part of the doctor's lounge and quarters...

Parts of the structure are being restored to the original look. Here is a part of the doctor’s lounge and quarters…

It wasn’t my usual travel crew this time either, as this journey was a direct result of my co-worker’s ghostly interests as well. This one had been in the planning stages for over a year before we decided to head out this month. It ended up being a group of three of us heading out into mostly unfamiliar territory (I grabbed five West Virginia counties for my tally and neither of the other two had been out that way either).

While doors may be left open to aerate the place, it also gives would-be ghosts plenty of opportunities to slam them shut.

While doors may be left open to aerate the place, it also gives would-be ghosts plenty of opportunities to slam them shut.

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was actually known as the Weston State Hospital for most of its operational life, but its current name was its first name and the owners are placing more emphasis on restoring the Asylum to its Civil War-era “glory”. That, and the current name just packs a creepier punchif you’re in the business of selling ghost tours.

Zach, our friendly ghost hunting guide, demonstrates the rem-pod.

Zach, our friendly ghost hunting guide, demonstrates the rem-pod.

And ghost touring is what we did! For $35 and change, you get an hour-and-a-half with one of the local guides. Our guide, Zach, was straight up as authentic as you can get – a pure rugged West Virginia ghost hunter. Zach led us around the four floors of the huge complex (believe it or not, the building ranks No. 2 in the world behind Moscow’s Kremlin in terms of size for buildings made with cut sandstone. Wikipedia fact o’ the day right there!) and talked about his various encounters as well as other experiences that have been reported around the asylum. Zach even broke out a few devices that would be quite familiar with fans of the tv shows, including the rem-pod, mel meter and a vibration sensor.

The top floor of the building still uses the same wooden floor panels from the 19th century and has a much older feel than the first three floors.

The top floor of the building still uses the same wooden floor panels from the 19th century and has a much older feel than the first three floors.

Of course, seeing as this was a day trip, this tour convened during the daylight hours. There are night tours as well as a four 8-hour overnight ghost hunt (which can be done with or without a guide). Touring the asylum during the day is creepy enough for most, but history buffs who have no interest in the paranormal can tour parts of the asylum as well (they offer heritage tours with tour guides dressed in Civil War period clothing).

You can visit the patient's art gallery which houses various drawings and paintings done by patients until the hospital closed in 1994. This simple drawing gets its message across bluntly.

You can visit the patient’s art gallery which houses various drawings and paintings done by patients until the hospital closed in 1994. This simple drawing gets its message across bluntly.

So did I have any experiences? Well, I tried to make myself as sensitive as possible to the presence of anything strange or paranormal. I didn’t experience anything too much out of the ordinary and certainly didn’t see anything odd, but on one floor I did feel the strange sensation of the hair on my left leg near my knee being touched (right around where my shorts end, almost as if my shorts were being slightly tugged at). On all the other floors and anytime since when I’ve worn those shorts, I haven’t felt that same distinct sensation. Was this the spirit of a child trying to get my attention? I would think likely not, but hey, who’s really to say?

What happened in this fourth floor room? Nobody really knows...

What happened in this fourth floor room? Nobody really knows…

I’d certainly recommend a visit to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum for anyone with even a passing interest in ghosts or as an alternative to your typical historical stop. This is a slice of America that usually isn’t included on a common roadtrip/daytrip itinerary, but I greatly enjoyed the “break” from the norm. Not to mention that the drive through West Virginia is worth the price alone!

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More information:

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum,  71 Asylum Dr, Weston, WV 26452, (304) 269-5070. Ghost tours. Historical tours.

 

 

 

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