Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, constructed between 1858 and 1881, is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, and is purportedly the second largest in the world, next to the Kremlin.
71 Asylum Drive
Weston , WV 26452
Phone: (304) 269-5070
Open to the public: Yes
Demographic Rank: 6
Vistor Rating: 5.0
|Rate this Location
<- Get Location Badge Code
History information is some background and history about the location. This is meant to be a basic summary. Below the history records you will find sources in which you can click on to find out more information. There may be multiple history records per location.
Designed to House 250 Souls
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, constructed between 1858 and 1881, is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, and is purportedly the second largest in the world, next to the Kremlin. It was designed by the renowned architect Richard Andrews following the Kirkbride plan, which called for long rambling wings arranged in a staggered formation, assuring that each of the connecting structures received an abundance of therapeutic sunlight and fresh air. The original hospital, designed to house 250 souls, was open to patients in 1864 and reached its peak in the 1950's with 2,400 patients in overcrowded and generally poor conditions. Changes in the treatment of mental illness and the physical deterioration of the facility forced its closure in 1994 inflicting a devastating effect on the local economy, from which it has yet to recover.
Considered to be possessed...
Early colonists, arriving in North America, brought beliefs from the old country, some enlightened, some archaic. Unfortunately, insanity had fallen under the latter. People exhibiting aberrant behavior were popularly considered to be possessed by demons or witches and, on occasion, by the Devil himself. Most everyone has heard of the notorious Salem Witch Trials of 1692. In recent studies of the historical documents, describing the symptoms of the accused, modern psychologists have concluded that a majority of the executed "witches" were most likely insane. Witch hunting was not isolated to Puritan New England. It was common practice throughout the colonies.
Throughout the next century in Colonial America, the treatment of an insane person was almost invariably barbaric. Those without family or friends who took responsibility for them were mostly placed in prisons in the company of common criminals, often chained to walls, unclothed regardless of temperature, and mired in their own filth. Some families did take responsibility although they were more concerned with hiding their problematic relatives to avoid embarrassment than trying to help them. They stashed them away in attics, secreted sheds, and even holes in the ground. It wasn't until the 1770's that facilities began to be constructed specifically to house the insane. But again, these places were designed to extricate the individual from society, not to help him or her reassimilate through curative methods because insanity was universally regarded as incurable.
The 1800's brought much-needed change to the world of the insane. Through the efforts of some enlightened individuals, most prominently Dorothea Dix, the desperate plight of the insane was brought to the attention of the public, and lawmakers were forced to commit funds for more humane care. By mid-century, Thomas Kirkbride's theory of creating a curative environment took hold, and the age of the Asylum had arrived.
A Social Reformer
According to one of her biographers, Dorothea Dix exemplified one of the "rare" cases in history where a social movement of such proportions can be attributed to the work of a single individual. She was a teacher, a nurse, and a social reformer, best known for her indefatigable commitment to improve the treatment of the mentally ill during the 19th century.
Born the eldest of three children in Maine in 1802, to an abusive, alcoholic father and a mentally unstable mother, she took it upon herself to raise her two infant brothers and consequently had no childhood of her own. Despite little formal education, she was intellectually gifted and driven, opening a private school in Worcester, Massachusetts, at age 15 where she taught young girls at a time when there were little to no educational opportunities available to females. Five years later she would open a similar school in Boston.
A life-altering event occurred in 1841 when she visited a local jail in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There she observed mentally ill inmates chained naked to stone walls in cells without heat or ventilation. The horror of what she witnessed inspired what was to become a life-long crusade to improve the treatment of the mentally ill. She managed to gain the attention of the Massachusetts State Legislature, which authorized funds to improve the dreadful conditions she exposed to the public.
Following her success in Massachusetts, she traveled extensively to other U.S. states as well as Europe and Asia, observing and exposing similar barbaric conditions and spurring worldwide improvements for the treatment of the insane. Her efforts were rewarded when the first state hospital for the mentally ill was opened in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1848. This was the second asylum built following the plan of Thomas Kirkbride, with whom she worked closely.
The strain of it all took its toll on Dorothea, physically and mentally. She suffered several debilitating breakdowns during her lifetime, and eventually admitted herself to the same Trenton hospital that represented the fruition of her efforts. She was given a private apartment where she spent the remaining six years of her life, dying there in 1887.
Building as Cure
During our historical tours, hear about Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride's theory on what he referred to as the "moral treatment" of the insane, a constructive idea unique to the United States, for mental asylums from the mid to late 19th century.
Essential to the realization of his vision was moving patients from overcrowded city jails and almshouses, where patients were often chained to walls in cold dark cells, to a rural environment with grounds that were "tastefully ornamented" and buildings arranged "en echelon" resembling a shallow V if viewed from above. This design called for long, rambling wings, that provided therapeutic sunlight and air to comfortable living quarters so that the building itself promoted a curative effect, or as Kirkbride put it, "a special apparatus for lunacy." These facilities were designed to be entirely self-sufficient providing the patients with a variety of outlets for stimulating mental and physical activities.
The Kirkbride plan influenced the construction of over 300 similar facilities throughout North America, some of which were designed by such luminaries as H. H. Richardson, Richard Snowden Andrews, and Fredrick Law Olmstead. However, the 20th century brought changes in treatment philosophy, deinstitutionalization, and more community based treatment. The theory of "building as cure" was largely discredited. The expense of maintaining these facilities, combined with physical deterioration, has forced them to be mostly abandoned and many demolished
An Important Military Post
The Civil War was the most tumultuous event in American history. It not only divided the country but splintered families and friendships into bitter adversaries. Nowhere was this tragic factionalism more evident than in Border States like Virginia. The emerging Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, the town of Weston, and surrounding Lewis County, then still part of Virginia, was no exception. The events that took place here, although generally unknown, played a key role in remolding the United States and have had lasting effects that are felt to this day.
When hostilities broke out in April of 1861 with the bombardment of Fort Sumter, the Civil War, which would eventually extinguish over 600,000 American lives, had begun. At that time, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was still in the early stages of construction. The southernmost wing had been completed and a basement and foundation for the massive central structure had been excavated and walled-in. In June, Virginia's secession from the Union brought all non-war related work to a halt. This set the scene for the most dramatic event in the history of Weston: at 5 a.m. on the morning of June 30th, 1861, the citizens of Weston were roused from sleep by the sound of drums, fifes, and marching soldiers entering their town. It was the Seventh Ohio Infantry, which had marched all night from Clarksburg, approximately 25 miles to the north. In command was Colonel Erastus Bernard Tyler, who was familiar with the area and well-known to many of its citizens. He had been a furrier before the war and had bought and sold his fur products throughout Lewis County prior to joining the army. Tyler ordered his troops to sweep through the town and seize any individuals suspected of Confederate sympathies. One of his men, Captain List, took two armed soldiers and made a beeline for a specific location and the real purpose of the mission.
The location was the Weston Branch of the Exchange Bank of Virginia, which held almost $30,000.00 in gold deposited by the state government of Virginia, to provide wages for those laboring on the new asylum. Tyler's mission was to seize the gold before it could be returned to Richmond and used to support the rebellion. Awakened by the commotion, banker Robert McClandish, who lived on the second floor of the bank, appeared at the front door where it was demanded he turn over the contents of the vault. McClandish objected, but there was little he could do other than what he was told. List ordered the vault opened and removed $27,000.00 (worth well over a half million today) in gold coin, leaving $2,371.23 which the books established as due to creditors. The money was taken to Wheeling, where it would help fund the new State of Virginia which, in 1863, became West Virginia.
The partially built Asylum and surrounding grounds became Camp Tyler, establishing Weston as an important military post, vital to the control of the well-traveled roads in the area. The completed southern wing of the asylum provided barracks and the main foundation served as a stable. Control of the area would change hands several times during the war. Confederate raids in 1862 and 1863 temporarily dislodged the Union troops and, in 1864, raiders not only confiscated another $5,287.85 from poor Mr. McClandish but would strip the Asylum of all food and clothing intended for its first group of patients. At the end of the war, the completion of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was prioritized. Consequently, while so many other towns were financially ruined by the war and would remain destitute for a decade, Weston did not experience a post-war depression. Business boomed as the Asylum established itself as the primary economic resource for the town. It would remain so until it was closed 130 years later.
Added by: jragan on 01/07/2011
Stories are just that. Stories and personal accounts that have been reported about the location.
The last couple decades at the hospital were extremely violent. Frequent reports of patients killing other patients, female employees were violated and killed including a nurse that was missing for nearly two months before being found dead at the bottom of an unused staircase. It is these events that are said to contribute to the high level of paranormal activity at the asylum. Some of the paranormal events reported by employees were sounds of gurneys being pushed up and down the hallways. The electro-shock area has had reports of screams coming from it. Full body apparitions of patients as well as doctors have been claimed to be seen roam the halls and rooms. Voices that have ranged from giggling and laughing to ominous warnings to leave the building have also been reported to be heard all around the facility. It seems that the spirits from the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum did not always stay there. A woman who grew up close to the hospital and eventually went to work there as a psychiatrist, had her first patient comment suicide. This doctor claims that his ghost still haunts her to this day. The most active spot in the asylum seems to be the fourth floor as well as the Civil War wing. On the fourth floor there have been a lot of reports of strange sounds and banging, voices, whispering and what seems to be constant conversation going on even though no one is talking. The Civil War wing apparently is visited by a soldier named Jacob. Jacob as been seen wondering the area on several occasions. In 1990 the hospital was designated an historical site and in 2007 it was bought at an auction and now open for tours. The new owners officially changed the name back to The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.
Added by: jragan on 01/29/2011
Here are the paranormal claims for this location. These have been found through Internet research, reports from members, or reports from personal interviews. To add a claim, please contact PANICd.com, and we will review and add your information.
|Claim #||Added||Added By||Claim|
|1189||01/29/2011||jragan||Sounds of gurneys being pushed up and down the hallways can be heard.|
|1190||01/29/2011||jragan||The electro-shock area has had reports of screams coming from it.|
|1191||01/29/2011||jragan||Full body apparitions of patients as well as doctors have been claimed to be seen roam the halls and rooms.|
|1192||01/29/2011||jragan||Voices that have ranged from giggling and laughing to ominous warnings to leave the building have also been reported to be heard all around the facility.|
|1193||01/29/2011||jragan||On the fourth floor there have been a lot of reports of strange sounds and banging, voices, whispering and what seems to be constant conversation going on even though no one is talking.|
|1194||01/29/2011||jragan||The Civil War wing apparently is visited by a soldier named Jacob. Jacob as been seen wondering the area on several occasions.|
Paranormal evidence is based on claims that have been reported for this location. There can be several types of evidence; however, we have grouped them based on media type for better organization. Here you will find evidence that are logs, audio, video, or photographic.
To add evidence for a claim, you must submit it to PANICd.com for approval to be entered into the database.
This is a collection of Internet resources for this location. This section will house links to other websites that contain information related to history, claims, investigations, or even the location's website.
No Reources Yet!