Often considered to be one of the most haunted locations in America, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum has a rich and interesting history from it’s role in the progression of the treatment of those with mental health disorders to its role as barracks during the civil war. Constructed between 1858 and 1881, the asylum is the largest hand cut stone masonry building in the country according to it’s website. The construction of the facility was interrupted by the outbreak of the civil war. The completed portion of the building was used as a military barracks during the war and changed hands between the union and confederacy multiple times. The funds allocated to the state of Virginia to build the asylum was ceased by the confederacy and used to fund the state after it succeeded from the union. After the war, funds were re-allocated to the building project and although the first patients were admitted in 1863, although construction was not fully completed until 1881.
The building was constructed according to the Kirkbride plan which depended on the environment of the building itself to help rehabilitate patients. Buildings constructed in this design were often shaped in a wide V which allowed for lots of light in the patient rooms to help improve morale. It was a vast improvement from the poorhouses and prisons that mentally ill people had been kept in before where they were often chained naked to the wall regardless of heat or cold. The building was originally built to house 250 patients, but at its peak in the 1950′s it was seriously overcrowded, housing nearly ten times that many at over 2400 patients.
Barbaric by today’ standards, treatments which were acceptable at that time were performed at the facility including lobotomies and electroshock therapy. Thousands of patients died at the facility and some are even buried on the grounds of the property.
By the 1980′s there had been significant changes in the way that mental illness was treated and the population at the facility had dropped significantly. The conditions were considered to be very poor and the building was deteriorating quickly. In 1994, a new psychiatric hospital was opened in Weston, and although plans had been announced to use the old property as a prison, it has mostly remained vacant since the closure.
The building was purchased in 2007 and began offering historic and haunted tours to help raise money for renovations.
With so much suffering having occured at the asylum, it is ripe for paranormal activity. The last 20 or so years it was open as a hospital were extremely violent and patients were known to have murdered both each other and staff members at the hospital, and it’s rumored that this along with the torture suffered by patients in the “treatments” for the mentally ill are the root cause of much of the activity.
Reported activity at the site includes the sound of hospital beds rolling up and down the hallways, full bodied apparitions of both patients and doctors, along with horrible screams coming from the rooms where electroshock therapy was conducted. Voices are also heard throughout the facility, including maniacal laughing and warnings.
The site has been the subject of numerous paranormal investigations including by the well known TAPS of Syfy’s Ghost Hunters show in 2008, where they caught an EVP telling them to “Go Home” and claimed to have seen an apparition. Link to Show Summary. The well known Ghost Adventures group has also investigated the property, locking themselves inside. Read about it here.
Today, the property is open for both public and private paranormal tours starting at just $40 per person, check out their website for more details if you wish to experience the property for yourself.
Watch part of the Ghost Adventures Investigation on YouTube
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