I mentioned in my last post that I was in "foster home rehab." And I just realized that in keeping with that theme, my overnight trip on Thursday goes along with that. Our trip was to the small town of Weston, West Virginia, where there is an imposing, formidable building that, at nearly a quarter mile long is nearly impossible to miss. This building in its history, has gone by three names, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, West Virginia Hospital for the Insane, and Weston State Hospital. Whatever you call it, my brothers and my sister-in-law and I went pay the former hospital a little visit... as a tourists of course.
|~Thanks to Retired Navy Brother for this photo!|
The hospital was in operation from 1864 - 1994. It's a Gothic and Tudor Revival style, hand-cut stone building that housed thousands of patients who suffered from mental illness and many who did not.
It was built in a beautiful rural area of West Virginia because social reformers were convinced of the healing powers of fresh air and picturesque landscapes.
Today, the former hospital is privately owned and offers various history and paranormal tours. The building's name has also been changed back to its original name - Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.
|Being superstitious especially at a place like a mental hospital, Irish workers added faces like these to ward off evil spirits. They believed evil could only enter through the back, so only the back entrances have these carvings.~ |
The hospital was originally designed to house 250 patients. But during the peak of its overcrowding in the 1950s and 60s, it housed upwards of 2,400 patients.
By the 1980s, wide sweeping changes had been made in mental health treatment and the hospital's population was in decline. All of the operational and maintenance costs were no longer cost effective and the hospital was closed in 1994.
The building sat empty for 13 years and during that time fell into disrepair. It was also subjected to looting and vandalism. In 2007, the building and grounds were purchased at auction for $1.5 million and renovations on the building began. Today the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum offers various tours and other seasonal activities held on the property. All proceeds go towards the restoration of the historical building.
|A photo of one of the upper floors that has been renovated. This floor housed nurse and doctor apartments.|
We took two tours. The first night, it was the paranormal tour. The guide, dressed in all black, with a flashlight led us throughout the main parts of the building recounting stories of some of the hospital’s better-known spirits, including a little girl named Lilly who was born in the asylum, a man named Jesse who died of a heart attack in a bathtub, Civil War soldiers, and a patient who was brutally murdered by his roommates. And several others I can't remember.
|~Thanks again to Retired Navy Brother for this photo!~|
The hospital is so vast that it is easy to feel lost amid the maze of hallways and patient rooms covered in peeling paint. Of course everyone on the tour is hoping for some kind of a paranormal experience. But we all agreed that walking through the building and learning its history in the dark was plenty thrilling, ghosts or no ghosts
Before we left town, we took another (daylight) 90-minute historic guided tour. We were again able to visit all four floors of the main building as well as the Civil War section and the Medical Center. Our guide, a young woman dressed in an all-white nurses uniform, lead us throughout the grounds and shared so much history about the 160-year old facility that it was a little overwhelming.
|~A solitary confinement room~|
Two of the most disturbing things I learned during the tour were 1) some of the treatment methods that were used on patients in the hospital and 2) some of the utterly ridiculous things people, especially women, could be admitted for early in the hospital's history. --Notice the ingredients on the medication below....Chocolate covered??!!
Some of the early treatments of mental illness were simply barbaric. Patients were often shackled to the walls in isolation rooms, restrained in bathtubs for hours on end in cold baths (which was thought to cool the blood to the brain and calm the patient), subjected to electroshock therapy or insulin shock therapy (the latter put patients into medically induced comas), or worst case scenario, given a lobotomy.
|~The ingredients on the cough syrup would put anyone to sleep!~|
In the early 1950s, the Weston State Hospital was home to what has been called the West Virginia Lobotomy Project. Dr. Walter Freeman, the father of the lobotomy who was responsible for performing Rosemary Kennedy's lobotomy, visited the Weston State Hospital numerous times throughout the 1950s. He developed a more "efficient" method of performing a lobotomy that didn't require drilling a hole into the person's skull. I'll spare you the gory details of this horrible and barbaric procedure and just say that this crude practice left many patients in a vegetative state or reduced them to child-like behavior. It is reported that Freeman performed 228 lobotomies within a two-week period while visiting the Weston State Hospital. How awful.
|Doorknobs used on the inside of patient rooms. This style prevented the patient from being able to hang him/herself from it, and to allow to open it from the outside, or to be used a weapon.|
The other thing I learned that I found disturbing was that often people in the late 1880s were admitted for utterly ridiculous reasons. Sadly, asylums were often viewed as repositories for more than just the insane and people were committed for ridiculous reasons.
|~Many of those who worked at the asylum were also required to live there - This top floor is where they slept.|
If I had lived in the time after the Civil War, there are many reasons why I could have been admitted. For instance, I could've been admitted for a dog bite or novel reading. Yes, a dog bite or novel reading - And that my friends, as you can see in the list below, is just the tip of the iceberg.
Women were at a distinct disadvantage during this time because they were viewed as the property of their husbands. If I had lived in the last nineteenth century, my husband could admit me to the insane asylum if I inherited money. Yes, the man in my life could've locked me away until he decided to come back and get me or he could've just left me there until I died. And of course, he would get the money. Also if you were a woman and your husband decided to cast you aside, your children would be admitted to the hospital as well. An innocent child (or children) could have their childhood taken away from them merely at a father’s whim if he chose.
|~One of the restored first floor spaces. This would have been for the more well-off and mildly ill patients~|
What was further disturbing was learning that when a male child reached the age of 16, if he was deemed to be mentally fit, he would be allowed to leave the asylum but a female child, she would stay indefinitely since she was after all the “mother’s daughter.” To think of the number of lives that were destroyed by having been sent to a place like this for no legitimate reason was just heart-breaking.
All I can say is THANK GOODNESS times have changed because it really was not easy being a woman late 1800s! But I digress....
|~Coffin style staircase~|
I found the history of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
absolutely fascinating! There's just so much history you just can't fully comprehend it all. One of my brothers wants to return next year to do an overnight ghost hunt. He thinks it'll be great fun. I so enjoy getting together with my brothers and their families because I don't see them often enough. And I did offer to buy my brother's ticket if he decides to do the overnight tour. So, we'll see.... We'll see ....
THANK YOU FRIENDS for stopping by, and reading this very long post! I hope you enjoyed it and like me, maybe learned a thing or two as well!! Enjoy your weekend!
|~From a rest stop on the way home~|