Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

A sanctuary for the mentally ill from 1800's

Constructed between 1858 and 1881, and previously known as The Weston State Hospital, or the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, and is purportedly the second largest in the world, next to the Kremlin. Located in Weston, WV, 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.

The Asylum has had apparition sightings, unexplainable voices and sounds, and other paranormal activity reported in the past by guests, staff, SyFy’s Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters Academy, the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and Paranormal Challenge. They would be the mentally insane who lived, and died, within these walls. Thousands have been committed to the asylum over the years, and hundreds unfortunately died here. Among them is Lily, a child born to patients of the hospital, which happened occasionally. Many of those children were adopted out of TALA, but Lily stayed there at the request of the nurses, who particularly loved this little girl. She died at the age of 10 of an illness. It is believed that her spirit is still in this place, and in her room, so some toys are kept there for her.

You have the chance to decide for yourself if they’re still occupying the historic wards and treatment rooms through the ghost tours organized by a team of dedicated local volunteers that, with the aid of government grants, private donations and fundraising events, are committed to restoring the TALA to its former grandeur, thus reviving the local economy and preserving an important piece of American history. And of course it’s not only about ghosts. The history of the building holds fascinating stories of Civil War raids, a gold robbery, the “curative” effects of architecture, and the efforts of determined individuals to help better the lives of the mentally ill. So you can book daily heritage tours to see how this nationally recognized landmark left a lasting impression on local and national history.


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