Do you believe in ghosts? If so, or better yet, if not, consider taking one of the weird-and-wacky ghost-hunting tours offered by the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, W.Va.
The building, highly gothic and downright creepy-looking, is rumored to be a nexus of paranormal activity, and according to a recent article in The New York Times, it’s easy to understand why. Built between 1858 and 1881 to accommodate 250 patients, it housed nearly 10 times that by the 1950s. “They were a discontented bunch, and not just because they were in a mental hospital. Many had been severely mistreated by other violent residents and a few were eventually murdered by them,” the article states.
Weston Mental Hospital, as it was originally known, closed in 1994 (a more modern facility was built in the state), but has recently been reborn. Inspired in part by the demand created by popular shows like “Ghost Hunters” and films like “Paranormal Activity,” the asylum has offered public tours, starting six years ago. A sample includes “October Ghost Hunt” (6½ hours for $100), “Medical/Forensics/Geriatrics Ghost Hunt” (ditto), and the fast and budget-friendly “Flashlight Tours” (30 minutes for $10). But if you really want to encounter a spirit up close and personal, the “9-to-5 tour” is your best bet, an asylum receptionist told the Times. “That’s when the best stuff happens around here,” she advised. If you’ve got the nerve, in the wee hours of the morning, you’re allowed to wander free in search of ghosts, staying up until dawn.
Tours begin at nightfall, where hopeful ghost hunters meet their guides in a paranormal-free area on the first floor of the asylum. Before leading visitors through the vast building’s four floors and multiple wards, the guides reveal their array of ghost-sensing tools, including electromagnetic frequency meters, motion sensors and spirit box. To up your chances of a spirit encounter, you can even get apps on your iPhone, such as Ghost Radar Classic, that are sensitive to spectral vibrations.
Yet if all this still isn’t ghost-laden enough for you, consider throwing caution (and crosses) to the wind and requesting an overnight camp-out in the abandoned lobotomy ward. No electricity, no running water, and you have to sign a waiver (in case you break a leg running from a ghost).
No, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is certainly not for the faint of heart. But if it’s a ghost encounter you’re seeking, it may just be the best place to start.