Located in Weston, West Virginia, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum has a colorful history with many reports of hauntings by evil spirits and ghosts.
History of Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Previously known as the Weston State Hospital, and the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane, this is a building that would look scary even if you didn’t know about its creepy history.
The enormous main structure is the biggest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, measuring an incredible 242,000 square feet over four floors. It is over 1200 feet long, and has in excess of 900 windows and 900 doors. At the centre, a 200-foot-high clock tower stretches towards the sky.
The Virginia General Assembly, as a result of the reforms taking place in the country, set aside money to build the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in the early 1850s.
Dr. Thomas Kirkbride was chosen to be an advisor, being very influential in the design of asylums at that time. His thinking helped the architect, Richard Swoden Andrews, to come up with the plans for the building.
Kirkbride’s aim was to provide patients with a place where they would be treated with dignity and respect. He was the first doctor in the US to recognise mental illness as a disease, and one which could be cured.
The asylum did not end up being the progressive, caring environment which Dr. Kilbride envisaged. Stories of rape and murder abound, along with the worst patients being shut in cages, naked and covered in their own waste.
The building of the asylum was interrupted in 1861 by the outbreak of the Civil War. The asylum received its first patients in 1864, although the building work wasn’t completed until 1881.
In the final part of the 19th
century, the asylum was not only looking after the genuinely mentally ill, but also individuals who were no longer wanted by their families. As a result, the building became very overcrowded. It had been designed to look after 250 patients, but by the 1950s it was housing in excess of 2500.
Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1990, the asylum finally shut its doors in 1994 under huge pressure from the community.
It was abandoned for many years before developer Joe Jordan bought the property in 2007 with the aim of restoring it, but a number of fires meant that this was not going to be possible. Instead, he decided to open up the building to tours, reinvesting the profits into the restoration of the once-fine building.
Perhaps the most famous story about the asylum is that of Lily, a girl who seemingly lived there for all of her short life.
Opinion varies, but it is generally thought that she was born in the asylum to a mother who couldn’t look after her, or was left there as an unwanted child.
Lily was cared for by the staff until her tragic death from pneumonia when she was nine years of age (although some contend that Lily died in infancy).
Lily reportedly now loves to play with visitors, and many visitors have reported playing “catch” with her in her room. There is a music box in Lily’s room which sometimes plays of its own volition.
Witnesses attest to hearing a little girl’s laugh reverberating through the halls. There are plenty of toys in Lily’s room and these have been known to move on their own.
Lily, it seems, is a mischievous spirit! She appears to be very polite, though, reportedly saying “Thank you for the snacks” to one local historian who brought her gifts. The voice was captured as an EVP.
Other children are said to haunt the floors of the asylum – some have even apparently been known to follow visitors all the way home!
The asylum has been the scene of a great number of murders over the years, and it looks like some of the spirits of the murderers are still around.
A lavatory is said to be haunted by a psychotic murderer, and the oppressive seclusion cells reportedly house a multi-murderer.
Noises and Apparitions
Staff have described moans and frightening, hysterical laughter coming from empty rooms. Sightings of ghostly apparitions have also been noted.
Disturbingly, a psychiatrist has told how after treating a patient who subsequently took their own life, the spirit apparently followed the doctor out of the hospital and all the way home.
Apparitions of this poor soul reportedly then began to appear in the doctor’s home, and she says the ghost has followed her each time she has moved house. The spirit is still said to appear to this day.
In the media
Ghost Hunters Season 4, Episode 9 on Syfy Channel.
Ghost Adventures Season 3, Episode 1 on Travel Channel.
thelineup.com, “Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and the Haunting Enigma of Lily
, accessed July 26 2017,
ghoststory.com, “The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum May Be The Most Haunted Location in America
”, accessed July 26 2017.
Julian Cheatle updated Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum on 08 Sep , 2017.