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Scary Urban Legends

Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Both a masterful work of impeccable architecture, and a grim reminder of the barbaric treatment of the mentally ill a mere century ago. Tens of thousands of souls passed through the gates of the asylum, hundreds died from savage, inhumane techniques or simply committed suicide to be free from the daily torture and many of them never left the grounds, not even a century and half after the asylum first opened.

The asylum took almost 30 years for construction to be completed, first started in 1858 but invariably delayed by the outbreak of the Civil War, it was finally completed in 1881 with the first patients arriving as early as 1861 while still pending completion. Designed by renowned architect Richard Andrews and spanning across 666 (yes, that’s right) acres in the heart of West Virginia, the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in the United States, and second in the world next to the Kremlin building.

The sprawling, Gothic architecture invokes an immediate sense of foreboding and is reminiscent of a medieval castle: fitting since some of the medical procedures seem to have come straight from the Dark Ages.

Originally designed to house a paltry 250 inmates, it soon became vastly overcrowded, holding upwards of 2,400 patients by the 1950s. The overcrowded, understaffed facility gave way to unimaginatively inhabitable living conditions that compounded with crude “treatments” for the violently mentally ill patients, became a nightmare for those forced to suffer through and endure the horrendous day-to-day life inside the walls.


Beatings were common place, often with fatal outcomes. Transorbital lobotomies were performed, often times with no, or with too little anesthesia. Inmates were dunked into ice water, a pathetic attempt to “shock” patients back into sanity. Electric shock therapy that was designed to literally fry the “insane” parts of the patient’s brain along with chemical castration and suggestion therapy—reserved for homosexuals and those with other “curable ailments”—in which a patient was injected with a poison and shown images that corresponded to their diagnosis, in order to make the feeling of physical sickness be associated with their “affliction” to try and cure them.

The sounds of howling, caged patients reverberated along the stone hallways day and night. Female patients were raped by male prisoners, sometimes even by guards, patients were stabbed by each other, some hung themselves…

Is it any wonder the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is one of the most haunted places in the United States?

The asylum was finally closed in 1994 but was bought by a man named Joe Jordan and has even been featured on Ghost Hunters twice and Ghost Adventures, both times with reported paranormal activity.

The most common ghosts seen at the asylum include a former patient by the name of Ruth. Alive, she was known to be very violent towards men, often times screaming and throwing objects whenever she saw one. Now, she roams the corridors near her cell, forever watching over her eternal prison. Shadowy figures haunt the second floor near Ward 2 where a patient was stabbed 17 times by another inmate and where 2 other men hung themselves from the curtain rods in their rooms. Visitors often hear their names being screamed, or the metallic sounds of invisible gurneys still being pushed along the halls by ghostly nurses, or of pipes being beaten. Many EVPs have been recorded in The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum with rasping voices telling them to “Get out” or “calm down.” And one of the most ominous presences, the “creeper” that glides across the floor, following visitors in the shadows, lurks on the fourth floor.

Guided tours are available from 9 PM to 5 AM where you can investigate the main building, or the medical center, forensics building and geriatrics building. Those who are brave enough can stay overnight with their own private party without any guides, free to roam the entire facility.

Even for skeptics, there is an undeniable sense of dread within the walls of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the brutal history of the building is indisputable fact. Blood did indeed flow through the halls and in the crude surgical rooms where unspeakable acts were committed on those without any sound reasoning. But the feeling of a transorbital lobotomy needle being pushed through one’s eye is a feeling that even those with a half a mind can recognize and experience terror that hopefully none of you reading will ever have to live through. The screams of those forever imprisoned in the monolith of an asylum are very real, whether or not you can hear them… well, you’ll just have to find out for yourself.

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