Haunted Place: West Virginia Penitentiary
- (1876 - 1995)
National Register of Historic Places - Though Penitentiary has been closed since 1995, it is open to the public:
Open April through November. Open Tuesday through Sunday. Closed for selected training events in the National Corrections and Law
Enforcement Training and Technology Center, head-quartered in the prison. Moundsville Economic Development Council is in charge of the grounds
and upkeep of this former West Virginia prison, holding a 25 year lease,
since the prison's closing in 1995.
Historical /Educational Tours:
REGISTER YOUR DAY TOUR OF THE PENITENTIARY, CALL THEM AT: 304-845-6200.
West Virginia Penitentiary,
818 Jefferson Avenue, Moundsville, West Virginia 26041
Location: In the town of Moundsville,
West Virginia Penitentiary can be found on the corner of Jefferson and
8th Street. From I-70, take Route 2 South to Moundsville, turn left on
Eighth Street, and the Penitentiary is two blocks ahead.
HISTORY & DESCRIPTION
Description: West Virginia Penitentiary
has been described as being an "imposing stone structure fashioned
in the castellated Gothic architectural style (adorned with turrets and
battlements, like a castle)." Though modeled after Joliet Prison,
West Virginia Penitentiary would be "approximately one-half the size
The walls surrounding the prison were
24 feet high and 6 feet wide at the bottom, tapering to 18 inches at the
top. Buildings constructed in this first phase found within the walls
included North Wagon Gate, North and South Cell Blocks, an Administration
Building and the Warden's House. Cells were 5 x 7 feet, which encouraged
inmates to participate in work areas of the prison.
In 1866, the idea of building a prison
here became a reality when the state legislature authorized funds to buy
land in Moundsville for this institution because Moundsville was near
the then state capitol city of Wheeling.
The first building to be finished
was the North Wagon Gate building and was built by 150 inmates, using
hand-cut sandstone from a near by quarry, and then became the housing
unit for these 150 inmates. The first phase of West Virginia Penitentiary
was finished in 1876, opening for business.
Inside the prison, the inmates were
involved in areas of work needed to run the prison: Blacksmith, Wagon
Shop, Carpentry Shop, Brickyard, Stone Yard, Paint Shop, Tailor, Bakery
and Hospital. A prison farm was also started to grow food for the inmates,
and a prison coal mine was opened in 1921. The prison was now not only
self-sufficient, but saved the state $14,000 per year in fuel costs.
In 1929, phase two of a building program
to double the size of the prison began, which wasn't completed until 1959,
due to the shortage of steel during WW2. These new cell blocks eventually
eased the horrible overcrowding; which caused triple bunking in the prison's
5 x 7 foot cells.
West Virginia Penitentiary Executions:
Began in 1899. Eighty-five men were hung in the prison gallows: 1899-1949.
Nine men were electrocuted from 1951-1959. In 1959, the death penalty
was thrown out.
The West Virginia Penitentiary reached
its peak in population during the 1960s, becoming home to 2000 inmates.
The last 35 years of the prison, from 1960 - 1995, had many disturbances
including riots and escapes. In 1986, the West Virginia Supreme Court
ruled that the 5 X 7 cells at West Virginia Penitentiary were cruel and
unusual punishment which was the beginning of the end for this facility.
By 1995, The inmate population was around 700 before the prison closed
for good. New facilities had been completed to house inmates serving time
for the state of West Virginia.
Prisons are often the places of unhappy,
angry people and death by the hands of authorities or by other prisoners
happened. Thus, prisons are a great place to find ghosts of people who
have had traumatic experiences or have even died there, and can't quite
leave just yet.
(Alcatraz * Fort Delaware)
1) Maintenance Man who lived in
the basement - Is often seen by the living wandering around the bathroom
area of this basement.
Most often seen ghost. The maintenance
man made it his hobby to report the wrong doings of inmates to the guards,
which must have made him feel important and superior. The inmates got
together and shivved him with homemade knives, while he was sitting on
2) Arvil Paul Adkins - Is thought
to haunt the gallows area.
One of many botched hangings: He was
up on the scaffold, but the trap door opened prematurely and he fell
down through the hole, landing on his head, becoming badly injured.
The guards took him back up on the scaffold and hung him correctly this
3) Inmate Roberts haunts his cell
block and the room where he met his death. It was reported that his body
was buried behind a wall.
Cincinnati Enquirer, Nov. 30, 1886 - Reported
that that many deaths were caused by the wardens, who had been known
to torture misbehaving inmates with ice cold water in the face while
being held in stocks. The really bad inmates were given with near death
beatings, tied to a Kicking Jenny. Inmate's feet were clamped to the
floor, while their bodies were bent over a kicking Jenny, with their
hands tied above their heads on blocks. How lovely!!!
4) The winter recreation room in
the basement, called the Sugar Shack, has been the hotbed of paranormal
activity. Though no one was killed here, a lot of violence, probably inmate
rape/sex and other injuries happened here because they were very loosely
supervised by guards.
Psychic Research by various groups
Hunts and Tours are offered, as the hauntings are well known and documented.
Even though the inmates are long gone, some of their ghosts are making
money for the upkeep of these buildings by simply haunting the place because
of their pain and anguish; perhaps not realizing that they are dead or
not willing to go to the other side; wanting to stay where it is familiar.
From the official Web-Site: "At
8 PM, you'll enter the gates of what was once one of the bloodiest prisons
in America for an hour-long guided tour of the facility. Then, until 6
am, you can explore the facility for mystical spirits under the direction
of a qualified paranormal investigator or ON YOUR OWN. Don’t miss this
opportunity of an eternity! Available March through November. Tours fill
Check out the video of a ghost hunter,
which one can see a shadowy apparition on left side near cells. When it
sees the photographer it makes a quick exist into the wall. (Web-Site)
Another Ghost Hunting Group from Ohio
have posted their pics
on their web-site, which show orbs and other things. They felt bad
feelings around some of the cells. Some communicated with a ghost named
Todd, who died in lock up. Check out page 2.