The West Virginia Penitentiary
The West Virginia Penitentiary is a gothic style prison located in Moundsville, West Virginia. The prison operated from 1876 to 1995, and during this time accumulated infamy due to its poor conditions and treatment of inmates. At its peak, each prison cell housed up to three inmates with only one mattress, with the prison doubling its size in 1929 to combat the overcrowded conditions. Thirty six homicides took place in the prison, though many more were to perish through different means. This, paired with the harsh conditions for prisoners, has led many to believe that spirits linger and emotions remain etched in the walls, making this one of the most haunted prisons in the United States.
Additionally, there were a number of executions at the penitentiary, namely 94 men executed either by hanging or death by electrocution. Majority of the executions were done by hanging through til 1949, with the state prohibiting capital punishment entirely in 1965. When executions were legal, they were a public spectacle. That is, until 1931 when a famed inmate Frank Hyer was hanged but accidentally decapitated in the process. Henceforward, all executions were a private event by invitation only.
Is the West Virginia Penitentiary haunted?
With so much violence and death, it’s no wonder many speculate that there are still spirits that wander the corridors of the West Virginia Penitentiary. In fact, dark shadow figures have been seen throughout the prison, with some even captured on camera. In addition to this, the prison itself was also built on the ground of the Adena Native American Tribe’s sacred burial grounds, which could also be an amplifier for the reported paranormal activity. One of the original burial mounds still remains today across the road from the old prison, giving Moundsville its name.
One of the more notable documented deaths is the butchering of R.D. Wall, inmate number 44670. On October 8, 1929, after he was believed to have snitched on his fellow inmates, he was attacked while heading to the boiler room by three prisoners will dull shivs. Since his death, many claim to have encountered paranormal activity around the site of his murder. Shadows tend to lurk in the dark and physical touch is very common.
Another notable place of interest for avid investigators is the Sugar Shack. The Sugar Shack was an activity hall and recreation space used by inmates during the prison’s operation. However, due to the confined space, was often not guarded or monitored, which lead to it being a place of rape, gambling and fighting. Many to enter this space also experience physical touch, though apparitions have also been sighted here and unexplainable sounds are prevalent.
The infirmary was possibly the most active location during our own investigation. Not only were we capturing noises all around us, sounds of shifting furniture, banging doors and noises of the unexplained, but we were also overcome with cold chills, feeling of uneasiness, and managed to capture a figure hanging from the ceiling in the psych ward using the GhostTube SLS camera.
The cellblocks within the Penitentiary are also extremely active. Here, many people have sighted figures and heard noises from the past, which include intelligent voices. For many, one of the most popular cells to investigate is that of William “Red” Snyder. Red was murdered within this cell, after being locked up for murder and becoming a leader of a gang within the prison. Countless people have claimed to hear Red’s raspy voice within the cell whether that be disembodied or through ITC equipment.
Visiting the West Virginia Penitentiary
The West Virginia Penitentiary is open daily for guided tours and special paranormal events and investigations are often also hosted at the facility. There is plenty to explore at the old penitentiary and it opens its visitors up to so much interesting history.
If you are interested in other famously haunted prisons in the USA, I highly recommend checking out Ohio State Reformatory.
Thanks for reading!