On paper, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was a perfect place for people to recover from their mental health conditions. The facility was a sanctuary for people dealing with mental diseases to the outside world.
Unfortunately, behind closed doors, residents at the West Virginia facility dealt with a long list of horrors that will not be forgotten.
Ironically, Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was built based on the "Kirkbride Plan" in 1858.
That meant the place was designed to offer kindness, morality, and modern cures. The concept was used to construct 73 hospitals throughout the United States.
According to the Kirkbride Method, invented by Dr. Thomas Kirkbride, large open spaces that offered lots of sunlight and fresh air were important when treating mental health.
Sunlight was believed to be the best cure for mental health. In fact, the facility was created to ensure that it offered lots of sunlight to provide a lot of comfort to the patients.
Anything connected to the big city had to be avoided as much as possible. According to the doctor, the "big city" had sinful things that led to mental illnesses, which is why mental asylums were built away from the metropolis.
Initially, prisoners helped build Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Eventually, skilled workers from Europe were called in. The facility walls were incredibly thick to muffle screams by people undergoing agonizing experiences inside.
Construction delays, however, were caused by the American Civil War. The facility rests on 666 acres of land, and it boasts of having the largest hand-crafted stone masonry in the world, except for the Kremlin in Moscow.
The asylum was pretty self-sufficient as it had a water treatment plant, a farm, a dairy, and even a cemetery.
The institution officially opened for business in 1864. Behind closed doors, there was a lot of abuse at the institution. This was eventually revealed in a media expose. People started to call the asylum an insane prison.
In 1873, the asylum opened a wing for people of color. Men and women were usually kept in separate departments.
The Ridiculous "Mental Issues" That Landed People At Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
The first patient at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was a female victim of domestic violence. The admission criteria were generally ridiculous, but to be fair, little was known about mental illnesses at the time.
Otherwise, some things that made people end up in the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum included indigestion, asthma, masturbation, menopause, tuberculosis, getting kicked in the head by a horse, and reading too many novels. The list continued with laziness, doubts about mother's ancestors, superstition, drug addiction, epilepsy, losing sons in the war, brain fever, losing a limb, domestic problems, and even seduction.
Some of the patients were women dropped off by their husbands to claim their insurance. People who have diabetes also ended up in such institutions, as well as disabled veterans, because no one else knew where to take them.
"Annoying habits" such as drinking were also the reason many people ended up in the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.
In other words, many healthy people were treated like lunatics at the infamous institution. The saddest thing is that many of these people ended up spending all their lives in this institution. Many of them were buried in unmarked graves after their questionable deaths.
A Beautiful Vision Quickly Turned Into A Nightmare
Although Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum had a capacity for 250 patients, it had over 700 patients 14 years after it opened. By the 1950s, that number had risen to 2,600 patients, which means it had over ten times its intended capacity.
At this point, patients were left to fend for themselves, and there weren't enough beds for them all, so many had to sleep on the cold floors. Patients also roamed around wildly.
The institution relied on the food made from a farm designed to feed 300 people. For this reason, many patients suffered from malnutrition.
Additionally, several lobotomies were also conducted at the facility. It was a popular remedy for mental illness at the time. The worst thing is that the procedures were done without the patients' consent.
The "ice-pick lobotomies" were done by Dr. Walter Freeman, who was known as the "father of the lobotomy."
It is estimated that Freeman did about 4,000 lobotomies while at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. The barbaric medical procedure often resulted in the patient getting permanently brain-damaged. Many patients also died after the operation.
Frustrated Patients Turned Violent, Committed Murders
Understandably, many patients were quite frustrated with their hospitalization and mistreatment at the infamous asylum. It made them violent towards staff and other patients. One patient set one of the wings on fire in 1935.
Generally, patients who showed aggression were locked up and even chained to walls. The patients were whipped, tortured, confined to cages, immersed in ice-cold water, and given electroshock therapy.
Patients were crammed into small rooms meant for one, where they lived in their own filth. They also had to use broken chairs and beds and do without heating during winter. The asylum was also understaffed despite the presence of many violent patients.
In the '50s, the place was overcrowded with 2,400 patients, who had to endure unsanitary conditions and inhumane treatments such as bloodletting, murders, suicides, and other nightmares.
Cases of patients murdering each other at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum were also common. In one of the more disturbing cases, two patients hung the third from the ceiling using bedsheets. When the sheets failed to work, they placed his head under a metal bed frame and jumped up and down on it until it was crushed.
The staff at Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum faced similar risks as well. At one time, a nurse went missing for two months, only to be found at the bottom of an unused staircase two months later. The patients killed her.
Family members were kept from contacting their sick family members and were also advised never to open the letters the patients sent them. Therefore, the patients were completely isolated and hopeless.
The Closure Of Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
By 1986, Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum had turned into a prison rather than a mental hospital. Eventually, things were so bad that it was shut down in 1994. Before it closed down, Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was a horrific home for the demented, the insane, and the unfortunate.
The institution had operated as a psychiatric hospital from 1864 to 1994.
It was then turned into Weston State Hospital before it was once again given its initial name, Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. It was a part of a plan to turn it into a tourist attraction.
Since the closure of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, various paranormal incidents have been reported at the facility. For instance, a doctor said a ghost followed her home and haunted her.
Several people also claimed that they saw a ball of light move quickly down the hallways. Ghosts have also been seen walking through walls. There were also sounds of squeaky wheels rolling along the facility's hallways.
Apparently, doors had also been seen closing themselves. Others have also reported hearing loud bangs on the pipes.
One of the floors is apparently haunted by Slewfoot's ghost, who was slashed to death in a bathroom. This patient was also a murderer.
There were a lot of plans to transform the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. There were even plans to turn it into a hotel and a spa. Sadly, the rundown building worsened in 1999 after a police force played a paintball game there. Three of the officers were fired as a result.
In 2000, an American Civil War Museum was opened inside the building, but a fire hazard forced it to close shortly afterward.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Today
In 2007, Joe Jordan, a businessman, bought Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum for $1.5 million. The building cost a fortune to renovate.
The facility was turned into a venue for concerts, diner shows, ghost tours, and historical tours to recover some of those costs.
Today, walk-in tours are offered at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, and visitors can see the haunting place where unimaginable horrors happened.
Many people believe that the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum experiences regular paranormal activity. So, some people visit with the hope of catching a ghost on their cameras.
Apparently, a couple of former patients still live there as ghosts, including two teenage boys that live in the restroom.
Today, around 25,000 people visit Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum to enjoy the ghost tour each year. The place has haunting noises and other strange sightings that have made it an ideal destination for many curious visitors.
The money the tours generate is used to restore the place to its original appearance.