If one is going to believe that any location can be haunted, a gigantic, gothic stone structure that served as one of our nation's most notorious insane asylums for more than a century would be a highly appropriate candidate.
A perfect contender that fits the bill is the castle-like structure known as the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum of Weston, West Virginia. Many believe it is the most haunted structure in America today.
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was opened in a time and era when living conditions inside mental institutions would be considered the stuff of horror films.
Construction on the Trans-Allegheny began in 1858 near the then small-town of Weston and was completed in 1881, with some disruptions delaying the work caused by the Civil War.
Interestingly, the architecture of the facility was strongly influenced by the Gothic styles of old Europe, giving the asylum the look and feel of an ancient Medieval castle.
Most of the early work was done by prison labor, although the final stonework was completed by skilled stone masons brought in from Europe.
The construction the asylum was made possible by the Kirkbride Plan, which was a state program to build a number of facilities for the mentally ill.
Ironically the Kirkbride Plan was a public and policy response generated by the extremely horrid conditions for the insane up until that date.
Before there were formal asylums for the mentally ill, these unfortunate people were housed in prisons, county jails, dark basements or dismal public poor houses.
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum began taking residents in 1861 long before it was completed, and patients were continually added until the structure was completed some 20 years later.
Even though facilities such as this were to usher in a new, more modern era for treatment of the insane, treatment methods and living conditions of more than a 100 years ago were often brutal, cruel - even monstrous and depraved.
Keep in mind that treatment of mental disorders was not well understood in the late 1800s, and even as time progressed into the 20th Century.
A number of shockingly barbaric treatments would come and go - including a crude form of electro-shock therapy, lobotomies (crude brain surgeries) and bizarre chemical treatments.
The Trans-Allegheny Asylum was designed for 250 patients, but eventually a dreadful 2,400 souls were jammed into the filthy, crowded conditions of this unhappy place.
Under community and government regulatory pressure, the asylum was finally shuttered in 1994 after more than a century of operation.
PARANORMAL REPUTATION STARTED EARLY
From the very beginning, hints of the paranormal activity surrounded the establishment of Trans-Allegheny. For example, its grounds consisted of 666 acres - 666, the famous Biblical mark of the Beast.
Some of the dimensions of the building were said to be based on secret Masonic cult formulas.
As for actual practice, it was common to lock the worst patients in cages, where they raged like animals and wallowed naked in their own filth - often in chains.
Over the years there were many incidents of deranged patients killing other patients. An occasional asylum worker was also murdered. Many female workers were ra**d.
In one case, a nurse mysteriously went missing while on duty in the asylum. Her rotting body was found two months later at the bottom of a stairwell in an obscure corner of the building.
After a few decades of operation, reports of hauntings and the sounds of the restless souls of the miserable undead became commonplace.
Some workers lasted only a few days after hearing inexplicable noises, such as the squeaky wheels of gurneys rolling along a tiled hallway.
Also common are throaty moans and bone-chilling hysterical laughter - all emanating from rooms or floors that were otherwise empty of any living soul.
One time a "ghost" even seemed to follow a medical personnel to her home off and away from asylum grounds. In this case, a female psychiatrist had been treating a patient who committing suicide.
Apparitions of this deceased, troubled soul began appearing in the doctor's home - and even moved from home to home with her - and she claims the spirit still troubles her today.
The number of apparitions spotted in the vast confines of Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum are too numerous to mention. Those that have sighted them include doctors, managements personnel, nurses, aides, orderlies and even janitors.
By the time the facility closed in the 1990s, its reputation as a heavily haunted location became common knowledge in the local West Virginia community.
It's reputation has since gained national recognition.
The Trans-Allegheny was the subject of an investigation by one of the most high-profile ghost hunting teams in the U.S. - TAPS - The Atlantic Paranormal Society of the popular TV show "Ghost Hunters".
The TAPS crew came armed with a bristling array of modern technological ghost-hunting equipment, including infrared cameras, EVP devices, subsonic audio recording devices and more.
They were able to capture at least one anomalous video of an apparition that has defied scientific explanation.
One of the most haunted areas of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is known as the Civil War wing.
Here many people have seen the ghost of a soldier who has come to be known as Jacob.
Another "hot spot" is the Fourth Floor, where only the truly brave dare to spend a night or time alone.
This is an area of thumping and banging noises, rustling sounds, whispering voices, eerie cackles, crashing sounds and ghost sightings.
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was renamed the Weston State Hospital in later years. After it was closed, it remained inactive for a period until an investor by the name of Joe Jordon purchased it in 2007.
He opened it for tours, partially to raise cash to help restore the building because it was in a considerable state of decay after sitting idle for more than a decade.
Jordon changed the name back to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum - for obvious marketing reasons - as interest in the paranormal and ghost hunting has exploded across the nation in recent years.
Today anyone can book a tour - day or night - and literally hundreds of people report strange happenings during a walkthrough of the facility.
One person, for example, said she felt she was "being watched" during the tour, and when she reached the famous Fourth Floor, she felt a mysterious tugging on her pants leg!
Whatever the case, the reputation of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum as one of America's most haunted locations has long since achieved the status of legend.
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