The Haunted Hills of West Virginia: Things to Do This Fall

Fall is finally here in West Virginia. The leaves are turning colors and falling off trees, the weather is below eighty degrees and there’s a slight chill in the air. When the temperatures outside start to drop, it just feels natural to get in the Halloween spirit. West Virginia is actually the home of many real haunted places. Each of these places has a unique story to tell that you can only experience for yourself.  

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Located in Weston, West Virginia, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is a historic landmark that once served as an insane asylum for the mentally ill. This asylum began operating in the 1800s and only stopped in 1994! At its peak, the asylum was home to over 2,400 patients that suffered in overcrowded, poor conditions. The building itself is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, and only second to the Kremlin in the world. The asylum is known for being haunted- ghost apparitions are frequent, which has resulted in visits from television shows such as SyFy's Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters Academy, the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures and Paranormal Challenge. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum offers both historical and paranormal tours from March to November, making this the perfect destination to visit during the month of October. 

West Virginia Penitentiary

One of the most infamous prisons in America, the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville is known for its volatile history and for being the home of some of America’s most dangerous criminals. It’s seen riots, fires and the execution of nearly 100 prisoners because of the death penalty. 

           One of Moundsville’s most notorious criminals was Harry Powers, a lonely-hearts killer. Powers murdered two young women and three children before his arrest in 1931. He used newspaper classified ads to lure women with promises of love and marriage before murdering and robbing them. He was hanged just one year after his arrest. The penitentiary is thought to be haunted due to the sheer volume of deaths that occurred in the prison, caused by murders, suicides and the combination of the electric chair and hanging-style executions. During the Halloween season, the penitentiary offers several activities for visitors to choose from. Besides normal tours, you can participate in zombie paintball, ‘The North Walk” (where the maximum-security section of the prison used to be- also considered the most haunted), a Dungeon of Horrors (an elevated haunted house experience) and even kid’s nights! The penitentiary even has an “Escape the Pen” game, similar to an escape room. 

The Mothman Statue

In 1966, sights of a moth-like creature with glowing red eyes were reported in Point Pleasant West Virginia and neighboring areas of Clendenin and Salem WV. The creature was described as 6-7 feet tall with a 10-foot wingspan. One year later in 1967, the Silver Bridge that connects Point Pleasant across the river to Gallipolis, Ohio collapsed, sending pedestrians and cars straight into the river. This was one of the worst American tragedies of the time, with 46 casualties. Some people believe that the Mothman was in town to warn people of the upcoming catastrophe. Others believe that the Mothman is an angel of death that caused the accident. The Mothman is well-known to most West Virginia residents today. You can visit the statue of the Mothman in Point Pleasant at any time or go to the Mothman festival that happens annually each September. 

Lake Shawnee Amusement Park

Lake Shawnee’s bloody past starts in the late 1700s. A man named Mitchell Clay raised his family on a farm in the now present-day Mercer County, West Virginia. In 1783, a bloody fight ensued between the Clays and a Native American tribe, who killed two of the Clay children. To get his revenge, Clay murdered the entire tribe with the help of other settlers. Years later in the 1920s, a man built an amusement park on Clay’s land. During the park’s time of operation, six guests died in total, including a girl who died on the swings and a boy who drowned in the pond. The park was abandoned in 1966. Another 20 years passed, and the land was dug into to make room for new developments and neighborhoods. Construction workers uncovered ancient Native American artifacts and skeletons and decided to stop further development. The land is said to be cursed. The Lake Shawnee Amusement Park still stands to this day. In October, the park hosts a Dark Carnival. Visitors can see the haunted land for themselves at dusk and participate in creepy activities. 

North Bend Rail Trail

The North Bend Rail Trail is a 72-mile-long trail that extends from Clarksburg to Parkersburg, West Virginia. The Silver Run Tunnel in Ritchie County is a spot along the trail that is said to be haunted. Train engineers in the late 1800s to the early 1900s have spotted a ghostly woman in a white dress at the end of the tracks in the tunnel. Each time an engineer stops the train to search for the woman, she vanishes. No one knows where this woman came from, but she is rumored to be a bride that was on her way to Parkersburg who was killed before she was married. Her remains were found in a cellar of an old house near the Silver Run Tunnel #19. If you decide to visit the tunnel in Cairo West Virginia, be sure to take a flashlight! The tunnels are dark even during the day. 

Not only can you visit all of these haunted places yourself, but you can participate in many of the activities that these places have to offer during the Halloween season. Each place works very hard to bring in tourists from around and out of the state, so gather up your friends for some happy haunting this October!

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Edited by Katie Carnefix