Moundsville State Penitentiary - Your Next Family Vacation
Unlike some places that just close the doors and let the rotting process begin, the Moundsville Economic Development Council quickly got a twenty-five year lease on the old prison and began tours to the public and even better, ghost tours! The prison has been labeled one of the most violent prisons in the United States, boasting 94 executions and two riots, one as recent as 1986 and has been the home of some of the most violent criminals in the U.S.
The ten acre Gothic style Moundsville State Penitentiary opened in 1866 and was built by the prisoners. Early inmates were expected to work while in prison. For years, the prisoners made the place self sufficient, saving the state a lot of money. Inmates were even expected to attend schooling while in prison.
By 1986, the prison was in a sorry state. Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions led to even more violent and cranky prisoners. The 1986 riot took place over two days and during that time, prison workers were
held hostage and three inmates were killed. After the riot, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled the prison to shut down, which finally happened in 1995.
85 men were hung at the prison and nine died by "Old Sparky," the nickname for their electric chair that was built by a prison inmate.
(From Left: Jonathan Wiley, Amberrose Hammond, Tom Maat & Doug Semig)
Michigan's Otherside took a one night trip there in 2006 and spent two nights there for the Mid-Atlantic Paranormal Conference June 8-9 2007.
We piled into the car filled to the top with our junk and never ending snacks and arrived 6 hours later. The prison is formidable by day, but at night with the subtle outside lighting casting upwards on the Gothic style architecture and old, worn sandstone bricks, the castle looks like it could come alive.
While our group was setting up and talking with other people inside, I could tell our new guy Jonathan from Grimstone Inc who had never been to the prison was getting antsy to explore the place. So I grabbed a flashlight and Jonathan and we wondered down a few halls. We didn't wander far and coming back towards the lobby, we thought it funny how we both kept looking behind us. I don't know what it is about that place but I do not like being last while walking around there. The constant feeling of being followed is always with me in that building.
As to be expected with an old building with history, the prison is brimming with ghost stories and even while it was operating, the guards would see things they couldn’t explain. The apparition of a man who was killed in the machine shop underneath the main office building has been seen coming out of there. We sat in front of the door for a while, but no ghost made itself present that night.
While walking around the death row area, we feel we caught an EVP. Jonathan and Tom had heard the sound of someone shuffling their feet behind them, only to turn around and find no one there. At that moment on the audio we were recording, Tom noticed some interesting whispers. When we isolate that clip, I’ll load it up on here for anyone who reads this to check out.
I think one of the creepiest parts of the whole prison is the medical ward. Dentist chairs, X-ray machines and all kinds of other odd medical tools are still up there. It just feels like you're stuck in a creepy horror movie. When our group was heading up there, another group of people claimed they had heard the sound of a doctor talking and giving medical instructions to someone. We didn’t hear any voices, but like I said, just being up there is creepy enough.
If you have been to Moundsville and had an experience you’d like to share, write us!
Reader Submission Spring 2011
Hi my name is Donna and I live in Ohio about 40 minutes away from Moundsville. We just came back from the over night ghost hunt at the West Virginia Penitentiary and I have to tell you it was the best experience I have ever had! The first place we went was to the Hole. We were there for about a half hour doing an EVP session when out of no where, I got the hoodie of my sweatshirt tugged gently, like someone was just trying to let me know they were there. After getting home and listening to the recorder my husband asked R.D. Walls, "why do you choose to stay here" and he said, "I don't"!!!
We got some great EVP's from all over the prison. At one point we were walking the cell blocks in New Wall and I kept hearing footsteps behind me and I kept checking but no one was there. When I got to the end of the cell block, I took a picture down the length we just walked with my night vision camera and there is a man standing at the end of the cell block! It was awesome to catch that figure! I KNEW SOMEONE WAS FOLLOWING US!! But we had such a great time we're going back.
Reader Submission June 2010
Hi everyone! I'm with Pittsburgh Paranormal Society and had a great experience at Moundsville. We were there to help them film commercials for their annual haunted house event. After filming, I started to wander around a bit, unable to resist the idea of exploring without a guide. Eventually, though, I had to head back to my car as the three people who had come with me (one non ghost hunter who was an ex-prison guard in PA, my son and his girlfriend) wanted to begin the hour plus journey home.
When I got to my car which was parked in the courtyard, I saw that one truck from the TV crew was also still there. As I went to load my car, I said something to my son and got no reply. I turned to see what the matter was only to see all 10 remaining people staring up at the third floor, literally open mouthed. Looking up, I saw why.
In a third floor window there were lights that somewhat defy description. They were bluish white, very cold looking, and they were moving around each other almost like they were playing.
First came the questions to the TV crew: anyone left in there? Do you have any equipment that could do that or do you know of any? No on all counts. I could only get one other person to go back in with me, but I was determined. Clear paranormal activity in one of the most haunted places in my part of the US? No way I wasn’t going back in!
Inside, we had missed our opportunity to catch the lights with our camera but there was plenty more action to be had in terms of audio. First, we were in a room that looks like it had served as a basketball court. We could hear breathing all around us. We were definitely being played with. When the TV tech with me expressed some fear, I decided to put an end to that if possible and said, "Ok, that's enough with the breathing, we know you're here. If you'd like to show yourself to us, now would be good.” (A side note here is that I always keep in mind that cute saying about how ghosts were people too and try to speak to them normally, as though I am actually just conversing. I can't say it improves my results but it does seem to calm others to keep things as normal as possible.)When I later reviewed my recording, right after I said that, someone leaned right into the microphone of my recorder and let out a deep, deliberate, almost theatrical breath.
Next came a sound from another room. This sound was of something heavy being dragged. By far the most interesting development of the night for me. My 19 year old son was not inside with me and slept the entire way home. I never had a chance to discuss what had happened with him before he woke the next day and told me he'd had a nightmare that he was a prisoner there and had been killed and dragged off. I didn't play the sound for him, I was a little unnerved. Mess with me until the cows come home and I'm good, but my child? That’s different.
I didn't say much about the incident until one day when those jerks from the Travel Channel went to Moundsville. Normally I avoid that show like the plague because I think they are stupid and dangerous. But they were doing Moundsville so I decided to watch. My son was at the computer table behind the couch on which I was sitting. They caught the same sound on their broadcast and when I heard it I turned to look at my son. He was standing up staring at the TV and had lost all color in his face. He said that was the sound from his dream.
So I've taken an interest in Moundsvile. I have no doubt the place is haunted and it's sort of my holy grail to prove it. A prison built next to a mysterious burial mound is too interesting to pass by and I want to know what the dragging sound was and is.
Have you caught this sound or turned up any stories that might relate to that experience? I'd love to hear from you if you have.
Good luck with your investigations!
Send us an email if you've experienced something similar to this tale!
- Official Website www.wvpentours.com
- Information from personal tours