Located in Weston, a commanding stone structure stands near the city's center. The single rising clock tower, flanked on each side by rows of windows and pointed arches, is the mark of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.
This building, once known as the Weston State Hospital, opened its doors in 1864 and operated as a treatment center for people with all manner of mental illnesses.
The hospital closed and stopped treating patients in 1994. However, it was opened again for tours in 2007 when it was bought by Joe Jordan, of Morgantown.
Photo courtesy of Bethany Cutright
The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, in Weston, opened in 1864 and was known as the Weston State Hospital. Today, many popular tours are conducted on the grounds of the building supposedly haunted by ghosts of the patients who resided in its walls.
One such tour is the Civil War Walking Tour, which covers the history of the asylum in its first decade of existence. The overlap of local culture, and the changing nature of the country, greatly impacted the asylum during the war. This subsequently allows for a tour that covers a brief time period yet displays a story that is rich with facts.
In addition to the Civil War tour, the asylum offers two other historical tours. One tour is designed to take visitors through all four floors of the building, and a shortened version limits this exposure to the first floor. Both events cover topics such as the humane treatment of patients and how West Virginia became a state. The extended tour leads visitors to doctors' and nurses' quarters and discusses the 1935 fire that destroyed much of the asylum.
"It was initially a great place," Bethany Cutright, who works at the asylum, said, but added, "History isn't all positive." She commended the nature of the tours, which "try to share both sides of the story," and insists that the response from the public is positive, saying most people enjoy hearing about the rich culture.
Paranormal and ghost hunting tours also are available. The asylum has tours scheduled in each month, from May through December, including a haunted house in October and a ghost hunt on Halloween night. During these sorts of tours, visitors are taken through the building in search of paranormal activity, such as voices, sounds and sightings of apparitions. Notably, the asylum has been featured on the SyFy channel's "Ghost Hunters" and "Ghost Hunters Academy" and the Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures."
Aside from tours that are offered all year, the asylum holds special events that involve the community. One such event is the Moonstruck Music Festival, which takes place in June. It which offers camping and vendors while holding a band competition as the centerpiece. Bands come from all around to enter the competition, including those in the country and rock genres.
Funds that are generated by tours and events are partially put back into the hospital's ongoing renovation. Heating and cooling units are placed in the wards to combat changes in outside temperature, and parts of the building are being rebuilt and painted. Ward 1 recently was completed and now looks as it did in 1964.
The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum plays no small part in the local economy, which is boosted greatly by tourism. Executive directors at the asylum work in tandem with Weston's board of directors who, together, reach out to local hotels. The town, as a whole, benefits by knowing tour and event dates for the upcoming year.
More information is available online at www.trans-alleghenylunaticasylum.com.