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Deathly Destinations: West Virginia State Penitentiary

By Taber Andrew Bain (Flickr: West Virginia Penitentiary) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Moundsville, West Virginia is home to one of the most notorious prisons in all of the US: the West Virginia State Penitentiary. The prison ran for a good 119 years - from 1876 to 1995 - before retiring as an operational prison and becoming both a tourist attraction and training facility. But in its 119 years of operation, the West Virginia State Penitentiary became notorious for its violence, and even made the Department of Justice's top ten list of most violent prisons in the country. There was even a prison break in 1979, and a riot in 1986 that went on to become one of the most notorious riots in history. Many of the inmates kept at the prison were considered the worst of the worst: murderers, rapists and thieves. It is believed that nearly one thousand people died on the premises, which would explain why the prison has become such a hot spot for paranormal activity and the locations of literally thousands of individuals reports. Ninety four men were executed between the years 1899 to 1959 at the prison: 85 by hanging and 9 by electric chair.

The legends surrounding the prison say that the property the prison is on was actually property of Native Americans who lived in the area. It is believed that Native Americans has used the property as a sacred burial ground for their dead, and as the construction began on the prison, the negative energy from the deceased Native Americans were released into the prison, thus being part of the reason for all of the "fun" that occurs at the prison.

The earliest reports of paranormal activity date back to the 1930s! Guards that were essentially on look-out reported seeing an inmate roaming around the prisons grounds. After alerting other guards and sparking an investigation, it was determined that there was no prisoner roaming around outside of their cell. The guards shrugged it off, but this was the beginning of what would be reports of spirits roaming the property at West Virginia State Penitentiary.

The prison - also referred to as Moundsville Prison after the town it is located in - is also the apparent home of a spirit known simply as the "Shadow Man." As visitors, workers, and inmates walked the halls that comprised the prison, this shadow man would appear in the shadows cast from his "victims." He apparently has no visible features - so no facial components, no long flowing hair, nothing to identify who this shadow man could possibly be. He is simply shadow - nothing more, nothing less. Just a ghostly apparition left to roam the halls of the prison and taunt the people who dare travel through its corridors. Some believe that in the realm of the living, he was a guard at the prison, and he continues to do his walk-throughs of the prison cells in the afterlife. Others believe that he is a former inmate, who still walks the halls trying to find his way out of the prison, and on to the realm of the dead. The "Sugar Room" or "Sugar Shack" at West Virginia State was a common room that was used by the inmates when the weather outside was unkind, and it became the location of tons of fighting, gambling, and even murder: it is believed that 36 homicides occurred in the Sugar Room.

The prison is open for day time tours, as well as 3 hour and even overnight paranormal investigations, if you're up to it! They also put on a Halloween production around the holiday, as well as an escape room! You can find all of the information about these tours, investigations, and events at their website


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