Posts Tagged With: Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Halloween visit to the haunted Lunatic Asylum

Visiting the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is my favorite place to explore as an artist and photographer.So when a friend explained a desire to see the huge building in person this Halloween, I was over joyed to share my love with them. So Oct 29th we spent the day exploring and learning about one of West Virginia’s most unusual places. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, constructed between 1858 and 1881, is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, and is purportedly the second largest in the world, next to the Kremlin. With the VIP tour tickets in hand, we spent our morning learning about the treatment and care of our mentally ill and how it has changed over the last 140 years. We also took this unique opportunity to photograph something that is in various stages of restoration and decay. The TALA was closed in 1994 due to the deterioration of the facility and changes in the laws about care of those who suffer from mental illness. At that time the State of West Virginia had no plan for the future of the building  and the 300 acres of farm land that they now had owned in the center of a sleepy farm town.cropped-fall-afternoon-on-the-lawn-of-the-trans-allegheny-lunatic-asylum-west-wv-2016.jpg

The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum fell into deep disrepair over the next 9 years leaving the community of Weston, West Virginia to wonder what the future would hold for their Georgian style monument. Would the building be sold off one huge block at a time, would a developer take control  of the land and building and turn it into something that would help the small town or would the TALA just fall apart from neglect. In 2003 Lewis County got its answer as  Morgantown asbestos demolition contractor  Joe Jordan bought the nationally listed historic building for 1.5 million dollars. It was the start of a new beginning for the building and the town.

As a local resident for many years, I have always heard the ghost stories told about the Asylum. I always wanted to get inside to see for myself if it was as spooky and mysterious as reported. Over the years I have been inside some of the buildings, but this trip I was astounded at the amount of work that the Jordan family has committed to doing. Here is just a sample of  images that show what kind of shape the building was in 2007 and in some cases still is today.

drop-cloth-in-plaster-work-room-tala

Drop cloth on the floor of the plaster repair shop TALA.

 

doors-of-salitery-confinement-at-the-tala

Sunlight on a solitary confinement room at the TALA.

.

closeup-of-kitchen-sink-at-the-tala-2016

Washing sink in the kitchen food prep area of the hospital. This seems to be one of the first sinks in this area the newer ones are stainless steel.

creepy-reflections-in-the-medication-dispensary-window-with-two-faces-at-the-tala-2016

Creepy reflections appear in a widow at the medication dispensary area of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.

The woman on the left is a lady as part of our tour group… the older woman on the right without a body remains a mystery. I also have several photos with orbs in them and some believe that the orbs are images of spirits that are in the room.

lilles-room-at-the-tala-2016

Lilly’s room at the TALA where at times ghostly things happen with the toys offered to her.

desk-and-chair-at-the-tala-common-room-first-floor-tala

Single desk in a common area of the TALA with bared windows and chipping paint.

metal-bed-frame-marks-enbedded-into-the-tile-floor-at-the-tala-2016

Metal bed frame imprinted into the tile floor of one of the patient rooms.

sunny-window-sill-at-the-tala-kitchen-area-2016

Sunlight streams through a cobweb covered window looking out on another portion of the TALA.

 

civil-war-section-of-tala-with-grotesque-faces

Doors and windows and grotesque faces on the back of the civil war section of the building of the TALA.

Our tour took us up the three  floors of the main building and from the civil war era to almost modern times with in the building. Each tour that Greg gives is slightly different and geared for the group he leads.Some portions of the main building have been restored had wonderful time period furnishings and made visitors understand what the buildings intended purpose was in the 1800’s.

dsc01108

Tour guide Greg showing off some of the furniture that is original to the TALA.

room-for-the-least-mentally-ill-first-floor-2016-tala

What a room at the TALA could look like for those who were well-behaved.

table-scape-at-the-tala-restored-dinning-table-first-floor

Common room area niche with “tea time” table setting on first floor wing

clock-tower-at-the-tala-2016

The first item to be restored was the clock tower and clocks the color that was chosen for the trim of the tower is a color match from the 1800’s.

alex-smits-at-the-tala-effects-photo

My friend Alex Smits in the reflection of a mantel mirror in the restored administrators office at the TALA.

dsc01103

Second floor nurses quarters unmarried nurses were allowed to live at the TALA and these are were they would have visited and relaxed in the common areas.

The VIP tour lasts around 90 to 95 minutes and covers every area inside the large stone building from the entry area to the scary electro-shock therapy rooms and solitary confinement rooms. It showed what the building was meant to be and also showed visitors what really happened in the days of over crowding when a one person room would have three or four living in small 10 x 10 cells that reminded me of prison cells rather than recovery rooms.

observation-window-of-the-electro-shock-therapy-room-at-the-tala-2016

Observation window in the wall of the shock therapy room.

Alex and I both felt a mixture of fascination and horror while on the tour when we found out the many ways Dr.’s tried to “help” the people who found themselves committed here. I have often been disappointed in our fellow-man but when a person realizes the reasons that were used to place people in facilities like this one… if makes the hair stand up on the back of you neck.

REASONS FOR ADMISSION
WEST VIRGINIA HOSPITAL FOR THE INSANE (WESTON)
OCTOBER 22, 1864 to DECEMBER 12, 1889Amenorrhea
Asthma
Bad company
Bad habits & political excitement
Bad whiskey
Bite of a rattle snake
Bloody flux
Brain fever
Business nerves
Carbonic acid gas
Carbuncle
Cerebral softening
Cold
Congetion of brain
Constitutional
Crime
Death of sons in the war
Decoyed into the army
Deranged masturbation
Desertion by husband
Diptheria
Disappointed affection
Disappointed love
Disappointment
Dissipation of nervesDissolute habits
Dog bite
Domestic affliction
Domestic trouble
Douby about mother’s ancestors
Dropsy
Effusion on the brain
Egotism
Epileptic fits
Excessive sexual abuse
Excitement as officer
Explosion of shell nearby
Exposure & hereditary
Exposure & quackery
Exposure in army
Fall from horse
False confinement
Feebleness of intellect
Fell from horse
Female disease
Fever
Fever & loss of law suit
Fever & nerved
Fighting fire
Fits & desertion of husband

Gastritis
Gathering in the head
Greediness
Grief
Gunshot wound
Hard study
Hereditary predisposition
Ill treatment by husband
Imaginary female trouble
Immoral life
Imprisonment
Indigestion
Intemperance
Interferance
Jealousy
Jealousy & religion
Kick of horse
Kicked in the head by a horse
Laziness
Liver and social disease
Loss of arm
Marriage of son
Masturbation & syphillis
Masturbation for 30 years
Medicine to prevent conception

Menstrual deranged
Mental excitement
Milk fever
Moral sanity
Novel reading
Nymphomania
Opium habit
Over action on the mind
Over heat
Over study of religion
Over taxing mental powers.
Parents were cousins
Pecuniary losses: worms
Periodical fits
Political excitement
Politics
Puerperal
Religious enthusiasm
Religious excitement
Remorse
Rumor of husband’s murder or desertion
Salvation army
Scarlatina
Seduction
Seduction & dissappointment

Self abuse
Severe labor
Sexual abuse and stimulants
Sexual derangement
Shooting of daughter
Smallpox
Snuff
Snuff eating for two years
Softening of the brain
Spinal irritation
Sun stroke
Sunstroke
Superstition
Supressed masturbation
Supression of menses
Tabacco & masturbation: hysteria
The war
Time of life
Trouble
Uterine derangement
Venerial excesses
Vicious vices in early life
Women
Women trouble
Young lady & fear

Sources: http://www.trans-alleghenylunaticasylum.com/main/history3.html

In most cases we would all be committed and institutionalized for the rest of our lives here if they still fallowed these reasons. Thank goodness we have modern medications and treatments.Yet, our tour guide repeatedly told us that several patients at the Asylum cried and became distraught when they closed down the building and had to be move. Some patients had lived inside the gates of the TALA their whole lives and were not stable enough to understand why they had to leave.

No matter how you feel about the TALA it is an interesting tour and a very educational one. I left the building with mixed feelings, I felt shame and heart-break for the people who lived here, fascination for the history and architecture, scared in some of the rooms and by the detailed information given about procedures and treatments. I felt sadness while looking at the art of the patients. I did not include many of my photos because the drawings and painting evoke such strong emotions that I felt as if I was sharing something very personal and did not have the right to.

In the end I had a great time, I got spend time with someone I really enjoy, and got to take photos of a historic old creepy building.. what a wonderful Halloween I had.

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Civil War, Halloween, Lewis County, museums, Photos, sickness, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Travel, wellness | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Victorian Era Mummies in West Virginia

This is a story of one West Virginia mans curious mind. How he managed to develop a formula for making mummies and how he refused to give his secret formula away for years.How his experiments resulted in two mummified females from the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (also known as the TALA in Weston, Lewis County, WV) and how they have survived for over 120 years.

Image being alive during the Victorian Period (1837 to 1901) in the United States. Interest in all the sciences was growing and new discoveries were happening in every field. The interest in Egyptian culture and mummies is fueled by the discovery of the Pharaoh  Ramses II  in 1881. People are collecting relics of everything human, bones, teeth, hair and death masks were all common.Ordinary people are struck with deep curiosity about our world and how it worked.P.T. Barnum was touring the country with a spectacular collection of wild animals, strange entertainment acts, and items collected from around the world. Sideshows traveled small towns with strange examples of natural oddities that everyone could see for a few cents.So for one farmer/undertaker is was a wonderful time to explore his own curiosity about Egypt and their mummies.

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia built 1903

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia circa 1903

Graham Hamrick of Philippi, WV was not only a farmer but also a local undertaker. In his life he was educated in common burial processes and use of embalming fluids. He found the process of mummification interesting and wanted to learn more. It is stated that he found his formula with in the pages of the Bible somewhere among the pages of The Book of Genesis. With a secret formula in hand, Hamrick gathered materials and began to experiment with the process. Hamrick is said to have mummified fruit, vegetables, small animals and snakes before the trying to mummify a human.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Female Mummy #1 taller of the two

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Philippi Mummy #2 smaller of the two

To mummify a human Hamrick  would need human remains to prove his secret formula worked. Living with in a day ride to Weston, and the TALA, Hamrick  arranged for the purchase of two sets of unclaimed female remains at the insane asylum. This fact makes me sad for the two woman, who were forgotten by families, sold to a farmer and mummified instead of having proper burials. After transporting the remains to his farm Hamrick began the process of turning the remains into mummies.  crop of TALA front lawn on Easter

At the time the process is thought to have taken several weeks but no one was really sure how long. When Hamricks process finished and the results were visible, he had created what resembled Egyptian mummies.He began to share his successes with others in the local area and beyond.

Eventually, he was contacted by the Smithsonian Institute, who wanted to add the mummies to the museum’s collection and display them to the public with the formula he invented. The farmer refused to share the formula even though he had sent in the process into the U.S. Patent office.The mummies remained in Barbour county until they were recruited by P.T. Barnum’s for  his circus shows. The Mummies spent several years touring the United States during the end of the 1800’s.

Finally, they were returned to Barbour County and the Hamrick family. They stored the bodies in several different places over the years, in the barn on the farm, under the bed of a local history buff. Then in 1985 the two female mummies even survived the worst flood in North Central West Virginia.

 James Ramsey, an 82-year-old museum curator, explained in 1994: “After the flood dropped, they were covered with green fungus and all kind of corruption. [A man] secured some kind of a mixture that would get the green mold off them and also the hairs that were growing on them.”

The mummies would finally come to rest in the Philippi Historical Societies hands and be displayed at the Train Depot Museum,where they still remain to this day. They have the mummies displayed with the “Secret Formula” posted on the wall of the display room.

 

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Philippi, WV Train Depot Historical Society Museum

 

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Graham Hamrick information and formula

The Historical Society also was able to get a copy of a letter written by one of the ladies  before her death at the Tran Allegheny Insane Asylum. The transcription of the letter is sad. It is hard for me to believe this young woman (age around 17) would be left and forgotten by a husband and family. Yet,it gives us great insight into the world of the mentally ill in the 19th century.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Transcription of a letter from mummified woman to family 1880’s

I found the whole experience to the Depot Museum  wonderful. The other objects in the collection are educational also. Most dating back to the civil war era and the stories of the battles that filled the hills of this town are worth their own trip to the museum. Philippi  being the location of the first land battle of the Civil War makes the entire town a treasure trove of stories for further visits.

If you are lucky enough to be traveling in the north central portion of West Virginia. Take Rt #250 through the historic covered bridge into Philippi to see the Mummies. The museum is on the right just across the river next to the train tracks. Pay the small donation fee and take a look at one the little Mummies that Philippi made.

I saw the Mummies in Philippi WV.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Country life, Farming, ghost stories, historic locations, mummies, museums, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, traveling | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Easter Egg Hunting at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Every Easter we try to spend at least part of our day at one of North Central West Virginia most interesting places, The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum a.k.a. as the Weston State Hospital. This century old building is now the site of many community activities and in is an ongoing state of restoration. It is one of the places that I visit regularly with family and friends because of the wide verity of activities that go one in the stone building and on the 300 acre property.This massive structure and the grounds that surround it are the largest stone cut building in North America and second only in size to the Kremlin in Russia.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

The history of the this wonderful grand old buildings constructions begins before the civil war and official opening of its doors took place in 1881. The Hospital was home to up to 2400 patients in the 1950’s and continued to house the mentally ill until the last of 1994 when the mental hospital was officially closed for use. Finally after sitting abandon for years, in Aug of 2007 the Jordan family bought the building and grounds. Ever since that sale on the court-house lawn, the family have been on a journey to restore and reuse the building and grounds. It is now a place that draws thousands of families, tourists, photographers, ghost hunters and television crews. They offer tours, ghost hunts, plays, outdoor concerts and one of the largest Easter egg hunts in our state.

I try to take Christopher to play on the huge 3 acre front lawn whenever there is a community activity. In the center of the huge yard is wonderful water fountain that is the center of all the outdoor gatherings. Christopher and a school  mate try to capture a balloon that is in the fountain before the 400 hundred colored eggs are ready for them to find.

Fountain at the Easter Egg Hunt at the TALA

Fountain at the Easter Egg Hunt at the TALA

 

 

Balloon caught in the fountain of the TALA

Balloon caught in the fountain of the TALA

view of the fountain from inside the entry of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Assylum

view of the fountain from inside the entry of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

While the 200 children and their families prepare for the day of hunting eggs, the TALA opens its doors to the public, offering tours of the 1-4 floors of the main building. Other tours take place on weekdays and at night if  any one wants to see some of the hospitals famous ghosts. They also offer one of the east coasts best Halloween Haunted Houses in Oct every year. Named “Ward 21” after another building on the grounds it never fails to scare the pee out of several visitors every year.  I have been on some of the tours and went through the haunted house myself and all of the activities are well worth the price of admission. My best friend Natalie and I did the haunted house together several years ago and believe me what we experienced in that dark haunted house could fill a blog post all by its self.

While inside the building Christopher and I took a look around at some of  the rooms that were still in need of  restorations and cooled off in the cool corridors of the 4 foot thick walls of  this massive structure.

Visiting area in side the TALA.

Visiting area in side the TALA.

 

Main hall way to the west  at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Main hall way to the west at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Soon we heard the call for the”Egg Hunt” to begin and returned to the yard, and lined up for the afternoon of racing around collecting eggs. The race courses are divided into age groups to make every thing fair for the littler ones.  The horn sounds and off they ran under huge trees that have seen more years than my short life span.

Easter Egg hunters on the Lawn of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Easter Egg hunters on the Lawn of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

At the end of the race Christopher and some friends sat in the shadow of a large oak and opened the eggs that our community helps to pay for each year. I think we went home with about 20 eggs, each with a prizes or candy inside of each egg.

Kevin Freeman a local business owner and daughter open eggs after the hunt

Kevin Freeman a local business owner and daughter open eggs after the hunt

While the crowds began to filter away from the grounds and head home for more Easter dinners and games. I took a few more shots of the wonderful grounds and some but not all of the buildings.

Outside view of the visiting room

Outside view of the visiting room end of main building

 

 

door into back of modern addition of building

door into back of modern addition of building

window looking out into court yard of the civil war section of the hospital

window looking out into court-yard of the civil war section of the hospital

Easter was another wonderful day at one of Weston, West Virginia’s most interesting places. I hope that you can now see why we try to visit and support one of my favorite historic buildings. For more information on visiting here and taking a tour or visiting the haunted house please take a look at their website at The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. There are many community activities that this old building supports and even if you only spend a day on the lawn watching children play it is a day well spent.

photo of the TALA photo credit to thier wed site

photo of the TALA photo credit to their wed site. Transalleghenylunaticasylum.com

Categories: Easter, Holidays, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, West Virginia, Weston | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

The Helsingian Pathfinder

the inward path is the way ahead

Daydreaming Millennial

Come for the thoughts, stay with the journey.

Monkeying Around

Monks, monkeys and monkeying around. An adventurous life.

Dreaming Reality

If Existence is a dream, let us dream perfection....

alifeofvanity.wordpress.com/

For anyone who has ever thought of attempting the #vanlife, A Life of VANity is an unfiltered, realistic look at the unglamorous day-to-day happenings of life in a Chevy G20 Conversion van. Unlike other #vanlife blogs, A Life of VANity is here to show you that it isn’t all roadtrips and ocean-side views, and that there’s nothing wrong with living in a backyard or two.

Beyond the Campfire

Stories of exploration

Mark All My Words

True Stories of Nature, Culture, and Everything in Between

Thrifty Campers

Nature knows no such barriers

Missmackenzierose

Dream-Explore-Discover

Camellia's Cottage

Lifestyle Blog

Free to express

thoughts, experiences, travel, feelings, stories, diaries and many more...

Appalachian Housewife

The Mullens' Family's Journey Running The Pioneer Farm at Twin Falls State Park

Recipes by chefkreso

Cooking with imagination

%d bloggers like this: