The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (TALA), which became the Weston State Hospital, was a Kirkbride psychiatric hospital that was operated from 1864 until 1994 by the state of West Virginia. It is now known by its first name.
Weston, where the asylum was located, was a company town. When it shut down in 1994, the town died with it. Driving down main street, multiple storefronts are boarded up or empty. It’s a depressing little town.
|In the lobby, inmate artwork is displayed, left behind when the facility was shut down in 1994.|
Although it began under the best of intentions, it wasn’t long before it became overcrowded and dangerous for its inmates. A facility that was built for a couple hundred inmates housed multiple thousands, all with a variety of mental health disorders and needing care that the state was incapable of delivering.
|Although the PhasmaBox app had yielded good results at other locations, at TALA it was a dud.|
Sadly, a lot of women were sent there for the terrible crimes such as talking back to their husbands, reading novels, or having minds of their own. Other committal reasons, for men and women alike, were “bad whiskey,” “time of life,” “cerebral softening,” and “issues with masturbation.”
|Although we deployed the light up cat balls every time we stopped, these too were duds at TALA.|
|Establishing laser grids is another popular ghost hunting
technique. This allows us to detect movement more easily.
|Gathered in the double murder bathroom on the 2nd floor; dowsing rods
are a common ghost hunting tool. Jess, our guide, is in the middle of the floor.
|I’m not sure what that white swoosh is in the photo.|
“Lily” is a little girl spirit, believed to be the child of one of the patients — yes, often little children would accompany their mothers to TALA or poor Lily could have been the result of a rape while a patient was at the facility. There’s actually a room on the first floor solely devoted to Lily. The room has toys and ghost hunters like us bring candy and toys and trinkets for her.
Although we didn’t get much action in Lily’s room, others in our group did. One of the balls moved of its own volition. While we were in the room, though, all was silent and still, except for the hallway outside: we heard footsteps, although the rest of our group was in a more distant ward.
Although we hadn’t expected to be able to last the whole night, each floor seemed to get better and better, although in retrospect, the violent women’s ward and the violent men’s ward on the third floor were the highlight.
“Dean” is another famous entity at TALA, on the violent men’s ward. He was brutally murdered by two other inmates (James Woods, aka “Big Jim,” and David Mason), on the criminally insane ward. The two inmates repeatedly tried to hang Dean, but couldn’t quite accomplish his death, until they laid him out on the floor, put the bed post on his head, and jumped up and down on the bed, bashing Dean’s skull in. Dean is a quiet, timid spirit.
|Dean’s room. On the bed is a REM pod, another common ghost hunting tool.|
As a group, we gathered in Dean’s room. One of our group had noise-cancelling headphones on listening to the spirit box; she would call out words as she heard them, but she couldn’t hear our questions. The words she called out always seemed to correspond to our questions: “Are you having fun?” “Bored!” or “Do you want us to leave?” “Wait!” We also had flashlights that the spirit could turn on or off, in response to questions.
But at one point, the responses changed mood. One of our group stepped out into the hallway, and noticed one or more shadow figures. Dean stopped reacting. The spirit box responses changed to high pitched screams. The shadow figures are believed to be Big Jim and David Mason. When we crowded out into the hall, we all saw the shadow figure pace back and forth at the other end of the hallway, in front of a window — we could see the light from outside be blocked off as the figure moved back and forth.
I think we had the most fun on the violent women’s ward. Donna, the group member who had been wearing the noise cancelling headphones in Dean’s room, turned her back to us and again donned the noise cancelling headphones. We sent the men down into the violent women’s ward hallway first; Donna called out words from the spirit box such as “ass explosion,” “cute” “more.” Then four of us women headed down into the hall. The words changed dramatically. “Leave!” “Death.” “Whore!!” “Bitch.” We sent down variations of the group into the women’s ward, with similar results. It had us cracking up, but it’s worth noting that a couple of the group members, including one of our guides, were scratched.
The fourth floor held the drug rehabilitation ward and an alcohol rehabilitation ward. The side devoted to the drug rehabilitation ward was the creepiest (but not the place with the most activity). For decades, both inmates in the ward and their attendants had reported a weird entity that isn’t anything so much as a complete absence of light and color, a Creeper, for lack of a better term. Not human but not necessarily demonic. It hugs the ceilings, creeping forward, threatening the sanity of those who catch glimpses of it. More recently, visitors and tour guides have talked about it. But no one had captured it on film.
The creeper was immortalized and documented by Nick, Katrina and the cameraman (I looked for his name but could not find it) of Paranormal Lockdown.
This was the ward that our guide, Jess, liked least. She refused to go very far into it, and only when the group of us surrounded her and stayed close, did she seem to feel comfortable. Her fear was infectious. We began a investigation session, but soon an unexplained noise and rustling down the hallway caused us all to flee, as a group. It was scary.
Afterward, we moved over to the alcoholics ward, but didn’t experience very much. At that point, it was 4 a.m. I think several of us fell asleep as we were leaning against the wall in the hallway. It was time to head back to the hotel and grab some sleep for real, before driving back home.
|Carrie was also live-streaming parts of the ghost hunt throughout the evening.|
Funny enough, we weren’t the only bloggers in the group (if you consider podcasting to be blogging). The History of a Haunting Podcast was there as well. Carrie, and her companions, Chris and Audra, were excellent additions to the group, sharing their ghost hunting expertise in a warm and friendly way. You can hear Carrie’s recounting of her experiences that evening at TALA at her podcast — listening to it was a fun way of reliving the experience. We all met Donna and Connie, who are guests on Carrie’s podcast episode about TALA, that evening. (Yes, I’m “Jody,” and my usual ghost hunting friend, Lisa, was there also!)
Getting there: 71 Asylum Drive, Weston, WV
Hours: Check the website below for ghost hunting events sponsored by TALA.
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