Built in 1876, the Moundsville Penitentiary has the most horrific history in the state. It was originally designed to hold 480 prisoners.
West Virginia took over the control of the executions of prisoners in 1899. Prior to that the individual counties handed down the capitol punishment, usually by hanging. The first execution was during that same year. Eighty-five men were hanged in the first fifty years. In 1951 they started using the electric chair, although, only nine were executed in it from 1951 to 1959. West Virginia eliminated the death penalty in 1963.
Besides the executions there were many inmates that either committed suicide or were killed in the night. In the early years most of the death records only contained the date that a prisoner died. It is not known how many of them were murdered, but it is likely in the hundreds.
Due to it's reputation of being haunted, it has gotten a lot of interest from paranormal groups , thrill-seekers, and even a reality show on TV.
Many have reported anomolies such as simple orbs and photos of spectral faces.
The prison started having ghost tours in 2001 and, according to one of the guides, thousands have attended the tour since it started. The tour starts at 8:00 P.M. and goes until 6:00 A.M. the next morning. It starts with an official tour of the prison, then they show the episode of MYV's Fear that was shot at the prison. Then the attendees are allowed to wander around the prison on their own (if they dare to).
There are five areas that are known to be "hotspots" (places with more frequent paranormal activity) in the prison. There have been those who have no knowledge of hotspots that have heard voices, seen movement in the shadows, and witnessed other activity while visiting the prison. These areas are:
- Sugar Shack
- Execution Area
- North Hall
- Maintenance area under the Administration Area
- New Dining Area
It was the area where most of the gaming was at, and also where most of the homosexual activities happened. A lot of the guards stayed away from this area.
When the prison closed a tour group went to the Shack with a Ouija board and other equipment in order to get in touch with the spirits there. They got a response from the Ouija board in the form of two names: J.R. and Francis. Another group from Michigan, that had no connection to the previuos group, came up with the same two names.
The photo above was taken in close proximity to the Shack in 2002. During their first trip to the prison, Myssi Gable and Dennis Keefer, took the photo in a darkened room with the only light being that from the flash. The face of someone looking to the left can be seen. They sent the photo to the MAJDA (a paranormal group) and found out that other people have had photos of faces in the same area.
Ninety-four inmates were executed in this area, and it has the most spiritual activity out of the whole prison. Many people have reported the feelings of hostility, unrest, sadness and hopelessness while in this part of the prison. As many as thirty to fourty orbs have shown up in a single photo. It is said that moans, sighs and other sounds have been heard.
New Dining Area
This area is considered one of the weaker hotspots, even though there are many reports of activity. In 1986, due to the terrible conditions of the old dining area, the prisoners rioted and held guards hostage. A new dining area was built but it is said that the prisoners are still there. The sounds of rattling trays and silverware have been reported at various times. There have also been reports of people feeling like they were being watched.
A tour guide of the prison said of the North Hall, "There is a feeling of hopelessness and despair that overwhelms you when you go into North Hall. I've heard moans, sobs, and other sounds. These were usually in the areas of the old Administration Area and the recreation yards in the North Hall. Many photographs show orbs there. Dan saw something there in the middle of the day."
Dan went to turn off the lights to North Hall one afternoon after the tour. While going through the courtyard of North Hall, he noticed out of the corner of his eye somebody running. He turned to look directly at the person, and saw nobody there. Another person with him confirmed that he also had seen two or three shadows running. After searching in vain for awhile, Dan eventually decided that it might be a prisoner's ghost.
Administration Area and Basement: "The Hole"
The most haunted area in the prison is the Administration Area. In addition to apparitions, orbs, unearthly voices, and shadows, this area has the discinction of having tactile (physical) manifestations. On one of the tours a girl screamed and said that something touched her on the back of her neck. She was standing alone when it happened. The guide said she was genuinely frightened to the point that she left the tour right after.
In the 1930s, a prisoner named R.D. Walls was killed for being a "snitch." One day some of the other inmates followed Walls down to the maintenance area and cut him into pieces. His fingers were cut almost all the way through. He finally bled to death but it had to have been a very painful death because the implements used were all dull, thus tearing rather than cutting.
After his death guards reported seeing a man on the walk above the maintenance area. When they went to investigate, the found nobody there. A guard said that it looked like R.D. Walls, which the warden and other guards said that it wasn't unusual and that it wasn't the first time.