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The 10 Most Obscure Places in West Virginia

I'm a mother of one, a wife, a business analyst, yoga instructor, freelance writer, and lover of all things magical. I am in West Virginia!

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

1. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum: Weston, W.V.

This eerie, abandoned asylum, which operated from 1864 to 1984, has sparked the interest of those with deep-rooted curiosity, fans of the morbid, and ghost hunters alike. Famous for its Kirkbride design (a design common in the 19th century), the grounds of the "hospital" ultimately numbered an ominous 666 acres.

Over the years, nightmarish overcrowding occurred as the asylum housed as many as 2,600 patients—more than 10 times the amount it was built to accommodate. A series of reports from 'The Charleston Gazette' in 1949 revealed lack of furniture, poor sanitation, they found patients that "could not be controlled" put into locked cages, there was no light or heat in much of the building, and it smelled of death, urine, and feces.

It was finally shut down in 1994. I've personally been to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, and I can tell you from experience the moment you step foot on the grounds you will instantly be in awe of the size of the asylum. It's truly something you must see in person. On my trip there, there was a toy ball, and it actually began rolling toward our group. Many of the people on the tour got frightened and said they could feel a presence, and left immediately. You can be the judge, tours are held all year. There are nightly tours for those interested in visiting the asylum, so you can judge for yourself.

Grave Creek Mound

Grave Creek Mound

2. Grave Creek Mound: Moundsville, W.V.

What appears to be a simple grass hill in the appropriately named town of Moundsville is not a simple grass hill at all. It is actually a prehistoric burial pile, known as "Grave Creek Mound". It is the largest burial ground in the United States, and was slowly built over 100 years around 250 to 150 B.C. by a group of people who lived in West Virginia during this time period, only known as the "Mound Builders".

We know very little about these people, other than they were the first of a handful of Native American cultures who built these mounds—like Remington Steel, we don't even know their real name. These ancient builders had to have moved over 60,000 tons of earth to create this 69-foot-tall hill, definitely no small task for stone age architects.

The mound was discovered by an English immigrant in the 1700s who built a house just in front of the mound. 60 years later, two amateur paleontologists began digging into the mound. In no time at all, they discovered two burial chambers. Inside, they found skeletons, seashells, and a decent amount of jewelry, and they also noticed the dirt was blue in color.

They did what most Americans would do and opened a museum in the tunnels and charged admission.

Today, it has an adjoining museum and research center dedicated to learning as much as possible about these prehistoric West Virginians that interred in the hill. Visitors can still come and take a look at the country's largest Native American burial mound.


3. Lake Shawnee Amusement Park: Rock, W.V.

This place was doomed the minute it was decided to be built. This now-abandoned amusement park in Rock, West Virginia was literally built on an American Indian burial ground. I know, not the greatest of ideas.

The rusty, skeletal remains of the tiny Lake Shawnee Amusement Park create an eerie, yet appropriate atmosphere given its history of violence and death on the grounds...not to mention the fact that it's literally built on dead bodies. Did I mention that already?

It was built on the site of the Clay family massacre, in which local Native Americans kidnapped and killed members of a settling family. The amusement park was opened in 1962 to help cater to the coal families of local coal workers. After the death of two children on the park grounds, the fun, family fair shut down in 1966, leaving behind only rickety wood and steel rides, and a huge rusty Ferris wheel. The land remains abandoned, overgrown, and unkempt.

Stories still continue to accumulate about hauntings, unsettling incidents while visiting, and vengeful ghosts. You can still go on "haunted tours" during Halloween time, there is a fee for the haunted tours.

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4. West Virginia State Penitentiary: Moundsville, W.V.

The West Virginia State Penitentiary is a gothic style prison located in Moundsville, West Virginia. Established in 1866, it is said to be one of the most haunted places in America, it's even on the Department of Justice's top 10 list of "most violent prisons".

Notably, Charles Manson requested to be transferred to this prison to be closer to family, with that request being denied. His hand written letter of request for transfer can be seen on display while touring the prison.

The facility housed 119 years of inmates, and hauntings were reported as early as the 1930s. In one particular instance, guards were keeping an eye out for possible escapees on the grounds. They saw an inmate walking the grounds in an area that was for maintenance only, when the guards set off the alarms and investigated the area, it was determined that there was no "living" inmate outside the structure. It was during this time that the prison became reputed for 'hauntings' and 'having spirits'.There are stories of "The Shadow Man", who is supposedly composed of darkness.

According to the Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures", it is estimated that nearly 1,000 of the thousands of inmates throughout the years died here while incarcerated at the facility.

The penitentiary was built on a sacred Native American burial ground they had constructed to honor their dead. It is believed that the negative energy emerged from the deceased Native Americans and infiltrated the prison, resulting in many unusual and paranormal events occurring there. You can judge for yourself, the West Virginia State Penitentiary is open for tours year round'.

5. Mummies in Philippi: Philippi, W.V.

In the last part of the 1800s, a farmer came up with a unique embalming technique, and requested some bodies from the nearby insane asylum. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum to be exact.

Graham Hamrick had spent years practicing his new embalming methods on fruits and vegetables until he had it just how he wanted. The process, which despite all the assumptions of the contrary—worked. Once completed, the mummies traveled with P.T. Barnum and his circus. Hamrick's unique process of embalming drew the attention of the Smithsonian Institution. They offered to display Hamrick's work if he would reveal the formula of his personal embalming potion. Hamrick refused. Instead, the mummies were returned to Philippi where the were kept safe, but not forgotten.

Decades passed before the mummies were found again inside of an old barn. A local citizen acquired them, and kept them under his or her bed, as the story goes. Philippi is near a river, and one year - that river flooded the entire town, including the place where the mummies were kept.

The water-logged mummies were put out on the front lawn of the local post office to dry out.They were now covered in green fungus and all kinds of corruption. A man secured some kind of mixture that would get the green mold off of them, and also the hairs that were growing on them. Another flood destroyed part of the museum they were being kept in.

They are now in the care of the historical society, which managed to restore them. The mummies are in a small room in the historical society with a dehumidifier. The mummies look almost wooden, have no hair, and both are women. There is a letter accompanying them from one of the women to her brother while she was staying at the insane asylum.

My husband and I wanted to see these mummies since we live literally 30 minutes away from where they are kept, and they're amazing sights to see. They have been through so much, and are extremely old, yet they've been preserved immaculately well. You won't regret visiting them. They have such a rich history, and as stated above, we still do not know Graham Hamrick's secret embalming potion, so these mummies are very interesting to look at. They do give off a bit of an eerie feeling, though. The mummies can still be visited at the Philippi historical society building.


6. Mothman Museum and Statue: Point Pleasant, W.V.

A small storefront museum explores the history, and the myth of West Virginia's famous urban legend. The legend of the Mothman has become prominent enough to give Bigfoot a run for it's money.

Between the years of 1966 and 1967 residents of the small town of Point Pleasant, WV began reporting sightings of a strange, mysterious creature with glowing red eyes, massive wings, and vaguely humanoid features. This elusive cryptid was soon dubbed "The Mothman".

The popularity of the creepy creature continued to grow over the decades, inspiring movies, television shows, and other media. The history of the popular legend is exhibited in Point Pleasant's "Mothman Museum". The collection on display includes everything from newspaper clippings from the time of the original sightings, to books, toys, and other Mothman memorabilia. In addition, there is a gift shop for all your cryptid needs. There is also a statue devoted to the Mothman in the very center of Point Pleasant.

It's said that the Mothman actually visited to warn residents of a tragic event that was about to happen—the collapse of the Silver Bridge on December 15, 1967, killing 46 people. The ominous "Mothman" was supposedly never seen again after the collapse.

Whether you believe in the story of the Mothman or not, Point Pleasant is a great place to visit if you love the obscure or even a bit of mystery. There's also an old TNT bunker with an interesting history located on the outskirts of Point Pleasant. There is a Mothman Festival every year for anyone wanting to crack the mystery of the creature.


7. Glen Jean School: Oak Hill, W.V.

Glen Jean School in Oak Hill, West Virginia is an abandoned 1920s school with a mysterious history.

The history of Glen Jean School is actually a bit unclear, but there are reports that it had been used as an elementary school, and a high school. Some of the remnants on the wall suggest that it's last incarnation may have been an elementary school. There are some reports that it was used as a hospital for a short period, which do contribute to quite a few local legends.

The structure is one of the few remaining structures from the early days of New River Mining. The town of Glen Jean was founded by Thomas McKell, the bitter rival of Captain William Thurmond - founder of Thurmond, the neighboring town (now a ghost town). To compete in the mining trade, McKell needed to begin building a community for the mine workers and their families. Thus, the school was built. The first school burnt down in 1924, which was presumably done by Thurmond. He and McKell seemed to like burning each other's properties on fire.

The building that stands today was built in the same spot in 1925, with s second story added in 1926. The school closed in 1997. In 1999 it reopened as the visitor's center for Thurmond, Glen Jean, and Great New River Railroad. It was closed in 2006 when the railroad was sold.

It still stands today. There are many accounts of it being haunted, which some claim are from it's past of being a hospital, and other's claim from a brutal murder that occurred there. Those interested in the macabre, history, or are just adventurous can still visit the Glen Jean School, and the ghost town of Thurmond.


8. A Town for Wi-Fi Refugees: Green Bank, W.V.

The rural community of Green Bank, West Virginia has attracted both scientists and techno-refugees due to it's federally mandated lack of technology. Located in the rolling hills of Appalachia, Green Bank is an idyllic, ordinary, rustic small town.

It's remote location doesn't attract the typical rustic type, though. Instead, it's become a haven for people claiming to suffer from a condition called Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity—in layman's terms, this means they're physically bothered by the all-consuming web of electromagnetic fields emitted by our increasingly connected society. These people settle here because Green Bank is a designated "National Radio Quiet Zone". These people are known as "Wi-Fi Refugees".

There is one more thing that makes Green Bank so special, it is home to the world's largest fully directional telescope, among other high-powered listening arrays. Scientists have gathered here and made Green Bank home to listen for signals and signs from other world's through this enormous telescope. Any electromagnetic or radio broadcast equipment are strictly forbidden, including police and fire radio communication, as they would interfere with the research the scientists are doing.

All of this leads to a self-sufficent community with tiny cabins, scenic vistas, and lots of farm land. It is the unlikely, yet charming combination of lifestyles that creates such a unique, lasting atmosphere in Green Bank, West Virginia.


9. Kenova Pumpkin House: Kenova, W.V.

Thousands of jack o'lanterns light up Halloween at this historic, Kenova, West Virginia home. Kenova is in the far west of West Virginia, at the split off to the Ohio and Big Sandy Rivers.

At last count, the population for the city of Kenova was just over 3,000. Maybe that's the reasoning behind the owner of the house, Ric Griffith, deciding on 3,000 as the perfect number of pumpkins to display at his Queen Anne style home. That's one pumpkin for every resident.

Hundreds of volunteers and a legion of carpenters and electricians build out and rig up the displays. After all that work, the pumpkins come down after Halloween night.

The Pumpkin House has been a Kenova destination for nearly 30 years. There is no charge for any visitor, or any donations accepted, but if you want to spend money there are plenty of food trucks out front. It is truly an awe-inspiring house to see during Halloween, those who love all things Halloween cannot miss this great attraction.


10. Congressional Fallout Shelter at the Greenbriar Resort: White Sulfur Springs, W.V.

The Congressional Fallout Shelter at the Greenbriar Resort was kept secret until 1992. It was originally known as Project X, then Project Casper, and eventually Project Greek Island, and was designed with luxury. In the mid 1950s the United States Government covertly arranged to build a fallout shelter to house the entire U.S. Congress underneath the Greenbriar Resort in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia.

Using the building of a "new addition" as a cover, the government set out to build a Congress deep beneath the Earth. This was paid for by the Eisenhower administration. As part of the deal, the five-star hotel agreed that in case of a nuclear war (or even any realistic threat), that the entire hotel would be commandeered by the government (hot tubs and all). This fallout shelter was only intended to house members of congressional government and their aids, it was not designed to accommodate their spouses or children (who would presumably have to find shelter elsewhere).

To insure the bunker's secrecy, it was operated by a dummy company known as Forsythe Associates. They all dressed as hotel audio visual employees.

It was completed in 1958, and was fully equipped with standard bunk beds, tv's, and furniture. There were a few curious items, though. Among these are a special room for holding and calming members of Congress who couldn't handle the stress, and an incinerator meant for "pathological waste", or the Congress people's irradiated bodies. An enormous 100 foot radio tower installed 4.5 miles away was connected to the bunker so congressmen could broadcast emergency messages.

The shelter is no longer operative since its location was revealed in 1992 in a Washington Post article. There are now guided tours of the fallout shelter throughout the week, and you can still stay at the five star Greenbriar Resort anytime.

© 2017 Ashley Louk

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