Frightless Haunts for Families

While the Halloween season may have ended, there are still a number of ways to enjoy the fun of it year-round. For families with members who are, let’s say, less enthusiastic about traditional spooky haunts, West Virginia may be worth the trip. With such a varied history of dark tales and well-planned establishments gone wrong, families can experience spooky stories by day without all the horrors and theatrics.

Soak up the seasonal fun at these historically fascinating locales with less-scary, more interesting stories to tell.

One U.S. destination at the top of many dark-history tours? Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia — and with a name like that, it’s no wonder. The historic site’s history holds up to the creepy name, later changed to Weston State Hospital.

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum © Steveheap | Dreamstime.com

Built in 1858 and accepting patients in 1864, the asylum, designed by architect Richard Andrews, was built to improve health and wellness through natural elements, including light and fresh air.

While a massive structure — actually the largest, hand-cut stone building in North America — Trans-Allegheny was only designed to comfortably house up to 250 patients, but, by the 1950s, had more than 2,400 in its care. With thousands of patients running the gamut of afflictions from epilepsy to alcoholism, patients were “treated” to a slew of inhumane procedures, some in an attempt at rehabilitation and some just to keep the hospital itself under control.

Hundreds of patients died over the course of the hospital’s career from electroshock therapy, lobotomies and a variety of restraints, ultimately forcing the asylum to close in 1994. The medical practices and building structure were no longer deemed fit by medical standards.

Now an institution in haunted history and ghost hunting tourism, The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum offers historical day tours, ghost hunts, paranormal tours by flashlight and even an annual Asylum Ball. Some brave guests opt to stay overnight and get the full experience, or add on a cemetery barn tour on the asylum property.

As if one stop wasn’t enough, make your way to the Moundsville Penitentiary. During its century-long tenure, Moundsville was known as the most violent correctional facility in the country. Nearly 1,000 prisoners were forced to live in cramped and poor living conditions, sparking murderous riots throughout the facility. In addition, many prisoners were sentenced to the electric chair or gallows before the penitentiary closed in 1995. The conditions tested the limits to what confined humans could handle, and Moundsville quickly became a must-stop for haunted history tour-goers.

Check out day tours and history-focused itineraries to ensure you get all the goods and not all the ghoul on your family trip.