This past summer my husband gave me the best birthday gift an artist could ask for: a photography tour of Weston State Hospital, now known by its former incarnation as Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Lugging three cameras, a tripod and a bagful of courage (the place is rumored to be way-haunted), we found ourselves at 7 a.m. on the front lawn jolted awake by the sheer enormity of the place.
This beautiful stone structure in Weston, West Virginia is a Kirkbride model, designed by architect Richard Andrews in the mid-1800s as a “sanctuary for the mentally ill.” Dr. Thomas Kirkbride was a psychiatrist who believed that patients thrived on natural light, fresh air and performing every day tasks such as gardening and cooking. And indeed, it was the light piercing through torn curtains or shooting rays across floors that caught my breath – rooms so full of light that it seems to illuminate the sadness of the people who once lived there.
There are various types of tours for you to take – Heritage Tours for history buffs, Paranormal Tours for ghost hunters and Photography Tours for professionals and hobbyists – and a haunted house in the old tuberculosis ward each Halloween season.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is open end of March through November. This is written by Lisa Toboz.