The West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville
Written By: JASR
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Unlike many of the places we read and write about, the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville is not exactly abandoned. After it ceased operations, the prison became a tourist attraction where guests can go on guided day tours, ghost hunts, private paranormal investigations, and many others.
There have been no discoveries of architectural drawings of the West Virginia Penitentiary. The prison’s history started in 1863 when West Virginia separated from Virginia to side with the Union in the North. As the new state needed a prison, Moundsville became the perfect location for such.
The structure was first opened in 1876 and was closed in 1995. According to Time Magazine, the penitentiary has seen riots, fires, and even the execution of almost 100 prisoners either by hanging or electrocution.
The prison housed almost a thousand men. While some inmates were hung or electrocuted, several others were killed by their own kind. Some of the others could not handle living in prison and committed suicide.
Life as a Prisoner
During its 119-year history, Moundsville was on The United States Department of Justice’s Top Ten Most Violent Correctional Facilities list. Like in what we have seen on media and television shows, the West Virginia Penitentiary had its own social hierarchy.
Due to overcrowding in the 1950s, up to three prisoners had to share a five-by-seven-foot cell. The discomfort and pressure of living in the prison resulted in deadly riots.
The West Virginia Supreme Court declared in 1986 that putting men in such small cells constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
The prison officially closed its doors in 1995, and the inmates were moved to larger facilities. At the time of the prison’s closing, 653 inmates were housed as 32 employees were guarding the facility.
Notable Inmate Stories
One of the inmates, R.D. Wall, was a snitch who suffered a terrible punishment by his fellow inmates. On October 8, 1929, Wall was jumped by three other inmates who cut and stabbed him using shivs. Wall ended up being slain into pieces. Aside from Wall, 35 other inmates underwent homicide as well. Wall has been connected to one of the earliest ghost-sighting reports in the facility.
Bud Peterson, an inmate who was convicted of murdering a woman over a poker debt, was put to death on February 25, 1949. He was the last man who was hung in the facility. After his family refused to claim the body, he was buried in the penitentiary cemetery – a place where many other corpses were put to “rest.”
It is believed that the spirits of some of the 998 men who died in the prison still roam freely around the facility. With its interesting history, the facility has become a tourist attraction that offers guided day tours, escape room games, public ghost hunts, private paranormal investigations, and many others that will definitely attract those who love history and horror.
The West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville may no longer be a prison, but we cannot say for sure that the prisoners are no longer there.
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