Why wouldn’t you want to visit a state penitentiary? This one was established way back in 1866 — but it’s no longer operational. Who’s to say why, but it might have something to do with the 1979 prison break, the 1986 riot, perpetual overcrowding, dozens of executions, harsh conditions, or its status as one of the United States Department of Justice’s Top Ten Most Violent Correctional Facilities. Also, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the cell size constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Whoops!
Whatever the reason, the site was decommissioned by the late 90s. The prisoners who remained there were all sent to other prisons — and because this is the United States and criminal justice reform hadn’t yet taken off, the number of prisons was skyrocketing!
Today, there are a number of featured tours inside the prison. They include: Guided Day Tours (boring!), Escape the Pen (exciting!), Public Ghost Hunt (spooky!), Private Paranormal Investigations (even spookier!), Twilight Tour (spookiest!), Thriller Thursday (thrilling), and the Photography Tour. The latter allows you to venture on your own without the encumberment of a physical guide. Woo hoo! The penitentiary is also home to Para-Con, where you’ll find all the paranormal events your strange little heart could ever desire.
Why all the paranormal events? Well, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. An awe-inspiring 94 men were sentenced to die and executed within those walls. Until 1949, most men were hanged until they were dead. Note: these were public executions. Nobody should be all that shocked that the ghosts of these men are routinely thought to be somewhat peeved. From 1951 until the prison was decommissioned, the electric chair was in full use. Who built it? A doomed prisoner, of course! …‘Merica!
The West Virginia State Penitentiary became national news on January 1, 1986, when about 20 prisoners poked enough holes in security — which was shockingly lax at the time due to reforms at this time — to enact a very much planned and well-orchestrated revolt. To make the story even better, these twenty dudes called themselves the “Avengers.” Seriously. Within minutes of the beginning of the uprising the prisoners had taken six officers and a food service worker captive.
The revolt was less violent than you might imagine. Only three inmates were killed over a few days, after which then-Governor Arch A. Moore Jr. visited the prison to discuss matters with the prisoners. The inmates won fairer treatment as a result of the uprising, and things (mostly) went back to normal. Apparently organized revolt is the best social security insurance a man can buy (https://www.itswhatwedo.com/). But don’t take our word for it. They’re the ones whose lives were made more comfortable.
Although this was the most famous instance of rioting, there were many other attempted insurrections. There were also a number of escapes, so eventually it was decided that the prison would close its doors for good — until they were reopened to stoke your paranormal pleasures, of course! No trip to West Virginia is quite complete without a prison visit. How you achieve that goal is your choice.