The Mountain State offers us one of the most haunted places in America… Moundsville, West Virginia.
Once you dig into the deep history of this area, there is no wonder that its name is a reflection of what occurred several centuries ago. Its name, Moundsville, holds on to its history, and as result, to the souls of its dead (whom have never left).
Moundsville gets its name from the many burial mounds throughout its valley, surrounding creeks, and ridges. Early records note that there are as many as 10 existing mounds. Unfortunately, many of the mounds were destroyed by settlers long ago, however a few remain including the largest conical burial mound in North America, the Grave Creek Mound!
This takes us to the first stop of our haunted road trip in Moundsville, West Virginia!
The Prehistoric Grave Creek Mound
Credit: West Virginia Tourism
The Grave Creek Mound is probably one of the most prominent reasons for Moundsville earning its name.
The early Adena people took 100 long years to create this remarkable ancient graveyard. Formed between the years of 250 - 150 BC, these grounds hold the remains of prehistoric settlers. It is said to be the largest mound of its kind in the United States. Researchers speculate that the primal builders of the mound must have moved over 60,000 tons of earth to create the 69-foot-tall hill. This was certainly an incredible accomplishment for these prehistoric architects without the modern tools not developed until centuries later.
This map shows the burial mound complex along with works on the adjoining bluffs.
Credit: Moundbuilder Blogspot
An English immigrant, Joseph Tomlinson, was the first to discover the mound in the late 1700s. Upon building his house right in front of the mound, he discovered this mammoth grave. Sixty years later, a descendant, Jesse Tomlinson, began digging tunnels into the mound. This amateur paleontologist discovered two burial chambers near the center of the hill. To his amazement, he found skeletons, sea shells and metal jewelry inside the chambers. Inspired by opportunity, he then opened a museum in the tunnels for which he charged admission.
Today the archaeological treasure has an adjoining museum and research center dedicated to telling the story of prehistoric West Virginia. But could this be just the only reason people flock to this ancient property?
Could these mounds be haunted?
Because the Grave Creek Mound is the sole remnant of a prehistoric complex for burying the dead, some paranormal investigators speculate that destruction of these sacred landmarks is what has contributed to paranormal activity within the entire city. And, yes, the entire city of Moundsville is incredibly haunted.
Grave Creek Mound Feature Video
Credit Jake Rice
Opening in 1876, the West Virginia Penitentiary (aka "Moundsville Prison") has a striking Gothic-like stone facade resembling a medieval castle. Originally built to hold only 480 inmates, the prison swelled to 2400 prisoners by the 1930s. To accommodate this, sometimes as many as three prisoners would be assigned to just one of the tiny 5 x 7-foot cells. Due to the overcrowding, construction to expand the prison began in 1929 -- but when WW2 resulted in a shortage of available iron, the project was not completed until 1959.
In the late 1800s, Moundsville was selected to perform all executions for the state of West Virginia. In all, 85 men were hung and another nine were electrocuted. This was only a small part of the violence in Moundsville. The executions were accompanied by desperate acts of suicide, murder and horrific punishments, all contributing to the death of hundreds of prisoners.
In the early years, prison officials hid whips and horrible items used to punish the “tougher” prisoners from state inspectors. But after one of the prison superintendents resigned, he exposed all the atrocities in a whistle-blowing interview with the local paper. Finally, the violence and torture on inmates by prison officials was exposed to the world.
The conditions continued to be catastrophic and inhumane, however, forcing the West Virginia Supreme Court to rule the small cells as cruel and unusual punishment. In 1995, the prison was ordered to be closed permanently, and all remaining prisoners were transferred to other locations.
With the deplorable conditions, the violent deaths and two major prison riots, there is no doubt that Moundsville Penitentiary is well known for its haunted activity. In fact, it's considered one of the most haunted properties on the planet!
These are not your typical prison haunts! The spectral activity here is aggravated with the energy and souls that lurk in the grave-filled mounds surrounding this intimidating property. Many have experienced hearing disembodied voices, seeing black shadows and even full apparitions. You will hear clanks of cell gates in areas that are isolated from living persons and the moans of those that suffered their living hell within these walls.
Several areas in the prison have been labeled as "hot spots" for more concentrated paranormal activity. These include the Chapel, shower cages, Death Row, and the recreational area referred to as the "Sugar Shack." Without a doubt, the North Wagon Gate is known to have one of the most intense reported ghostly activity, for this is where death row inmates were taken to be hung in the years before the facility used the electric chair.
The hotspots of West Virginia Penitentiary Credit: Freaked
One other area known for strange occurrences is the circular entrance gate, which was used to separate arriving inmates from the warden's living quarters. According to reports, the circular cage turns periodically by itself, giving the impression that the spirits of criminals are still arriving at the prison.
“The North Side of Hell" (Moundsville Prison Video)
(Credit: Paranormal Quest)
Credit: West Virginia Tourism
When a tomb is not publicly recognized by name, unknown to all, it creates a reason for a restless soul. When the remains have been shuffled from grave site to other grave sites, multiple times, the restless souls may become more distraught. However, when these despaired souls belonged to prisoners inside one of the most horrid prisons in history, you are sure to find a profoundly haunted sanctuary.
Here, at the Whitegate Cemetery, you will find the tombs of many unclaimed prisoners, therefore making it into our Moundsville Haunted Trail list!
Deceased West Virginia Penitentiary prisoners whose bodies were not claimed by friends or family, were first buried along a narrow strip of land on the south side of the penitentiary wall. This, though, became a problem when drainage issues began happening. The penitentiary was forced to remove the bodies and place them in a 5-acre plot of land that was set aside for a cemetery, located right outside the prison. Unfortunately, this arrangement only lasted until 1897, when the Moundsville citizens voiced displeasure of convicts being buried within city cemetery limits. So during the 1897 Legislative Session, House of Delegates member John J. Leach proposed House Bill 255. The bill was "to prohibit the burial in the cemetery at Moundsville of the bodies of convicts who may die in the penitentiary." The bill passed, spurring the prison on a search for a proper burial site outside of city limits.
That November, prison officials found another "more suitable" location. At a cost of $600, they purchased 10 acres of land about 3 to 4 miles from the prison, falling outside of the city limits (which solved the problem). Here you will find a grave site that is speckled with license plate tombstones with some of the former inmate's names, and others for unclaimed bodies. Eerily, these plates were made by the prisoners themselves.
Traditional Tombstones were replaced by License Plates made by the inmates at the West Virginia Penitentiary
Credit: Odd Things Ive Seen
Not all the graves were of the unknown, just part of the unlucky! Several of West Virginia's most notorious criminals were buried here, including William Griffith, Frank Hyer, Bud Peterson, and Harry Powers. Powers gained national attention as the Bluebeard of Quiet Dell, suspected of murdering 55 women before he was caught in 1931. He was hanged on March 18, 1932 and was buried at Whitegate Cemetery.
Abandoned Prison Cemetery Video
(Credit: Paranormal Quest)
The Cockayne Farmstead, built in the 1850s, became a world-renowned farm producing some of the world's best Merino wool. Today, the house remains virtually unchanged from the turn of the century, a timeless capsule preserved as if those that worked and lived here still exist. And perhaps they do.
This timeless capsule includes original collections, gathered and secured by four generations of the Cockayne family, between the 18th and 19th centuries. It all came to a standstill, however, with the death of the last owner in 2001. The house has been described as being "arrested in time" with the last major renovation occurring around the turn of the 20th century. In addition to a property where time has stood still for centuries, the grounds contains an ancient Native American mound. Would these conditions be a strong indicator of its souls remaining behind to look over their belonging? Many say they have and they do.
Speaking of “collections,” Moundsville is home to one of the most unique compilations of all that is weird, strange, and just plain haunted! Located in what used to be a school, the Archive of the Afterlife "Paranormal Museum" has curated an array of relics said to be attached by spirits or even cursed. These relics range from haunted dolls, charged embalming tables, and items linked directly to tragic deaths. Here you will actually find an "execution cap" that was used in conjunction with West Virginia Penitentiary's electric chair ("Old Sparky"), used in nine inmate executions.
The Archive is a blend of History, the afterlife, and some random oddities. From haunted artifacts to historically important relics the Archive offers a diverse collection for visitors to observe and sense. The museum's collection is constantly growing and evolving to offer the visitor a unique experience.
Execution cap being held by Archives of Afterlife Museum’s Curator Steve Hummel;
Credit: The Intelligencer
Haunted Artifacts found at the Archives of Afterlife Museum
Credit: Charleston Gazette
Guests from all over the world have been subjected to this amassed collection of the macabre and have expressed many unique experiences, including physical touch, being watched, spiritual attachment, and even leaving the museum due to becoming ill. The museum has been featured on Destination America's "Ghost Asylum", in the Wall Street Journal, Haunted Magazine U.K., and Paranormal Quest "This Is Reality" on YouTube.
Given the amount of energy associated with each artifacts contained in this space, the notoriously haunted collection that makes up the Archive of the Afterlife "the National Museum of the Paranormal" is unforgiving and a "must-stop" when in Moundsville.
Archives of Afterlife Museum
(Credit: Paranormal Quest)
Moundsville is for the explorer of history that goes back centuries ago and for the hunter of souls that lurk between the shadows of torture and rest. We hope you have the opportunity (and spine) to do it … in the dark!
Here is an opportunity to take an amazing journey through Haunted Moundsville West Virginia, with the 2nd Annual International Women's ParaRetreat in June 2020! This will take you through four amazing properties near or in Moundsville, including The West Virginia Penitentiary.
Please Note and be warned:
Places listed in our articles or in the Haunted Journeys catalog require permission to visit or investigate. Many of the places are patrolled by the owners and/or authorities. You will stand the risk of being prosecuted for trespassing if you proceed without permission. Rules for public locations must be respected as posted on their properties/grounds. For recommendations on how to conduct yourselves with abandoned properties, please visit Haunted Places Around Me.
Places listed in our articles or in the Haunted Journeys catalog require permission to visit or investigate. Many of these places are patrolled by the owners and/or authorities, and stand the risk of you being prosecuted for trespassing. Rules for public locations must be respected as posted on their properties/grounds. For recommendations on how to conduct yourselves with abandoned properties, please visit Haunted Places Around Me.
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