Monday, November 3, 2008

My World: A Gothic Castle It Isn't


One look and you might think this impressive architectural building is a castle of some sorts with its castellated Gothic stone structure complete with turrets and battlements. In reality it is the retired West Virginia State Penitentiary. For most of its years in operation at Moundsville, West Virginia it maintained a position on the Department of Justice's ten most violent correctional facilities. It operated from 1876 to 1995. It's seen riots, fires and the execution of nearly 100 prisoners through either hanging or electrocution. It is currently maintained as a tourist attraction and training facility.
I must say when I went by to take these photos that the first sight of the structure is incredible. It is an imposing structure and these photos do not convey how massive and Gothic it looks in real life.
The dimensions of the parallelogram-shaped prison yard are 682½ feet in length, by 352½ feet in width. The stone walls are 5 feet (1.5 m) thick at the base, tapering to 2½ feet at the top, with foundations 5 feet (1.5 m) deep. The center tower section is 682 feet (208 m) long. The walls here are 24 feet (7.3 m) high and 6 feet (1.8 m) wide at the base, tapering to 18 inches (460 mm) towards the top. At each of the corners of this wall would be large turrets, for the use of the guards, with inside staircases. The prison was built by some of the first prisoners themselves from hand cut stone.

After the prison closed its doors as a state institution, the Moundsville Economic Development Council obtained a twenty-five year lease on the complex. Tours are available for tourists wishing to see the prison. The facility is also used for training criminal justice professionals with regular mock-riot drills.
Although only 94 inmates were executed at the prison almost 1000 men died there as a result of suicide and murder. The facility is said to be haunted with the ghosts of these men. There are several areas in the prison known as "hot spots" where an unusual amount of paranormal activity reportedly occurs.
The historic structure is fast becoming world renown probably due to appearances in five TV shows including Sci-Fi's Ghost-Hunters (twice) and three movies, most conspicuously Scooby-Doo 2.
The prison was featured on Halloween 2008 on the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures last week. When I was by here and took the photos there wasn't time to even consider a tour. I've since seen the Travel Channel show and if it is to be believed I'm not sure I would want to do the tour. Midnight tours are available as well as an overnight stay. Nearby residents mention seeing apparitions in the windows and unusual happenings on some tours.
I did check the windows frequently as I photographed and when I downloaded the photos to see if there was anything unusual!

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45 comments:

Sara G said...

Great post. Very informative. Wonderful photo's.
Take care and thanks for sharing your world with us!!

juliana said...

gosh, this does look impressive!
i don't think i would like to take a tour myself...

Yen said...

It looks so beautiful! I'd love to visit your place:)

Mine is up too, HERE. If you get a chance;)

Louise said...

An overnight stay--or a midnight tour--would NOT be my idea of a good time. But in the daytime, this is a really beautiful building!

leslie said...

A very impressive structure to house inmates! Excellent choice for today. :D

fishing guy said...

Carletta: That spooky music certainly added to your walk through the prison. It was a magnificent structure and a shame that it was required.

The Texican said...

Oh a midnight tour sounds great. I'll bring the Coleman lantern. Pappy

Maria said...

Nice building, and very impressive :)
Thanks for sharing!

mirage2g said...

We have a castle-looking structure like that here which was used as a prison but is now the Armed Forces headquarters...They do make use of great architecture no?

True, I thought its a castle...maybe literally the last castle like that in the movie...

I'd love to visit this and take photos!

WillThink4Wine said...

It does look quite forboding, I imagine even more so from the inside!

Scooby-Doo 2 made me laugh!

kenju said...

I remember seeing that when I was about 6 or 7.

Mojo said...

Prisons -- especially notorious ones like this one -- are frequently rumored to be haunted by the former inmates. Alcatraz has been the subject of numerous paranormal investigations. But haunted or not, I don't think I'd want to spend the night in either place!

Your EG Tour Guide said...

You're right, I would NOT have guessed it's a retired prison. It Does look like a castle. ;-)

imac said...

wow, tis a huge building and stands very proud.

Gmj said...

Ahh, yep not taking a tour. Glad you took pictures and I will watch the tv for the program you mentioned. Thanks for sharing your world. Sure looks Gothic.

Carver said...

It's amazing that was a prison. Beautiful Gothic structure. Very interesting history.

dot said...

CREEPY with that music playing. lol
Good post!

babooshka said...

Fascinating. Not what I was expecting it to be at all. Beautiful photos, wonderful narrative and creepy music.

piedmontperspective said...

Excellent post, Carletta! Regardless of what it was used for in the past, it's an awesome building with a fascinating history! Ghosts, huh? Our minds were working on the same path for My World this time.

Twisted Fencepost said...

That is some building. I can only imagine how it looks in person. I would definitely like to visit it someday.

gen/entry said...

Very good structure of the building...Thanks for sharing....

quilly said...

I love the way you offer us photos and history. You are always enticing me and making me wish had the the means to travel.

Raven said...

It kind of looks haunted... and architecturally impressive. Nice photos and lots of interesting information... And you got all that without even taking the tour! Awesome.

Rose said...

I love the architecture. I would really like to see it for that alone.

Janice Thomson said...

It certainly is an imposing building. Can't say as how I'd want a tour either... Excellent photos and info.

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

As you say not what you expect, very intersting post

Lawstude said...

i really thought it was a castle until i read your entry. maybe a case of prisoners being treated royally but then maybe not lol. great job.

Arija said...

I hate to be in places where nasty things have happened. I pick up too much for comfort.
Certainly an imposing structure an dinteresting post, but you won't catch me gawking there!

Mar said...

What an interesting building and story (or should I say history?) Love your detailed information, how you carefully prepare this entry about your world!

Neal said...

That is very interesting. I wonder why they would make a place to hold prisoners so fancy.

Wren said...

Interesting architecture for a prison. I enjoyed your tour and the behind the scenes story.

Agring said...

Yes! it's very beautiful building and the structure look impressive. What a great informative post.

Sailor Girl said...

Thank you for this AWSOME post!!!

Melli said...

That place scares me even without ghosts! I don't think I would want to take a tour. I've never understood people who tour Alcatraz either... but I guess some folks have a sense of the macabre. It IS a neat building... from the outside!

JC said...

Oh, lol... I think I would love the tour! Fantastic building and great shots of it! Love the last one, too... close-up and personal!

Jedediah said...

I had heard of that placde before and I would love to take a tour, I have a thing with old buildings (would have loved to visit Danvers State Hospital for example). Awesome photos.

Shelly said...

Wow, what an incredible structure. I think I'd like to take the tour, I'd probably chicken out at the last minute.

Tracey said...

So pretty...my family is from WV. I live in rural MD, but love the mountains! I am also a teacher (3rd-5th grade)(although now I stay home with my kids and teach photo classes.)Glad I bumped into you here on RT!

2sweetnsaxy said...

That must be a very interesting tour. You're right, I would have never even guessed that this was a prison.

Leora said...

That is quite a gorgeous building. I wonder what the architect had in mind, building it in that Gothic, imposing fashion.

Abraham Lincoln said...

A castle is is not. I was surprised to learn it was a prison. I guess the architect was playing games with the minds of criminals -- home sweet home -- a castle for the rest of your life. Wow.

Dr.John said...

Loved the pictures, the tour, and the information.

MumbaiiteAnu said...

Great pictures of the architecture. Beautiful building. Check out Gothic architecture in My World

Rambling Woods said...

It looks something like our maximum security prison in Attica NY..

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