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home > articles > Dark & Gruesome Times at West Virginia Penitentiary


Dark and Gruesome Times

Within the Walls of West Virginia Penitentiary

Moundsville, West Virginia

Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3

West Virginia Penitentiary, Mounsville, WV

Charles Manson writes the Warden

Some have stated that the infamous and crazed murderer Charles Manson once stayed at the penitentiary. This is completely false. However, there is a very strong connection between Manson and the prison... his mother!

Charles Manson wanted the transfer because he wanted to be close to his mother who was doing time at West Virginia. He mailed a personal letter to the Warden asking to be transferred. Manson took care to not focus on his mother in the letter, but instead made it nostalgic to return to his roots in West Virginia. Manson lived with his aunt and uncle in McMechen, West Virginia while his parents served out five years for robbing a service station in 1939.

From the letter written by Charles Manson on March 10th, 1983
“I was razed in McMechen and Wheeling & worked at the race track under big Bill and Charlie Stoneman who put them big stones at the prison and on the road.”

This tactic failed because the Warden didn’t want such a man to be in his prison.

The ending of the letter is quite interesting. Manson attempts to paint himself in a positive light:
“I'm a good worker and I give you my word I'll start no trouble. I've been in prison hallways over 30 years and never lied to you and never rated. That should count for something some where.”

The letter was kept as a memento and is hanging in the prison museum near “Old Sparky”.

The End

110 years this prison stood as a deterrent to the criminal element of West Virginia. Finally in 1986, the prison was scheduled to be shut down because the tiny cells were considered “cruel and unusual punishment”. It took 9 years to transfer all inmates away.

Many felt this would be the end of the prison’s history. Nobody could have predicted the building would live on, and become even more infamous. This time it wasn’t the punishment of the living, but the search for the dead that brought people through its doors.


The Ghosts of West Virginia Penitentiary

Believing in the ghosts of West Virginia Penitentiary is like believing in the Grave Creek Mound; it’s just there. Many felt the history of this great building would end when closing in 1995, but the building lives on just like those who occupied it.

Residual energy is the explanation that many have for why this place is so active. This energy is what’s left over from years of emotion, task and reaction. A prison is a place with extreme amounts of all of these, making the argument valid. However this doesn’t explain why some have felt personal interactions with the ghosts.

The revolving door of justice

The front door of the prison is a revolving door made to ensure prisons couldn’t attempt an escape when first being introduced to the building. Officers and guards would escort the prisoner up to the locked device, would be cleared to move forward and bring them into the secure lobby of the administration building.

The internal lock on the revolving device has long been set in the open position. It’s not uncommon for people to see this door slowly spinning on its own. This could be a strong residual presence because of the many inmates who walked through this device.

Hot Spots

Hot spots are areas known for their paranormal activity because many people have experienced something strange there. Some of the best Hot Spots around West Virginia Penitentiary are:

  1. The Chapel – the present building was donated by the Local Pastors Association
  2. The Shower Cages
  3. Death Row – A common spot for emotional reactions – The actual “Death House” was a small separate structure once located off of the recreation yard. This was torn down after the death penalty was outlawed in West Virginia. The inmates requested it be torn down as to forget about what had happened in that building.
  4. The “Sugar Shack” – A fitting name for “intimate events” that used to occur in this area. This was also a recreation room for the lesser offenders.
  5. The North Wagon Gate – The original structure of the jail and location of multiple hangings.
  6. The North Hall (“Alamo”) – This is where the most dangerous criminals were held.
  7. The Basement – below the cellblocks is the basement, an area where many people have been overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. This is where R.D. Wall was brutally murdered for being believed a snitch.

Do you want to go to the West Virginia Penitentiary?

Haunted Hamilton does bus trips to this location usual twice a year.
If you’re interested in being part of one of these trips, please visit our Ghost Bus Tour of West Virginia Penitentiary page or email us at info@hauntedhamilton.com

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Photos: © Main photo by Tim Kiser

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