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Built in 1866 and decommissioned in 1995,the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville now offers day tours, paranormal investigations, escape rooms and more. This former state penitentiary was used for some of the craziest criminals from West Virginia. The history gets even darker. From executions, to being locked in a claustrophobic cell, this place holds the darkest secrets.

“The state of West Virginia was formed during the years of the Civil War, becoming the 35th state in 1863. At that time the county jails were sued for incarceration of prisoners. Beginning in 1864, the legislature directed Governor Arthur Boreman to have all persons convicted of felonies confined to the Ohio County jail in Wheeling,” according to

The penitentiary was opened in 1866 with multiple transfers of criminals and murderers.

According to, a range of unusual stories were associated with the facility. For one, Charles Manson once petitioned to be relocated there. His hand-written letter remains on display in the execution area. Over the years, 93 men were executed there for their crimes, mostly by hanging, which were public until 1931, when one man was decapitated by the process. From then on, all executions were “by invitation only,” which meant the only man’s family, the family of the victim, media, clergy and coroner could be present.

Visitors have reported seeing the “Shadow Man,” a static-like silhouette that roams the grounds, in addition to others. Compounding its history, the penitentiary is said to have been built on the leveled grounds of the Adena tribe’s sacred burial site. Claims of paranormal sightings in cells have also been reported.

During its peak, the facility housed upward of 2,000 prisoners, most of whom lived in gloomy, 5-foot-by-7-foot iron cells.

At times, many of these cramped cells contained up to three inmates. Two men would sleep on narrow bunks chained to the wall, while a third got a mattress to put on the floor next to a steel toilet. Even single occupancy was claustrophobic, but each inmate had a footlocker for his personal effects. The prisoners complained about being too cramped, that some decided to take it upon their own hands.

The place was shut down in 1995 due to problems with the condition of the prison. During its time, it has seen riots, murders, executions and very terrible situations. Ever since the place has shut down, it has become known as one of the most haunted places in West Virginia. You can find tours, gift shops, escape rooms and haunted ghost adventures to try. If you want to see more, visit for more information.

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