Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum - The Dainty Squid

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Monday, August 24, 2015


I spent my twenty fifth birthday in a mental hospital - one that was abandoned, purchased at auction, partially restored, and now offers tours! I'm talking about the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. It's a little over two hours away from Oglebay, where we stayed the night, so it was kind of must. We woke up fairly early, ate the best hotel breakfast I've ever had, and made our way there. Although I'm not a huge fan of guided tours (okay, I kind of hate them) and that's all they offer - we had to see this place!

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was in operation from 1864 until 1994. It was originally built to house only 250 patients but in the 1950's peaked at 2,600 patients. Like the majority mental hospitals that were open at the time, there are many stories of wrong doing. An investigation in 1949 found unruly patients locked in cages, lobotomies being performed with ice picks, and conditions so poor they were surely the cause of death in many patients.

This building has suffered it's fair share of abuse as well. In 1935 a patient started a fire in his closet that destroyed six male wards and caused one of the cupolas to fall through the roof. It sat abandoned from the time it closed, in 1994, until 2007 when it was bought at auction for 1.5 million dollars. Of course, much like any abandoned building, many explorers found their way in to photograph this gorgeous building, and in 1999 vandals did quite a number on the interior...but it's probably not what you're thinking. All four floors of the building were damaged by police officers playing paintball!

The building's condition had deteriorated to the point where it's survival was threatened. A dedicated team of staff and volunteers are now committed to restoring it to it's former grandeur. Our guide pointed out a few things in the main lobby that they had restored and it's apparent how much time and love they're putting into this place. One of the other people on our tour asked "Are you ever going to fully restore it? Or just leave it looking abandoned?" I don't recall exactly what she said but I caught something about how they would probably leave some sections fixed up just enough to be safe because photographers would otherwise be outraged. Jeff and I shot each other knowing looks. Heaven knows I love me some peeling paint!


One of my favorite things I saw were actually the stone faces on the exterior of one of the buildings. It is said that spirits cannot come in through the front door so they put these ugly faces above the back door to scare away any spirits who might wander in the back. The uglier the better. While I don't believe in "spirits", I do LOVE folklore. After walking back in the building Jeff whispered "Can we get some of those for our house?" I had already been thinking of asking him the same thing!

After the tour you're allowed to visit a wing of the main building that's basically a museum. There are tools, old photos, headstones, and even some of the former patients artwork. It was a great way to end the tour, especially since I wanted more. We took the shortest tour since I hate guided tours so much (and of course, time constraints) but I was way into it! I feel like they could probably rope people into the longer tour at the end of the short tours by simply offering to let them pay the difference and continue on with the group.


Like I mentioned, I am not a fan of guided tours but this one was well worth it. Our tour guide was knowledgeable, kind, and seemed to actually be interested in what she was doing. Maybe I've only been on guided tours with poor guides in the past? We only took the first floor tour but I would love to go back to take the cemetery tour. It's not my thing, but if you're into ghost tours they offer those year round as well. I definitely recommend stopping in if you're anywhere in the area! It was waaaay cool to be able to finally visit such an incredible building with such amazing history.
xoxo

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38 thoughts

  1. I'm actually pretty surprised you dont believe in "spirits". Do you believe in ghosts or anything of the kind?

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    1. Why are you surprised?

      Nope, I don't.

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    2. Idk I guess. Maybe all of the crytozoology stuff you've shared I somehow equated that with a belief in ghosts, which I suppose doesnt make a whole lot of sense.
      Huh, you're the first person I've "known" who doesn't!! Go you!

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    3. Ahh, I see! I think the cryptozoology stuff is interesting to me because I like folklore. I don't necessarily believe in big foot or any other cryptids but I like the stories.

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  2. I know what you mean! I took a tour of Graceland, and that had the audio tour thing, but the staff around weren't happy to answer questions and just looked generally annoyed. Like, hello, you're working AT ELVIS' HOUSE. How can you not be into it just a little?

    Have you ever checked out Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia? I definitely recommend it! (And you explore yourself, no tours!)

    I am just in love with those faces on the walls! How wonderfully creepy!

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    1. Haha! Seriously. How could you work there and not be totally into it?!

      Nope, definitely on my list of places I'd like to visit though!

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  3. This place looks so interesting! You got some really great pictures too.
    Also I know what you mean about guided tours - although they can be insightful, I often feel like they whisk you around the place quicker than you'd like.
    theemeralddove21.blogspot.co.uk

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  4. A poor guide can really make or a break a tour. I've always wanted to visit this place and your photos are outstanding! I'm glad to hear the guides were good as well!

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    1. Thanks, B! Hope you get a chance to visit. :)

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  5. Kaylah these are EXCEPTIONAL. I love the colors and perspectives in the first few: the yellow bathroom and the pink walls. You should put prints on Society 6.

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  6. Hey lady! I've been following your blog for yeaaarrsss and it's always a treat to look through when I have a lull at work.

    Anyhow! I'm getting in touch because I'm taking a tiny road trip from St. Pete, FL to Athens, GA. I'm going by myself to see Father John Misty at the end of September. I've never driven that far by myself and want to make it a fun experience. Do you have any suggestions on places to stop along the way? Yummy eats, weird attractions, etc?

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    1. Nope but definitely download the Roadside America app! :)

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  7. You went to a Lunatic Asylum for your Birthday! Haha could you actually be any cooler?! :D Amazing photos!

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  8. Asylums are my dream place to visit! I love the old tails of patients still wandering the halls. This was a spectacular post, keep it up!

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    1. I don't believe in ghosts but I do love those stories too!

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  9. This looks so awesome, love that they're keeping the stories and history alive. The museum is a nice touch. Great photos as always!

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    1. I know! I'm so glad there are people out there who devote their time and money to things like this. I'm sure they're not making much, if any, of a profit! Maintaining this building has to cost a fortune!

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  10. I went to grad school at Ohio University, and the campus bought a former insane asylum that overlooks the town. They made part of it into offices and labs and my advisor's lab happened to be housed there. Sooo...I spent a couple of months finishing up my thesis in the insane asylum. It was awesome:) the architecture was amazing. I don't think they do tours (which is good since you aren't a fan anyways), but you can do self guided hikes through their cemeteries and they have an art museum in part of it too. My advisor took me on an "unofficial" tour of an of limits part if the basement which she had jets to. Definitely worth the trip to southeastern Ohio...And the town itself (Athens) is rad too!

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    1. Ahh! The Ridges! That's SO awesome your adviser lived there!

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  11. Ah! I've been wanting to go there for so long! I definitely need to go now! I prob wouldn't do the ghost tour, the episodes of ghost shows that creep me out the most are the asylum ones! There is just something about them!

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    1. Definitely definitely go! It's SO awesome!

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  12. This place looks amazing. I totally get what you're saying about guided tours, but it's really awesome that they didn't just demolish this place like so many other asylums. Getting a good tour guide is definitely key—I've had some really horrible ones before and some wonderful ones and it makes all the difference.

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    1. Yeah, our guide made the tour! I was super skeptical of taking a guided tour but she made it fun.

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  13. This is so awesome and beautiful! Thanks for sharing! I'm going on a tour of a state hospital this weekend in Traverse City, and I can't wait! Hoping it's as awesome as this place. :) Here's a link to the one I'm going to: http://www.thevillagetc.com/tours/

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    1. Ohh! Another Kirkbride building! That ought to be a blast. Have fun! :D

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  14. Ohhh man, this would be such a dream place to shoot!

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    1. I wish I would have gotten to see more! There are a handful of other buildings on the property too. SO much to shoot!

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  15. My bf and I read your blog and always envy all the beautiful spots you go to, how incredible are these photos
    Stefanie | Casualllyawkward | Bloglovin'

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  16. Wow that place looks so neat and your photos are amazing! I have always wanted to visit an old mental hospital.. (Strange bucket list!)

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  17. I'm SO JEALOUS, this looks amazing!! The city where I live in has an insane asylum that was the first in the country built to treat alcoholism as a mental disorder in 1858. It was built by a famous architect who designed a lot of buildings around here and like the one you visited, had overcrowding and patient abuse. Unfortunately, it has been closed since 1993. They use 2 of the outbuildings as offices but the main building - called The Castle -- has a chain link fence around it, 24/7 cameras and security. There are two old bunker style dorms on site, a laundry building, and two other housing buildings that aren't fenced in but have security systems. I WANT TO GO IN SOOOO BAAAADDD hahaha. I wish you were here because I would totally go with you! They are GORGEOUS. I'm sure you've heard of it before, it's the New York State Inebriate Asylum. If you google it, there are a few sites with pictures from before it was closed and one group has been let in since it closed. I would do basically anything to be let in lol.

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  18. Oh hey! This is just down the road from me. Thanks for visiting our state and telling everyone about it :)

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