The Ghosts of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (TALA) has been on my paranormal bucket list for a long time......years in fact.   Having a private investigation is a costly endeavor and I was worried about filling up the nine remaining spots so I wouldn't eat all of the cost.  I was thrilled when the team was just as excited about it and went with me.  

Getting to Weston, WV from Texas is no small matter.  Driving from the DFW metroplex takes roughly 17 hours while flying generally takes a couple of flights and a few hours.  For this trip, friends and I flew into Pittsburgh and made the drive from there.  The drive through the area, while quite beautiful, was a bit twisty and curvy.   

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The asylum has a long and somewhat sordid history.  It was built between 1858 and 1881, and was designed to provide the best therapeutic environment possible to 250 patients.  In April 1861 the Civil War began, Union soldiers seized what had been built, and the Asylum became Camp Tyler.   The only thing built of the Asylum at the time was the south wing which became housing and a stable area for Union soldiers.  

When construction resumed after the Civil War, it was completed according to the Kirkbride plan.  It opened in 1864 with the characteristic "bat wing" design and open spaces and areas of sunlight.  It functioned as a therapeutic environment until 1994 and reached peak occupancy of 2,400 patients.  With such high occupancy, it reportedly provided poor conditions to patients.  In fact, conditions were said to be neglectful and downright abusive.


Treatment for mental illness was still somewhat in it's infancy and pharmaceutical intervention was not as we know it today.  Dr. Walter Freeman is a significant figure in the history of mental illness and in the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.  Dr. Freeman was known to use oxygen therapy, electroshock therapy, and the most invasive of all procedures.....the transorbital lobotomy.   

To perform a transorbital lobotomy, Dr. Freeman would use a leukotome which resembled an ice pick.  It would be used to enter the brain through the eye socket, and then manipulated by moving it side to side to destroy the brain tissue believed to cause mental illness.  While some patients experienced improvement in their symptoms, many more did not improve or they suffered more and even worse symptoms.  

I'm not sure what the white haze is in this photo but I got it on a couple of photos in this part of the asylum only.

I'm not sure what the white haze is in this photo but I got it on a couple of photos in this part of the asylum only.

While Dr. Freeman may have had good intentions initially, it seems he became overly zealous with the success of the transorbital lobotomy and took unnecessary risks with the health of his patients.  TALA has a rather large area that was dedicated to lobotomies and recovery from lobotomies. 

The anxiety, fear, and opposition one might have felt about having a lobotomy is sure to have made an impression on the environment. I can only imagine what kind of residual energy resides there. 

Lobotomy Ward

Lobotomy Ward

There is also a section of the asylum that was for individuals that were deemed to be criminally insane.  Violence would be commonplace here with both patients and staff being vulnerable to acts of brutality and predatory behavior.  Anger, frustration, violence, despair, fear......just a few of the things that would leave an impression on the environment.

Our Experiences

Team experiences include hearing voices and various tapping and banging noises.  A couple reported seeing shadows at the end the hall they were in but I haven't seen any photos or video yet.  In the lobotomy ward we had a few hits on KII and rempod but otherwise my subgroup has not reported anything.  Maybe the other team members have something.


The team is still reviewing for evidence so hopefully more will be reported in the future.  I had a couple of photos that had a white haziness to them (see an example above) that didn't come up in other photos or other areas of the asylum.  

Future Plans to Visit

There are other areas of the asylum available via tour or for overnights.  I would love to go back and investigate the tuberculosis ward, the forensics building, and the geriatric building.  Private events are a tad costly ($150 per person with a 10-person minimum + the cost of insurance) so I don't know when the team will be able to come out again.  My advice to other teams who may not have enough people to be cost effective is to network with other teams to share in the expense.  

August is half done and back-to-school is right around the corner.  I hope that you are able to enjoy the few remaining days of summer or that you have some exciting plans for the fall/winter.  Have you been to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum?  If so, comment below and tell me about your experiences.  For more info, check out:

Make this beautiful day count!

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