Moundsville, West Virginia: West Virginia State Penitentiary Tour
Learn what it's like to live behind bars -- for an hour or so -- in this decommissioned prison. Has an electric chair and gallows, too, but just for viewing. Roadsideamerica.com Report...
Visitor Tips and News About West Virginia State Penitentiary Tour
The former West Virginia Penitentiary housed some of the most violent criminals in history. Many of the prisoners who lived here also died here. The prison is known to have one of the highest levels of paranormal activity in the United States.
On the day tour, there were some fun stories told! I'd like to go back and do the tour in the dark!
You get to see Old Sparky -- a good 'ol electric chair! You hear tales of inmate murders, riots...great stuff! There's even a letter on display from Charles Manson. He wrote the warden trying to get him to transfer him to this prison.[Lori White, 10/19/2010]
The West Virginia State Penitentiary Tour is fast becoming world reknown, and I suggest a visit before rates increase accordingly due to appearances in five TV shows including Sci-Fi's Ghost-Hunters (twice) and three movies, most conspicuously Scooby-Doo 2.
My tour guide was an actual guard on duty during the '86 riot and he provided a wealth of first hand information. Of course, photo-ops abound in an environment like this.
The spookily-inclined may prefer the Midnight Ghost Tours held monthly. The Pen is reputed to be "the most haunted building East of The Mississippi" by those in the know.
Sadly, "live" hangings are no longer performed, as the head popped off their hanging-dummy and he has yet to be repaired. No word of when this practice will resume. My suggestion that they compensate us with an electric chair demonstration was met with blank stares and an uncomfortable silence.[StormRaven, 08/15/2006]
The former West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville, now a prison tourist attraction, will host its 10th annual "Mock Prison Riot" on Sunday, May 7. The riot will begin promptly at 8 a.m.... [05/04/2006] Complete News Story
The WV State Penitentiary is a defunct maximum security prison, closed in 1995 after the inmates sued the State of West Virginia over deplorable living conditions. Their point becomes apparent within 30 seconds of walking through the front door. Visitors are treated to a weird mix of decomposing historical site along with developing community event center. On any given day in the old recreation yard, you might see a community dog show taking place along side mock hangings and general site maintenance performed by state inmates from a nearby minimum-security facility.
Visitors should beware of the length and infrequent start times of the tours -- the only way to see the facility, as no self-guiding is allowed. While the penitentiary is open from 10:00 AM through 4:00 PM 6 days a week (Tue-Sun), tours only leave once every two hours (10,12,2) and last more than 90 minutes. If you're planning on visiting other area attractions, you might want to be there by 9:50 AM to ensure your spot on the first trip of the day, and heed the suggestion in any case to be there no less than 10 minutes prior to the start of a tour. Entry is strictly controlled due to community events possibly taking place and/or the presence of inmates working freely in the facility.
The tour's highlight is "Old Sparkie," the state's original Electric Chair, responsible for 9 executions before West Virtinia's outlawing of capital punishment in the '60s. A demonstration of the chair's functional predecessor, hanging, is also part of your trip.
Street parking is free and abundant, but watch out for the abnormally high curbs that can crunch the rims or fenders of unwary parallel-parkers.[Jim Kilmer, 10/08/2001]