Moundsville State Prison
Location: Moundsville, West Virginia.
Date: May 6, 2005.
Moon Phase: New Moon.
Solar Weather: M class solar flares, geomagnetic activity normal.
Investigators present: Hillary M., Paul M., Shonda A., Dan B., guest investigators Scott, Scott, Pam, and the Strange Happenings team from Erie, PA (this was a joint investigation).
Equipment: Olympus C-3000 digital camera, Extech EMF meter, Olympus DS-1 Digital Voice Recorder, Extech IR thermometer, Olympus C-4000 Digital Camera, Trifield EMF meter, 2 Sony digital video cameras with night vision and IR extenders, Kodak DC280 digital camera.
History: After West Virginia seceded from Virginia in 1863, the new
state had to quickly address the need for public institutions. In 1866, an act
of the state legislature directed the purchase of a plot of land in Moundsville
for the state penitentiary. Moundsville was chosen as the site due to its
proximity to the then-state capitol in Wheeling.
The North Wagon Gate was the first building of the complex to be constructed. It served as living quarters for the 150 inmates who worked to construct the state's second oldest public building. The hand-cut sandstone used to build the walls was quarried nearby.
The first phase of the West Virginia Penitentiary was completed in 1876 at a total cost of $363,061. The complex surrounded the North Wagon Gate and included north and south cellblock areas, an administration building and a home for the warden and his family located in the center towering 4-story section of the gothic structures.
The building extended 682 feet across the front and was engulfed by 24-foot high walls that are 6-feet in width at the base and tapered to 18 inches at the top. The facility opened for full operation in 1876 with 251 male inmates.
Once the construction of the Penitentiary was complete, the inmates were then focused on jobs that must be completed in order to support any community. A variety of industries were located within the walls of the prison including a blacksmith, wagon shop, carpentry shop, brickyard, stone yard, paint shop, tailor, bakery and hospital.
The first execution at the Penitentiary took place in 1899 when the state took over the responsibility from the counties. During the history of the prison, a total of 94 men were executed. From 1899-1949, eighty-five men were hung, and, from 1951-1959, nine men were electrocuted.
This information was taken from the penitentiary's website. More information can be found there at:
Investigation: Everyone arrived at the prison around 8:30 p.m. We made
introductions, then the tour guide, Mike, took us on a very comprehensive tour
of the prison and grounds. The notes from that tour can be found here.
At 11:00, we decided to allow everyone the freedom to roam the prison for an hour and a half. Since most of the places within the prison rumored to be "hot spots" are on the north side, the PRSNA team decided to stay on the south side, so that we would have silence for recording. First, we hit the "Sugar Shack", which is a large basement room that was used for recreation when the prison was active. This area was the site of many violent attacks. Unfortunately, we did not get any results in this area during this session.
At 11:30, we headed to the gymnasium. The echo in this cavernous room made it all but impossible to record any audio. Shonda obtained a picture of a pink orb, and another picture of a white moving orb above Scott's head as he attempted to record a temperature change. We did track a several stationary orbs in consecutive pictures, but the high amount of dust in the air made these pictures invalid. It was also noted that there were bats in this room.
At 11:40 p.m., we went into the south side cellblock. Four minutes into the recording session, I asked whoever was there to make a noise for us. Shonda and I, who were the only investigators on the near side of the catwalk, both heard a loud noise on the other side of the cells…it sounded like something being dropped. Paul also took two sequential pictures of an orb moving over the showers.
Since we were running out of "free time", we went back to the main entrance to meet the rest of the group and decide where to go next. After taking a long break, we decided that the PRSNA team should spend some time in the north side of the complex, while the Strange Happenings team spent time in the south side, then we would switch.
At 12:50, we went in to the cafeteria. Almost seven minutes into the recording session, I got a picture of a moving orb over the doorway on the other side of the room. Dan, who was in the area of the doorway, said he felt a temperature drop, but we were unable to confirm it with the digital thermometer. At 1:10, we conducted a recording session in the Wagon Gate building, but obtained no positive results.
At 1:20 a.m., we spread out in the small death row area of the north cellblock. Dan took an audio recorder and went into the end cell, where an inmate was stabbed to death not long before the prison closed. Just a few minutes into the session, Dan heard what sounded like faint breathing. He stated that the short breaths sounded like someone with emphysema. He asked me to switch places with him to see if I heard anything. I did hear a few, faint breaths, but couldn't be sure that my hearing them was not caused by the power of suggestion. No breathing sounds were picked up on the audio recording. For the entire duration of this session, Shonda and Scott heard sounds coming from the far end of the cellblock. Shonda took three consecutive pictures showing a stationary orb, which appeared to be moving down the cellblock.
At 1:40, we moved into the shower area of this block, where the noises seemed to be coming from. Most of the group moved into some of the cells to read the graffiti, but Dan and I stayed right at the showers. We began to ask questions, and seemed to get noises in response to these questions. After about two minutes of this, we called for the rest of the team to come back out to the showers to witness this. Shonda came out and took a picture, and got a bright moving orb right in from of the shower cage. When the rest of the team joined us, the noisy responses to our questions stopped.
At 1:50, we made our way into the room in which an inmate, R.D., was murdered. (For more information, see the tour notes.) Almost five minutes into the recording session, Dan got a picture with mist hovering over Pam's head. We knew the room was only 44 degrees, so we all made sure to hold our breath for several seconds before taking any pictures. I took a picture right after Dan took his, and got a moving orb over Pam's head. At 1:59, Dan, Scott and I moved over to the room next door, while the rest of the team stayed in R.D.'s room. Seventeen minutes into the recording session, Shonda began to have trouble with her camera. Even after replacing the batteries, she could still only review pictures, but couldn't take any.
After a long break, we went back to the south cellblock at 3:05 a.m. We set up the video camera, focused on the showers, and began an EVP session. At this time, we tracked an orb moving around the showers on three different cameras from three different vantage points. Shonda also took a picture with a strange blue streak in it. Fourteen minutes into the session, we all moved to the other side of the cellblock. Again, we tracked what seemed to be the same orb moving around the area of the showers. Unfortunately, this orb was not caught on video.
At 3:42, we headed back to the Sugar Shack. For about five seconds while I was setting up the video camera, I experienced the very strong smell of human excrement. No one else smelled it, and once it was gone, I did not smell it again. We took note that there are sewer pipes in this area of the prison. No results were obtained during this session.
At 4:13 a.m., we climbed up to the medical and psych wards. While no positive video was obtained there, we did get several pictures of moving orbs here, some consecutive.
At 4:30 a.m., we headed back to the break room to meet up with the Strange Happenings group. We all agreed that the north cellblock was probably the most active area of the prison, so we decided to head over there as a group. On the way, Shonda got a picture of a pink orb in the hallway outside the cellblock. Once we reached the shower area, we sat down for an EVP session, but few results were obtained during this group session. The prison seemed to be quieting down. We ended the investigation at 6:00 a.m.
Conclusions: We did receive an exceptional and thorough tour of the prison from our guide, Mike. Mike steadfastly believes that the prison is haunted, and being that he worked at the prison before it was closed, he is very knowledgeable regarding prison life.
As far as our results go, we did obtain several positive photos, and at least one good EVP. Unfortunately, we did not get any positive results on video. We found the most active areas of the prison to be the north and south cellblocks, around the shower areas. The room in which former inmate R.D. Wall was stabbed also seemed to be quite active. The biggest disappointments of the night were the Wagon Gate and the "Sugar Shack." All in all, we did enjoy investigating this site, but probably wouldn't make the five-hour drive again, solely to investigate this site a second time. We did obtain some good results, but the sheer size of the prison, along with the many broken windows (allowing sound to travel and bounce around) make it a challenge to conduct a formal investigation there.
We liked to thank Mike for his hospitality and informative tour of the prison and grounds. We would also like to thank Aedryan Methyus of Strange Happenings for setting up this investigation.
Submitted by Hillary Murdoch.