'Ghost Hunters' Filming at Weston Asylum

The search for ghosts is on at a pre-Civil War hospital in Weston once called The Lunatic Asylum West of the Alleghenies.

Rebecca Jordan, property manager for the former state hospital, says crews for the Sci-Fi Channel television series "Ghost Hunters'' are filming there this week.

Atlantic Paranormal Society researchers Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson and their crew will try to debunk reports of unusual activity. People say they've heard gurneys moving down hallways and screams from inside the former shock therapy room.

Using high-tech recording equipment, the crew will search for evidence of full-body apparitions, moving shadows and electronic voice phenomenon to determine whether the building is haunted.

It's not clear when the program will air.

HISTORY:

The massive Gothic Revival building once christened The Lunatic Asylum West of the Alleghenies has stood largely silent since 1994 -- more than 242,000 square feet of space now inhabited by rodents and a security guard.

The imposing Weston State Hospital is a national historic landmark -- construction started before the Civil War -- and one of the world's largest hand-cut sandstone structures, sitting on nearly 307 acres surrounded by wooded hills.

Virginia lawmakers created the hospital in 1858. Construction stopped when Virginia seceded from the union in 1861 and resumed in 1863 after West Virginia became a separate state. Union and Confederate troops both occupied the grounds as Weston repeatedly changed hands during the war.

The first patients were admitted in October 1864. It was originally intended for 250 patients but housed nearly 10 times that many during the 1950s.

The buildings are uniformly decrepit, with peeling paint, collapsing ceilings, broken windows and damp wood. Some would have to be demolished.

But the main building, its thick stone walls topped by a white clock tower, has potential.

"This was built 150 years ago, and someone knew what they were doing," Dave Hildreth, director of the assets division of the Department of Health and Human Resources, said during a recent tour.

Apartments that once housed the staff have built-in bookcases and fireplaces. The building features skylights, solid oak doors and floors.

For a few years after the patients moved to a new hospital, the state kept the heat on. But with 15 miles of pipe and 921 windows, that cost $300,000 a year. Eventually, the state cut back to groundskeeping and security, for a continuing annual cost of about $100,000.

"The biggest thing for me is that the property is not living up to its highest, best use," Hildreth said. "If we could open the doors and put it in the private sector, it could be something."



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