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Dark Tourism put Moundsville, West Virginia on the Ghost Map

Two notable dark tourism sites stand across the street from each other in Moundsville, West Virginia.

On the west side is North America’s largest native burial mound at 65 feet high.  On the east side, the United States most haunted prison, West Virginia Pen.

The Grave Creek Mound

The Grave Creek Mound is where Moundsville gets its name. It started rising around 250 BC.

Grave Creek Mound - Moundsville, WV
Grave Creek Mound – Moundsville, WV

Adena natives, buried alongside village leaders.  Each level filled with their bones. Rising to the next, and the next.  Up to the massive height seen today.

First discovered in 1772 by pioneer Joseph Tomlinson and his brother.  They built a cabin near-by and came upon the Mound while hunting.

West Virginia Penitentiary

It’s the 1860s. The Civil War is over. West Virginia separated from Virginia.  And governor Arthur Boreman needs a prison. 

Virginia was still angry about separation.  They barred the newly created state from using their buildings.  It was felt a strong prison is crucial to reputation.

Boreman was denied federal money.  His only option was a small jail building in Wheeling (the new capital). 

Got quickly overcrowded.  Then 9 dangerous criminals escaped. They resurrected Boreman’s idea. Plans began for a new prison.

10 acres secured in the small town of Moundsville. Just 20 minutes from Wheeling.

Built on Fear

A temporary wooden building put up in Moundsville, just across the street from the Mound.  A final design created to convey strength. Fill inmates with hopelessness.  Like being marched into hell.

They built Mansfield Reformatory on hope. The opposite was true for West Virginia Penitentiary.

North Wagon Gate - Oldest part of West Virginia Pen
North Wagon Gate – Oldest part of West Virginia Pen

Starting with the North Wagon Gate constructed of hand-cut sandstone in 1866.  The North and South Blocks built around it. 

And lastly, the iconic Administration tower in the middle.  This was the administration area and Warden’s office.  The crown of of the jail.

Everything completed by 1876. For 110 years this prison stood as a criminal’s personal hell. 

Until 1986. The State deemed it cruel and unusual. 

Over 9 years they transferred out inmates. West Virginia Pen closed in 1995.

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