Many of the patients spent most of their lives inside of the walls of the old and overcrowded asylum then known as Weston State Hospital as well as the Trans-Allegheny Asylum. Some even say that some of the souls will spend the rest of eternity in this old asylum. 

The asylum was first built in the period between 1858 to 1881. During the Civil War it was used as a base for soldiers and the completion of the hospital happened first after the war. 

It was back then known as the Weston State Hospital, although it best known by its original name today: The Trans-Allegheny Asylum.

It opened the doors in 1864 with nine patients and was supposed to be a fresh start to cure the insane? But after it closed the doors, it became known as one of America’s most haunted places. How was it possible? For that we have to go back to when the now haunted asylum opened its fresh coated doors. 

Read about more haunted asylums around the world: Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital


The New Era for the Insane

The man behind the building that is now filled with rumors of ghosts and ghouls was Thomas Story Kirkbride who is considered to be one of the fathers of the modern American practice of psychiatry. The building was built after what was known as the Kirkbride plans which was the golden standard for mental hospitals in the 19th century. 

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The architecture was supposed to be spacious and receive a lot of direct sunlight to comfort the patients. The hospitals were usually built out in green and lush places. The very word asylum used to mean a place of comfort. The idea that they would remove the inflicted person from the environment, would supposedly help cure them. 

But although the base philosophy was moral care and kindness, the reality turned out to be something completely different as the spacious rooms became overcrowded with patients that never recieved their cure. 


The Patients Haunting the Asylum

Although it was seen as an innovative and modern way of dealing with the mentally ill back then, today we look at it as quite barbaric. For instance the patients were admitted with diagnoses like hereditary, menstrual  and even masturbation, as they thought this habit caused mental illness.

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum | The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic… | Flickr

Some of the more unusual listings but still accepted as diagnoses were: “novel reading,”  “doubt about his mother’s ancestors,” “marriage of son,” “Salvation Army,” “seduction and disappointment,” among some of the reasons we today would consider just silly. 

And the supposed cure they promised was reported as being at only 26 percent. Many succumbed to the horrible conditions at the hospital, suicide or even murder. Even the methods that were put in to cure your affliction could end up killing you. It is estimated that around 50 000 people died in the hospital while it was operating from 1864 to 1994. 


Horrible Conditions

When the asylum was first built it was supposed to hold up to 250 people. It was built with a lot of space as the idea was that the patients should be able to roam about the premise free as part of their cure. 

But soon the asylum got crowded, at most it had ten times more patients than it should have. By the peak in the 1950s, the asylum housed over 2400 patients. They were sleeping maybe up to five people in dirty rooms on the floor in freezing rooms. The windows were almost blacked out by the dirt and mold with the wallpapers peeling in the decay. 


The care for the patients also declined. And although the hospital philosophy was to use as little restraint as possible, it became increasingly more difficult as the overcrowding kept happening and only getting worse into the new century. And the use of straightjackets, cuffs, bed straps and cribs were frequent. 

It wasn’t only for the patients that the condition was bad. The staff also had its problems. There are several records of female employees being raped on duty. There is also a story about a nurse who went missing. They didn’t find the rotting body at the bottom of an unused staircase before two months passed. 

Lobotomies, Electroshock and Ice Baths

It wasn’t only the rooms and amounts of patients that were a problem at the asylum. It was also the treatments. When it was at its worst, the asylum was also a place where they began experimenting with some experimental lobotomies in the 1930s. 

Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum | Camper Chronicles

These lobotomies left the patients, some even perfectly healthy before the procedure, with brain damage and hemorrhages. It is estimated that over 4000 of these experiments were performed at this asylum. 

There was also a spread of electroconvulsive therapy and hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy was widely used in the first half of the 20th century and was a cold bath where the patient had to sit for hours, sometimes even days. 

Electroshock Therapy was given up to several times a day and some also suffered permanent brain damage from it in the long run.

The End of the Asylum

Although some were considered cured and helped during their stay at the hospital, many patients held great resentment towards the place and the staff. One even tried to burn it to the ground in 1935. 


The asylum closed its doors for patients first in 1994. In 2007 it opened its doors for tourists and was renamed to Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum which was the original name when it first opened its doors. Here they host tours and overnight stays to tell the story, both the medical and the supposed paranormal ones. 

Ghosts Reported of in the Asylum


One of the most talked about ghosts in the old asylum is the little girl, Lily. The story differs slightly from who tells it, from her being a patient from the Civil War era that died from pneumonia when she was 9. Some even say that she was born in the asylum. 

She usually plays in a room on the 4th floor in Ward R. This was once a place for violent women. She is often seen in her playroom, where you can hear her both crying and laughing.


There have been several claims to exactly who she is. In one paranormal investigation series, she featured in one of their episodes. There the psychist Tammy Wilson met a girl around nine years old wearing a white dress. Her mother started with the letter E came to the hospital already pregnant. Her parents died though and both her and her daughter had to live their remaining days at the asylum. 

According to the producers, they actually found records of a woman beginning with an E and gave birth in the 1920s. Could it be Lily?

Big Jim

One of the more scarier ghost is Big Jim, said to have murdered another patient with a bedpost. He is said to haunt the third floor together with a murdered man who was bludgeoned to death after the murdered failed to hang him. 


A ghost who is said to have died of a heart attack in the bathtub. 



On the first floor of the building you can find the ghost of former patient Ruth. She haunts this place which is called the Civil War Wing. Apparently she hated men and used to throw things at them, someone says she still does it to this day. 

Nurse Elizabeth

Another ghost that is haunting the third floor is that of Nurse Elizabeth. Not much are known of her. 

Civil War Soldiers

From its story stretching all the way back to the civil war, there wouldn’t be a story complete without a soldier ghost. Although not specified as being from the civil war in all the sources, there is a ghost named Jacob who are haunting the hallways of the fourth floor. 



One person nicknamed Slewfoot is said to haunt the upper floors. He is said to have committed many of the murders in the upstairs bathroom and supposedly haunts the area. 

Other Ghosts

In Ward 2 on the second floor there is a room where a man was stabbed 17 times by another patient and still haunts it. In another room there were two patients that hanged themselves from the curtain rods and have been seen as shadowy figures.


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