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West Virginia Archives and History Library

The Haunted History of the West Virginia Penitentiary
May 9, 2013

On May 9, 2013, author and columnist Sherri Brake will present “The Haunted History of the West Virginia Penitentiary” at the Thursday evening lecture in the Archives and History Library in the Culture Center in Charleston. The program will begin at 6:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Built in 1866 by inmate labor, the penitentiary in Moundsville was home to thousands of inmates who unfortunately helped secure the institution’s rank as one of the most violent prisons in America. Many prisoners believed that if a person died in prison his soul stayed in prison. It was called “Hell on Earth” by the Cincinnati Enquirer as early as 1886 and with good cause. Early reports of torture devices led to eventual reform but not without costing many prisoners their lives. Living in deteriorating conditions and subjected to the occasional outbreak of deadly diseases, death was always nearby. The 998 murders and suicides committed onsite, 86 hangings, and 9 electrocutions provided a recipe for possible ghostly activity, according to Brake.

Much has changed at the West Virginia Penitentiary over the years. The doors officially closed in 1995 but day tours and overnight ghost hunts continue to bring in visitors and funds. Sherri Brake will share with you glimpses from behind the stones walls. Her presentation will use both historical and current photographs sprinkled with spooky paranormal images captured by paranormal investigators.

Owner of Haunted Heartland Tours, based in Summersville, Brake is the author of four books on haunted history, including The Haunted History of the West Virginia Penitentiary: Afterlife with No Parole (2011). She also is a monthly columnist for Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine and a member of the West Virginia Writers group. Active in preservation efforts, she is a member of several historical and heritage societies and is a Civil War re-enactor. Popular paranormal television shows have called on Brake for her research abilities. Among the shows on which she has appeared are the Travel Channel’s Most Terrifying Places in America and the Discovery Channel’s Ghost Lab. Brake also instructs classes on the paranormal at New River Community and Technical College.

For planning purposes, participants are encouraged to register for the lecture, but advance registration is not required to attend. To register in advance, contact Robert Taylor, library manager, by e-mail or at (304) 558-0230, ext. 163. Participants interested in registering by e-mail should send their name, telephone number and the name and date of the session. For additional information, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.

West Virginia Archives and History Workshops/Lectures

West Virginia Archives and History