Moundsville Tour Notes – Tour Guide “Mike”
The prison was established in 1866. The prison was built by inmates; they cut and laid each stone. The north half was built first and took 10 years to complete. Construction on the south half began in 1929, and took almost 30 years by union labor.
There was one documented haunting while the prison was still in use (we’ll hear about that later). Inmates believe that if you die in prison, your spirit is left to haunt the prison. 998 deaths recorded in the prison through the 126 years. There were 94 executions. A lot of people died from sickness and natural causes as well as murder.
(We head to the north block “contact visiting room.”) Inmates in general population were entitled to 30 hours of visitation per month (weekends and holidays). Decorations in this room were geared toward children. All artwork was done by inmates; all the artists were convicted murderers.
The contact visiting room, which was the old cafeteria, was the site of the riot in 1986. 200 inmates took control of the entire south half of the prison. They terrorized 16 hostages for 3 days. Three inmates were tortured and murdered by the inmates.
The new dining room was completed in 1987. The entire prison was heated by steam heat. No AC except in this cafeteria. They were allowed 20 minutes to eat their meals. Any staff member could have a meal there, the food was pretty good. The inmates did all the cooking and serving. A lot of the guards wouldn’t eat the food, but the cooks ate the same food as everyone else. Any time the guards made a special request though, the cooks would fool with it. They would put salt and liquid laxatives in the coffee pots. Mike was the afternoon supervisor for the psych unit. There’s been a lot of recorded activity in the new cafeteria.
(We head out to the north side yard.) Some spots lights that Mike said haven’t been on in 10 years came on and off while we were out there. He said that they are not hooked up to the fuse box. They were supposedly disconnected.
Several buildings in the yard were torn down in 1973 and an industrial shop was built in their place. It employed 300 of the 600 inmates. Now training is held there for corrections officers.
(We head to the Wagon Gate.) Shonda got a red moving orb while coming down the ramp into the yard. Paul got a red one at the same time. The Wagon Gate is the oldest part of the prison, being completed in 1867. It housed the first 100 inmates while they built the rest of the prison. They spent 12-16 hours a day building the north cell block. They were only given a blanket for warmth. The trap door was never used for hanging; it was only used to haul supplies up to the second floor. There were 94 executions done at the prison. The first 85 were done by hanging, the last nine by electrocution. The first hanging was in 1899, the last one in 1949. 72 were hung for murder, the rest, rape and kidnapping. In 1950, an inmate carpenter built the electric chair, which was used only 9 times between 1951 and 1959. No women were executed.
We head into the north block, which was the maximum security lock-up. These were the murderers and rapists. The inmates were in their cells 22 hours per day. There were let out five at a time, in two fenced in yards for one hour and 40 minutes per day. The other 20 minutes were used for showering.
The four-cell-block was partitioned off for the biggest trouble-makers, a kind of solitary confinement. The last cell was called the “death cell”, and was the site of the last murder in the prison. The 1991, the inmate in that cell was stabbed to death one morning by his buddy in the next cell. The officers opened the cells so they could go out into the recreation yard. The inmate came out of his cell, went directly into the fourth cell, and stabbed the man 37 times.
The inmates in solitary were allowed to call their lawyers collect, but were not allowed to make any personal phone calls. They also had their own shower. Their entire lives were spent in the area of those four cells, until the warden decided to let them out.
(We walked to the other end of the block.) The north block had four tiers, all were fenced in. There were officers in gun cages with shotguns at all times. Angry inmates would throw things on guards. Fencing was put up for protection of the guards, as well as to keep the inmates from throwing each other off the tiers. Inmates were fed through the “bean hole.” There’s a lot of inmate graffiti in these cells. There used to be two inmates to a cell. In the 1930s, there were three men to a cell, totaling over 2400 inmates. There were two bunks, and the third man slept on the floor. There were a lot of fights and killings during that time.
Inmates were locked into the shower cage, three or four at a time. The officers would watch them through the fencing as they showered to assure that there was no violence.
Several murders occurred in the block and on the recreation yard. One inmate was stabbed on the tier steps. Some inmates were Satanists, it was considered a religion. North hall is supposed to be very active.
They tried to rehabilitate inmates, but they can’t be rehabilitated if they don’t want to be. Most inmates were sociopaths. Many inmates were medicated. There was a staff psychiatrist, as well as three psychologists that they would bring in on a regular basis to meet with inmates. It was the inmates’ responsibility to pick up their medication in the dining hall during mealtime. If they missed picking up their medication, the nurses would report them to the doctors. Then the inmate would be brought up to the psych ward and injected with their medication.
(We head to the admin building, where the main entrance used to be.) The main entrance is a giant iron cage, which rotates. It’s known as “the Wheel”. This was high-tech security at the time. It was used until 1985.
Section in basement where MTV’s Fear said was “the Hole” was actually the maintenance dept of the prison. R.D. Wall was the inmate clerk for the maintenance dept. He was well liked. Then one day, another inmate overheard him talking to the warden. He was telling the warden about things the other inmates had done, things they were planning to do, and word spread quickly. They thought that R.D. was the warden’s main snitch. One morning after breakfast in 1939, a group of eight inmates armed with homemade shanks, went down into the basement looking for R.D. The supervisors were all out in the dining hall taking a break. R.D. was alone. They cut him to pieces in the basement. The tower officers would see a shadowy figure walking on the stoop above the steps to the basement between midnight and 4 a.m. After 10 p.m., the inmates were all locked in their cells. There was no staff in the yard at that time except for the north yard officer. When they would check it out, no one would be there. If happened over and over again…they believed it was R.D.
The room that the inmates found R.D. in was the woodworking shop. Last spring, someone on a ghost hunt caught a man with long dark hair and a long beard in khaki clothes on video camera in that room. The inmates did wear khaki uniforms. Dramatic temperature changes have also been recorded in this room. R.D. broke away from his attackers at one point and ran over into the next room, where he died. Audible voices have been heard in this room. Mike has heard footsteps above his head while in this room. He’s also heard cell doors opening and closing while he was alone in the prison. Women tend to feel the sensation of the back of someone’s hand rubbing against their cheek or their neck, or their hair being stroked in this room. They don’t use this section for their haunted house anymore because they can’t keep volunteers in this area.
(We move up to the medical and psych wards.) Mike has seen a female figure standing in a window on the fourth floor, while he was standing in the yard. Many other people have seen this figure in this same window. The fourth floor is off-limits at this time due to the poor condition of the floors.
The medical dept is on the south side. There are a few sectioned-off rooms where surgery was done during the 50s and 60s. All lab work and x-rays were done in-house. Inmates were only in this section for 3 days to two weeks. Only minor procedures were done here. Major surgery was done at the local hospital. If an inmate had to go to the civilian hospital, correction officers would go along to stand guard.
The next room is the psych unit. They seldom had more than 4 or 5 inmates in this section at one time. There’s a lot of activity in the medical and psych wards. Straight jackets and Thorazine were used here for psychotic episodes.
(We go back downstairs into the main hallway. Then we head into the south side of the prison.) Mike points out the way to the gym and the basement. The gym is sometimes very active; no activity has been recorded in the basement. Classrooms used to be down there, but it is now used for the haunted house.
There is an honor hall in the south block. These cell doors were never locked; they housed trustees who were allowed to work outside the prison. They came and went as they pleased (until 10 p.m.) as a reward for exemplary behavior. After 10 p.m., the door was locked. They could still come out of their cells, but they couldn’t leave the unit.
P&R has 160 cells…half main line and half protective custody. (We walk into the block.) People often see men sitting in the cells in their peripheral vision as they walk past. The third and fourth levels are the most active. An armed officer was always on the second level. All doors in this block open and close at the flip of a switch. The inmates on this end were workers and students, so they were only locked in their cells as they slept at night. Lockdown would end at 6 a.m. By 8 a.m., all 600 hundred were empty. Because they didn’t have to sit in their cells, no one did. If they didn’t have a job or school to go to, they’d go out on the yard right after breakfast. They knew though, that if they broke the rules and committed a crime, they would end up on north hall and lose all their privileges.
(We head to the Sugar Shack.) In 1876, the prison ended outside the south wall. The area that served as “The Hole” in those days was outside the south wall. You have to walk down the steps and through this area (which used to be partitioned into little cells) to get to the Sugar Shack. The Sugar Shack is the warmest spot in the prison, but they don’t know why (no furnace nearby). The Sugar Shack is directly below the front lobby. The gray ghostly figures on that wall were painted by MTV without permission. All other artwork was done by the inmates. This was the indoor rec area for the inmates. It was ONLY opened if the outside yard was closed due to an electrical storm, or the temperature dropped to below zero. At any one time, there could be up to 200 inmates in that room without supervision. There were fights, stabbings, and other violent acts committed here. There was a lot of consensual activity, and there was a lot of non-consensual activity as well. Because of all the assaults and violence, the warden ordered the Sugar Shack closed in 1979. It was sealed off till 1998. The doors were welded shut. This is supposed to be one of the most active parts of the prison.
P.C. (south block) consisted of judges, ex law enforcement officers, ex corrections officers (inmates). Out of 120 in there, about 110 were pedophiles. Other inmates hated them and they needed protection. Crimes against women and children are looked down upon by inmates. In the 1986 riot, a P.C. inmate was tortured for 24 hours and killed because his crime was murdering a woman who was 8 months pregnant.
The tour ended in the museum.