Saturday, August 6, 2016

2016-23 West Virginia


Weston West Virginia
Gallipolis Ohio
PT Pleasant West Virginia 

travel expenses for July 2016

  • A Strange Week of Exploring Nut Houses, Mothman creatures, UFO’s and history as far back as 1749

West Virginia foggy mornings

Campground:  Walmart parking lot.  Free

corner of Walmart parking lot

Campground:  Krodel Park campground.  $130 weekly rate for seniors.  ($18.57 per night).  Full hookups, 50 amp service.  Good Verizon 4g signal, approx 10 over the air TV stations.  Nice lake for fishing with walking paths around it.  A rebuilt fort and historic log cabin on site but not open to the public.

Distance traveled:  128 miles

It took some doing to figure out a route from my campsite in Pennsylvania as the first route google gps had me going included a 10’ 1” height restriction entering Greensburg.  The second route suggested would take my on an extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike that has tons of construction.  I opted for the lesser of them all and took a rural route.  Roads were narrow country lanes with quite a few jogs between each section, but overall so little traffic that it turned out ok compared to the other choices.

Pennsylvania to West Virginia 

I did spend one night in Horner West Virginia at a Walmart parking lot.  Even though the day was rather warm and stayed that way till past 10 pm, I was able to get the best nights sleep I’ve had in years.  Somewhere in the middle of the night it cooled off and apparently was perfect as I only got up once or twice in the whole of the night.  Very rare indeed, as you may understand with age many of us have to get up more often than we’d care to admit.

Now you’d think with just an evenings stay in a Walmart parking lot I wouldn’t find anything in the area to visit.  But you’d be wrong.  Having picked up a brochure at a rest stop along the way, I discovered that the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was only a couple miles from my overnight stop.  So Sunday afternoon I went to the loony bin.

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, almost a 1/4 mile in length

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was constructed between 1858-1881.  It is the largest hand cut stone building in North America and is said to be only second in size to the Kremlin in Russia.  They have multiple tours from the 1st floor tour which I took, a 4 floor tour which included restored doctor’s apartments, nurses quarters and Ward F where deviant patients were kept, the criminally insane tour, and multiple paranormal tours.

front reception room

Built before and during the Civil War, it had it’s starts and stops.  West Virginia hadn’t been declared a State when it was started and Virginia dropped funding for the facility during the war.  A Union General took a troop of soldiers to the nearby bank where much gold belonging to Virginia was held.  The General took out a considerable amount of gold at gun point and they were able to complete the buildings.  A military hospital and other facilities were included as the needs arose.

back side of main building

back side main building, center

ambulance drivers were housed here overnight

where convicted prisoners were evaluated to
determine if they were insane

side view of exercise yard and main building

It was kind of a creepy tour provided by guides that are dressed in white hospital uniforms.  My tour guide a young lady played the part well as I kept wondering if she would “commit” me at the end of the tour.  Needless to say, I was on my best behavior.  Learning about the mentally insane, each floor up contained the more insane and dangerous patients.  The first floor housed the mild cases as well as many who were imprisoned such as women and children when a husband no longer wanted to be married.  The man could declare his wife insane and have her committed along with the children.  The woman having no rights.  As long as the husband paid for their care, they were committed.  Often the man had a mistress or possibly inherited money and decided he no longer wanted the obligations of marriage.  He wasn’t permitted to divorce the wife, but could declare her insane.  Some of the women did end up going insane.

originally housed the kitchen

unrestored sections of the building

during the years of overcrowding

my tour guide

old nurses station

4 gargoyles were installed by the stone masons to ward off evil 

not restored section of 1st floor

Patients came from all over the surrounding states, some who were declared insane were transported in cages on trains in the baggage area, away from the other passengers.

As I mentioned, the first floor tour is where the less dangerous clients stayed and were treated.  Some being able to go into town to work before coming back at night.  Homeless children were often left here as well and often put to work in the farm fields or dairy farm at very young ages.  Nurses would often hide some of the children to keep them away from having to do hard labor as often as possible.  The place was totally self sufficient.  Having it’s own dairy farm, extensive gardens for all their fruit and vegetable needs.  All maintained by the patients who were capable of such activities.  Of course they also had many patients escape.

1st floor restored section

1st floor restored hallway

1st floor sitting area, restored

From housing it’s original 250 patient limit, it eventually expanded to well over 2,500 patients in the same space.  Often two people to a bed sleeping in shifts with beds placed in the wide corridors .  Eventually the asylum was forcibly closed in 1994 mainly due to changes in the treatment of mental illnesses and fewer patients.  I wonder how many didn’t survive the “treatments”.

Though the treatments were barbaric by today’s standards,  The facilities were designed to provide as pleasant an atmosphere as possible.  White linen tablecloths in the dining room.  Flowers and nice seating areas.  Exercise courts, outdoor activities were encourage for patients that could be trusted.  Classes, art, and other activities were routine.  Of course many of the niceties were quickly abandoned as the facility became fully utilized or should I say over crowed.  

Still it is not easy to hear the stories of the mentally ill and what they had to go through during the many years of experimentation that took place trying to find solutions to aid in the healing process. A most unusual tour, one I would have never thought I’d encounter… ps they did let me go at the end of the tour.  Or did I escape?

museum exhibits of some patients

probably homeless and abandoned,
kept here as child labor

patients art work

crate used to transport insane on trains

experimental treatments

experimental treatments

ice cold shock therapy

Distance Traveled:  158 miles

Point Pleasant West Virginia, bridges over two rivers 

Point Pleasant West Virginia.  Now how could I not stop and spend a while in a place named Pleasant.  I found a park that has a senior rate which still isn’t the cheapest I’ve paid, but with full hookups and an easy pull-thru site,  I’m a happy camper.

I’ll be chilling out for the week with just a few tours in the area.  Today I had another eye appointment for my Glaucoma.  I needed to have the eye pressures in both eyes checked.  Turns out they were in the normal range of 13 and 14, showing that the past laser surgeries are working well.  The doctor was even able to see the laser drilled hole in both eyes and confirmed they are open and functioning properly.  Isn’t technology wonderful.

This must be the week for bizarre stories.  In Point Pleasant, there’s a museum called Mothman.  The story goes that back in November 15th, 1966, the town had it’s first sightings of Moth Man out near the old Virginia Ordinance Works, now called the TNT building.  It’s where dynamite and ammunitions were manufactured during WWII.  At least 8 people have been confirmed as having seen the creature they call Moth Man.  Standing over 6 feet tall and having wings and glowing eyes.  During this time sightings of UFO’s were also reported.  Over the next 13 months, people who encountered Moth Man started to have dreams at night.  One woman saw Christmas packages floating in the river.  Others had bizarre dreams all seeming to be warning of pending disasters.  13 months after the first sightings, the Silver Bridge which goes from Point Pleasant over to the Ohio side collapsed in December 15th, 1967.  Numerous vehicles crashed into the river killing all passengers except 5 who survived as the bridge sank like dominos into the river…. Christmas packages were seen floating down river.  After the bridge collapse most reports of bad dreams and warnings waned.  Though similar sightings have been reported around the world before major disasters occurred.  One being Chernobyl, the nuclear plant meltdown so the stories go.

By the way, after the bridge collapsed in 1967, the U.S. Congress enacted a law requiring all bridges be inspected regularly for defects.

After checking out the museum, I went to a local diner in town and met the owner who told me first hand accounts of the Moth man as well as numerous sightings of UFO’s.  She said she and friends saw flashing lights in the sky and her friends said it was from UFO’s.  She didn’t really believe the lights were from UFO’s.  It wasn’t until her brother told her he and his wife saw a UFO land in their backyard before silently moving on.  The next day, the Charleston WV newspaper reported multiple sightings of UFO’s in the area.  Charleston and Pt Pleasant aren’t all that far from each other.  After that, the owner of the diner said she became a believer.  A girl friend of hers and the girls boyfriend went for a joy ride one evening over to the TNT area to see if they could see the Moth Man.  Figuring they’d have a laugh, drink a beer and leave.  Before they even had a chance to open a beer from the six pack they were carrying, they saw the Moth Man come out of a large door of the old munitions building.  They said he came out sideways and then flew off.  The young couple got out of there as fast as they could.  It’s interesting to hear the stories from first and second hand accounts and not just something written on a placard in a museum.  Did I mention a movie was made from the stories with Richard Geer as the lead actor.  

flower, at campground

old signs in downtown Point Pleasant

lots of history surrounding this area

Barber Shop Awning

many bridges over the Ohio River

stunning murals along the flood walls surrounding town

I've been in this area once before
and reported on these murals, they are holding up well

murals along flood walls

flood walls, entrance to river park

rail road bridge and tug boat

That’s enough of the spooky stuff.  This area is loaded with history with it being the location where the Ohio river and Kanawha Rivers meet up.  A French explorer arrived here in 1749 and claimed French sovereignty over the Ohio valley, even burying a plaque to that effect. The English were already settling the area and refused to leave.  In 1770 Colonel George Washington came through the area and called it a Pleasant Point.  The Germans and Scotch Irish moved in and after a number of Indian battles with Chief Cornstalk leading the Shawnee Indians was killed.  A whole community of Frenchmen moved here thinking they had purchased land in the area.  After arriving they discovered the land deeds were bogus.  Eventually having to purchase the land a second time in order to stay.

The Ohio River and Kanawha were major means of travel through the area and the area continued to grow and prosper.  Today one can see barges traveling up and down river pushed by large tug boats.  Many barges are anchored along the river banks waiting to be filled with supplies or unloaded.  On the Ohio side of the river I noticed a few dry dock areas for repairing barges.

Another day I visited the River Museum in Pt Pleasant.  A very talkative sister (one of two at the museum) told me lots of stories including the fact that growing up in Pt Pleasant, she knew the characters that dressed up as “Mothman” to scare the locals in the area.  So it was really just a hoax after all.  

water tower in Ohio
The River museum has lots of displays of river boats, steam boats and tub boats along with more stories about the collapse of the bridge over the Ohio River.  With the two small communities on either side of the river, almost everyone in the area knew someone who died in the collapsing of the bridge.  So much so that on the Ohio side of the river, they did not put up a memorial to all those who died until 25 years later.  It was just too much for them to relive.  On the second floor the museum has a tug boat simulator and is used to re-certify boat captains in the area.  Kind of neat to find a simulation training device as that was what I was a logistics manager for with the Naval Training Systems Center in Orlando before I retired.  They let me try out the simulator and I have to admit, I crashed the tugboat.  Opps.

So as you can tell I haven’t had that much to explore in this area, just a few local sites to explore.  Didn’t even get over to the County Fair on the Ohio side of the river.  But there’s always another adventure on down the road, and that’s where you’ll find me next week.

Tug boat simulator
Additional Photos:

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum 

Point Pleasant West Virginia and Mothman Museum

Point Pleasant WV and River Museum

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