By Al Brindza
In June of 2003 my wife Jo and I were invited to tour the former West Virginia State Penitentiary located in historic Moundsville, which is roughly 12 miles from Wheeling West Virginia. Our son Eric and his girlfriend Chrissy and our niece Lori were going on a midnight ghost tour of the prison and asked us to go. At first I said "yes" thinking what an adventure this place could be, not only historically but also possibly it might prove to be haunted.
As the day came closer for the tour I began to have second thoughts. After reviewing the website from the prison and learning some of its background, I knew this was not a place that I should venture into unprepared or unprotected. I believe it was a few nights before we were planning on arriving at the prison I had a dream or perhaps just a vision that I needed to see this place for myself, that I would be protected, no harm would come to me and there was a reason for me to be there on that particular night, unknown to me at the time.
We arrived at the prison near midnight and once inside we were locked in until early morning roughly 6:00 am. Before we entered the prison we met with the other members of the tour group. There were twenty of us in all. We did our usual ritual of protection before entering a possible haunted location. Besides Eric, Chrissy and Lori, we were strangers to the other members of the tour group. Once inside, the outer gates of the prison were locked by our tour guide (Mike Parnicz). The tour was to last approximately an hour and a half, after that we were on our own for the rest of the night.
Before I get on with the rest of my story I will give you a little background information about the prison. This penitentiary is on the list of the National Historic Register and was built just after the Civil War, construction starting in 1866. In the early 1900s the prison was nearly self-sufficient due to the income from the prison farm and inmate labor. In 1921 a prison coalmine was opened, and by 1929 the prison was expanded to almost double its size to over 10 acres. It now looks like an old very impressive Gothic Style fortress. A number of people asked me if any executions took place at this penitentiary. The answer is "Yes"! From 1899 to 1959, 85 prisoners were executed by hanging and 9 others by the electric chair. In 1965 Capitol punishment was abolished in West Virgina. We also learned that from it's beginning as a prison, that 998 people died there, half of these were either murdered by other inmates, or committed suicide. The rest of the deaths were contributed to illnesses or natural causes.
Several of the murders by the other inmates were very brutal, because of this I will not go into detail.
Most of the prison population served short sentences, 1-10 years for the smaller crimes, but there was a section called the North Hall that housed the rapists and murderers and others who were too dangerous to mix with the general prison inmates. These were considered the badest of the harden criminals. They were locked in their cells twenty-two hours a day. As part of the tour we were taken to where some of the prisoners were held in solitary confinement. I entered a few of these 5 by 7 foot cells that were basically steel boxes with no window, only a thick 2 or 3 inch steel door that looked out to a wall on the other side of the dark hallway. There was no other human contact except maybe an occasional visit by the guards to bring their meals. I felt the impressions left by these inmates; believe me a few were totally out of their minds.
Even though protected I could only be in the cells for a short time, a few I would not enter into.
In 1986 the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that having the inmates in 5 by 7 foot cells was considered cruel and unusual punishment. Some of these cells held three inmates when conditions became over crowded at the prison. In 1995 the prison was officially closed and the inmates were moved to other locations. Some went to the new Correctional Institute at Mt. Olive West Virginia.
Now back to my story, once we were all inside the lobby we signed in as required by the prison. It was now after midnight and after a short briefing we began our tour. This was done in almost total darkness except for flashlights that most of us had brought along. Most of the group was armed with cameras; some were just along for the thrill of this event. Being experienced ghost hunters my wife and I were better prepared than the others. We had all the necessary equipment with us. An infrared camcorder, several digital cameras, a thermal scanner, EMF meter, a 35mm camera and a few other toys. We also had the advantage of me being a sensitive, which proved to be a blessing that night. We were on the tour for approximately one and a half hours when we were in a location called "The Hole." underneath the penitentiary's Administration Building.
We were actually in the basement of the building that is known to have been the scene of several hauntings. One of the entities that supposedly haunts this place is J.D. Walls, who was murdered and butchered on Oct. 8, 1979 by several of the other inmates. J.D. was a trustee of sorts who was liked by both the older inmates and guards. Apparently a few of the newer inmates didn't trust him and took his life.
While we were in one of the rooms of the basement we listened to the tour guide explain what this area was used for. I was off by myself at one side of the room. Remember we're doing this in total darkness. I had my infrared camcorder running and was scanning the room where everyone else was standing. Mike Parnicza our tour guide was talking, suddenly I got my usual jab of a headache that indicates to me an entity is near by. I felt a presence to my left and turned my camera in that direction and started recording. My camcorder was picking up an image of an entity that was so real I could not believe my eyes.
I managed to film this event that lasted for nearly a minute before the batteries on my camcorder died. I kept this to myself until we arrived back at the lobby where there was light. To my surprise my camcorder was now working again. I rewound the tape and then showed it to my wife and son. I immediately checked everyone in the group, their clothing, shape, size, hair, features etc. checking to see if anyone matched the description of the entity I had captured on video.
Next we called Mike over to look, he also verified that no one in the tour group matched that description of the apparition that I captured. The group was made up of half men and half women, most were young in their 20's early 30s. The entity was detailed enough to see he had a beard and long hair. Some described him when they saw the video as naked or possibly wearing Long Johns, the one-piece kind, with maybe a shirt that was opened. Either way he was not one of us that was positive. My next question to Mike was "Were there any other people in the prison at this time, any other guards or workers?" He assured me that we were the only ones there, the gates were locked, positively no one could enter or leave the prison without his knowledge.
I understand now why I was supposed to be there that night, if I had cancelled I would have never been able to videotape this event. This is every ghost hunters dream to be able to capture an Apparition on film! It meant something more special to me, finally after all these years of being able to see these entities at certain times and locations I now have the proof I need to show people (skeptics) that the other side does exist. This piece of video shows that it's possible to capture a Residual Haunting (an event that is played over and over again) if you're lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
Sure, I expect the skeptics not to believe this video is real. To satisfy myself along with Jon and Marty McClintock we returned back to Moundsville in August where we did an afternoon of experiments and testing, to rule out any doubts in our minds. At this point we can offer no other explanation except to say; "It's Real! Other experienced ghost hunters who have viewed the tape are at a lost for an explanation, they agree this is the best they have seen. Future trips are in the plans for us now to learn more about this place and the entities who are still trapped there. I will keep you posted as to what we find!
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