MOUNDSVILLE - There have been a number of instances throughout the years that have led many to believe there are spirits wandering about at the West Virginia Penitentiary at Moundsville.
From ghostly voices to a human shaped shadow appearing out of nowhere to other suspected paranormal activity, the former prison is a popular spot for people involved in ghost hunting and paranormal activities, said Tom Stiles, tour guide.
The prison was originally established around 1866 and closed in 1995.
During its 129 years of operation, there were 998 documented deaths from inmates who died of natural causes to those who were murdered to a number who were executed.
''There was a belief among the inmates that if you died while locked up there, your spirit and soul would remain incarcerated,'' Stiles said. ''It is one of the most haunted structures east of the Mississippi.''
The facility was once on the Department of Justice's Top Ten list of most violent correctional facilities in the nation.
Numerous television shows, featuring ghost hunting and paranormal investigations, have filmed at the facility.
The facility offers opportunities for people to do their own paranormal investigations or experience the unknown for themselves.
''It is very attractive to people,'' Stiles said. ''It has been very popular with many photos of aberrations, orbs and more taken.
''There are thouands of audio recordings of voices.''
One of the most famous aberrations was the Shadow Man, a human shaped shadow that has been spotted by a number of people and appeared in different photos taken inside the prison.
''People have sighted it many times and caught it on film,'' Stiles said.
Stiles said unexplained lights have appeared around the prison. Once when a film crew was doing some work inside the prison after a bad storm, Stiles said he was helping the crew with some of their equipment. At one point a small ball of light appeared on the monitor and was moving about. Stiles and some others went outside and saw the little ball of light, about 3-4 inches in diameter moving about the yard, then it moved next to a wall and moved down towards the basement.
''I don't know what we saw, but about six of us saw it,'' Stiles said.
Once in the basement, Stiles said he felt what was like someone putting pressure on his shoulder to stop him from moving forward.
''I felt I could not go any further,'' he said.
When he was able to get the lights on, the space he was in was a large open space with nothing to explain what he felt.
Some people have said they felt like they have had their hair tugged.
It is said that under the prison's administration building that inmate R.D. Whal, who was one of the warden's snitches, was killed there by inmates in 1939 after other inmates overheard him talking to the warden about things going on in the prison. The inmates cut him up into pieces in the basement.
''Many believe they can still hear his voice in that part of the prison,'' Stiles said.
Many believe Whal may be the Shadow Man seen around the prison.
Another prisoner, William "Red" Snyder, was stabbed 37 times in his cell in the north hall in 1992.
''There is a lot of activity around there,'' Stiles said.
Other areas with reported ghostly activity included the "Sugar Shack," a indoor recreational area for prisoners where a lot of violence occurred over the years; the psych ward; and the infirmary.
Stiles said there are areas in the prison where cameras have been known to stop, light have come on and gone off mysteriously and more.
''There is a lot of activity,'' he said.
The Moundsville Economic Development Council manages the tours and activities at the facility.
People can book a Private Paranormal Investigation for six hours overnight from just before midnight to 6 a.m. It costs $950 for upto 20 people. A $200 non-refundable deposit is required.
On Saturdays, people can take part in Ghost Adventures. People can tour the facility with a guide for about 90 minutes, and then roam the halls on their own. The Ghost Adventures run from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. and costs $65 a person with a limit of 60 people per adventure.
Both of those events are open to people 18-years-old and older.
On Thursdays is Thriller Thursdays, from 9 p.m. to midnight. It is $30 person with groups of up to 30 people. Thriller Thursdays are open to people 15-years-old and older.
Daytime Prison Tours are open Tuesday - Sunday April through May and September through November. June through August the facility is open 7 days a week. Tours start at 11a.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The last tour leaves at 4 p.m. The daytime tours are $12 for adults, $9 for seniors and $6 for young people ages 6-16. Children age 5 and under are free.
''People have caught stuff during the daytime tours,'' Stiles said of paranormal activity at the prison.