Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.

West Virginia Penitentiary, Moundsville, W.Va.

After visiting Grave Creek Mound and a quick lunch in the parking lot, we walked across the street for a 2-hour tour the former West Virginia Penitentiary. A former maximum security prison, it was closed in 1995.

View of West Virginia Penn from across the street on top of Grave Creek Mound, Moundsville, W.Va.

The tour guide explained to us the culture of the prison: how long inmates were out of their cells, what they ate, what they did during the day, where they took showers, how shanks were made, etc.

She also told us stories about riots, murders within the walls of the prison, poor eating conditions and more.

It was eye-opening and scary. Everyone should tour a prison. You’ll never want to visit again. You’ll be scared straight.

Here’s a photo tour:

Throughout the prison you could see peeling paint, dimly lit halls and spaces.
On this wing, first and second floors were separated by fencing.
This area was created as a family room were family could visit with prisoners. Like these paintings on the wall, prisoners (who had privileges) painted scenery throughout the prison and can be seen in places like the dining hall.
We got to check out the inside of the cells. Many had broken toilets and beds and writings and paintings on the walls. A lot of the doors were missing metal where inmates had broken off pieces to make shanks.
The guide told use about poor conditions when rats would come through the sewers and bugs were found in the mashed potatoes.
This is the gate leading to the yard for higher level inmates. They were separated into 2 yards. Three inmates were not allowed into the yard with other inmates. They were let out in the middle of the night.
You can see the fencing for the yard in the middle. The blue buildings were used for the industrial shop where inmates made products.
This yard was used for minimum risk inmates. They spent a lot of time out here playing cards, exercising and doing other activities.
This chapel is found in the yard (seen above).

These are some shanks made from everyday materials, such as a fork and toothbrush. The tour guide said all inmates had shanks or weapons to protect themselves.
Some more shanks.
We visited a room at the end of the tour that housed several artifacts including the shanks, an electric chair used in executions and news articles about riots, executions and murders within the prison walls.
This is a letter a warden received from mass murder Charles Manson. He requested to be relocated from California to West Virginia, where he was born and raised. The warden didn’t honor the request.
An article about Manson’s request to be moved to the penitentiary.
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