Trans-Alleghany Lunatic Asylum, WV
Despite my loathsome misgivings toward any address with the words “lunatic” and “asylum” in its name or description, I agreed to visit this dreaded famed and supposedly “haunted” locale to investigate. I may sound like a cynic, a non-believer, but the truth is that I believe too strongly and that is why I despise such a place as this.
I know beyond any doubt that it is indeed cursed, that even its bricks and mortar waver in an unearthly trance –caught between worlds- and that I chance becoming infected with the lunacy myself. For madness lingers, defying death, living on past the mind in which it once dwelt. It is in the walls, in the decomposing rot that lines the ceilings, and surely in the lonely apparitions who wander the dank, cob-webbed corridors of this derelict monument to insanity.
I could feel the terror building in my chest even as I approached the massive gothic structure, its peaks looming high above me in the West Virginia sky, looking down with a mocking sneer. Yet, even with the horror filling my bones, I entered this grand monolith to the wreckage of malformed minds. I simply could not help myself, for I had to know what lies behind the veil of sanity, and the tickets to the overnight ghost tour for which I had registered were apparently non-refundable.
An hour after my entry into the asylum, I found myself on the fourth floor. Dusk had traversed the bridge into night. My senses had registered to the gloom which surrounded and enveloped me and I let the shadows wrap around me like a comforting blanket. Thankfully, I was in the company of a small group of fellow believers, the “tour group”, who walked the halls with me in a shared reverential fear. We whispered among each other as we listened for the moans of the trapped souls, staying close together, hoping for a glimpse of the otherworldly; even as we dreaded its presence.
We took watchful steps along the corridor. Our eyes darted nervously back and forth. Even in the dank cold, sweat pricked my skin. The gloom thickened. A lonely laugh echoed down the hall. We halted, our small group frozen where we stood. Again, seconds later, the laugh, high and thin, filled with bleak mirth. Another laugh darted out behind us. Heads spun in different directions. Then, a moan, a dirge of confused sorrow and fear, rang out of the last room on the left.
Photo by Amanda Norman
My hands trembled. A cold breeze cut through me. I saw my own breath. It formed a ghastly image near my face, a visage with a demonic smile which hovered within arm’s reach. The image grinned at me, and, as it faded, whispered my name. I twirled and screamed, and I saw that I was suddenly, utterly, alone.
I called out for my fellow paranormal seekers. Answers in the form of moans and giggles from the rooms lining the hall were the only answers I received. I stumbled backward. Pale figures in glowing white gowns shuffled out of the rooms, through thin doorways, turning toward me, their faces fluid, contorting, their expressions waxing and waning between grimaces and grins. They held their arms out to me, beckoning me to them. Closer and closer, the spirits floated and whispered my name. How did they know me? Was I once one of them in another life? Their contorting mouths opened wide. The ghouls screeched in unison. Black, horrid clouds of insanity poured forth, filling the air, surrounding me, pressing in, holding me close.
I fell to the floor, calling out for help with the dark pouring down on me and the dead whispering my name, over and over, picking at my mind, slicing at my soul. The dark, the madness, the whispers, the laughter, the cries –make it stop! Make it stop! Make it stop!! I wailed in the bleak and the black and the dank and the dark.
Hands on my shoulders shook me awake. Or was I ever asleep? I opened my eyes. I was in the center of the fourth-floor hallway. The odor of urine and disinfectant drifted over me. A fly buzzed over my cheek. Harsh fluorescent lights beamed down on me. The faces of two nurses filled my vision. I slid back on the slick, tile floor, retreating in horrified confusion.
One of the nurses smiled at me. “Now, how’d you get out here again? You know you aren’t supposed to be in the hallway.”
I mumbled, attempting to explain. Somehow, my words scrambled and didn’t come out right. Why can’t I speak?! I shouted something unintelligible. My eyes watered with horror.
“Now, now, don’t you be afraid,” the other nurse says. “Let’s get you back to your room.”
I cried out as the two asylum nurses hoisted me from the floor. My legs went limp and they dragged me through the corridor, all the way to the last room on the left. I groaned in protest, attempting to explain. Why couldn’t they understand that I wasn’t a patient? Why weren’t they listening to me?
That was last week or maybe last month or last year, I can’t be sure. But I am sure that I must find a way out of this godforsaken abode. Every day more patients arrive. I now share my room with five others. The nurses rarely walk our hall and whenever I see one I plead my case for release, telling them in the plainest of terms that I was never meant to be in this place, I was just a visitor! In my earnestness I often grab at their arms, hoping to impart my sincerity and the dire nature of my situation upon them. They look at me with disgust in their eyes and yell at me to leave them be and to “stop yammering.”
This written communique may be my last hope. I was able to smuggle it into yesterday’s mail, addressed to our San Francisco headquarters, and it is my most sincere prayer that a fellow staff member will read my account and take immediate action, for I know not in which dimension I now reside, but I believe with all my heart that the skills and imaginations and divinations of the ones in our organization will once again rescue me from certain peril. Godspeed you addicts! You are my only hope!