Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Haunt of Moundsville Penitentiary

By now, most everyone is familiar with the infamous West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville, West Virginia. The facility (and its "Sugar Shack") left a rather impressionable mark as the setting of the debut episode of the MTV reality series, Fear, and kept the momentum going with recent appearances in the likes of Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. Well, today marks a rather notorious date in the facility's history. 110 years ago to this day, October 10, 1899, inmate Shep Caldwell was executed for murdering his mistress. His death marked the first execution in West Virginia Penitentiary and there would be 93 more before the prison closed in 1995.

Today, the facility is open to the general public as a living museum where guests can see what life was like behind bars for the inmates of the Moundsville prison. In addition, it also offers ghost tours/hunts for the would-be ghost hunters to hone their skills and attempt to shine some light on the facility's mysterious happenings. It is run by the Moundsville Economic Development Council who takes advantage of this time of year to turn the prison into the Halloween haunted attraction, Dungeon of Horrors. Intended to raise funds for the general upkeep of the prison and keep it open to the general public, the haunt has become one of the more popular Halloween attractions in the United States - drawing around 10,000 visitors each year.

This week, a minor controversy erupted in Wilmington, North Carolina over a similar fundraising haunted attraction that transforms the USS North Carolina into the annual Ghost Ship. Local area news reported on a veteran of the ship's objections that the Halloween haunted attraction was not respectful of those that served and died on the vessel. The staff that run the haunt defended the attraction by saying that the ship did not receive state or federal funding to keep the memorial open and that the group relied on dollars raised from the haunt (and other events throughout the year) to keep the ship open to the general public.

So a question for you all - Do you believe it is disrespectful to run a Halloween haunted attraction at a facility where lives were lost - be it a prison, military vessel, or similar public venue? Does the money raised that help keeps the facility open to the general public justify the means?

For more information on West Virginia Penitentiary and Dungeon of Horrors, check out our articles on Dark Destinations:

West Virginia Penitentiary
Dungeon of Horrors

-Casey H.


Pauline said...

Frankly, I don't buy the argument. The US has such a hard time preserving it's history that I personally feel anything that keeps it alive for the future is a good thing. Plus, I'm from a seafaring family and I think your average sailor would appreciate rather than vilify the ship where he served being kept in good condition. As to prisons, again I'd say the ends justify the means as long as there is no intentional disrespect to individuals.

Courtney Mroch said...

I heard about the controversy surrounding the Battleship. I agree with Pauline...if it helps to preserve the history, do it!