My family and I were staying at nearby Stonewall Jackson Resort and ventured out on a rainy day to explore nearby for a restaurant. We stumbled upon a colossal structure that appeared straight out of a big-budget horror flick. The size of the monstrous building is a spectacle alone! We realized that it was the old Weston State Mental Hospital, now renamed the TALA, and immediately planned to return the next day for a tour.
We took the Historical 90-minute 4 floor tour for $30 each. It was very educational and respectful. We first asked if the day tour was appropriate for children, and were told "absolutely, it is historical only". We brought along our kids, who thought the building looked neat. My husband and I both are in the medical field and have spent some real time in clinicals in state mental hospitals while in college...this was unlike anything even we could have imagined. The history of the asylum is dumbfounding, especially if you have any medical background whatsoever. The tour guide focused on the word 'asylum' as a "safe place, home, place of refuge" for the patients, not a nuthouse...and it really made you think about deinstitutionalization and the effects on the mentally ill.
Our tour guide was excellent, and gave enough info to satisfy while touring. I also recommend you buy the $8 guidebook as you leave, it reinforces what the guide tells you and gives a more in-depth history of the asylum.
As promised, our 2 youngest kids just came away thinking it was a "yuck old hospital" and learning a little about the civil war and the history of medicine...however, the 10 year old did get a little more out of the subtle inferences of paranormal actvity....but only to the point that she thought it was "cool, and maybe haunted or something".
The guide made no direct mentions of hauntings other than telling us that we were entering "Lilly's room" or seeing "Lilly's toys and balls". I'll let you google that on your own. She also said the night tours focus more on the paranormal. Even without mention, the place is straight up creepy and more than a little freaked us out...and we are horror movie buffs who love a good scare! I will also tell you that if you go to YouTube, you'll see many clips of ghost hunts at TALA.
I recommend you wear comfy shoes, not open toed, preferably pants that do not drag...many puddles and leaks to walk through. Also, use the restroom in the lobby pre-tour if there is any hope you may need to during the next couple hours. It is very moldy and humid in the summer, ventilation is not great, so if you are prone to severe allergies it may prove problematic. You can take flash photgraphy.
Overall, highly recommended!
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