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“Educational and shocking!”

West Virginia Penitentiary
Ranked #1 of 12 things to do in Moundsville
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: Built in 1867 and in operation until 1995, this prison offers tours of the cells and the retired electric chair.
Level 6 Contributor
104 reviews
53 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 112 helpful votes
“Educational and shocking!”
Reviewed November 1, 2012

Our day tour was $10 and it started out in the visiting room in the penitentiary. The guide gave us some history of each stop and along the way through the grounds, she also pointed out the murals painted by the prisoners. The entire tour was about 1hr-1.5 hrs and she kept us moving to several spots inside and outside. We ended at the small museum near the visitors center. Hearing all the incredible stories made the tour very interesting...some stories were absolutely shocking! I never realized how bad it really was there until the government deemed the penitentiary as "cruel and unusual punishment". I wanted to see so much more of the building but it is very vast. We did not go into the famous "Sugar Shack" because that area is reserved for the overnight tours.

I have heard of people bringing small children to this and there was one on our tour as well. I have a feeling the guide edited down her stories to accommodate the child, but I don't think it is the best idea to take a child on a tour of America's most violent and haunted prison.

I do recommend reading a bit about the history if you have never been because it gives you an understanding of what you are about to see. They do allow photography and parking is free in front of the building. Also leave a little bit of time to explore the Grave Creek burial mound across the street, gives you an amazing view of the pen. We traveled about 10-15 minutes into Wheeling, WV and found some great shops and good cafes as well.

Visited October 2012
1 Thank LaBanane926
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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395 reviews from our community

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English first
Level 1 Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Wonderful tour”
Reviewed October 11, 2012

This is an absolutely wonderful tour to take. Inexpensive and very informative. Although this is supposed to be a very haunted facility, I didn't find it spooky in the least. That may have been because it was the first sunny day we had seen in a week. The tour guide was knowledgeable and enjoyed telling us the insider tales of some of the inmates. We had around twenty people on our tour - any more than that would be a little too crowded.

Thank Tim C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
West Virginia
Level 6 Contributor
235 reviews
147 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 163 helpful votes
“Hear about the worst of the worst”
Reviewed September 27, 2012

Definitely take the tour; you'll hear about how this prison housed some of the worst inmates in America. (I don't think you can wander the site on your own; at least that wasn't available when we visited.) You can easily walk away, shaking your head, wondering how the inmates got that debased. Although on this tour you won't see as many rooms/areas as you will on the self-guided tour of the Mansfield, OH prison (see my review) the guide's commentary enables a more holistic view of what prison life was like here in this notorious site. What was very interesting, and also very sad, was the artwork on the walls, painted by the inmates--such a waste of talent. My boyfriend and I also took advantage of being locked (for a minute or two) in a cell--that added to my appreciation of the whole experience. As the prison is in a state of disrepair, it's wise to wear sturdy shoes. It's easy to not pay attention to where you're walking while you're looking around; a woman tripped on a bump on the floor, and she was wearing flip-flops. Luckily she didn't get seriously hurt, although she did fall and narrowly missed hitting her head on the wall. At the end of the tour there's a small museum of weapons/articles confiscated from inmates. You'll also see the electric chair. Free parking is right out front, and the site itself is very easy to find in Moundsville. Where you pay the fee is also an excellent brochure rack of other local attractions; we were able to pick up some discount coupons for the Marx Toy museum here,

Visited August 2012
3 Thank 76desert
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ravenna, Ohio
Level 4 Contributor
36 reviews
18 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
“fantastic tour”
Reviewed September 13, 2012

I had already been to eastern state penitentiary so I planned a trip to see this one as well.While not as visually impressive as eastern state,the tour portion was much better. Our guide told us a lot of stories about the prison (and prisoners) having been a former employee. Definitely recomended!

Visited July 2012
Thank bridgeofsouls
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Level 6 Contributor
403 reviews
171 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 407 helpful votes
“Wow, fantastic tour. Very informative, different, thoughtful, sobering.”
Reviewed August 20, 2012

We stopped at the Penitentiary after hearing about the tour from friends. Our tour guide was Britt, and he was a wealth of information and clearly enjoyed educating visitors on the inner workings and shortcomings of the building and the prison system as it existed (and exists) in West Virginia. We had my 10yo daughter with us, and Britt modified some of his speech to omit certain profane words but there was no hiding the constant reminder of what a gritty and horrific place it was to be incarcerated within. "People died here, and here, and here, and here" he told us several times, and why. More than one riot occurred and we told us about the specifics of each. Many of his stories were also humorous such as the trustee who was sent out of the prison to retrieve the one and only softball when a home run took it over the wall. That trustee grabbed the ball but kept on going, making his escape, and the game was over.

Our tour was almost two hours long and while we visited all the important areas, it was by no means all encompassing. This place is huge and every corner has some history.

I will certainly go back, one visit was not enough to fully absorb the history of this place, and I will take my friends. They offer ghost hunting tours and summer only extended tours on Mondays.

One caution, for younger children, this tour might be too scary and graphic. The tour guides tell it like it was (and still is) in prisons, and although I'm sure that many references to murders and rapes and outright slaughter as presented by our guide (using inference and idiom e.g. the "sugar shack") went over the head of our 10 year old, that I recommend if you have younger children you spend some time in preparation, or just don't bring them. There is no minimum age recommended by the penitentiary, but I think our 10 year old was just mature enough to understand without being too frightening.

Visited August 2012
3 Thank copperdragon66
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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