Featured Photo: Abandoned Buildings – The Lunatic Is In the Hall

The Lunatic Is In the Hall
The Lunatic Is In the Hall. I was originally considering shooting the asylum in black and white to try and heighten the creep factor. But after seeing the vivid colors of the asylum, I knew I had to display the photos in color. Many of the rooms were different colors – green, blue, yellow, red, pink – and the light shining through the windows and out into the hallway was often quite beautiful.

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Weston, West Virginia.
I love wandering and photographing abandoned buildings and cities.  So many questions.  Why did people leave?  What makes hundreds or thousands of people leave a place?  What are the stories behind these places?

And the places themselves.  The decay of an abandoned building can be alluring, fascinating, even beautiful.

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum had this going for it.  And more.  It was allegedly haunted, the ghosts of tormented inmates still roaming the halls.

Gaining admission to the lunatic asylum nowadays was decidedly easier than yesteryear.  Pay a ticket, take a tour.  But yesteryear’s admittance was far more interesting.  Back then, we e could have been admitted for imaginary female trouble.  Or superstition.  Or masturbation for 30 years.  Or perhaps doubt about mother’s ancestors.  Or even bad whiskey.

We took the tour.  I took photos since I couldn’t wander most of the 242,000 square feet of the asylum independently.  But I did lag.  The tour guide was quite relaxed about letting me lag, trusting that I would catch up.  And I always did.

A decaying doctor's residence on the premise of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia

A decaying doctor’s residence on the premise of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia, with some amazing textures from the peeling paint. Some of the doctors had special wings, where their wife and children would stay.  Can you imagine being a kid, living and growing up at an insane asylum?

Now, this is a photography blog, after all, so we can get to a little bit of the equipment used.  I would love to have wandered with a lightweight tripod, but we were on the go, and as it was, I was frequently running to catch up with the group.  So this is all used with a Nikon D90 and my trusty Nikkor 18-200mm VR all-purpose lens, what I call my “walkabout” lens.  It may not be the greatest lens, certainly not the fastest, but for sheer versatility, it’s hard to beat.  This was before I purchased my 50mm f/1.4 prime, a wonderful lens, although not as versatile, forcing you to move your feet much more.  I was so enamored with the natural lighting that I rarely if ever used my SB-600 speedlight (which was purchased with money that I received to photograph a wedding later on this same trip to West Virginia!).

You can see more of these photos here  on my Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page.  You may purchase this photo at my photo store.  And…you can view photos of my trip to West Virginia, including many photos of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum as well as an Appalachian wedding.  Thank you so much for looking!

The haunted lunatic asylum operated from 1864 until 1994, and was abandoned for years until Joe Jordan purchased it in 2007 for $3 million, opening it up for tours to raise money for restoration. The rooms smelled, as decaying rooms left to neglect always do. While I wouldn’t want to conduct tours here, spending a couple of hours here was so fascinating that it didn’t matter. Still, I appreciated the fresh air after the tour was over.

Thanks!  -Ken




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