CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Author and columnist Sherri Brake will present “The Haunted History of the West Virginia Penitentiary” on Thursday, May 9, 2013, in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. The program will begin at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Built in 1866 by inmate labor, the penitentiary in Moundsville was home to thousands of inmates who helped secure the institution’s rank as one of the most violent prisons in America. The Cincinnati Enquirer called it “Hell on Earth” as early as 1886. Early reports of torture devices led to eventual reform but not without costing many prisoners their lives. Death was always nearby as inmates lived in deteriorating conditions and were subjected to occasional outbreaks of deadly diseases.

Many prisoners believed that if a person died in prison his soul stayed in prison. The 998 murders and suicides, 86 hangings and nine electrocutions which occurred onsite provided a recipe for possible ghostly activity, says Brake.

The West Virginia Penitentiary closed in 1995, but day tours and overnight ghost-hunts continue to bring in visitors.

Brake will share glimpses from behind the stone walls of the facility. Her presentation will use historical and current photographs sprinkled with spooky paranormal images captured by paranormal investigators. Brake is the author of four books on haunted history, including The Haunted History of the West Virginia Penitentiary: Afterlife with No Parole (Raven Rock, 2011) and a monthly columnist for Two-Lane Livin’ magazine. Active in preservation efforts, Brake is a member of several historical and heritage societies, and is a Civil War re-enactor. She has appeared on the Travel Channel’s Most Terrifying Places in America and the Discovery Channel’s Ghost Lab. Brake is the owner of Haunted Heartland Tours based in Summersville and instructs classes on paranormal activities at New River Community and Technical College.

For planning purposes, participants are encouraged to register for the lecture, but advance registration is not required. To register in advance, contact Bobby Taylor, library manager, at or at (304) 558-0230, ext. 163.

Participants interested in registering by email should send their name, telephone number and the name and date of the session. For additional information, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The Division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the Division’s programs, events and sites, visit The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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