Imagine spending the night in an abandoned insane asylum. But this isn’t a movie. It isn’t even just a Halloween trick.
It’s St. Alban’s Sanatorium, home to ghost tours, haunted houses and zombie simulations. The house has a long life enclosed in its four walls and neighboring riverbanks that is rich in history and paranormal activity.
St. Albans was first home to the Powhatan, Shawnee and Cherokee Indians, and is also the site of the 1775 Draper’s Meadow Massacre. In 1892, St. Albans Lutheran Boy’s school was formed, and eventually the house was converted into a hospital for the mentally ill in 1916.
Administrator of St. Albans, Jessica Wright, has been working at St. Albans for two years and was a volunteer for a year beforehand.
“We do what we do to keep the building running and the history alive,” Wright said. “Good or bad memories, every person that passes through here works to honor the past.”
Wright and her family have been a part of the Mountain Ridge Paranormal Research Society for the past eight years and have always held paranormal activity at the center of their lives.
St.Albans became a place to investigate paranormal activity in 2011, when a team of investigators set out to prove the house’s worth and rich history.
When the house first opened, controversy was stirred at the thought of using an old insane asylum to run a haunted house. However, Wright explained that no harm was intended and any publication of the house’s old occupation was simply a marketing strategy.
“I knew nothing about business; I ran a daycare before this and worked as a volunteer,” Wright said. “All I knew was that this was the last chance we had to prove ourselves and this house, so I did anything I could to be noticed.”
All the seasonal activities St. Albans has to offer are open to the public. The haunted house that runs in October and February draws in young adults and teenagers while the ghost tours, public and private, usually attract professional investigators and curious adults.
"I was forced there by my friends, and it was pretty scary," said Joey Truncale, a senior communication major. "If someone left me in that building at night, I would be terrified."
Truncale visited St. Alabans this weekend and said the building itself was more haunting than the actors.
"You would look up and there were holes in the ceiling, and the hallways were shoulder length, which made it really claustrophobic," Truncale said. "Even the bathrooms looked terrifying."
Besides the haunted house tours to exhibit its creepy features, St.Albans also offers a historical tour and a photography tour for photographers who want open range to the house.
The logo “This is one crazy place” has also been called insensitive, but the workers at St.Albans were quick to point out that if one tours the house, they would see that no reference to hospitals or patients are used.