Thursday, April 23, 2009

April 23- Moundsville West Virginia

Today we drove into the town of Moundsville. It was a sunny warm day but we chose to spend it in a museum and an old prison, go figure. The museum had exhibits and displays showing what is known about the cultural life of the Adena people. Located in Moundsville is one of their burial mounds standing about 65 feet high and dating back about 1000 years ( is older than Chahokia Mounds located in Illinois which we have toured several times). After seeing the museum and climbing the mound, we walked to a nearby Mexican restuarant which served very good food( name of it was Acapulco). After lunch we toured the West Virginia penitentiary, located across from the mounds. It was built by Confederate prisoners in 1867. The prison has a very interesting history. It saw 85 deaths by hanging and nine deaths by the electric chair. But those deaths are small in comparison to the murders commited by the inmates, about one thousand( apparently several gangs ruled the prison one of which was the Black Panthers). That probably accounted for some of the bloody turbulence over the years. Interestingly enough, in stark contrast to the violent activities going on within its walls, inmates had painted some very beautiful pastoral murals on the walls over the years. Also, over the time of the prison's existence, about nine hundred convicts escaped. That made for some intriguing books/movies. One was "Fool's Parade (starring Jimmy Stewart) the other was "Night of the Hunter " (Robert Mitchum). Another interesting fact concerning this prison was Charles Manson's mother was imprisoned there from the time he was age two until her death. Just before the prison closed(1995) Manson asked to be transfered there because of family living in the town. "No way in hell" was the warden's reply. Now the prison is used for the training of law enforcement workers from all of the states and around the world. Looking at the cell blocks, graffiti on the walls and places where the inmates tried to chisel their way out made for an interesting tour. And I shouldn't forget to mention the old electric chair with all its straps and wiring. West Virginia got rid of the death penalty in 1959. The tour guide feels certain that will change soon.

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