Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Western Regional Jail

The Western Regional Jail in Barboursville was officially opened on December 13, 2003.  It was built to house a capacity of 400 inmates from Cabell, Putnam, Mason, Lincoln, and Wayne Counties.

The proposed land for the construction site required the removal of one of the oldest cemeteries in the area, the Merritt Cemetery, which held many of the descendants of William Merritt, a prominent early citizen, as well as Malchor Strupe, a Revolutionary War veteran.

In 1999, as ground was broken, it became clear that the building site also was of Native American significance.  Two different archeology groups were brought in, but it was declared that plowing and road construction had disrupted the site to the point where it did not qualify for historical preservation.  Still, tools and pottery shards, and even remnants of a fire pit were discovered, and attributed to the Woodland Indians.  The bulk of artifacts put the date at anywhere between 700A.D. and 1200A.D., but there is reason to believe that the area was used as a temporary campground way before that. 

The HRC, an archaeological and  historical preservation group from Morgantown also began "Phase II" in 1999, which consisted of surveying and relocating the Merritt Cemetery.  In October of that year, the graves were officially moved to a new location a short distance away, and still on the original homestead property.

The team found 25 visible stones, and 15 buried bases or fragments.  They also found at least 28 unmarked graves.  There were 52 total burials that were found, and 19 of those were outside the fence.

The soil in the area was so acidic that not much was left of the remains.  A few teeth, a button or two, soles of shoes, and coffin hardware were all that were left.  These artifacts, along with the darker dirt (indicating organic matter) were put into pine boxes and re interred in the new location.

This is really the stuff that breeds ghost stories...of course, the Woodland campground became an "Indian burial ground."  Also, it is a fairly accepted theory that spirits are unhappy whenever their earthly remains are undisturbed.  Unfortunately, there is an added element.  It would have been impossible to scoop up all the organic matter which was so decomposed, so technically there would still be bodies buried under the jail.

Almost immediately upon opening, staff and inmates alike began reporting strange phenomena.  Voices and footsteps are heard when no one should be around.  One inmate claims that he was shoved down, and someone caught him.  He turned to see who had saved him from falling, and no one was there.

In another incident, an employee was asked by an inmate to bring him a shaving kit.  Upon returning with the kit, the guard realized that no one was assigned to that cell.  Cold AND hot spots have been reported within feet of each other, and people have said there is a negative vibe in the whole place, even more so than what one would expect in a jail.  Interestingly enough, there have also been several deaths...a little more than what you'd expect in a jail less than five years man allegedly committed suicide while being held for a minor charge, and at least two others died of apparent overdoses.


  1. This place still used as a jail?

  2. I knew the boy who commited suicide. He had a fight with his wife and the cops took him and 5 minutes after he got in cell he was dead. They said it was suicide but the cops was aggressive upon arrest. Who really knows I do know they was checking on the death.

    1. Yeah, it definitely sounds like it was a sad, needless death and we'll probably never know the whole story about what happened with death, and the death of several other inmates.

  3. I'll tell you, I think the spirits of all the people that were moved might be a little upset. I wonder if they had a preacher say a prayer for the ones that were moved.

  4. If your going to tell the story ... at least tell it right. They didn't give out shaving kits. They only gave out a razor and a small package of shave gel.

    1. I consider that a 'shaving kit,' lol. In any event, the guard who related the story called it such. As I don't work in the correctional industry, I don't know the actual jargon and what all would constitute your definition of 'kit,' but a razor and pack of shave gel is close enough for colloquial usage. Thank you for your message!


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