Lakin Industrial Home for Colored Boys
Lakin, West Virginia
Update: The Lakin Industrial Home for Colored Boys was purchased by AEP, and the building was demolished in November 2006.
I visited the Lakin Industrial Home for Colored Boys on April 12, 2003. Since there are so many stories, I have the photos on a separate page. Click here to view them.
Also, check out the Lakin Industrial Home for Colored Boys page at Abandoned for even more great photos (and lots of information)!
The Lakin Industrial Home for Colored Boys was built in 1924 in Lakin, West Virginia. Several state funded institutions for African Americans were built during this time, largely due to the efforts of three African American legislators: T.G. Nutter, Harry Capehart, and T.J. Coleman. This industrial school had all African American staffs and inmates. The inmates worked at the surrounding farm that surrounded the building until it closed in 1956. After it closed, the land was owned by the West Virginia Department on Health and Human Services until they sold the property to the West Virginia Department of Agriculture in 1976. In 2006, the land was purchased by American Electric Power (AEP) and the building was demolished.
When I first heard about the Lakin Industrial Home for Colored Boys, I was under the impression that it was an old psychiatric hospital. Many stories and urban legends surrounded the old building. However, the old Lakin Hospital for the Insane was actually located across the road, on the site of the present Lakin Nursing Home. Only a few of the remaining hospital buildings remain. However, since most people believe the industrial home was actually the hospital, I will share the stories on this page.
The Lakin Industrial Home for Colored Boys is one of the area's most well known haunted locations. I have talked to several people who have experienced strange things while exploring the old building. Nate, a website visitor, told me that one of the well known ghost stories is about an inmate pushing a nurse down the steps that go to the basement for no apparent reason. The nurse was found dead at the bottom of the stairs. I guess they blamed the patient's actions on his disorder.
After visiting the industrial home, I received an e-mail from Joe with an additional haunting story about Lakin Hospital:
At one time Lakin State Hospital was considered the 'lobotomy capital of the east'. In the days following the creation of the procedure, it was regarded as the premier treatment for nearly all forms of mental illness. The doctors at Lakin Hospital became renowned for the speed and ease with which they performed the procedure, and patients from states across the country were sent there to be treated. At one time they logged nearly four hundred in a single day, and often these procedures would be done without the benifit of even the crudest anesethtic, with the patient simply bound to the table.
Now, I usually just dismiss these stories as urban legend only. However, in March 2006 I read a book called The Lobotomist by Jack El-Hai, and I discovered that maybe there is a tiny bit of historical fact in this story! The book is about the life of Doctor Walter Freeman, the most well known lobotomist. He helped pioneer the surgery in America, and he traveled across the country to perform lobotomies at mental institutions (for more information about the procedure, please visit lobotomy.info). The book was very interesting, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about lobotomies and the doctor who made them infamous. But on to Lakin Hospital...
While the number in the ghost story is greatly exaggerated, it turns out a very high number of lobotomies were performed in West Virginia institutions, by Dr. Freeman himself. Here is a quote from The Lobotomist:
"Freeman devoted an intensity and energy to his mission in West Virginia that surpassed nowhere else. Over the next four years he frequently visited the state, with the result that its per capita rate of lobotomy was the highest in the nation. In 1950 Freeman operated on additional patients at West Virginia hospitals in Huntington, Lakin, and Spencer."
The book gave more details about a specific period in 1952:
"Between July 18 and August 7, 1952, Freeman operated on 228 West Virginia patients."
Freeman is quoted as saying that only twelve days in that timeframe were actually devoted to operating, the rest were used to interview the patients; both before and after the operations. A few paragraphs later, I read another reference to Lakin Hospital:
"At the hospital in Lakin, a segregated institution for African Americans, Freeman was pleased when he returned "a week or so after operating upon twenty very dangerous Negroes and found fifteen of them sitting under trees with only one guard in sight. It was the first time that they had been out of the seclusion rooms for anywhere from six months to seven years." The Lakin superintendent soon discharged half of this group from the hospital."
Lobotomies were very crude operations, and many of the patients never fully recovered. Since it was such a horrible surgery that many patients didn't want to have, perhaps the hospital is haunted by their ghosts. You never know!
Many people have experienced creepy things while visiting the Lakin Industrial Home for Colored Boys. Here are a few stories that visitors have shared with me (you can read about my experiences on the Day Photos page)...
In April 2005 I received an e-mail from Jesse L. about his creepy experience at the Lakin Industrial Home for Colored Boys:
I've been to Lakin around 6 times now, the last time I went was the first time I'd seen anything scary though.. My name is Jesse Lewis, my friend Seth Dearien wrote this in his journal...
I received another story from Jesse L. about his next trip to Lakin:
Pulling up to where Lakin is silhouetted against a clear sky is one of the creepiest things I have ever seen. There are several buildings there but we went to the largest, main building. All the windows are broken out and plants were growing up over it, not to mention it was really dark, really quiet, and the place is pretty big. We pulled down the paved road by the security building and a street light went out, convincing my friend Sloan that it was a sign we should leave. We parked behind the main building, rolled the windows down, and turned the car off to listen to see if we were the only ones there.
In July 2005, I received an e-mail from Charles about his trip to the Lakin Industrial Home for Colored Boys:
My name is Charles and I went to Lakin Hospital last night for the first time. It was me and four friends, and I am not the kind of guy who scares very easily. When we pulled up in the car everyone was kind of jumpy, and when we got out we shined our lights at the house and saw someone in the window. This made my friends not want to go in so I took charge and went in first with my video camera. It turned out the figure in the window was a bit of graffiti on the wall. As we walked through the house, we heard several noises that startled a few people. I love to be scared, but I also believe there is an explanation for everything so I went towards all of the noises to find out what they were. That is when a bat almost hit my camera, lol. But we went on up to the 3rd floor and turned all of our lights out, then we heard the same noise that Jesse was describing on the main page. It did sound like a growling dog or something like that. But I figured out later on in the night, by following the noise, that it was a water filtration device that was in the lake behind the post office. We also heard some noises that I can't describe because you can't hear my voice on an e-mail, but they turned out to be pigeons in the attic. So we went through all of the buildings and didn't see a thing, or even hear anything that couldn't be explained for sure. The only thing that we couldn't figure out was the drop in temperature on the left-back side of the house. In one room that we entered it was about 10 degrees cooler that any other part of the house and I do believe it was in the kitchen, but I might be wrong. To tell you the truth, the only thing that creeped me out the entire night was all of the goddamn bugs. When we were driving back home my friend felt something on her hand so she turned on the dome light and there was a tick on her. So we all jumped out of the car and started stripping in the middle of the street. I was covered in ticks, haha, my worst fear. Well, I just thought I would tell you my little story, please get back at me if there is some place that you think I might like or actually be scared of, I would love to see it.
In August 2005 I received the following story/information from Tara F., a website visitor:
Myself and another friend traveled to Lakin State Hospital some fifteen years ago and found a truly bizarre sight. It was nothing like what I saw in your pictures. None of the graffiti was there, the room on the main floor just to the left was completely full of medical records, exam rooms still had a goodly deal of instruments still left in the mirrored cabinets that were still hung on the walls. The third floor was still set up with the frames of the cots and there were a couple of pairs of small mismatched shoes thrown over in the corner.
In September 2005 I received an e-mail from Sara Renee about her trip to the Lakin Industrial Home for Colored Boys:
Some of my friends and I went to the hospital Friday. Of course, some weird things happened. One of my other friends, who had been there about 4 or 5 times, told us to wear crosses. So we did, but one of my friends didn't because he thought nothing would happen. Boy he was wrong! He tried to go up to the attic but something wouldn't let him. It was holding him there. Then he decided to get down, and as soon he started going down it pushed him down. We took a picture of it, and it looks like a man was pushing him. We were walking around. All of us had flashlights - it was just the 4 of us until 4 other people came. But anyway, we went into the hospital, it was about 8 or 9 o'clock, and my flashlight went out. We couldn't get it back on. So my cousin's boyfriend gave me his. In about 5 to 10 minutes, the flashlight that he gave me went out. Then when the other 4 people showed up, we were walking around and one of them had a digital camera. She said she charged it all the way up and about 10 minutes later the batteries went dead. Is that weird or what?!
In May 2006 I received the following e-mail from PRabb33647:
I was a VISTA Volunteer (Domestic Peace Corps) assigned to Lakin State Hospital in June 1965. Never heard of all the "ghost" stories, but it was a working hospital at the time. I do recall the nurses telling the horror stories of the lobotomies that had been performed years before. They told of one German doctor who performed so many of them. He would pull back on those "picks", blood would spurt out, and he would say, "Well, this one's a goner" and walk away. I remember one patient, who supposedly was once a pro ball player. He had a lobotomy years before, and all he did was stand in the hallway all day swaying from side to side. He was blinded from the procedure and all you could see were the whites of his eyes. I haven't been back to that area since I left in 1966, but am planning on a West Virginia trip this June. I didn't even know the hospital was closed until I pulled up your web site. I will say, when I worked there, the hospital staff were some of the finest people I had ever had the pleasure to meet.
In June 2006 I received an e-mail from Zach M. about his trip to Lakin:
I was driving down Route 62, patiently looking for the hospital, but I had no idea where I would even find it. After miles of driving, finally it popped up in the distance and instantly I knew I was there. I pulled around the back by the "Lakin State Farm" building. I was a little freaked out being there alone, but it went away, so I walked up towards the main building. After scoping out the area, I went inside. I just kept snapping pictures, keeping my 4-cell maglite firmly in hand. The sun was setting, so all of the rooms on that side were really bright. I finally made my way into the cafeteria area when I heard the sound. I'd seen birds flying out of the windows, and I was aware of the sounds that birds make. This was nothing like their sound. It sounded like a gutteral moan that turned into a muffled scream. It was either on the 2nd or 3rd floors, but it was RIGHT above me. I stood in my tracks, figuring that if I heard footsteps, I would quickly leave. No footsteps followed, so I went back through the hall and took about 20 more pictures. I heard the noises again, so I went outside again. I figured I'd driven 2 hours, so I couldn't chicken out. I got about 20 outside shots before I decided I'd take off. As I was walking back around the rear side to make the trip across the field and back to my car, I heard what sounded like some whispering voices in that upstairs window. I saw nothing, but I know I heard voices. I felt like something was watching me walk back across the field to my car, so I looked up toward that nearly ivy-covered window, and I saw a flickering light in that same window. I grabbed my videocamera as quickly as I could and turned it on. I caught the end of the flickering, but I'd missed the wildest part. I just had the feeling that something had seen me come in, heard me downstairs, did it's best to drive me out of there, and felt good that it had succeeded.
In June 2006 I received an e-mail from Diane P. with an observation regarding one of my photos:
I found something in one of the pictures - it's in the day photos section of the Lakin School in West Virginia. The photo is called "Looking at the upper floors." If you look at the top, in the far right window, there is a woman in a blue dress standing with her arm held out from the elbow. I've cropped and enlarged it so you can see it better.
Here is the cropped photo Diane sent:
In December 2006 I received the following e-mail from PJ M:
I was wanting to let you know there is one thing that you don't know about. Lakin was cursed ever since one of the doctors did a lobotomy. It was a mad house, and there would be nights that I would go into the basement and I would always find a tortured soul of someone who was supposed to be dead, but was not. I used to be a patient in Lakin State Hospital.
In January 2007 I received the following observation from Russ D., regarding one of my photos:
If looking at the school in the last picture, it looks like a figure standing in the shade to the right of the home.
Here is the photo Russ is referring to:
In March 2007 I received the following e-mail from Liljen B. regarding Lakin:
We visited the school in February 2006. We took photos and had some experiences. My daughter saw a little boy in one of the top windows, in the daytime. That night we all had different experiences: we heard a man and women talking, then we heard doves. We did check to see if there was any sign of birds, and there was none. My sister heard noises in the basement of the building, in the back. We also checked out the doctor's house and it was spooky by itself. I really hate they tore it down, because we would have liked to have visited it again.
In December 2007 I received the following e-mail from Jerry K. regarding the Lakin facility:
Around October 2006 my sister, my boyfriend, and I went to Lakin State Hospital. I had been there once, but the person I went in there with freaked out so we left in about 10 minutes. My boyfriend did not believe in ghosts, so I thought I'd prove that there was something there. Just by driving into the driveway of the hospital I sensed spiritual activity. At age 11 I became very hypersensitive to spirits and had alot of interest. We arrived there just before it turned dark so we could go through the other buildings before entering the hospital. We got really cold, so before we went in, we went to the car to grab some sweatshirts. As we were about to get back out of the car, we heard footsteps and voices; we were all spooked so we sat there for 5 minutes with the door locked. As we were walking towards the entrance we all felt something horrible. It felt like something knew we were there. We finally walked in, and right when we did, we all had this feeling of depression...it felt like people were trapped and it was really sad, and then we also felt an angered spirit. This spirit did not want us there. We went down the hall to the right and had the feeling someone was behind us, like almost on top of us. We freaked so we quickly walked back down. We walked towards the cafeteria, and just like mentioned in other experiences, we heard a loud painful moan. We didn't know what to do so we went to exit. Right before we walked out, there was something beside my boyfriend and it said, "Get out now!" Clear as day, very loudly. We ran out to the car, and I turned to look at the building one last time. There was someone standing in the first window at the top floor, to your left. For a week or two afterwards there was a feeling...my boyfriend and I even glimpses of a dark figure. I have a feeling still today that there are souls trapped that were tortured, but something or someone is keeping them hostage. I feel sorry and terrible, like there is something I need to do. By any chance did anybody see a big pile of clothing in that one bulding? They were old and grungy. I believe those might have been the clothing of the patients. It was about two or three feet high.
In February 2008 I received the following e-mail from Ashley:
About a month ago, my partner and I decided to go to the site of the Lakin Hospital. I had come across it on the internet, and almost immediately after seeing it, I was drawn to it. It was very unsual. So we decided to make the eight hour trip from Baltimore to Lakin. When we arrived it was almost 4 AM and we couldn't really see anything except for the new hospital. We were driving down a road passing the hospital when I pussed out. I asked Krys to pull into the delivery parking lot for the new hospital. I saw something shoot across the road and I flipped out. While we were sitting in the parking lot, I asked her to turn off the car because we weren't really supposed to be there and I didn't want to get caught. So we sat there, freezing and scared shitless. I really wanted to wait until dawn to scope out the area so we could see better. While we were sitting in the lot, we both heard male voices literally screaming bloody murder across the field. Then we started hearing females screaming in agony. I actually started crying. I was seeing flashes of images and it was freaking me out. I finally calmed down and was able to fall asleep. I was so tired and had to drive back home. I think I'd been asleep for like 20 minutes when I had been awakened by the screaming again. Finally the sun started to come up and I woke Krystal up so we could continue before we left. I have to say that I think they made a HUGE mistake demolishing that building. Whatever they decide to put on that land, the spirits will wreak havoc on it. I really don't understand how people can live back there and not be freaked out. The building may be gone, but the spirits are still very much around that site.
I received an e-mail from Patricia in June 2008 regarding her trip to Lakin:
I think in the year 2002 or 2003 I went to Lakin with groups of people. I have video tape to prove to you. I saw two colored boys and a man who looked like a doctor. I saw lots of souls on the third floor. I never told anyone about this until a year ago...then I told my friend about it. OK, so this place was bought by AEP. If they build on that land in the future, they will be sorry. The new building would have ghosts everywhere because their souls are not at rest. I had a dream about the place: there is a girl wearing a red dress, and she is deaf. The doctor, or someone who worked there, raped and then killed her. They buried her right inside the building that they tore down. She is a white girl, and it seemed like she lived somewhere in Point Pleasant. That is the reason I am looking for this girl, to find out who she was.
I received an e-mail from Becky in July 2008 regarding her trip to Lakin:
I live in Ashland, Kentucky which is about an hour away from Point Pleasant, West Virginia. My mother had taken this picture of me and a friend standing in font of the Lakin Hospital. Zoom in to the very top window. Look in the far left corner of the right hand panel (above the red arrow). It was creepy to know that we were being watched this whole time. Out of all my visits and experiences with Lakin, this tops them all. I found some bones on the first floor under some dirt. I snatched a bone fragment before we had to run out of there to avoid being caught. My biology teacher was unable to identify what species it came from.
I received an e-mail from Myssi in September 2008 regarding her trip to Lakin:
As amatuer ghost hunters out of Ripley, WV, we have had experiences that are so numerous we couldn't even mention them all about Lakin State Hospital.
I received an e-mail from LBC in August 2009 regarding her trip to Lakin:
I was 16 and in high school. I had always loved the huge building along the river. When we would drive by it in the day, it looked sadly haunted. In the evening, while the sun was setting, you could see the sun sparkle through the bits of broken glass of the windows. It was beautiful and painful. At night I could barely look at it. I'm naturally a big chicken. I'm terrified of the dark, but yet I stay up and watch ghost hunting shows with my mother, only to have my eyes dripping with water from fear and my body covered in goose bumps. During my junior year, we were given an assignment of a 10 page paper to complete on anything we wanted. I don't know why I chose Lakin. I did research on the building and learned that there were buildings: A house for the Chief of the Hospital, a nurse's dorm, the farm, and several buildings. I went to the hospital and searched for hours for old newspaper articles. I found patients' names and physicans who were in and out. The famous Dr. Walter J. Freeman and all about his ice-pick methods. I asked questions to anyone who would have the smallest connection to the place. At one point I remember being told that there were a few tunnels from the second basement to the other buildings. I don't know how true this is, or if it is at all. I was also informed that the remains of patients were buried in the back and unmarked. I have been to the building twice and the land that is left once.
I received an e-mail from an anonymous website visitor in January 2010 regarding her experiences as a nurse aid at Lakin:
As a nurse aid at the age of 16 years old in 1982, a black male resident told me the story of having to hold the boys down while they had "ice picks put in their eye" lobotomies. He was a sweet, sweet man that told me "No maam, after that pick broke off in that boy's eye; I never helped again." Tears fell down his cheeks.
I received an e-mail from Laura G. in July 2010 about something she noticed in one of my photos:
I was enjoying your photos of abandoned places when I noticed one of the pictures at Lakin School for Colored Boys (shame they tore it down). I noticed something odd in one of the photos you took, and it doesn't look like anyone else saw it, so maybe it's just me.
I received an e-mail from Miranda in December 2011 about her trip to Lakin:
It was back in June of 2005. My friends and I were just 16 years old and decided out of the blue one night to take a drive up there. We live in southern Ohio so the drive was roughly an hour and half drive for us. It was me and five other of my friends. When we got there we explored a bit and generally scared the crap out of ourselves. Two of the girls I was with wouldn't go inside, so I came back out to check on them. As I was sitting in the car I looked up to the third floor of the building and saw two sets of eyes staring back at us. I alerted the others that we were not alone and one of them braved the trek up the steps. They surveyed the room and saw that no one was there. She came back down and we looked back up the sets of eyes returned. You could feel it in the air - the sadness and sense of despair. I have visited many "haunted" places, as well as attended one the most supposedly haunted to schools in the country (Ohio University). The trip to this place is one of the sadest places I had ever been. I always wanted to go back but by the time I was able to, the place had already been torn down. After seeing these eyes, which I can only assume were children, we left. I only wish I had a camera at the time to capture it.
I received an e-mail from Lindsay in May 2012 about her trip to Lakin:
I went there with three of my friends since we just live a short distance away. We were bored and thought why not, let's go. We pulled around back, grabbed our flashlights, and walked in thinking we wouldn't even witness anything. It was about the time we reached the 2nd floor that we actually heard something, all four of us knew it, we were pretty much all huddled real close together because we were already creeped out seeing some of the old equipment and that sorta thing. When we got a little further in we walked up the steps and into a hallway and just froze. The hair on our necks and arms stood straight up. About that time we heard whistling plain as it could be, just like it echoed in a long hallway almost as if it were a janitor. It wasn't any of us, and we knew that other than the four of us the building was vacant. I almost cried, that scared the shit completely out of me. Although I'm not a skeptic, I wasn't really expecting anything that particular night at Lakin. After that I was ready to go and not go back like ever. But we proceeded to go to the top floor anyway, and the scariest thing was that it literally felt like someone was breathing down my neck or following right behind me. Then I saw an old operating table or lobotomy table or something, that was scary all in itself. After actually leaving the building I could not shake the fact that it felt just like someone was watching me really close or right on my heels. There's another building across the way and as we were driving off we all witnessed the same exact thing, there was definitely an apparition of someone or something standing in the front of that building. To this day I will stand behind this story 100% because every word is true. Although it's been torn down for AEP uses, I've never been back or around that place...only driving past and even that gives me chills.
I received an e-mail from Amanda F. in October 2012 about her trip to Lakin:
Below are two photos that I took while visiting Lakin. The unknown lights appeared in some of the photos and are unexplainable.
Did you have any strange experiences at the Lakin Industrial Home for Colored Boys? If so, please send me an e-mail and I'll post your story on the site!