“Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum” offends disability advocates

By Scott Finn

Last August, a Morgantown contractor paid $1.5M for the old Weston State Hospital and its 300+ acres. The hospital’s new name is generating the most noise: Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, its name in the 19th century. Some advocates for people with disabilities are upset with the name, including the WV Mental Health Consumers Association, the Statewide Independent Living Council, and Valley Healthcare.

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13 Comments on ““Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum” offends disability advocates”

  1. Kristie Says:

    I think these “groups” are bored and need something trivial to complain about. I don’t know if they understand that the hospital is a “historical” building and is acting as a museum. The building is not being renamed, they merely RESTORED it’s original name. It would be entirely different if it were a modern hospital with patients but it isn’t. We don’t change our history books to suit these fanatics, why would we alter monuments to our past for them.

  2. johussey Says:

    YEAH, Christie.

  3. Localoid Says:

    People who wish or actively seek to erase history scare the heck outta me, since such acts tend to remind me history being rewritten in Orwell’s “1984”…

    A few months back, here in Mt. Hope, WV a few “concerned” people in town were calling for “something” to be done about the town’s World War I monument to soldiers from Fay. Co. who died in WWI, because it had the word “colored” on it. What many seemed to want to do was either destroy/remove the monument or change the words on it by chiseling the offensive word off the brass plate on the monument. Oddly enough, the white people were the only ones I heard voicing this great “concern.” The use of the word and the practice of segregation of the U.S. armed forces is part of the history of this nation, etc. If we choose to erase and “clean up” our history. then we’ve learned nothing from our past mistakes and prejudices and we’re doomed to repeat similar mistakes in the future.

  4. Twosheds Says:

    This controversy reminds me of the recent outburst about a casting call for West Virginia actors who appeared genetically maladapted. As a psychologically sound individual, I wouldn’t be insulted if someone said I was inbred. I’d laugh. But someone who was maladapted might be very offended. That’s what we’ve got here in West Virginia — a society of the psychologically maladapted. Instead of letting it be known that anyone ever uttered the world “colored,” as Localoid was saying, they’d rather lie and pretend it never happened. In an individual, such behavior would a red flag. In a society, it’s a bigger red flag.

  5. JinFayetteville Says:

    I’ll go ya one better than NOT being offended and NOT understanding how this could be offensive. Given the MANY and on-going news items about “mentally challenged” people going off their meds and killing bunches of people, I BELIEVE THIS COUNTRY WAS BETTER OFF WHEN WE DID LOCK MENTAL PATIENTS UP IN ASYLUMS. Now we pump them full of medications and turn them loose on the streets – with absolutely no guarantee that they will continue to take their happy pills and undergo “treatment.” Further, it appears that the medications prescribed by the easily-offended mental heath professionals often turn generally harmless mental cases into full-blown homicidal psychopaths. I’m not convinced that temporarily improving the quality of life for a small number of NUTS is worth the permanent price paid by their victims.

  6. Susan Says:

    I agree. It’s not an active hospital and that was the original name. So, as a museum I see nothing wrong with it.

  7. Joesph Micheal Says:

    People always need something to talk about. All of these people who complain about the name need to get a life and if they don’t have any thing better to do I am sure that they could vollunteer at the Lunatic Asylum to clean up. The Asylum needs all the help they can get. What people don’t understand is the big picture. That hospital could be the economic saviour for Weston and for Lewis County. The town was built around the hospital to begin with. The towns elected officials should be bending over backwards to help the Jordan family at any thing they try to do with the property. Afterall, the ultimate goal should be to benefit the town. But, this isn’t the way it is. The officials (not all of them) are only interrested in what benefits them and not the town. How did these people get elected? That makes me wander! The town and it’s officials should get on board with whatever the Jordan family is going to try to do and support it. The people that want to complain about a name need to grow up. I would worry more about the basic morals of society and our childrens future than a name.

  8. Jay Says:

    Catchy name.

    I’m interested in the plans for “Hospital of Horror” Halloween tours and “Nightmare Before Christmas” tours of this hospital that are in the plans for the facility.

    I was thinking that they should regularly include the “Psychiatry, an Industry of Death” exhibit put on by http://www.cchr.org — an exhibit that brings the truth out about what psychiatry used to do, and still does in many cases.

  9. Danielle Says:

    I simply want to point out that part of evolving as a society is finding a better way to do things, a better way to relate to each other, a better way to move us all forward. Progress is based on improvement. Becoming more aware and sensitive about outdated, long retired terminology regrading any minority group out there is important. Reverting back to the old name to many people is seen as a nostalgic throwback to the days when people with mental health disabilities were wrongly and widely treated as second class citizens. But those days are not days to be nostalgic about, and we are all better off for the progress we have made in recognizing that.

    Is it the end of the world if the name sticks? No. But if you had a child or a sibling or a parent that also had a disability, would you want anyone to label them a “lunatic”, or would you want an appropriate reference to their disability?

    I get it – it’s the original name of the hospital. But again, sometimes the past should stay there.

  10. Melissa Says:

    I believe Danielle has said it beautifully. I have a child with cognitive disabilities. It is not only disrespectful, it is hurtful to here “lunatic” or “retard”. Is it the end of the world if the name sticks? No, it is the facilities history. However, it makes me fearful that this terminology may resurface (at least in the surrounding area) and become accepted terminology once again.

  11. will Says:

    i think comparing retard and lunatic are like compariong apples and oranges. im sure that at no time in history would a place like this have been called retard asylum. although lunatic isnt exactly the best term. facts are if it was still an active hospital run by the state there wouldnt even be a debate. but since it is privatly owned i think they could call it whatever they please. i think it is wonderfull that these people bought the place and are interested in doing something constructive. everyone should be happy that mike ross or some other people that were interested in it for the wrong reasons didnt end up with it. i have a sister that is mentally handicapped and the word lunatic being used effects me the least bit, i firmly believe that some people just arent happy unless they are complaining about something.

  12. Lunatic Says:

    I’m taking the word back! Wait till you see the t-shirts!

  13. steve p. Says:

    Some of you people just will never get it. You absolutely refuse to see the danger of sanitizing and prettying up the world so that nobody ever feels pain,ever loses,or is ever offended. We have been going down this road for so long now. Every one has a beef. Everyone has a cause. Nobody will ever just mind their own business and leave it alone. Has anyone heard that they are seriously considering OUTLAWING words like “spouse” in England,so as not to offend gays? Where does this stop? Sure,it’s okay to ban the word “lunatic” for you,but how about when YOUR free speech is shut down? You’re not willing to look at it that way though,are you? The world will be perfectly fine as long as your offending word is prohibited. Just a typical example of “My problems are worse than anyone else’s,so I’m going to do something that will affect the whole planet just so I can feel better. They lose some rights? That’s fine. I’ll feel better,and that’s what it’s all about.”


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