Dungeon of Horrors WV – Full Review

Dungeon of Horrors WV is a Haunted Attraction located in Moundsville, WV.

818 Jefferson Ave, Moundsville, WV 26041
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Haunt Type(s):

Haunted House


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Free Parking, Restrooms/Porta Potties On-Site, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, Optional Games/Midway, “Old-School” (Low Tech), You will NOT be touched, Original Characters, Uncovered Outdoor Waiting Line

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This attraction was reviewed on October 9, 2021 by Team Houdini.

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Final Score: 8.61

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Prison, for most people, seems like hell on earth. It’s the deterrent and punishment for unruly behavior, for those who cannot follow normal societal ways. Small rooms, horrible foods, and isolation can drive people insane inside these thick stone walls. Not to mention being surrounded by the worst of the worst people; pedophiles, rapists, and murderers constantly worried that you could be their next victim. West Virginia Penitentiary: Dungeon of Horrors places guests or inmates in the confines of a real abandoned prison with a startling history spanning 129 years. A history involving the worst people in America, atrocities inside the prison including multiple murders and suicides, and real paranormal occurrences.

Not only were these people a threat in their time they are still a threat in the afterlife. The undead inmates now rule the prison and are waiting to continue their sick and twisted fantasies on new victims. Pack up your ‘prison wallet’ and get ready to enter the ‘big house’ to experience WV Penitentiary’s Dungeon of Horrors: 998 Ways to Die.

Cast: 8.66

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At the beginning of the haunt, we encountered the corrupt warden and he provided much exposition about the prison. The stories he told about the prison were true and I remembered some from our previous paranormal investigations. He was a good storyteller building suspense with dramatic pauses. As each group’s time got closer to their final destination he would add a comment raising everyone’s anxiety. As we were the last of the 7 p.m. group to go through, we got to hear all his stories and spend the most time with him roughly 15 minutes. He never broke character even after all the groups had left and kept us engaged for the wait time. Finally, he sent us to a correction officer, she told us to walk in a line with our hands on our heads. I was hoping for a ‘full piece suit’ but none were provided. She was rude and snarky making offhanded comments to us prisoners as we went along and yelling at me for not following the rules. She sent us to our cells to live our sentences.

The clanking of the jail cells did send a chill down my spine. After our sentence was over in about four minutes, which seemed pretty quick, we were sent to meet the priest. The priest told us we would ‘journey into Sheol, Hades, or as many know it Hell’ he informed us we would ‘face our mortality.’ He felt like the old brimstone and fire preachers delivering his lines with conviction. He also doubled as the executioner. After some dialogue, he fried a prisoner who had murdered a woman. This was the first death we witnessed, the priest promised ‘997 more.’ After meeting the priest we were escorted by a ‘ninja turtle’ (not a Ninja Turtle, prison slang for a guard in full riot gear) to the gas chamber. In less than 10 minutes we served life in jail and were executed, my time flies. Guards greeted us after our death and we were sent to the undertaker. He measured us for suits and coffins. He had a crazy assistant who was crawling around the floor and trying to eat the measuring tape. Finally, a skulled creature told us our destination was the dungeon of hell.

As we progressed through multiple levels of hell and the afterlife we encountered so many more personalities, about 33 in total. Some with great dialogue and interactivity.

A few interesting characters were the dead serial killer Harry, who killed women and children and from the looks of the noose around his neck, he was well hung. There was also a doctor who was a little upset regarding the death of a patient, a naughty nanny wanted us to bring her a ‘disgusting brat,’ an explorer was trying to explain about these creatures in the area, an easily excited elevator operator led us deeper into the unknown, a naughty nanny was cooking babies, Jebidiah led us though his caves that held some evil secrets, there was a meth fiend who tried to sell us some product, and a possible Greek demi-god with long flowing hair and a smooth deep voice who wanted us to ‘stare into his eyes and stay with him forever.’ Although it was quite tempting, my wife got jealous so I declined, and then there were still many more monsters along our way providing more tales of torture and death.

Others were there for the jump scares like the two gravediggers, a creature in a mini confined maze area growled oddly in our ears, a girl let out horrific screams of pain while being attacked by creatures, a girl burned by acid screamed for help, and others seemed to pop out of nowhere to catch us off guard.

The actors nailed the art of the scare. They had great timing of scares and execution, no pun intended, of storylines.

Costuming: 8.38

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Costuming was well implemented with characters wearing costumes fitting of characters. Mainly the creatures had undead-style makeup consisting of white and black paint.

The warden wore an ebony suit, the priest had on a black and red priest robe, the undertaker had on an old suit with markup to make himself look more gaunt while his assistant wore a white nightgown, with long strangely unkempt hair. Harry had on an old-fashioned suit with a fedora and a noose, the grave diggers looked to have on old dirty clothes, the woman who welcomed us onto the boat ride had on a black dress with a red cloak, and Bozo had on a full clown suit with makeup.

Masks were scarcer but were used accordingly. We liked the glowing masks in the dark hallway that the mute characters were wearing.

Customer Service: 9.25

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The first time I came to Dungeon of Horrors was in 2007 with my wife, but before we started our twenty-five to life, as we were only friends at that time. Back then my primitive GPS, anyone remembers Verizon Navigator, could not locate the prison and it was quite the excursion, I think we traveled across the whole state of West Virginia somehow. Since then we have returned for the paranormal investigations and GPS had no issues finding it and this time was no exception.

Staff was welcoming from tickets takers to the gift shop. We did get to chat with the creative mind behind the show and he too was extremely hospitable.

WVDOH’s website provides plenty of information as well as tickets. They are also on social media.

We noticed nothing out of the ordinary regarding safety outside of normal haunt issues. Regarding Covid, they are observing local guidelines.

Atmosphere: 8.33

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As we arrived a little early for our ticket times it was still light out. The huge prison is forbidding, towering above and spanning our peripherals. It’s been about ten years since we were last here to investigate and I forgot how large this prison is. Two of our members had never been here and were truly amazed by its size.

Once the sun went down and the lights came on it was easy to tell this was a haunt. The intense music and recording of the rules felt exhilarating. The red lights create a devilish glow and the strobe light at one end makes a perfect backdrop for selfies. There is no doubt this is a haunt and it had us pumped.

Once inside the lobby the room is dark and in the center is ‘old sparky’ who has killed quite a few nasty people – in real life. The screams and crashes from inside the prison echo through the quiet foyer. Intermixed Warden’s tales and intense remarks caused our anticipation to build even higher.

Special Effects: 8.41

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The Dungeon is huge and there is a lot to see and take in. Sound is used in a certain area and with certain props but not used in every area. I imagine with an area this size and set up running audio to every area would be difficult, at no time did I feel the sound was missing. It ranged from wind, thunder, crickets, growls, groans, and more depending on the area. Also, the sound was provided by the actors and larger-than-life props and animatronics.

The sets were dizzying and there was such a variety of styles and sizes from small to large. Some more basic sets were utilized as well such as the execution room which mainly held the electric chair, Harry’s room with some bones hanging and a red strobe light, the brightly lit autopsy room with x-rays, corpses, and your normal hospital equipment. There were also extravagant sets like the cemetery with its bluish lights, ambient sound, and lighting. Jebediah’s cave felt dim, cold, and constricted with brown rocky walls. We noticed red wells of liquid, a skull waterfall, and of course, the river of lost souls. The boat ride will take your soul into its final realm, filled with odd noises, and ethereal green water that hid unknown creatures.

However, one of the most underplayed assets was the prison itself, as only one real section utilized the prison in its intended purpose. We would have enjoyed seeing a little more of the prison before heading into the supernatural aspect. We feel this would have added to the uniqueness of the show and locale. That may be my only complaint as the remaining sets were fantastic.

Props and animatronics were everywhere and they too ranged from small to large, like really large. Many were around for decoration or misdirection and some brought on direct scares. We enjoyed two large monstrous creatures who were breaking out from the underworld, a skeleton playing peek-a-boo in a coffin, and the nursery of dead babies’ that makes us sound horrible. Two stand-out props were the animatronic that reached out and grabbed one of us and the funniest part of the night belongs to the animatronic demon that popped out from the wall with the force of a linebacker and pushed me back about six feet. I was completely caught off guard and it just kept pushing me further and further. I’m not a light guy either. This provided a good laugh for everyone in our group but did not bode well for my back issues and here I thought getting in and out of the coffin ride would be the most painful part of my evening.

A few things felt a little basic or unfinished such as the area after the coffin ride. It felt like a little more could have been added, but this may be due to safety as the tracks run along the floor.

All the special effects did an outstanding job at scaring that we will explore further in this review.

Theme: 8.03

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The main theme is the Dungeon of Horrors which from the looks of the outside, the prison looks like a huge castle with its stone walls, large structures, and towers. This year’s narrative was 998 ways to die. This is a tall feat even in a facility this large. I do feel they may have overestimated the number of deaths we experienced in this tour but we did not count everyone’ but that would be 16 deaths a minute for an hour straight if my math is correct. I was not expecting to encounter nearly a thousand deaths this evening, I learned my lesson as a kid when I saw The Never-ending Story, spoiler it had an end. Just another false marketing ploy to sell tickets. I kid. We did experience many deaths and ways to die as with many stories of death. We also experienced the life cycle of an inmate; jail time, ‘a back door parole,’ and the journey through the afterlife, which seems more poetic like Homer’s Odyssey.

Scare Factor: 8.86

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WV Penn brings the scares, with the largest variety of scares we have seen; providing all the traditional tricks we love including poppers, silent actors, followers, chainsaws, screamers, weapons, intimidation, interaction, dialogue, props, set design, and a few unique ways we have not seen before.

The two most noticeable were the gas chamber and the coffin ride. The gas chamber is a tight area especially for a full-figured man like my brother-in-law and myself. In fact, my ass was on one wall and my stomach on another (yeah, that doesn’t say much for my physique.) But it gets worse, I won’t go into details but it does offer a claustrophobic feeling and a feeling of suffocation that ended up bothering us more than we thought it would as I am slightly claustrophobic. My wife had the worst of it as she is only a tad over five feet, if you’ve experienced it you will understand why that’s important. The next unique feature is the coffin ride. This one is what seems you are placed in a real coffin and sent on your way. It was tiny, jarring, and loud at times, but this did not bother me as much as the gas chamber. Now getting in and out of coffin was a pain, in the words of Roger Murtaugh, ‘I’m too old for this sh*t!’ but it was a blast.

We would like to have seen a little more of the threats behind bars before heading to the supernatural portion, something akin to the scared straight show of the late 90s. It would just feel a little more real and authenticate the theme. Then we could enter the unknown. Just my thoughts. Am I happy with our experience? Greatly!

They have the most variety of scares we have seen in a haunt with everyone in the group being scared by at least one unpredictable fright that evening. The finale was the basic haunt finale but all in all, it was an awesome and scary show.

Entertainment & Value: 8.72

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WV Dungeon of Horrors is open in October on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 7-11. Tickets are sold online in 15-minute time blocks. Tickets cost $20. The website states it takes about 45 minutes and we timed it at one hour but we were the final group, so the actual in-haunt time is 45 minutes which is 2.25 minutes per dollar. We will count the Warden as additional entertainment included in the ticket price as he did a great job keeping our attention for fifteen minutes by himself, and my attention span is short. This is one of the best minutes per dollar haunts we have attended.

There are also concessions in front of the building. They also offer daytime tours, nighttime tours, and overnight paranormal investigations, which we have done twice, and now want to do again.

A lot has changed at WV Penn in 14 years. It was a truly impressive and terrifying experience. It left me thinking something I never thought I would think’ Wow, I can’t wait to go back to jail.

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Guest Reviews
Guest Average: 9.75 out of 10

Mike Adams – 10/10October 22, 2016
I have been to several Haunted Attractions and this is by far the best in the Ohio Valley. …show more Constantly improving.

DC Books – 9.5/10October 6, 2018
Amazing haunt. One of the best we’ve been. Custom sets, and a themed plot that follows you all the …show more way through a real prison. More focus on creepy storytelling than screamy jump scares, but there’s a bit of that too. Totally worth the trip, and the highlight of this year’s Season of the Witch road trip. Also very reasonably priced for such a detailed haunt.

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