(WTRF) West Virginians are fiercely proud to be from the great state, despite some negative feedback from other states. We have low valleys, high mountains, and of course pepperoni rolls, but these are not the only draws to our wild and wonderful state. Here is a list of only a handful of great attractions thanks to Roadside America.
Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold
Set back on a hilltop in New Vrindaban, West Virginia this unique tourist attraction was founded in the late 1960s by the followers of Hare Krishna. The palace was intended to be a simple residence for the Krishna’s spiritual leader, Srila Rpabhupada, but quickly grew into a Palace with crystal chandeliers, marble floors, and stained glass windows.
The property is surrounded by fragrant gardens and a lily pond, which seems out of place for its location on a back road in the middle of seemingly nowhere. Visitors to this remote palace are welcome for a guided tour or to simply walk around the breathtaking work of art. Tours are available Thursday to Monday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults and $7 for children ages 6-12.
Mummies of the Insane
Located in Philippi, West Virginia, the Barbour County Historical Museum hosts two mummies in their bathroom. Guests can sneak a peek at the two cadavers for only a dollar. Bought by a local farmer and amateur scientist in 1888, the two bodies come from the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane (also known as the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum).
Known as West Virginia’s backwoods Dr. Frankenstein, Graham Hamrick preserved the two with his patented embalming lotion. He wanted to unlock the secrets of the Pharaohs, and recreate their methods of postmortem preservation. The famous mummies were not always housed in the museum, they once toured Europe for several years with P.T. Barnum and his other curiosity.
The mummies eventually returned to Philippi, only to get lost for decades, showing up in a barn, and then stored under the bed of a local citizen. In 1985 they were waterlogged when the town suffered 35 feet of flood water. The mummies were restored and are once again available for display to the public. Tours run from May to October and starting May 11, hours will be 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and Sundays 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
The Mystery Hole, located in Ansted, West Virginia, is just that – a mystery! With no cameras or cellphones allowed, there is not much to give this attraction a visual image. The attraction grabs the attention of its visitors with a large sign that reads “Wow!” and “See the unbelievable Mystery Hole.”
A pole sticks out of the top of a metal Quonset hut, with several flags. The hut is still decorated with its 70’s style design, with an old VW beetle sticking out of the side. Another crazy eye-catcher is the large black gorilla that squats over the entrance. Once inside you will experience a true oddity of nature that will make you question everything you have been taught about the nature of gravity. The underground rooms feature rooms that are built with angles to give visitors the impression that there is something wrong with gravity. Water seems to flow upwards and a chair floats in the air with only two legs supported by the wall.
This mysterious gravity-defying attraction is surely a sight to see. Open only during the summer season, the Mystery Hole is open Wednesday through Monday from 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Admission is $10 for ages 10 and up, and children 3-11 are $8.
John Brown Wax Museum
John Brown is one of the only American heroes to have a wax museum devoted to their lives. Brown is best known for leading an 1859 enslaved people’s uprising in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, which killed several innocent bystanders and freed no enslaved people.
Even though it was a failed attempt, the act did not go unnoticed for its good intentions. His corpse was the muse for what is now The Battle Hymn of the Republic. The self-guided tour starts on the first floor of a small, old house, all the way up to the third floor and back to the basement. The opening scene is of Brown’s childhood, as he watched one of his enslaved playmates being whipped, and chronicles his life as a pro-freedom revolutionist. The figures gape in shock or grimace in agony, or as close to those expressions as wax science could get in 1961.
If you’re a history buff, this is definitely a stop for you. The museum is open from mid-March to mid-December daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults.
The Congressional Bunker
Another stop for history fans is the Congressional Bunker housed in West Virginia’s own Greenbrier Resort. The top secret survival bunker was built with covertly allocated tax dollars for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, in the event of an atomic Armageddon. The secret was spilled on May 31, 1992, and the bunker immediately became obsolete and opened for tours in 1995.
Also known as the U.S. Government Relocations Facility, the bunker cleverly dug into a hillside and under a part of the Greenbrier hotel that was built simultaneously. To get to the bunker you take an elevator up from the lobby. Several of its 153 rooms were used as an everyday meeting and exhibit halls. Unseen were the five-foot-thick concrete walls or the 18-ton blast door hidden behind a panel in the connecting hallway. In order to keep the secret of the bunker, only a handful of congressional leaders were told of its existence.
The 90-minute tour covers a part of the facility and has a strict no photo policy, due to the hotel renting space for data storage. The decontamination area is the last of its kind, resembling a human car wash and only four of the original thousand bunk beds remain. The facility also houses a display of shotguns and assault rifles as well as some Cold War-era monitoring and medical equipment.
The Greenbrier offers daily tours, but they must be booked in advance by phone. Admission is $40 for adults.
Lost World Caverns- Home of Bat Boy
Last but certainly not least to this list of attractions is Lost World Caverns, in Lewisburg West Virginia.
Weekly World News once claimed that the caverns were home to “Bat Boy” a large-eyed, fanged human child raised in complete darkness by bats. The cavern’s new owner Steve Silverberg embraces the notoriety the caves received from the tabloids. He sent the off-Broadway production of “Bat Boy: The Musical” the helmets, carabiners, and equipment that were used in its opening number, and has the original article thumbtacked to a bulletin board in the gift shop.
The legend of Bat Boy is not the cave’s only claim to fame. In 1941, West Virginia caver, Bob Addis walked into the cavers and perched atop a 28-foot-tall stalagmite for almost 16 days. A Guinness World Record that still stands today.
Not far from the Greenbrier Hotel, the cave is a big chamber, over a thousand feet long and ten stories high. In a self-guided tour, visitors follow a trail that winds over and around huge slabs of rock and rock formations. Up on the surface of the cave is the small Natural History Museum, next to the gift shop. It has the largest collection of dinosaur and fossil replicas in West Virginia.
Summer daily hours for the attraction are daily 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., hours vary in other seasons. General admission starts at $12, and Wild Cave Tours starts at $79.