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Moundsville meets Maine as filming wraps at former West Virginia penitentiary


The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va.  — Prisoners populated the former West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville once again this month for filming of the upcoming Hulu original series “Castle Rock,” based on the works of Stephen King.

Filming equipment occupies the front yard of the West Virginia State Penitentiary while filming “Castle Rock,” an upcoming Hulu series.
(Intelligencer photo by Alan Olson)

Details on the series were not immediately available, but Suzanne Park, executive director of the Moundsville Economic Development Council, said the production company had been on scene for weeks, as cast members — including “It” star Bill Skarsgard and Noel Fisher of “Shameless” — mingled with locals and provided some much-appreciated business for the city.

Not only did the production team help the local economy, the process of converting the historic landmark into the fictional Shawshank State Prison helped renovate several parts of the former penitentiary, which now serves as a popular museum.

“There was a cell block in the facility they wanted to use, so they brought a gentleman in, they did lead paint testing, identified those areas,” Park said.

“They went in, they remediated those areas, scraped the walls and repainted an entire section of a housing unit. It looks fabulous.”

“Castle Rock,” expected to debut sometime in 2018, will be available exclusively on the Hulu online TV and movie streaming service.

Filming began just after Labor Day, and was expected to wrap up this week. Park said the overlap with the penitentiary’s “Dungeon of Horrors” haunted tours has produced no problems, as the production teams have been very accommodating in ensuring the tours could go off without any unexpected surprises.

“This production has been phenomenal to work around events that we already had scheduled …,” she said.

“They took great strides to accommodate us with our haunted house. They typically work late into the evening, and we inform them of the hours we have to have the facility for our use. We still had some paranormal investigations scheduled, with the season, and we didn’t have to impact our customers as a result of this production.”

The former penitentiary in Moundsville is no stranger to the screen, big and small, most recently with last year’s Netflix original series “Mind Hunters,” which is available to stream beginning Oct. 13.

Syfy’s “Ghost Hunters” and the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” have filmed episodes there, while the historic facility also served as the backdrop for scenes from the 2013 film “Out of the Furnace.”

Although Park said Moundsville’s focus in popular culture might be centered on the apparent supernatural aspect or the foreboding architecture of the penitentiary, the city brings in a surprising number of people outside the Halloween season for more benign interests.

“It really does seem like (horror) is what gets the most attention, but you wouldn’t believe the historical documentaries that have been done there, the photography done based on the historical architecture of our facility, the folks that come in and want to study the graffiti, who want to look at what life was like,” Park said. “The pop culture is what is very enticing, but we do have a lot of individuals that come in. … We actually created our photography tour, especially during the summer, because so many people wanted to come and photograph the structure.”

From the city’s perspective, City Clerk Sondra Hewitt said increased traffic along 12th Street and Jefferson Avenue as a result of the filming has produced a few complaints, but other than that, the city has not been involved in the production aside from providing parking permits and assisting with police presence.

“Castle Rock” is being produced by Bad Robot Productions and Warner Bros. Television, with executive producer J.J. Abrams.

Abrams previously filmed the 2011 science-fiction movie “Super 8” in Weirton.

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