Pennsylvania is known as the home of the Philadelphia Zoo, the first ever public zoo in the United States, and the city that has the highest concentration of Amish in the country. It is also home to the Pennhurst Asylum, which is now a haunted house attraction in the area. It has been abandoned for 25 years before its doors were opened again to the public.
The Pennhurst Asylum. (Link: https://pixels.com/featured/pennhurst-asylum-bill-berry-.html)
History of the Pennhurst Assylum
The Pennhurst Asylum or the Pennhurst State School and Hospital was originally called the Eastern Pennsylvania Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic. The construction for the institution was given the green light in 1903 and it closed in 1987. It is located outside Philadelphia and it started as an institution to care for those classified as people who cannot function in a normal society. In 1913, the legislature drafted and passed a Commission for the Care of the Feeble-Minded. They called these individuals as unfit for citizenship and a “menace to the peace” of the state. By keeping them in the institution, they were kept from reproducing and the move by the government was deemed as a way to keep everyone safe.
One of the rooms inside the Pennhurst Asylum. (Link: http://www.reluctantchauffeur.com/2012/11/pennhurst-haunted-house-tour.html)
Initially, it took in people who were physically and mentally disabled such as those who are blind, deaf, and mute. It also took in patients who had offensive habits and imperfect speech. However, years went by and the institution was forced to house criminals, immigrants, and orphans. This was the solution of the state to get rid of those who were undesirable in the society. All of those who were housed in the Pennhurst Asylum completed tasks in order for them to run their own “society.”
Some photos showing some of the patients at the Pennhurst asylum. (Link: https://www.shared.com/the-history-of-this-philadelphia-asylum-will-keep-you-up-at-night/)
By the 1960s, there were around 2, 791 people under the care of the asylum, which was 900 more than the capacity it could really house. Because of this, the living conditions were inhumane.
When Did People Start Knowing About The Real Condition People At The Asylum Were Suffering From?
By 1968, a young reporter made a TV series about the Pennhurst Asylum. Most people were appalled about what were shown by the young reporter named Bill Baldini and many said that because of his series, they knew about the asylum. Per the series, it showed people being chained to adult-sizes cribs and children placed inside cages.
Bill Baldini. (Link: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130840594)
Baldini shared that there are lots of things he saw that he would never forget. One would be individuals who were naked and extremely thin. They were all swaying back and forth or curled up in balls. The kids, on the other hand, that were inside cages laid down in their own feces and urine.
A photo showing some of the naked patients at the Pennhurst asylum. (Link: https://www.shared.com/the-history-of-this-philadelphia-asylum-will-keep-you-up-at-night/)
After the expose by Baldini, more allegations of abuse surfaced. Almost 20 years after the series was released by Baldini, the asylum closed. The asylum was closed down because of the legal dispute filed by a former individual who was housed in the institution. That person claimed that the abuses such as emotional, physical, and psychological were intense and it was caused by the nurses and caregivers at the asylum. Accordingly, those who run the institution hurt the residents and also let other patients to bully and assault the other patients.
Most of the bullying took place in the kids’ wards. Accordingly most kids who acted out were not at all bad kids but were victims of bullies. The bullies attacked the other kids with broom handles and accordingly, because of the bullying, some kids took their own life.
A photo of one of the kids’ wards at the Pennhurst Asylum. (Link: https://www.thrumarzenaslens.com/Forgotten-Places/Pennhurst-Asylum/i-WZk4Wbv)
Because of the light that was shed on the Pennhurst asylum, there were a lot of big changes in the United States as to how special needs people were treated years after the expose.
Because of the series of Baldini, Pennhurst Asylum was on the papers often. (Link: https://weirdnj.com/stories/pennhurst-asylum/)
Pennhurst Asylum – A Haunted Attraction Now
Only one building was opened in 2010 to the public so that Pennsylvania can have a ghostly attraction. According to some visitors, they heard voices, shrieks, and murmurs believed to be coming from the souls of the residents who passed away but have not found peace yet.
It is unclear how much is the entrance fee at the Pennhurst Asylum but some say they paid as much as $50 to get inside. Visitors will get to see a museum that featured photos and information about the institution. The people who manage the haunted attraction also put up a haunted house filled with props and bloody patients.
The building that is open to the public is not one of the areas where residents actually lived. Some visitors said that if that was the case, they probably would not go in. Around 17,000 people have come to see the haunted house attraction since it opened. This has contributed to the local economy.
Some Ghost Stories From The Pennhurst Asylum
One group called Weird NJ toured the Pennhurst asylum in the past and they were able to record some audio recordings during their visit. They claimed that they heard voices saying things like “go away,” “I’ll kill you,” “we’re upset,” “why’d you come here,” “I’m scared,” and “why won’t you leave.”
The same group shared that one of them was scratched on the arm by an unknown object or person while they are at the Quaker Building. At the Limerick Building, they saw an apparition of a woman wearing an nurse’s uniform that was believed to be from many decades ago. At the Philadelphia building, loud sounds and voices were heard and they were positive no one else but them were inside the building.
There were also blood stains in some of the equipment left inside the asylum.