PENNHURST STATE SCHOOL AND ASYLUM

1205 Commonwealth Drive, Spring City, PA

(855) 428-6800

Status: Former State Institution for the Developmentally Challenged; Partially Demolished; Partially Repurposed; Private Property

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This article contains stories of adults and children unable to defend themselves being abused on all levels. Please exercise discretion in reading it.

Our goal is not to shock or disturb but rather to give reason for the high level of paranormal activity at this location.

 

History

In 1903 the State recognized that there were developmentally challenged people in asylums, poor houses and prisons who desperately needed an institution that was devoted to care for them. They wanted to create a facility with 2 branches: education and industrial or custodial and asylum.

 Between 1903 and 1908 the first buildings were constructed. The first patient was admitted in 1908. Within 4 years the facility was overcrowded and put under pressure to house the criminally insane, orphans and criminals.

In 1913 the State formed a committee for the “care” of the feeble minded stating they were unfit for citizenship, posed a menace to the peace and were all potential criminals. They also labelled all classified as feeble minded should not mix with the general population and should be institutionalized – meaning their genes needed to be removed from the general population.

In 1916 they made sure women could not be housed with men to prevent any pregnancies. And you thought Eugenics was a Nazi invention.

Stripping the patients of citizenship also stripped them of their rights. And so, a downward spiral began.

Patients who “misbehaved” were strapped to their beds or drugged into a catatonic state. If a patient bit a staff member once they punished; if they did it twice, they taken to an on site dentist and all of their teeth were pulled out.

In 1968 a reporter from a Philadelphia TV station did a 5 part series exposing the truth of Pennhurst. It is said his cameraman immediately vomited after going into the first building; due to the stench and the horrors he saw.

To say the patients were being mistreated is a vast understatement.

In 1981 Time magazine did another expose revealing the facility was vastly overcrowded, under staffed, unsanitary and violent.

In 1983 the lawsuits began and 9 employees were indicted on charges of beating the patients and arranging them so they could assault one another. They were even accused of beating patients in wheel chairs.

The school would ultimately close in 1987 under a court order that was begun back in 1978. There were also numerous lawsuits at the time alleging physical, psychological and sexual abuse. The United States accused the school of violating both the eighth and fourteenth amendments of the US Constitution.

The site is now known as the Shame of Pennsylvania.

In the last year before full closure and until now the US Dept of Veteran Affairs took over part of the campus as a Veteran’s Center.

Thankfully due, in part, to the Veteran’s Center and the National Guard patroling this facility it did not suffer as much mistreatment and vandalism by humans as it's contemporaries did elsewhere.

In 2001 Pennhurst was declared one of the States most vulnerable historic properties and actions needed to be taken to save it.

In 2010 a “haunted house” attraction opened in the refurbished Administration Building. There has been some controversary with this, with accusations of not treating the facility’s past with enough respect.

IN 2016 some of the most damaged buildings were demolished. In 2017 the site was opened for historical tours and overnight paranormal investigations in the Mayflower Building.

In 2020 three more buildings were declared unsafe and demolished.

 

Paranormal Activity

It is difficult to imagine any paranormal activity that has not be reported here.

Uncountable people died here and those alive suffered constant mistreatment that bordered on torture. At least 10,000 patients were housed here over the years.

It is unknown how many truly died on site but it is certainly not a small number.

Here is some of the activity that has been recorded by paranormal investigators:

Apparitions of former patients and staff – some of whom are visibly agitated.

Shadow figures – some of who have acted aggressively toward the living

Hundreds of hours of Class-A EVP has been recorded from the benign to the actively threatening. The ghosts have also responded to questions by the living

Disembodied voices and unexplained noises from scratching to excessively loud bangs

Touches, pokes and prods by unseen entities. Some investigators have been scratched, pushed or had their hair pulled.

Poltergeist activity including objects moving on their own, doors opening and closing on their own and objects being thrown at investigators

A truly dark entity in the Quaker Building

Empathic feelings so overwhelming people became physically ill or had to leave the property. Feelings of fear, terror, despondence, hopelessness, anger, hatred and more.

Feelings of being watched, not being wanted, being followed and not being alone

Light anomalies, unexplained mists, cold and warm spots, electrical disturbances