Pennhurst Asylum: Hell on Earth

Pennhurst Asylum opened in 1908 with good intentions. It was a home to mentally and physically challenged children located in Spring City, Pennsylvania. But along the way, the mental institution became a hell on Earth.

Pennhurst Asylum
The mental institution became a hell on Earth (

The institution was first built as a school for patients with special needs. Formerly called State Institution for Epileptics and Feeble Minded, the place catered to adults and children with mental and physically disabilities. The 120-acres housed over 10,000 patients with a number of staff including a board of trustees, medical staff, dental staff, and specialists in psychology, social services, accounting, and various fields of education.

Pennhurst comprised a hospital that has a 300-bed capacity. The hospital was ran by a full nursing staff and two surgeons on call at all times. The ground also had a firehouse, general store, barber shop, movie theatre, auditorium, recreational fields, a greenhouse and even a cemetery. Most of the buildings of Pennhurst were used for storage, dormitory and hospital-style living quarters for the residents.

Security was tight with screens accessible only from the inside. Stairwells had security fences to prevent patients from escaping or jumping over the railings. Many of the buildings were linked with underground tunnel system for transference of handicapped patients.

Pennhurst Asylum
Many of the patients were put in a metal cribs (

Patients at Pennhurst were committed by court order but most were dropped off by their parents to become responsibility of the state.  While some patients were capable of taking care of themselves, many had serious disabilities who could not move for themselves.  Despite the large numbers of patients, the institution received a scanty fund from the government.

In 1968, the people in Spring City were shocked when PTV reporter Bill Baldini exposed the plights of the residents of the complex. Reports of dehumanization and sexual and physical abuses were committed not just by patients to other patients but by staff to patients. The report “Suffer the Little Children” was aired by NBC uncovering the cruelties, ruthless punishments and horrid situations of the residents.

Since the state delivered meager budget to the institution, there were few doctors, nurses and orderlies who stayed to provide the patients’ needs. Many of the patients were put in a metal cribs. Incontrollable patients were drugged or chained to bed. Patients craved for attention that they even soiled themselves with feces for possibilities of a bath. Other residents were isolated for a long period of time that they lost their ability to speak. Patients who bite were sent to a dentist to get all their teeth pulled.

The exposé led to a massive lawsuit that in 1977, the Pennhurst Asylum was found guilty of violating patients’ constitutional rights. In 1987, the facility was closed and network of buildings was abandoned.

Pennhurst Asylum
Pennhurst Asylum is haunted by the angry spirits (

Caretakers of the property reported that the buildings are haunted by the angry spirits as they experienced poltergeist and demonic activities. There are reports of doors being slammed, footsteps and blood curling screams from empty rooms. Some witnesses claimed of seeing a little girl roaming the buildings.

Pennhurst is also a favorite place for ghost hunters. Investigators testified being touched and shoved by unseen entities. One investigator was scratched by an entity, other members of the team were thrown with objects. They recorded many strange voices, noises and unexplained movements.

The Pennhurst Asylum is considered as one of the most haunted places in America and a Hell on Earth by those who lived there.

Sources:  Pennhurst Asylum   Travel Channel   ATS

Further Reading

Abandoned Places

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