Haunted History – Pennhurst Asylum – S01E04

Make no mistake, this is a tough episode to watch. Pennhurst Asylum has been brought up before, most specifically with Zak and Ghost Adventures. Zak’s editorial captured the shocking living conditions for the residents. Without exaggeration it was common practice to lock patients into cages, remove their teeth without anesthetic, perform lobotomies, leave patients unattended, starve them and even sterilize them.

When it was started in 1903 in Spring City, Pennsylvania, the Pennhurst Asylum set out to take care of those citizens who couldn’t take care of themselves. It was a sprawling 600 acre self-contained facility that boasted it’s own farm, dentistry, hospital, ball field, cemetery and morgue. But what started out as a grand idea turned into the shameful treatment of the mentally ill. It took a film crew and lawsuits to bring the facility to a close in 1987. While it was open, Pennhurst turned from a place of healing to a place of torture. And it’s claimed that many of the patients still linger and the energy can still be felt.

Some describe Pennhurst as an experiment in the idea of Eugenics. This is the thought that the lower functioning citizens need to be removed from the gene pool. This same idea fueled Hitler and his idea of creating a master race. With that in mind, Pennhurst became a dumping ground of the unfit and unwanted of society. People of lesser value could be hidden away from regular society. Over time the patients overwhelmed the nursing staff who didn’t have the resources to tend to them.

There was violence against the patients and the patients were violent with each other. Abuse and death were common. Since the grounds had it’s own morgue, crematorium and cemetery, it was easy to dispose of the bodies and keep it all contained within the facility.

When news reporter Bill Baldini, showed up on the scene in 1968 he found patients sitting in their own feces, the rooms smelled of human waste, patients were naked and beating their heads against the wall, they were malnourished, bruised, some had broken bones and some patients had never been let out of their "cribs". From a mental standpoint, they had gone from bad to worse. The facility was exposed and over time the patients were removed and finally the doors were closed. But now it’s claimed the energy lives on and many patients are still there.

Many visitors claim to get EVPs of patients speaking to them. Phrases such as "untie me", "don’t leave me", "I’ll kill you", the sound of gunshots and even a heart monitor have been picked up. Many people claim to see shadow figures and feel as though they’re being touched. They hear things being thrown around as well as people getting scratched.

The grounds of Pennhurst seem to have multiple hotspots. Why are these areas so charged? Are the former patients confused about crossing over to the other side? Are they unaware of what’s happened? Does the anger from the violence still linger in the air and play itself out?

While the mistreatment is well documented, there is a great deal about Pennhurst that comes across as "what we believe" or "this is what we’ve heard". Since Pennhurst is shrouded is scandal, it’s not hard to imagine that records have been sealed or destroyed. The patients had to sue for their right to get away from the place. News reports splashed the misconduct across the screen. I have no doubt administrators got rid of as much damning evidence as they could to keep themselves from going to jail or destroying their careers. But when it comes to evidence, does Pennhurst really set itself apart from any other location?

So much of what people talk about are the usual events of shadow figures moving around, cold spots and the feeling of sadness. Unfortunately, that’s not tangible evidence. That doesn’t fall into the hard facts category. That can easily be sympathy or emotion creating feelings and experiences. There are a few recordings of voices so there may be something going on. However, it’s hard to latch on to the idea of things being thrown when the building is in such disarray and such a state of decay. (That’s just one theory, not an explanation for everything.) Maybe the patients are lashing out, and they have every right to do so, but so much of what’s happening can be interpreted another way.

For as many investigations as people claim they do there, it would seem the evidence would be overwhelming. It would seem they would have names, events, the people involved, and so much more than what they have now. It’s hard not to feel paranormal activity is going on within those walls, simply because of the energy and sadness that prevails, but it’s not really substantiated. I’m sure most of the stories about how the patients were treated are true, but it’s hard to correlate that to paranormal events. It’s a fascinating place and I would really like to see more of what people come away with.

Pennhurst is a very dark story with ties to some very sinister people. Putting the paranormal aside, this should be a cautionary tale of what happens if and when we neglect our citizens.

Haunted History – Lost Souls of Pennhurst

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