Friday, April 18, 2014

Hauntings: Pennhurst Asylum

(Lexa's Note:  This post is long because 
the true history behind the facility is so shocking.)

Pennhurst Asylum (Pennsylvania)

In 1908, the “Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic” was built.  It contained many buildings and was capable of housing as many as 10,000 patients, medical staff, and employees.  Pennhurst's patients were committed by court order or brought by a parent or guardian for things like: vices of constitution and habit, feeble-minded disorders, blindness, defective sight or hearing, muteness or imperfect speech, paralysis, epilepsy, imperfect gait, deformity of face, head, limbs and/or feet, microcephalic or hydrocephalic head, and offensive habits.

In 1913, the Commission for the Care of the Feeble-Minded labeled the disabled “unfit for citizenship” and said they posed a "menace to the peace.” The Commission decided they should be locked up permanently, so their genes would not be intermixed with those of the general population.

The Real Life Horror Story

Pennhurst patients (both adults and children) were tied to beds, their bedding was rarely changed, they wandered in various states of undress, and some were imprisoned in solitary confinement for bad behavior or forced to take tranquilizers to stay docile.  Some patients were strapped to wheelchairs by straightjackets.  Most toilet areas didn’t have toilet paper, soap, or towels.  Patients beat and severely injured one another.  Rapes were common.  Staff members hit and beat patients.  After being committed, some mentally challenged patients lost the ability to walk, talk, or control their bowels.  There were also allegations of forced sterilization.

In 1968, conditions at Pennhurst were exposed in a television news report by CBS correspondent Bill Baldini called “Suffer the Little Children.” The documentary revealed much abuse and neglect. It included a doctor describing how he dealt with a bully who’d beaten another patient by figuring out which injection would cause the most pain to the bully without permanently injuring him, and then administering it.

Pennhurst remained open.

In 1977, a class action suit was brought by patients and heard by a U.S. district judge, who ruled that the conditions at the institution violated patients' constitutional rights.

Pennhurst remained open.

In 1983, nine employees were indicted on charges ranging from slapping and beating patients (including some in wheelchairs) to arranging for patients to assault each other.

Pennhurst remained open.

After many appeals and legal fights, Pennhurst was finally closed in 1986. Its buildings were abandoned, left just as they were, with patients’ clothes and belongings strewn about, and furniture, cabinets, and medical equipment, some dating as far back as the 1930s, were left to decay. 

The Ghosts of Pennhust

Since Pennhurst closed, visitors to the property have reported seeing shadows moving along corridors or scurrying away from the light, objects have been thrown through the air, and doors opened and closed by themselves.  People have heard shouts, crying, and screaming.  They've been touched, scratched, and shoved or felt an icy wind in areas that are sealed.  Many visitors experience such an overwhelming feeling of despair inside the buildings, they can't remain inside them for longer than a few minutes.

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