Saturday, October 24, 2015


  Pennhurst State School and Hospital was recently explored by Destination America Ghost Asylum. The Tennessee Wraith Chasers geared up to try to rescue trapped spirits at Pennhurst. They tracked down, interacted and then eventually trapped a ghost “Mary.”

 Having taken part in the stage setting of this episode, I feel the need to clarify that Pennhurst was never called Pennhurst Asylum. It was never intended to house the criminally insane and although in the beginning of Pennhurst’s reign the state tried to slip them in, they were quickly weeded out. Pennhurst’s intention was to segregate the physically and mentally handicapped from “normal” society. There was a common belief that children with mental illness would grow up to become future criminals. The plan was to take these kids, educate them and teach them a vocation. And with any institution you have the good, the bad and the ugly. Children were not deliberately abused as the show suggests but rather were neglected due to staff shortage, lack of funding and misdiagnosis.  Orphans and epileptics were added to the stock pile of unwanted people. What we might consider current day abuse was deemed to be up to date and medically necessary in Pennhurst’s realm.

Once upon a time, parents thought their children could be cured of mental illness. Pennhurst gave them hope for the cure – a cure that never came.

People want to know if people died at Pennhurst? Of course they did. There was illness and disease within the Pennhurst compound. But most deaths occurred from medical issues, such as asthma attacks or complications from surgery.  Was there abuse? Of course there was, but this was more resident upon resident because of lack of staff.  The ratio for patient to caregiver was absurd. There was good staff and a few bad – such in today’s modern world.

Pennhurst was tragic because most kids grew to adulthood in Pennhurst walls. The quality of life is to be what is questioned. To be a small child and be separated from your family is a crime indeed.

On another note: I was never a security guard at the previous Pennhurst State School and Hospital or for the Pennhurst Asylum (current day Halloween attraction.)  I am not exactly a tour guide as well. I am consider to be “Event Staff" - which is a cross between security and a guide.   

Author Tamera Lawrence