Pennhurst State School and Mental Hospital – In the Beginning

Please see note.

Note: The languaged used here are those used during this period of time in history and in no way reflects what the author would use. To serve as close to facts as possible the wording used has been kept the same.

The stories about Pennhurst State School and Mental Hospital surface frequently. People continue to have a fascination with the horror of what happened there. Or maybe it is just the thrill seekers and paranormal investigators that have seen ghosts in the place. Old mental hospitals all over the country have found some notoriety in the things that went on in them. What ever the reason is this facility continues to draw a crowd.

Pennhurst was created by Pennsylvania legislature on May 15, 1903 as “Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptics.” It was to be a place devoted to the detention, care, and training of the “feeble minded and epileptics.” The education and training that these as they called them then inmates were to be of an agricultural (including stock) nature to support Pennhurst.

According to A Short History of Pennhurst Center by Assistant Superintendent of Pennhurst (April 1984), the problems started with the first admission on November 23, 1908. The problems were overcrowding and understaffing. This was found to be true throughout Pennhurst history. Even though they had decided to take a certain type of patient, they admitted more than this kind in the beginning. A large number of the first individuals admitted where allegedly violently insane with homicidal and suicidal tendencies, criminals, manic and much more.

This institution as many did have financial problems that continued to lead them to take in more patients than they had room for. For example, in one building in an area that there should have been no more than 16 individuals there were 75 in that one space. With all of the overcrowding sanitary conditions just continued to deteriorate. This was found to be true throughout the history of Pennhurst.

The fascination with Pennhurst is in part due to the number of people that where cared for and treated there. It was built to accommodate some 500 individuals in the beginning. It opened its doors in 1908 but didn’t come under scrutiny for alleged abuse and neglect cases until 60 years later in 1968. NBC at that time did a report “Suffer the Little Children.” The publication of the conditions and actions that were being reported seemed to move more people to take notice of what was happening. More stories and events were put out for the country to view and finally some investigations and changes would occur to stop the terrible treatment that was allegedly happening to the patients in this facility.

Even after the reports of abuse and neglect Pennhurst continued to operate until 1986 and a court order issued it to close its doors. The court found enough evidence of physical and mental abuse and neglect to support having residents and patients to be either discharged or transferred to other facilities. The findings demonstrated that the patients in most cases had deteriorated in their conditions. It was alleged that there was cruel and unusual punishments, unsanitary and inhuman treatment of the people that resided there.

I hope you have enjoyed this article. There will be more to follow on Pennhurst. So be sure to check for new hubs.

Pennhurst asylum

Comments 11 comments

angela 6 years ago

IM SO AMAZED BY PENNHURST.I REALLY WANT TO MAKE A TRIP THERE SO I CAN VIEW IT FIRST HAND.IM VERY INTO THE PARANORMAL/SUPERNATURAL,AND I WANT TO FINALY BE ABLE TO DECIDE IF ITS TRUE OR NOT.I DON'T KNOW HOW TO GO ABOUT SETTING UP A TRIP,BUT IF SOMEONE DOES AND WANTS TO HELP ME PLEASE CONTACT ME!qtkaus4ever@aol.com-THANK YOU


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gritty50 6 years ago Author

One of the problems with visiting now is that it has guards posted to prevent people from entering. People are still going in but are doing it without permission.


natalie 6 years ago

Wow! This story really fascinates me. im really into ghosts,hauntings, ufo's, the supernatural and other things that fit into that category. when i get my liscense and car at age 16, i would like to drive to pennsylvania and take a look at this pennhurst asylum. But i wont dare go at night! LOL


Chey 5 years ago

This kind of thing is absolutely terrible. I feel extremely bad for the residents and wish i could of some how helped them. I am still fascinated be this and wish to do more research on it though.


Ironlung 5 years ago

I went to the hunted house at pennhurst it was ok the actors were not good at all but the grounds of pennhurst are scary I believe it's haunted wouldn't want ton there alone


ashley 5 years ago

This is just sad to see what happened to these children tht many people would set the matresses in the closet and try and teach these kids to walk. It is also very sad in the fact tht many of the children tht would be punished would be put into secloution and cut off from everyone else. It is saddening to think tht those kids were sent there in hopes of being able to learn and live among the other people, people tht were considered normal. Those kids tht never left may never leave because they can't find peace after the he'll they went thru.


Abigail  5 years ago

God I hate how there were treated especially since some of them had nothing wrong with them when they got there but when they got out (if ever) they would have things wrong with them and pretty much stay like that for the rest of there lives


jg 5 years ago

I work with former paitents from pennhurst and although we can not get the info on specifics that happened to these individuals but i can assure u they are horrendous!! i cant imagine what must be going on in her head because she cant speak about it..it must be torture


lecastine 4 years ago

I have had the fortune of working with some of these individuals that were 'released' from their Hell that was Pennhurst. Pennhurst may be an attraction to some, but it was the worst place on earth to some of our very own people. Just remember that.


Elizabeth Rossi 20 months ago

Hi I am the founder of the L.O.N. Paranormal and ladies of the night for 19 years. I am the 5th biggest paranormal invaginater in Pennsylvania. I would love and my team to do a total investigate in there. You can call my office at (570)926-9497 please let me share with everyone what I see. You can also go on Facebook and see what I do. We have gone all over. I thank you for your time hope to hear from you.


Elizabeth Rossi 20 months ago

Hi I am the founder of the L.O.N. Paranormal and ladies of the night for 19 years. I am the 5th biggest paranormal invaginater in Pennsylvania. I would love and my team to do a total investigate in there. You can call my office at (570)926-9497 please let me share with everyone what I see. You can also go on Facebook and see what I do. We have gone all over. I thank you for your time hope to hear from you.

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