The Pennsylvania State Institution for Epileptics and Feeble Minded (commonly known as Pennhurst Asylum) was built in 1908. In the institution’s 79 year run, over 10,000 children and adults were taken in. Unfortunately, the living conditions were abysmal due to meager funding for basic necessities. Additionally, Pennhurst was well-known for its cruel and unusual punishment. Some patients were chained to beds and others had teeth removed for misbehaving. Many died from insufficient care and were cast to the side like trash heaps. In 1987, the institution shut its doors and remained abandoned until it was purchased years later. (Source) Visitors often say they can hear the harrowing voices of the dead who never left.
Today, Pennhurst Asylum, located in Spring City Pennsylvania, is more alive than ever and a top-of-the-list Halloween destination. Professional horror actors flood through the once abandoned halls to recreate and revamp a history of nightmares. With four themed attractions, brave participants can purchase tickets to experience the terror of Pennhurst Asylum. The individual attractions include Pennhurst Asylum, Dungeon of Lost Souls, Tunnel Terror, and Ghost Hunt. (Be aware that Ghost Hunt is not a “scheduled” scare. You are given freedom to roam around the halls of an abandoned building, while learning about the institution’s past. If you look carefully, you’ll see the names of the patients who once resided in the open cells.)
Check out the Pennhurst website here: pennhurstasylum.com
I’ve been to A LOT of haunted attractions in my short lifetime, but it is with great confidence that I would put Pennhurst at the very top of my list. I arrived on a Saturday night around 7:30. The lines were short and the traveling groups were small, which of course, is every excited scare-enthusiast’s dream. I loved every second of being there, but let me explain why without giving any special secrets away.
First off, the performers are allowed to touch you. In fact, they do a lot more than that. To some, that’s a bit off-putting and admittedly I was a little nervous going into it, but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. In most places, you feel like a spectator or like you’re in a museum watching an exhibit. Here, you’re a part of the scene, which makes the experience both personal and memorable. Be aware though, because they do test their limits. The monsters like to play on your levels of discomfort, so know that your personal bubble of space does not exist. To them, you are very much a prop to their scene. Embrace it and love it.
The talent is incredible. A lot of horror actors rely on jump scares to make it through the night. Of course, every attraction will have its fair share of those, but Pennhurst primarily relies on skilled acting and unique set concepts. One woman paraded a live rat around and pretended to eat it. Needless to say, there is a lot of trailblazing material in that run-down institution, which is the difference between a pointless slasher movie and a plot thick, award-winning horror film.
It’s an obvious point to make, but still important to stress the beauty of the setting. The asylum grounds are incredible and every scene feels authentic. From equipment to patients’ old belongings, the space felt real, like I was suddenly in an episode of “American Horror Story: Asylum.” The atmosphere on its own is enough to send people running, never mind the added effects and professionals.
So here are the takeaways:
- The performers are well-skilled and have excellent makeup, costumes and props.
- The atmosphere is chilling and suspenseful.
- The scares are impressive. I screamed and I cried.. a lot.
- The cost and short waiting times are 100% worth the experience.
- I would go back in a heartbeat.
Scare Scale: 10/10
That’s all for now,
Happy Haunting, my fellow monsters!