Exploring abandoned places has always fascinated me. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I actually decided to do some urban exploration to Graffiti Pier (Philly) and The NYC Farm Colony (Staten Island). Plus, the paranormal has always piqued my interest every since I was younger. I love watching paranormal shows, movies, and ghost hunts!So, I took it upon myself about a year or two ago to start doing some overnight ghost hunts! You get the best of both worlds by exploring these abandoned places while searching for the paranormal. For 2022, I decided to do a overnight ghost hunt at The Cresson Sanatorium & Prison in Lilly, Pennsylvania. This post details my personal experience, all the tips, and information you'll need to go on an overnight ghost hunt at Cresson Sanatorium.*At the time of this post, Ghost Hunts USA DOES NOT have the Cresson Sanatorium & Prison overnight ghost hunt. They may have temporarily swapped it out for new locations but I'm unsure if or when they'll bring this location back*
How I found this place: Ghost Hunts USA
How did I find out about this place? On Facebook, I saw multiple ads on my timeline for Ghost Hunts USA. In every state, they have multiple haunted locations where you can do overnight paranormal investigations. If you're trying to get into exploring abandoned, and or haunted, places but don't want to do it completely on your own, this is a great company to go through.
How Ghost Hunts USA works
As I mentioned, Ghost Hunts USA hosts a selection of haunted locations across the country. Depending on the size of the location and groups, anywhere from 2 to 6 team members are present. They check you in, discuss the rules of the company and premise everyone must adhere to.The team members also go over how the overnight ghost hunt works, when you can explore on your own, and where to explore. This is because some buildings are off limits or in such a bad state, it's dangerous for anyone to enter.After the logistics, they take you through the buildings, discuss its history, and conduct a short investigation. Each team member in separate buildings goes over the different types of communication devices one can use to communicate with spirits. You rotate team members but your actual group remains the same. This continues until you've visited all the available buildings and team members.Once it's "free time", the team takes a back seat while you do your own investigation and exploration. Depending on the event and location, your free time may vary. Some places have a later end time, while other locations end earlier in the night. Overall, you'll have at least a couple of hours to explore the premise on your own...IF YOU DARE.When it's time to leave, you take your belongings, sign out, and go home.
The booking process
You go to the Ghost Hunts USA website and click on either the site you want to visit or the state you live in. I opted to click on the state I live in, Pennsylvania. If you click on a state, a list of haunted sites will appear and you can choose from the list. In PA, there's currently 8 locations to chose from. At the time I booked this event (in early 2022), there were only about 5 locations to chose from. I assume they add and take away locations from time to time.You click on a location, which takes you to a page with information on the location. The list of information includes:
- the price of the event
- the event availability
- history of the premise
- what the overnight ghost hunt entails (what you'll be doing)
- the event start and end time
- driving directions and address of the location
Though the event availability formatting looks different from the one I had used in early 2022, it's nonetheless the same concept. Scroll through the months to see when the next events are. It'll show you the day, date, and start time. Usually, from what I've seen, events occur from Friday to Sunday. When you find the right one for you, click on it and proceed to checkout!
The cost of the overnight ghost hunt
The total cost for the overnight ghost hunt at Cresson Sanatorium & Prison is $149. You have two options when paying for the event. Option one is to pay for the event in full, that is, pay $149. Or, option two is to put a $30 deposit on the event. That way, they save a spot for you and you pay the remaining balance BEFORE the event date.I went with the latter. I made a $30 deposit for this specific ghost hunt and paid the remaining balance of $119 about a month before the event date.
Cresson State Sanatorium & Prison Information
In May of 2022, I booked a overnight ghost hunt at the Cresson State Sanatorium & Prison. The date was Saturday, August 6th, 2022. The event went from 8:30pm on August 6th to 6am of August 7th. We had to be off the property by 6am, as per the owner's request.The location for this place is 251 Correction Rd, Lilly, PA 15938. The drive to the sanatorium was a 3 hour drive, out west, from where I live. A bit of a long but beautiful drive through rural PA.Below is a snippet of the email they sent me a day before the event day. It outlines their disclaimer, what to bring, and other information.
Included in the overnight ghost hunt was:
- porter-potties outside the main building
- snacks, coffee, and water
- ghost hunting equipment
- maps of the sanatorium
You were covered on all fronts with the ghost hunt. The company ensured that we all had plenty of refreshments to keep us going throughout the night and bathrooms for us to relieve ourselves.
In 1913, Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium first opened its doors as a sanatorium for tuberculosis. The location the premise is on is surrounded by beautiful land. With the fresh air, beautiful landscape, and somewhat secluded area, this made the sanatorium an ideal place to treat tuberculosis patients.As advancements in medicine and treatments for tuberculosis made its way onto the scene, the need for the sanatorium declined. The sanatorium, or “The San” as people called it, stopped treating tuberculosis patients in 1964. Eventually, the sanatorium morphed into a place to house and treat those with mental health issues. This continued until the early 1980s, until it undergone another transformation.In 1987, Cresson was converted into a correctional institution, hence the “prison” word in its current name. Around this time, it was also known as SCI Cresson. For a couple decades, Cresson served as a place to house a number of criminals.Unfortunately, in 2013, SCI Cresson closed its doors to the correctional field. Ever since, with the buildings left abandoned, it began to fall into a dilapidated state. Countless patients and people who’ve passed throughout Cresson’s 100 year run is said to haunt the buildings.
With this type of history, many people believe the premise is haunted or contains a decent amount of paranormal activity. This has led to the creation of different tours of the facility.There are tours and experiences of Cresson done through different tour companies. The company I went through was Ghost Hunts USA but you can go through any other company if you’d like.You can do typical historical tours, paranormal tours, overnight ghost tours, private tours and investigations, and more. There’s something for anyone who wishes to learn more about the historical or paranormal side of Cresson.Of course, being that I’m a bit curious about the paranormal activity here at Cresson, I went with an overnight ghost hunt. Not only would I get the chance to get some paranormal evidence on camera but I’d get a lot more time to explore the area as well.
The overnight ghost hunt experience
The event start time was 8:30pm but we had to arrive 15 minutes early. There’s a parking lot with plenty of room, so I drove up the long road to the parking lot. I parked my car, ate my late dinner quickly, and hurried to the long line of people waiting to be checked in.It took about 15-20 minutes to get checked in. Be sure to have a digital or physical copy of your ticket. Also, fill out the consent forms before hand to avoid wasting time filling it out onsite. But if you forget to do that, don’t worry. The staff have extra copies and you’ll just fill it out on line.Once you’re checked in, you’re given a colored wristband. This wristband dictates the group you’re assigned to. The staff members put you into groups and they go over the rules and regulations of the event.Afterwards, the staff members lead everyone to one of the buildings with holding cells to do a large group investigation…in the dark. Did I mention that the whole ghost hunt is conducted in the dark? For most of the night, you’re in the dark trying to make connections with spirits. Not for the faint of heart!
Rotation 1: Solitary Confinement
About 40 minutes later, our large group investigation ended and we split up into our assigned color groups. I was part of the orange group, so I made my way through the floor to find my fellow group members. Once they were found, the assigned staff leader led our group to the first building of our group investigation: solitary confinement.The first of the 4 ways we would learn to communicate with spirits was the spirit or ghost box. The spirit box is like a radio, it scans radio frequencies and picks up signals which can be heard. However, instead of picking of pop songs, the spirit box uses those frequencies to pick up any audio or speech from spirits.Our group leader went over how to use the ghost box and discussed a bit of the building's history. Solitary confinement was where the worst and most severe criminals were housed, with some having died in their cells. Afterwards, he turned off all the lights and began to ask the ghost box some questions regarding the inmates. We were able to make out a few words and answers, other times it was hard to tell what was being said. Forty minutes went by, which meant it was time for us to rotate and move onto the next building with a new leader.
Rotation 2: General Population (Gen Pop)
From solitary confinement, our group moved onto the next building: general population or "gen pop". This building, when Cresson was open as a correctional facility, housed the rest of the population. This new group leader then went onto discuss another form of ghost communication, dowsing rods and pendulums.Dowsing rods and pendulums are the oldest forms of communication we have with the paranormal. The ghost or spirit box is more modern but dowsing rods and pendulums, are older. Of course, like with the previous leader, a demonstration ensued on how to use the dowsing rods and pendulums.When the demonstrations were over, we then got to pick which tool to use to try and communicate with spirits. I opted for the pendulum, because I find them pretty cool. While using the pendulum, it seemed like I got a few answers from the spirits in the cells. I went to a couple of different cells to not only explore but to test the pendulum out, and see if it would work in different locations.Needless to say, I managed to get some answers with the pendulum. The pendulum would swing like crazy for certain answers, even when my hand was as still as possible. After 40 minutes in gen pop, we then moved onto the next building.
Rotation 3: End of Days
The second to last building we explored as a group is called end of days. Back when Cresson was a sanatorium, patients who were close to death came to this building. They were in the later stages of tuberculosis; meaning there was no recovering from the illness. When patients were brought into this building, they knew they were going to live out the remainder of their days in there until they died.The group leader had us stand in a doorway long the long, dark hall. She then went onto discuss the next set of ghost hunting equipment: light and touch sensitive objects. This leader had a flashlight, a cat toy ball (the one that lights up when it's touched), and a REM Pod which changed colors when a spirit was near it. As always, a demonstration of how these items worked and could be used in an investigation was done.When the demonstrations were done, the group leader turned off all the lights and we were in complete darkness. A few times, the cat ball and the REM Pod were activated by something in the building. No one touched or walked pass these objects other than the group leader. Even when she did, it didn't activate the items, so something else made them light up in the darkness.In addition, the flashlight that was placed in front of me for the investigation kept slowly turning on and off on its own. I was about 3ft away from the flashlight, filming the investigation, so I couldn't have turned it on or off myself. It was pretty cool to see it do that, whether it was due to a spirit or faulty batteries. Members of the group kept saying they could see shadow figures or feel a presence in that building. I can see why, especially with this building's history.With our 40 minutes in this building over, it was time to move onto the final group led investigation of the night.
Rotation 4: The Chapel
The chapel was the last building in our group investigation. It was also the last time we would learn about another ghost hunting method. Though this method is a bit of a stretch, it was nonetheless discussed. The final group leader is a self-proclaimed medium; she could sense and hear ghosts. Her approach to this method of ghost hunting was all about feeling the ghost's energy and making yourself (mind and body) open.Again, this investigation was done in complete darkness. The group leader asked a few questions to the spirits in the chapel to see if they could use their energy to either communicate with us, make a sound, or to light up an area in the chapel. For most of the 40 minutes, we didn't see or hear anything. We kept seeing flashes of light from time to time. However there were thunderstorms in the area, so we most likely saw lightening.There were a couple of instances where our group did see or hear something. For one, most of us heard this ghostly sigh in the chapel. It didn't come from anyone among the living, so we assumed that it was something else. Personally, at one point, I felt this presence sit next to me on the bench. I was the only one sitting in that bench row and no one else moved to sit next to me the entire time. Yet, I felt and HEARD something sit next to me at one point.Out of all the buildings we went into, I have to say, the chapel was the least interesting one to be in. But I still enjoyed being there and doing our group investigation.
Group investigations were done, demonstrations of ghost hunting equipment/methods were done. All that was left was free time. This was our time to roam around the premise for the next 5 to 6 hours or so. We were able to venture into the buildings we were previously in, as well as other buildings, areas, or floors we didn't explore as a group.Since I did this ghost hunt solo, I decided to venture into the areas we didn't get to explore as a group. This meant exploring a few new buildings, the 2nd floor of the end of days building, and the underground tunnel. I didn't have any ghost hunting equipment at the time. Just my camera with a microphone. My method of "ghost hunting" was walking around each area, trying to capture something on camera, while trying to create as little interactions as possible.I wasn't quite comfortable at this stage to communicate with any spirits yet. I didn't have any equipment or courage to do so. Though I'm mostly a skeptic, I didn't want to chance interacting with something and having it attach itself to me. So, I just walked around and hoped I'd get some audio or visuals on camera.I walked around for the next 2 to 3 hours exploring new floors, the tunnels, and buildings nobody had gone into yet. Mind you, it's still VERY dark outside and in the buildings. Especially since I was alone as well, my little flashlight did little in the way of illuminating things and providing a sense of security. But I loved how dark and creepy everything was, so I went along with it. Though I didn't see or hear anything in the moment, it was fun walking around in the dark and exploring!
My final thoughts on the Cresson overnight ghost hunt are pretty positive. Overall, I have to say that I enjoyed myself. Not only in the ghost hunting sense but also the lovely interactions I had from the group leaders and people I met on this investigation. I felt very safe and taken care of the whole time. If I needed any help or refreshments, there was always someone there to help you.When I finally left Cresson, it was about 2:30am. I managed to stay out for about 6 hours, not bad!I recommend this activity with this company if you're interesting in doing ghost hunts as part of controlled, group led environment.
The actual ghost hunt itself was very interesting. I'm a skeptic with a slight pinch of believer in me. I don't go into these investigations trying to find something but I do try to keep an open mind. Some of the things I heard and felt can be explained away by very rational explanations. However, there were a few instances I couldn't easily explain away, like that feeling of a presence near me in the chapel.Looking back on the footage of the ghost hunt, I did manage to get a few audio recordings I didn't hear in person at the time. It was very interesting yet creepy, knowing that you captured or felt something during an investigation. It makes you truly think about the unknown, how we can't explain everything away with science. There are certain things in this world that have no earthly explanation or reason. That maybe...there's a supernatural element to it.
While my overall thoughts on the overnight ghost hunt are relatively positive, there are some drawbacks or cons to this type of ghost hunt. The first being is that you're attending this ghost hunt event with other people. And I'm not talking about just a few other people, I mean LOTS of other people. There were about 80-90 people at this particular ghost hunt. Basically, this means that any "evidence" you get may not be entirely pure, because there's always a possibility that someone nearby made a noise or something.It was hard to truly be alone and explore the grounds. When you're attending an experience with 80-90 other people, most of the time there are others near by. This made it hard to be alone to truly get something on camera. More often than not, whatever I got on camera was someone else saying or doing something in the background. Ultimately, it tainted what little evidence you would get.The second con to this ghost hunt is that people can be easily influenced by others. This isn't always the case but sometimes, if a person feels, sees, or hears something, it sets off this chain reaction in the group. All of a sudden, others start to experience the same thing. It makes it hard to distinguish if this is a genuine experience or if it's just a chain reaction.Finally, this can be viewed as a con or a pro, but the lack of lighting on the premise. When I attended the Pennhurst Asylum ghost hunt, there were lights on certain paths and in certain buildings to help with walking, since certain areas were more rough. At Cresson, besides the main building we checked-in at, there were no lights anywhere! This created a creepy atmosphere and I loved it! However, when you're filming and your camera isn't built to film in low light conditions, this made it difficult to get anything clear on camera.My camera would constantly go in and out of focus. It wouldn't be able to focus on something, even if my flashlight was on something. I had to literally be on top of something for my camera to work properly. This is a camera and human type of problem. But I don't have a night or infrared camera. So, I don't have other cameras to use for this type of activity.
Tips for the overnight Cresson ghost hunt
If you're looking to visit Cresson Sanatorium and Prison for their overnight ghost hunt, here are a few tips to make your investigation a great one!
- bring a flashlight - it's pitch black EVERYWHERE, so be sure to bring one with you
- bring layers - it gets chilly or cold at night
- bring an umbrella or rain coat - in case it rains
- bring your own equipment - if you have any
- bring a camera or your phone - what's the point of a ghost hunt if you don't get any evidence!?
- be open to new possibilities - keep an open mind
- be aware of your surroundings - these buildings aren't in great condition and you don't want to get hurt
- stay hydrated and eat when you can - it's a long night and you'll need your energy!
I hope this helps and if you go on your own overnight ghost hunt at Cresson, stay safe and enjoy the ghost hunt!