Pennsylvania is filled with history but perhaps one of the most truly terrifying relics of its storied past is the concept of the asylum. Psychiatric hospitals, also known as mental health units or behavioral health units, are hospitals or wards specializing in the treatment of severe mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder. During the early 20th century, Pennsylvania was home to dozens of them.
The Pennhurst State School and Hospital in Spring City, originally known as the Eastern Pennsylvania Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic, opened in 1908 and thrived as one of the most reputable asylums that employees and volunteers worked hard to turn into a safe home for residents who were struggling.
However, as time went on, the funding for the asylum began to decrease. By the mid-twentieth century, the lack of state funding led to deplorable conditions like overcrowding, food scarcity, and abuse of patients.
In the 1980s, former resident Terry Lee Halderman brought a lawsuit against Pennhurst State School and Hospital. Halderman claimed to have suffered physical abuse that resulted in visible bruises. The lawsuit would eventually go on to expose many terrible horrors, including a resident who had been in physical restraints for over 700 hours. Pennhurst Asylum eventually shuttered its doors permanently in 1987. Today, it lies mostly in ruins.
If you were to visit Pennhurst today, you'd be surprised to see that the majority of buildings here are still standing, making exploration particularly intriguing. Curious explorers are welcome via day and nighttime tours. During the Halloween season, Pennhurst transforms into one of the state's spookiest haunted attractions, drawing visitors from near and far.
To learn more about the asylum and museum and to schedule a tour, you can visit their official site here.