Since April I’ve been working on Pennhurst Haunted Asylum artwork, website, video etc for Randy Bates of Bates Motel fame. I actually took an overnight trip to Spring City PA to snap some photos of Pennhurst and video. Upon seeing it first hand it was clear that after 20 some years of the property being ignored, most of the buildings were just crumbling. In fact the hospital building had already started to collapse and was unsafe to go into. 2 or 3 of the wards had roofs that had collapsed as well making them very unsafe. On top of the neglect there had been many vandals who had come and spray painted their names and thoughts all over the inside of the buildings and the tunnels under the complex. It was pretty disgraceful to see it in this condition.
I met the people involved in reviving the Admin building while I was there and they had done a lot of work just clearing away the brush, pulling out all the debris from the building and making it safe to walk through. We got to talking about the reaction that Randy has gotten since he announced the attraction. Needless to say it hasn’t been very positive so far. There have been the usual protests from mental health groups, which is to be expected. But the most vocal have been people who think Randy is capitalizing on the suffering of mentally handicapped children which is who the patients were during Pennhurst years of operation. It was closed down in the 1980′s after too many scandals of neglect and abuse.
After hearing about this I did some research to see what was being said. The majority of the protesters seem to feel that Pennhurst should be preserved in some way yet shouldn’t be made into anything profitable. Without there being a profit, what company or person would ever undertake the preservation of Pennhurst? Having worked with The Ohio State Reformatory, better known as Shawshank Prison, I know that without their haunted attraction, that the reformatory would have crumbled years ago. Today the Reformatory is thriving, and being restored to it former operational glory! Why? because the haunted house they put on each year generates the funds they need to keep the place in good condition. They have fostered the stories of ghosts and hauntings into paid ghost hunts on a bi weekly basis and without these spooky uses the place would have been condemned a decade ago.
Yet we’re seeing all this resistance to what could be a long term haunted attraction that could actually preserve Pennhurst and even restore, not to mention bring awareness to what happened there to many more people than any preservation or internet group ever could! You can argue that Pennhurst and the Reformatory are very different and that Pennhurst had much more suffering. Sure you could, but the lessons of Pennhurst are something that shouldn’t be forgotten. If the buildings are left to decay and crumble under their own weight then who will remember what happened there in 30 years? A haunted attraction might be the best thing to happen to Pennhurst especially when it comes to spreading the awareness and lessons of what happened there. I know Randy would like to see Pennhurst Haunted Asylum become a long term event that restores several buildings on the property. This is Pennhursts last chance at telling the world what happened there and its too bad that the protectors don’t realize it.
That said check out the trailer for Pennhurst Haunted Asylum below: