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Unexplained Cases | Pennhurst Asylum

Written by: Rick Garner
Case Filed: 08/18/19 - Spring City, Pennsylvania
Executive Producer: Rick Garner



Pennhurst Asylum. Spring City, Pennsylvania. Officailly known as Pennhurst State School and Hospital, this property was originally named the Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic. For 79 years, its buildings housed thousands of mentally and physically disabled. It would seem many remain here. 

On November 23, 1908, the first patient was admitted. By 1912, the facility was overcrowded. At the time, the mentally ill were considered a blight on society - to be feared and not allowed to associated with the general population. A Pennhurst Chief Physician, Dr. Henry H. Goddard, even said, "Every feeble-minded person is a potential criminal."

Spciety's view on those “feeble minded” essentially excused unspeakable horrors to be exercised in the halls and rooms of Pennhurst. in 1968, reporter Bill Baldini exposed conditions at the facility in a five-part local broadcast news investigation which aired on WCAU NBC 10.

It would take indictments and a federal class action lawsuit to finally close the facility on December 9, 1987.

From that lawsuit, even more details were exposed about Pennhurst: urine and excrement on ward floors, infectious diseases, obnoxious odors, excessive noise. Commonplace were injuries to residents by other residents or self-abuse. Residents were seriously injured and sexually assaulted by staff members. Residents were physically restrained which often caused injury and at least one death. Restraint usage increased because there wasn’t enough staff for the amount of residents. Dangerous psychotropic drugs were used for behavior control and staff convenience.

During my few hours at Pennhurst, it was easy to feel a deep sadness in the air. Perhaps it was brought on by the decaying buildings...slowly being reclaimed by nature and weary of the evil they concealed for so many years. But these buildings are no comparison to the lives that decayed here. Neglected, abused, tortured for years. Thousands of lives.

During my brief visit, I captured several disembodied voices. This happened while filming b-roll. At one point in the basement of Mayflower Hall, I peer my camera down a narrow passageway. As I step away, a male whisper can be heard saying, "We’re coming with you.” I was physically alone and I know that I didn’t whisper anything.


An old cart in a hallway, similar to those used to transport luggage at hotels, was in a basement hallway of Mayflower. I tried to move it but the wheels were rusted. Again, my camera picks up a whisper - which sounds exactly like the previous male voice - saying, "Leave that here.”


While in what is known as the sound-proof room, it was difficult to be sound-proof walking around on the decades of debris that had built up on the floor. But my camera caught a breath. Like an exhale.


Also, while in one of the few underground tunnels accessible to the public. I invite anyone to speak into the mic, there is a sound that’s too weird to ignore. Listening closely and repeatedly, it's creepy. It resembled how one sounds when they have to use a device to speak. The phrase sounded like, "It's recording."

No other evidence was collected via photographs, video, or use of the SB7 spirit box. 

Today, the property is used for paranormal investigations and conventions and also a huge haunted attraction. Briana Walters, a volunteer for Paracon 2019, shared her experiences. “I was here on a ghost hunt on Friday the 13th and we were in the soundproof room. We asked someone to bang on the wall or door and one of the doors down (the hallway) slammed three times. Another time, we were at the Paracon, here, and I was back (in the janitor area) with my sister. She saw a light flash by and I heard a sound and I just ran out.”

Paranormal investigator Stephen Erkintalo and Giselle Andrews are first-timers to Pennhurst. I asked Stephen about his experiences with the paranormal. 

“Quite a bit of experiences...personally and documented on Amazon Prime, on YouTube, on my personal social media pages. I can go into all that...the shadow figures I’ve seen, the EVPs that I’ve documented. see what this type of lifestyle was about rather than being behind the camera entertaining but also documenting."

Giselle shared some of her experiences. “(Stephen)'s really extreme in everything he does. The few times that I’ve gone with him, I’ve definitely experienced a lot of things. Come home to experience more things. Katrina (Weidman) touched upon Bobby Mackey’s as being something that followed her home. I can attest to that and the “spiritual hangovers” you experience afterwards. I’ve seen some things. I’ve seen shadows. And I feel things.”

So, what’s unexplained about Pennhurst? it’s opening and closing is not. Even the horrors that went on here are not, especially considering the times and human nature. What’s unexplained...is if it is truly haunted...who still lingers here and why?

As for if Pennhurst is haunted, Brianna Walters thinks so. “Oh, yes. Definitely. Definitely.”

Reporting for Unexplained Cases, I’m Rick Garner.

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