As a former Special Assistant to Pennhurst’s Superintendent has said, “Pennhurst was a mistake from day one, but it was a mistake made by all of us, following the dictates of the ‘best minds’ of its time.” Against the backdrop of the state’s neglect, countless unremarked acts of kindness from workers and families added bits of humanity to institutional life. It is, no doubt, the resilience of Pennhurst’s residents themselves that is the most inspiring part of the institution’s story.”
The residents lived lives of inner dignity and grace in a world designed to strip that dignity from them.”—former Pennhurst employee
In the 18th century they didn’t have the knowledge about mental health or disabilities that we have today, because of this many patients suffered as a result of the “ treatments “ which included electrical shock, Lobotomy, over sedation ( used due to staff shortages ,challenging behaviour ( one of the institutes mentally unstable patients blinded herself and as a result was restrained during the month of June 1976, was in a physical restraint for 651 hours 5 minutes; for the month of August, 1976, was in physical restraints for 720 hours; during September, 1976, was in physical restraints for 674 hours 20 minutes; and during the month of October, 1976, was in physical restraints for 647 hours 5 minutes.
However even if the patients were not acting up, staff would tie them to their beds or even chain them to radiators. Sometimes leaving them for days on end. Needless to say the hygiene of the place was non-existent! Majority if not all patients were laying in their own excrement on a constant basis.
Eastern State Hospital as it was known, was created for Epileptics, physically deformed, disabled, speech impaired. Unfortunately many patients self-harmed or harmed other residents; some incidents even resulted in murders. On one occasion a patient bit of three quarters of their ear lobe off. If patients had a reputation for biting others the hospital would remove all their teeth. This procedure happened so often that even when the hospital was closed visitors to the building would still find teeth scattered across the foul smelling stained floors.
Some staff members abused their role by raping and physically hurting the patients. As well as caring for the mentally unwell Pennhurst was forced to take in Orphans, Criminals, Immigrants. The original capacity for the hospital was 500 people however due to years of numerous patients being admitted it quickly became over 1200, leading to multiple abuse and negligence.
In 1968 a five part documentary “Suffer the little children “was filmed about the institution. This documentary exposed the squalor and raw reality of Pennhurst Hospital, which left viewers disgusted. The reporter recalled in an interview how he walked into a room which held 80 malnourished infants…which only had two staff looking after them.
It is said that the children were left so long in their cribs unattended that they couldn’t even walk or crawl! They were sitting in their own poo and urine. Because of these filthy conditions the institute had a fly problem (in the documentary countless fly traps are seen hanging down from the walls) Lack of staff was supposedly reason for this neglect.
All the patients within the facility regardless of how old were called children. Many if not all of them lacked the skills that we take for granted, such as drawing, cooking etc. in some institutions staff teach the patients these skills so that their brain is “ exercised” but Pennhurst did not .
Even after exposing the conditions of the hospital Pennhurst remained open for another 20 years! In 1988 nine Pennhurst staff members were charged with abuse. When the Hospital closed down the remaining 40 patients were sent to other institutions or went back to their families.
The building still stands as a reminder of what happened there.
With all these sinister things going on within the walls of the “Hospital” is it any wonder that people consider it to be one of the most haunted places in America?
I would like to confirm that what I am about to say is purely my personal opinion. I am not a qualified Doctor or nurse however I have been a professional carer for the past 5 years and have had experiences which has lead me to believe that not all people that suffer with conditions such as Personality disorder or mental health issues are Hallucinating, I believe that the patients I looked after were actually experiencing or seeing a supernatural entity.
I believe in the power of prayer and rebuking any negative spirit in the name of Jesus. So when a patient of mine wanted me to stay in the room with them because they were hearing voices, I asked them if they would like to pray with me and rebuke the voices in Jesus name. After the prayer we sat in the darkness for a few minutes before they said that the voices had gone!
I’m very sensitive to energy and I found that the people that had conditions such as Bi polar etc. gave off more of energy than the people that had other conditions. Is it possible that people with these conditions are more in tune with the spiritual world because there mind works differently from ours?
I was recently on social media and a person who was in a mental hospital had posted about their life there, and she said in one of the blogs that she had started to see Demons and that they were after her soul.
Some people would consider this to be just a Hallucination of hers due to her condition. But I can’t help but wonder if she is actually seeing real Demons. After all Spirts are all around us! Think about how many people right now are calling upon spirits or doing spirit boards in the World right now!? Think about how many people have attachments due to life choices or drink/ drugs?
Demons love tormenting us because we are made in Gods own image. They will try and claim our souls in any way they can. That little voice that you hear saying you’re not good enough at times you should just give up? There’s no doubt in my mind that’s down to a demon or even in some cases an attachment.
So that leaves us with the ultimate question which we will probably not get an answer to in our lifetime , because the only way we will be able to know the truth about if people with severe mental health conditions are seeing Demons, hearing them and obviously being tormented by them.. Is if we ask them. But unfortunately the “ professionals of the mental health industry “ will deem what they see and what they tell us as just part of their condition, and what the patients see is just pure hallucination.
There have been many accounts of people who are on “end of life / Palliative care “seeing their deceased loved ones frequently ...even weeks before they actually die and people believe them. So who’s to say that the people suffering with various conditions aren’t seeing spirits too?
I recall a relative of mine was in hospital and every time I went to see them they said that they kept seeing a golden Alsatian near their bed, when they came back home I asked them about what they had said to me and they confirmed that they had been seeing this dog . The dog In Question was the one they had years before.
As for the ghost stories of Pennhurst State Hospital the usual supernatural occurrences happen. Ranging from footsteps, doors slam, shadow figures darting about the abandoned hallways, as well as cries of woman and children. Of course the residual energy penetrated within the walls of the building speaks volumes as you can imagine.
Here are some personal accounts from relatives of staff or patients of that institution.
“My Grandma worked at Pennhurst in the 50s. She described it as People piled like firewood. Not long after she and my Grandpa met they moved to the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania. Given where she worked, and that my Grandfather was a US Constable in World War II, I have to wonder if what they did factored into where they decided to live. She passed this past December, and even if she was around for me to ask about her time working there, I doubt she would.”
“My Uncle Joseph/Joe Walker was born in 1929 and was placed in Pennhurst when he was a teenager. He ended up dying in there in his early/mid 40’s. My parents knew nothing as far as cause of death. ”
It’s important to remember the patients who resided at the facility, as a mark of respect to their memory. Regardless of how mentally impaired they were they were still human beings. Their mind just worked differently from others and there should be no shame in that. They should have been treated with dignity and the right sort of affection. Not treated like nothing.
God bless all the souls who stayed in that dreadful place. As a nation I hope we can learn from these mistakes and only make improvements in regards to dealing with such delicate matters.