Review: Pennhurst Asylum Tour

Last night, my wife and I left Philadelphia and headed to the "Pennhurst Asylum" a seasonal haunted house attraction built on the campus of what used to be the Pennhurst State School and Hospital in Spring City. Pennhurst was built in 1908 and closed in 1986. What sets Pennhurst apart from other "asylums" is its size. The aerial view shown above is only part of the entire campus and until recently, this entire campus was covered in overgrowth and forest making it a formidable property to explore. All furnishings and tools from chalkboards to eating utensils were left when they closed the gates leaving eerily picturesque scenes like the one below

I had high expectations just thinking of being on location. Sneaking onto the campus for a nigh-time "self guided tour" before it was purchased (and heavily guarded) was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

We picked a good night to go; it was far less crowded than other nights and we were able to duck under the winding line ropes and head straight for the ticket booth. The walk from the parking lot to the main attraction was through dark woods and stone alleys. Along the way, workers manned barrel fires, and when we reached the main area, a bonfire large enough to consume whole wood pallets blazed in the courtyard.

During this walk and once inside the "haunted" buildings, the staff was fun, helpful, and polite; the actors did a good job; the costumes, props, and rooms were well designed. It just wasn't the Pennhurst I expected. Groups of people, lighting, and costumed actors in propped out rooms are what they are and I knew better than to expect anything different, but I was disappointed nonetheless. It was as if Pennhurst was watching from the woods and yet to be converted buildings, waiting for the amusement park to leave.

Ghost Hunt tickets were offered, but after reading about the crowds, we decided to pass. I'll be keeping an eye on this site to see if other types of tours become available. An extended rugged tour through campus or an overnight tour are offered elsewhere and might eventually be considered.

More info:

Pennhurst on Wikipedia

Suffer the Little Children (1968 expose documentary with on-site footage)

Ghost Hunters

Ghost Adventures

UPDATE: If you're more interested in history and decay than being scared by actors, check out nearby Eastern State Penitentiary. My review here. It's intentionally kept in "preserved ruin". I hope Pennhurst will eventually be managed similarly.