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Pennhurst Asylum


“I’d never experienced any like it anywhere else … ”

Every paranormal investigation worth their salt has heard of the notorious Pennhurst Asylum in Pennsylvania.

Originally called the Pennhurst State School and Hospital, and first known as the Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic, was an institution for mentally and physically disabled individuals of the south-eastern part of Pennsylvania.

It was shutdown on December 9, 1987 after 79 years of controversy amid claims of patient abuse and appalling conditions.

In 1968, the conditions at Pennhurst were famously exposed in a five-part television news report anchored by local WCAU-TV correspondent Bill Baldini, and in 1981, a Time magazine article described the place as having “a history of being understaffed, dirty and violent.”

In 1983, nine employees were indicted on charges ranging from slapping and beating patients (including some in wheelchairs) to arranging for patients to assault each other.

It was a real house of horrors, a place where the forgotten people of society were left to rot in utter despair.

Paranormal activity

It’s not unusual for places of intense suffering to be extremely haunted. It’s almost as if the energy and broken spirits of more than 10,000 residents committed to the asylum remain there, unable to escape its brutal chokehold.

Thankfully, in 1987, it was closed down to patients, but is still open for day time tours, paranormal investigations and every Halloween as a haunted house attraction.

It was even the subject of an A&E special in which five investigators locked themselves inside the asylum for two weeks to document unexplained reports of paranormal activity.

And with reports of full-body apparitions, physical attacks, mysterious noises and more, there were not disappointed.

We spent five hours inside the asylum, and had access to all four floors of the notorious Mayflower Hall, two floors of the expansive Devon Hall and the underground tunnels of the Philadelphia, Devon, and Rockwell Buildings.

What happened on our investigation

Our night at Pennhurst started with a walk-through of the grounds, with a guide leading our large group to all the different buildings still left standing. She was an incredibly sympathetic historian, moreso than an investigator which gave everyone a very ‘humane’ perspective.
She explained that a lot of the spiritual and residual energy at the property was most likely former residents, who never left, and that a lot of those residents were non-verbal so not to jump to the conclusion that “oh, gosh it’s a DEMON!” if you heard a grunt or a groan – that it was most likely a former resident attempting to communicate.  She said that most of the energy they encountered at Pennhurst was curious and playful, not malevolent.

After a comprehensive tour and getting a greater understanding of the property and the energy there, we broke off into groups to start investigating.  We joined a small group of investigators who had some experience, which was a bonus as our guide didn’t have to spend time explaining equipment or how the investigation would run. We hit up quite a few buildings, and found most of the energy was around the bathroom areas. We got some solid responses through GhostTube Vox and a lot of activity through the rempod, and cat balls were going off left, right and centre, especially in the tunnels.

The highlight for us was the old infirmary. We spent a good 45 minutes walking through the halls, and into the many darkened rooms, picking up on some energy throughout the building but nothing major. It wasn’t until we were leaving that I turned to one of the two other investigators and said “we didn’t get a lot in here, did we, but it was still a great way to finish the night here…” No sooner had I said that than I looked back around in front of me down the torchlit hallway, and saw a blackened head and shoulders pop out of the nurses station.
It had no features and wasn’t a solid mass, but wasn’t transparent either. It popped out for around two seconds and then popped right back into the station, almost to say, “huh, nothing happened eh?!” or  maybe to check we were really leaving. I screamed when I a saw it, more from excitement and shock than fear and I turned to the other two to see if they’d seen anything. I was careful not to tell them what I’d seen right away so I didn’t put any suggestions into their minds about what they had or hadn’t seen.
The girl with us hadn’t seen anything as she was walking behind me, but her partner said “yes! I saw a head pop into that doorway!” Confirmed sighting then! Of what, we didn’t know.

We went into the station to see if someone was there, or possibly another visitor lost in the building. But no, nothing or no one was there.  We went back and told our guide who was amazed at what we’d seen . She said a sighting in this building was unusual as they hadn’t picked up much in this area on previous investigations. So we were incredibly lucky and privileged to have seen … whatever it was that we saw.  It was a first for me – on countless investigations I’ve never seen anything like it. Maybe the odd whisper, cool drafts when there’s no explainable source and I have been prodded once or twice, but nothing like this.

It’s an experience I’ll carry with me and I’m grateful to the spirits of Pennhurst for giving me another reason to keep investigating!

Want to visit?

All the opening hours and available investigations and tours of the asylum are listed on their website,

Tours range in price from $US40 for a daytime history tour right up to $US150 for Horror Camp Out events, and Overnight Investigations.


Andrea is the founder of Hallozween and a paranormal enthusiast who has visited locations all over the world.


Andrea is the founder of Hallozween and a paranormal enthusiast who has visited locations all over the world.

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