SPRING CITY, PENNSYLVANIA— Mental health and disability advocates around the country are expressing deep outrage at the inappropriateness of a Halloween attraction at the site of Pennhurst State Hospital, a former hospital and school for individuals with psychiatric and other disabilities located near Philadelphia. In years past, similar events have taken place the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia, the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, and the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.
Pennhurst opened in 1908 but closed in 1987 following investigations revealing shocking levels of neglect and abuse. The Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance, a group whose membership includes individuals who once lived in various institutional settings, seeks to preserve the institution as a “catalyst for awareness”.
Mike Fitzpatrick, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness says, "This whole sort of trend to have haunted asylums is both discouraging and very, very inappropriate", while the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia said “… this haunted house threatens to exploit the tragedy at Pennhurst for cheap thrills”. J. Bruce Hulick, who is the executive director of ARC of Philadelphia, wants Pennhurst to be “… a dignified remembrance, not an amusement."
In defense of the haunted house, Pennhurst Acquisition—the investment group that has owned the property since 2008— says, "By no means is our event a mockery of that. ... I would think the youth is smart enough to distinguish between the make-believe and the other.”
Haunted ‘Asylum’ At Site Of Former Institution Has Disability Advocates Cringing
HAUNTED ASYLUM: Mental health pros boo attraction at Pa. institution
Pennhurst Asylum Haunted House: