Skip to content

Pennhurst Asylum Brings Fears to Life Near Philadelphia

Pennhurst Asylum Brings Fears to Life Near Philadelphia

An abandoned hospital is a real terror in itself but add in some actual paranormal activity and three haunted attractions, and you’ve got all the makings for a creepy night out. We talked with Pennhurst Asylum’s owner, Matt Herzog, about the attractions, the history and the real experiences that visitors have reported during tours of the property. The venue offers three haunted houses (Pennhurst Asylum, The Morgue, and The Tunnels), Daytime Tours and Overnight Paranormal Investigations.

Operating Theatre at Pennhurst Asylum Philadelphia |
Operating Theatre (Courtesy Pennhurst Asylum)

Experiencing Pennhurst Asylum

Can you tell us a bit about the history? 
Herzog: The site opened in 1908 as the “Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution For the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic” and housed individuals with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities. Due to the American Eugenics movement picking up speed around this time, the individuals often court-ordered here were referred to as criminals, inmates, and even “almost human.” This created a lack of understanding and empathy that allowed a dangerous and neglectful environment to grow. Another massive influence on the mistreatment of individuals here was the severe overcrowding and underfunding. After administrative costs, residents got as little as 70 cents a day to live off. The closure of Pennhurst in 1987, and many public institutions alike it, was monumental in the disabled rights movement, though there is still much more progress to make. Today, on-site, we built and offer tours of the only open museum of disabled/institutional history in the United States.

What makes the Pennhurst Asylum so unique? 
Herzog: The “Pennhurst Asylum” is a fictional haunted house entity that occupies the Administration building on the property of the notoriously haunted former institution, “Pennhurst State School and Hospital .”This location witnessed horrific crimes and prejudiced against disabled people throughout its operational period. Today, we strive to bring power back to the disabled community that was silenced by this space for over 70 years.

Exit Hall at Pennhurst Asylum Philadelphia |
Exit Hall (Courtesy Pennhurst Asylum)

What are the most common encounters visitors have experienced during paranormal tours? 
Herzog: Paranormal activity at Pennhurst is rampant; visitors oftentimes report seeing shadow figures, hearing footsteps, whispers, screams and moans. Doors have been reported to open/close on their own. More than anything, visitors report feeling the immense amount of energy still within the buildings, detectable from the time you roll onto the property.

What are the most popular tours?
Herzog: Our historic tours are among the most popular, offering a daytime look at the site and the opportunity to talk with individuals who worked at the institution during its operating period. Our paranormal tours are also quite popular and continue all year round.

Can you tell us about the three haunts? 
Herzog: Our haunted attraction is known as one of the best in the United States, utilizing some of the best props, sets, and actors available. We host an “asylum” attraction, in which the patients have overrun the facility meant to contain them and have turned the tables on the guests, their new inmates. The morgue is within the basement of the “asylum,” utilizing experimental techniques for the preservation and reanimation of corpses. The tunnels are where the most dangerous experiments are kept. As guests enter, it is clear that a security breach has occurred, and now the monsters are set free. Guests walk through over 1,500 feet of real Tunnels evading these monsters.

Isolation Scream at Pennhurst Asylum Philadelphia |
Isolation Scream (Courtesy Pennhurst Asylum)