Long before Pennhurst Asylum was reborn as a haunted house, it operated as the Pennhurst State School mental institution. Originally opened in 1908, the 1,400 acre site operated for almost 80 years as a home for thousands of mentally and physically disabled. That 80 year history was filled with patient abuse, torture, neglect, sexual abuse, and even murder. These atrocities started to be exposed in the late 1960s, and the facility was shut down by a court order in 1986.
For over 20 years the place was left to rot, becoming a legendary haunted location frequented by ghost hunters and the daring. Then, in 2010, it was renovated and opened as the Pennhurst Asylum haunted house. You read that correctly: this haunted attraction is built on an actual haunted location. In fact, many of the props are real, left behind when the asylum closed.
That’s what you’re stepping into when you go to this haunted house, and they want you to know it. When you enter the old Administration building for the Pennhurst Asylum haunt, you enter a completely redone hallway with a museum of old Pennhurst. As you walk down the 800 foot hallway, the surroundings start to deteriorate, until you enter the haunted house. You then go through room after room of disturbing animatronics, horrifying props, and frightening monsters. The best is saved for last, when you go through rooms like the actual morgue and shock treatment rooms, complete with original equipment from Pennhurst.
After going through the asylum, you descend into the tunnels for the Dungeon of Lost Souls and Tunnel Terror. Originally, these were used to get between buildings in bad weather. Today their 900 feet of flickering lights, intricate sets, and a lot of well-planned scares. These actually run underneath the people waiting in line for the haunt, and the screams of guests are often heard above ground.
The final part of the haunt, the Ghost Hunt strives for true authenticity. Armed with nothing but a flashlight, you’re let into the Mayflower building to wander around. Everything is left exactly how it was when the building was abandoned in 1986. These sets are not constructed and there are no manufactured scares here. Just a creepy building that many regard as haunted.
Tips & Pointers
- Parking is removed from the Pennhurst building, but there is a shuttle bus that runs every five minutes.
- Since the attractions are all inside, Pennhurst Asylum is open even when it rains.
- Tickets are available online for individual haunts or as combo tickets.
- The best way to get the most out of this haunt is to avoid the crowds. Come early in the season and avoid Fridays or Saturdays.