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Pennhurst - Shame of the Nation

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Feb. 6th, 2013 | 12:38 am
mood: awakeawake
posted by: dark_fetus in abandonedplaces

Some may recognize this location as a place I shot some 2 or 3 years ago. If so, you are correct. Like anyone who shoots photos or video,
Christina and I felt that we had grown in our respective fields, and both of us wanted to re-visit this location in order to do it more justice.
I like to think that we did improve since our last visit, and am quite proud of what we were able to capture. Please be sure to check out
Christina's video as well as the images below, it was our most involved and time-consuming project to date.





To best introduce Pennhurst State School and Hospital, I offer a single quotation from the 1968 documentary
"Suffer the Little Children", an exposé by Bill Baldini, about the deplorable conditions at the facility. When one patient
was asked by the interviewer what he would like most in the world, if he could have anything he could imagine,
the sad and withdrawn reply was simply, "To get out of Pennhurst."

This state-funded school and hospital center was at the heart of the human rights movement that revolutionized
this country's approach to healthcare for the mentally and physically handicapped and, by extension, our views
on the value of human life. Pennhurst was one of the most striking examples of the maltreatment that was
characteristic of such institutions - at one point, papers labeled it "The Shame of the Nation".
Reading accounts of the abuse and neglect endured by patients at these hospitals can often be sickening;
In the case of Pennhurst, the lives of the residents were recorded on video by documentary filmmakers as well.
To see and hear the hopelessness of these people can be very trying; Many of them were abandoned by all who knew them,
as forlorn as the facility itself would come to be decades later.

Pennhurst first opened its doors in November of 1908, and due to pressure to accept not only the mentally
and physically handicapped, but also immigrants, criminals and orphans who could not be housed elsewhere,
it was overcrowded within only a few years. In 1913, the Commission for the Care of the Feeble-Minded was appointed,
and baldly stated that those with disabilities were "unfit for citizenship" and furthermore, "posed a menace to the peace."
Patients at Pennhurst were grouped into several general categories. Under the classification of mental prowess,
one was listed as either an "imbecile" or "insane". Physically, the patient could be declared either "epileptic" or "healthy".

Like many similar facilities of the era, Pennhurst was wholly independent from the outside world. It operated its own power plant,
policed its own grounds and grew its own food. Any additional needs were supplied by a railway which connected to the campus.
The facility could operate without any interaction with the community, and that was the way the community preferred it. By the 1980's,
overcrowding, lack of funds, inadequate staffing and decades of abuse and neglect accusations caught up with the operation,
and in 1987 Pennhurst closed its doors. Its death was not without positive impact, though. The martyrdom of its long suffering patients
helped put into motion changes to medical practice across the country and to society as a whole.

Today the place is in the hands of a private owner who is taking steps to reverse the 20+ years of damage wrought by time and vandalism.
It is also at the center of an unusual controversy - One of the modern functions of the old hospital center is as a haunted house attraction,
which operates out of a portion of the grounds. This re-purposing has, understandably, generated concern among those who view it as disrespectful
to the brutality that once took place here. While we will refrain from choosing sides in this debate, it is worth noting that funding generated by
the Halloween attraction helps with the preservation and maintenance of the buildings and the property.

On the day of our visit a cold early-morning fog hung thickly about the campus, a veil of grey swallowing distant forms
into vague soft-edged silhouettes, and completely concealing the sky above. The Pennhurst property had disconnected from
the greater world around it, surrounded on all sides by massive walls of white, existing alone in a depressing haze.
When considering the innumerable acts of cruelty and neglect which had played out here through the facility's 79 years of operation,
perhaps there was no more suiting an atmosphere to witness these grounds than at this very moment.



















































- Historical Images -



















Hey, remember that video I mentioned watching in my opening text?
Well, if you skimmed over that part of the text (or all of it for that matter) - Here's a video we worked hard on making,
so please give it a click. Also, pop it into HD if you have a capable computer, or phone, or tablet, or... whatever you're reading this on.













Well, that was a sizable entry. Hope everyone enjoyed it.
~Rusty

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Comments {56}

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Sarah

(no subject)

from: akiriyamatiem
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 06:07 am (UTC)
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At last! I've been eagerly awaiting your next post here in the abandoned places community, and as usual you did not disappoint. The photos are glorious and the video was awesome, though incredibly tragic. It might sound corny, but thank you!!! Your posts are my favorite. ^_^

Reply | Thread

 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:27 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for saying so! (It's awesome to hear that people await our posts here, let alone know who we are... Haha)
We really put a lot of effort into our posts, so that effects the frequency of the updates.

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rah rah Raira rah.

(no subject)

from: scarsofsunlight
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 06:24 am (UTC)
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Great post as always. The video was fantastic- great mix of chilling, artistic, and informative. Keep up the good work you two!

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 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:28 pm (UTC)
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Much appreciated.
The making of the video was a pretty sombre undertaking actually, what with all the documentary footage to sift through.
It was like a sensory overload after a while.

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synnie

(no subject)

from: synnoveaevael
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 06:29 am (UTC)
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the more i study psychology, the more these places just make me sad. so many good intentions. so much done wrong.

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 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:29 pm (UTC)
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A lot of these places could have been truly wonderful, however,
funding was simply nowhere near what would have been needed for most of these style institutions.

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The Silver Wolf of Darkness

(no subject)

from: silvolf
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 09:12 am (UTC)
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Its so sad about what went on there. Great photos and video though!

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 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:29 pm (UTC)
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Thank you!

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joy_twinz

(no subject)

from: joy_twinz
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 09:40 am (UTC)
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amazing photos and video. But the institution's history gave me chills.
thanks for sharing!

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 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
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It is a moving location for sure. Glad that resonated through in this post.

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Павел Немчинов

(no subject)

from: nemchinov
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 10:33 am (UTC)
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Amazing!
I thought i were in the most interesting abandoned hospital. But after your post i am not sure any more! Thanks!

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 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:32 pm (UTC)
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This place was a key player with the mental healthcare reform in the United States,
but that doesn't make any other hospital less significant. A lot of what occurred at Penhurst, occurred in countless
other wards across the country, and around the world.

Reply | Parent | Thread

Cindy

(no subject)

from: cindyanne1
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 11:20 am (UTC)
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This is an awesome post and I will be taking the time to look over it all more carefully, it's amazing!

There's a building like that close to where I live, although it's not nearly as huge. It also was run as a haunted house in more recent years, although it wasn't exactly an asylum. It was the Knox County Poorhouse (Knox County, Ohio). It's so far gone now, though, that it's not even being used as a haunted house attraction any longer.

Love this post!

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 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:34 pm (UTC)
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I actually know of the Knox County Poorhouse. It has an amazing exterior, though I really don't know much of what the interior still holds...

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iddewes

(no subject)

from: iddewes
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 11:53 am (UTC)
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Goodness, it's MASSIVE! What is the new owner planning to restore it as? Another institution, or housing or something? Can't imagine a place like that would be very nice for anyone to live in now.
Very interesting, thanks!

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 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:37 pm (UTC)
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Thus far the new owner has turned the admin building, as well as a part of one of the wards into the Haloween haunted house.
The far end of the facility, which was the mess hall, is now an organic mulch plant, known as "Penn Organic".
As for the many other wards, they are slowly in the process of abating and shoring up the ones which can clearly be saved.
I believe there are plans to open it up to photographers in the future, as well as paranormal groups.

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bookwormsarah

(no subject)

from: bookwormsarah
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 12:24 pm (UTC)
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What an excellent article, thank you. Sadly these places existed all over - I'm in the UK and my mother's phd research was based on several over here.

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 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:37 pm (UTC)
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My mother was a nurse, and did a fair portion of her medical training in an asylum much like this one, which is now abandoned.

Reply | Parent | Thread

Janelle

(no subject)

from: vitainpalus
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 02:01 pm (UTC)
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Thank you for posting this. The video was amazing.

Reply | Thread

 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:38 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for commenting. I'll pass your comment along to Christina.

Reply | Parent | Thread

Skye

(no subject)

from: skye_blue
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 02:20 pm (UTC)
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so good...
looks just like the norwich state hospital. although i do not know if ppl were abused there as much as this place was known for. it is being cleaned and cleared out as well. they have tired to sell it as well. been ongoing..i love it. and it locked down w paid ppl on site 24/7..;[
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pu3e-rjES3o

http://montville-ct.patch.com/blog_posts/norwich-state-hospital-series-the-unique-history-of-a-large-campus

Reply | Thread

 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:42 pm (UTC)
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Ah Norwhich! We went there some time ago. Well, we actually went twice, the first time security chased us away...
A few months later we were able to get in and film the place. Here's a link to the entry on my site:
http://rustytagliareni.blogspot.com/2011/10/norwich-state-hospital-for-insane.html

Reply | Parent | Thread

Scary Sue

(no subject)

from: fantomeq
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 03:04 pm (UTC)
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Phenomenal video. Beautiful panning and juxtaposition. Well done.

Reply | Thread

 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:44 pm (UTC)
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The panning is a pain, and requires a lot of equipment, so thank you for mentioning it.

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athousandsmiles

(no subject)

from: athousandsmiles
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 03:36 pm (UTC)
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The video has me in tears. What a tragic place. Makes me want to hug my children tight right now, but they're in school.

Thanks for another amazing post.

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 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:45 pm (UTC)
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Awww, sorry to upset you.
I would be lying if I said that wasn't the desired reaction though...
Hug your kids when they get home.

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mrsr58

(no subject)

from: mrsr58
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 04:29 pm (UTC)
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fascinating post; wonderful video. thank you very much.

Reply | Thread

 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:46 pm (UTC)
Link

Thank you.

Reply | Parent | Thread

♛ Serenity

(no subject)

from: clarionromance
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 04:49 pm (UTC)
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I love the last shot before the historical images!

Reply | Thread

 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:46 pm (UTC)
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The last exterior shot?
The sun was all but set at that point, so the colors are far different than the opening ones (taken at around 9-10am).

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Venturous1

(no subject)

from: venturous1
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 07:09 pm (UTC)
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gorgeous work, as always. your video is really moving. When I lived in central NY, near Willard, a similar institution, we were just entering the time when it became clear that just emptying the mental institutions onto the streets wasnt a good policy, either. The potentially holistic village concept of these places wasnt a bad one, I dont think care of the disabled has ever been a big priority for staff and resources.

Reply | Thread

 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:47 pm (UTC)
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The problem was that the few who did truly care, were far outnumbered by those who saw the handicapped as a financial burden.

Reply | Parent | Thread

every nightmare needs an influence.

(no subject)

from: emaciatedwords
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 03:09 am (UTC)
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Great photos. All things considered, that place isn't in half bad shape.

Reply | Thread

 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:48 pm (UTC)
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I, too, am often surprised by how well these old institutions hold up.
Using brick, concrete, mortar, and stone (instead of wood) sure does go a long way.

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Katura

(no subject)

from: katura
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 12:19 pm (UTC)
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Brilliant post and stunning photos. I'm from PA and Pennhurst is notorious there. It's so heartbreaking to think of what went on there, but I guess we can take some solace in the fact that we've come a long way in the treatment and care of people.

Did you have to sneak onto the grounds, or were you allowed access?

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 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:49 pm (UTC)
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We are familiar with the owner, who granted us access to the property.
It would have been impossible for us to film all day, with all our equipment, without being caught.

Reply | Parent | Thread | Expand

Now I'm walking again to the beat of a drum

(no subject)

from: voluptuary
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 08:51 pm (UTC)
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Thank you so much for the time you take out to make these posts, and as always, the text, photos, and video are absolutely amazing.

Reply | Thread

 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:51 pm (UTC)
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Much appreciated.
Thank you for taking the time to say how you feel.
It makes everything well worth the effort when you hear how much some people appreciate it.

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arplight

(no subject)

from: arplight
date: Feb. 8th, 2013 05:09 pm (UTC)
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*sustained rounds of applause* Have mercy. Excellent beginning to end. The blue windows & mattress photo, and the waving weeds in the video are perfect. As always, Thank You Both.

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 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 9th, 2013 12:42 am (UTC)
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Thanks you!
(And thanks for sharing this on Facebook as well)

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The Adventures of Blitz

(no subject)

from: blitzen_
date: Feb. 9th, 2013 02:08 am (UTC)
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this is incredible. the truth is always worse than the fiction (i've been watching American HOrror Story).

what a story.

thanks so much for your wonderful pictures. can't wait to watch the vid when i have some sound!

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 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 11th, 2013 07:15 am (UTC)
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Thanks, and I hope you enjoyed the video.

As for American Horror Story - finally watched it (season 1) after Netflix kept insisting I do so.
I was not disappointed at all. I think Netflix knows me better than I know myself.

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Jason Hackwith

(no subject)

from: jasonhackwith
date: Feb. 10th, 2013 01:12 am (UTC)
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Joining the chorus here in approbation of your posts, Rusty. This one is no exception to the quality work you do. Love it. Pennhurst is one of those places where it seems the best memorial to those who languished there lies in that most of it remains desolate and empty. Can't say I really like the idea of the Halloween attraction, seems to be exploitative IMHO. Thanks for another great video and photo set!

Edited at 2013-02-10 01:13 am (UTC)

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 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 11th, 2013 07:16 am (UTC)
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Yea, well the Halloween attraction is a bit of a "sore point" with a lot of people.
At least its existence helps with the saving of the campus as a whole.

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Anywhere Anyone

(no subject)

from: anywhereanyone
date: Feb. 11th, 2013 07:04 am (UTC)
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Sweet set.

Reply | Thread

 Come One, Come All...

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 11th, 2013 07:16 am (UTC)
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Thanks.

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digidrama

(no subject)

from: digidrama
date: Feb. 16th, 2013 12:38 am (UTC)
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I had posted long long ago about this, but my mom used to work there as an intern when she was 16. What absolutely blew my mind was the Pottstown Mercury! My mom/grandmom lived in Pottstown and this was there newspaper. I'm visiting home now and must show my mom the photos and video.

I feel such a connection with Pennhurst and have always wanted to visit it myself. One year my boyfriend at the time and I drove 6 hours to try, but to no avail. I will keep trying though.

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moonlitdusk

(no subject)

from: moonlitdusk
date: Feb. 20th, 2013 08:28 am (UTC)
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Loving your post as usual

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