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abandonedplaces

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the sad and withdrawn reply was simply, "To get out of Pennhurst."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)
Link

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. ^_^

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Rusty Tagliareni

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:27 pm (UTC)
Link

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.

Reply | Parent | Thread

rah rah Raira rah.

(no subject)

from: scarsofsunlight
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 06:24 am (UTC)
Link

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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Rusty Tagliareni

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:28 pm (UTC)
Link

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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Rusty Tagliareni

(no subject)

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

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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Rusty Tagliareni

(no subject)

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

Thank you!

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joy_twinz

(no subject)

from: joy_twinz
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 09:40 am (UTC)
Link

amazing photos and video. But the institution's history gave me chills.
thanks for sharing!

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Rusty Tagliareni

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
Link

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)
Link

Amazing!
I thought i were in the most interesting abandoned hospital. But after your post i am not sure any more! Thanks!

Reply | Thread

Rusty Tagliareni

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:32 pm (UTC)
Link

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)
Link

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!

Reply | Thread

Rusty Tagliareni

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:34 pm (UTC)
Link

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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Rusty Tagliareni

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:37 pm (UTC)
Link

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)
Link

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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Rusty Tagliareni

(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.

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Torena

(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

Rusty Tagliareni

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:38 pm (UTC)
Link

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)
Link

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

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Rusty Tagliareni

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:42 pm (UTC)
Link

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

(no subject)

from: fantomeq
date: Feb. 6th, 2013 03:04 pm (UTC)
Link

Phenomenal video. Beautiful panning and juxtaposition. Well done.

Reply | Thread

Rusty Tagliareni

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:44 pm (UTC)
Link

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)
Link

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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Rusty Tagliareni

(no subject)

from: dark_fetus
date: Feb. 7th, 2013 09:45 pm (UTC)
Link

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)
Link

fascinating post; wonderful video. thank you very much.

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Rusty Tagliareni

(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)
Link

I love the last shot before the historical images!

Reply | Thread

Rusty Tagliareni

(no subject)

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

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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