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‘Pennhurst Asylum’ attraction opens in former Pa. institution

September 25th, 2010

From the Philadelphia Inquirer, Delaware County [Pa.] Daily Times, AP, with historic photos from Philly.com:

Pennsylvania’s historic Pennhurst Center, once the focus of landmark litigation that sparked nationwide changes in treatment for people with intellectual disabilities, opened last night as a Halloween-themed haunted house attraction over the protests of disability rights advocates.

Advocates had unsuccessfully sought an injunction to prevent the opening of the “Pennhurst Asylum” show on the grounds of the property, once known as Eastern State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic.

Even before the injunction was denied on Friday afternoon advocates called for a boycott of the attraction, which references historic abuse and neglect of the institution’s patients and features a “registration nurse” who tells visitors what the asylum’s “doctor” has planned for them. (See video here.)

The crumbling facility was closed in 1987 in the wake of a federal lawsuit alleging years of abuse and neglect. The suit, which spawned years of appeals and three U.S. Supreme Court rulings, alleged that residents had been beaten by nurses, strapped to beds, left naked or alone and drugged into stupors. At the time, the closure of the 600-acre facility was hailed as a civil rights victory.

Pennhurst property owner Richard Chakejian said said he and his crew are “just trying to pull off a fun, orderly event and we’re excited about that.”

3 Responses to “‘Pennhurst Asylum’ attraction opens in former Pa. institution”

  1. Brian Says:

    How is this making fun of the people of Pennhurst. Just because the building is being used , don’t mean that anyone is getting made fun of. I hate when people talk about a place and pass judgement , and know nothing about whats going on behind those walls. STOP CRYING

  2. Dee Bura Says:

    It is distressing to think that anyone can have “fun” at a site where human beings were mistreated. While in Germany, I visited the Dachau Concentration Camp. The camp had been turned into a memorial, and was not a place anyone went for “fun”. Those who suffered and died at Dachau were remembered in a respectful manner. I believe I am speaking, not only for myself, but for the many who visit Dachau when I say that it is a life-changing experience to visit that place.

    Along those same lines, Pennhurst could have – and should have – been turned into a memorial site, honoring those who suffered, educating those who do not know, and giving hope for the future.

    Wouldn’t it have served humanity better if Richard Chakejian had transformed Pennhurst into a memorial site rather than a carnival?

  3. Judy Bailey Says:

    The idea of having the haunted house carnival-type event at this place where many vulnerable people were mistreated, abused, and died is just unthinkable. It is hard to fathom people wishing to make fun and a profit from the sufferings and trauma of people who died and people who are still trying to recover from their mistreatment there. If you have ever known someone with post traumatic stress disorder from mistreatment, you may understand the pain and harm of this event.

    It is very sad and deeply troubling that people would plan and participate in this event.

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