Location: Church Street and Bridge Road, Spring City, PA, 19475
Pennhurst Haunted Asylum is a must see haunted attraction and the opportunity to visit one of the most infamous, reportedly haunted places on Earth. Over the past several years, the long-abandoned Pennhurst State School has a new life as a site for paranormal research and a long-running haunted attraction. Furthermore, the property has been featured on a variety of favorite paranormal television shows, such as Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. Despite its popularity as a haunted attraction, controversy has surrounded Pennhurst Haunted Asylum since its inception. While prior incarnations included a minor emphasis on history, the attraction has dominated the property this year.
When visiting haunted attractions, we often try to emphasize the quality of the “environment” or “atmosphere” created as a part of the design process. Pennhurst does not need to worry about this category, as no other haunted attraction, can property compare to the realism of this rotting campus. The walk to the haunt itself is downright creepy, a haunting mix of architectural beauty coupled with urban decay that creates an ominous tone, a perfect backdrop for a horror attraction. Vile smells and a sense of fear permeate the air as one cautiously explores the chilling remains of the Pennhurst State School. As these buildings become victims of time, it is likely that they will succumb to the ravages of being exposed to the elements. It would behoove you to visit this property while you can to explore this iconic property.
This season, Pennhurst Haunted Asylum has undergone a complete overhaul this season to refocus its show on “scaring” guests, moving away from the more “fantastical” elements featured in its attractions during its history. Located on the grounds on the former Pennhurst State School, Pennhurst Haunted Asylum utilizes the infamous property and its one-of-a-kind atmosphere to create a first-class haunted attraction. From an environmental standpoint, the urban decay and variety of myths that surround the Pennhurst grounds create an ominous presence that can be felt as soon as one steps foot on the property. Numerous Halloween and “paranormal” themed shows have driven the narrative of the “historical” Pennhurst which automatically increases the level of intensity and interest in the overall attractions. One of the chief controversies surrounding the attraction’s history has been its portrayal of the historical Pennhurst, and the mocking of those who lived their lives on these grounds.
To avoid such controversies while some of the rooms have a “medical” or psychological theme, the haunted attraction itself plays very little if any into the reported (true and false) history of the Pennhurst State School. The 2018 season embraces the “haunt” aspect more so than ever, further delving into the world of dark fantasy and holding a loose semblance of “history” that is minimal at best. Furthermore, for those Pennhurst Haunted Asylum veterans, the show has been 95% changed this season (for the better) again focusing on creating legitimate moments of fear while mixing in at times dark humor. From a haunted attraction standpoint, this is quite a likely one of the finest in the country, utilizing its atmosphere as the perfect backdrop for a memorable experience. Authenticity in the attraction’s structural design and creativity utilized to create surreal scenes of horror target the fears of those striving for a mature
Pennhurst Haunted Asylum features three core haunted attractions “Pennhurst Asylum,” “ The Morgue” and “Tunnels/Containment” as well as a walking tour of the “Mayflower Building” which features a small museum. Of the three attractions “Pennhurst Asylum” and “The Morgue” is completely revamped and some of the most intense, detailed, and terrifying haunted attractions we have ever visited. The level of detail in each room is augmented by the almost perfect use of indoor sound, which creates periods of paranoia, as well as excitement depending on each specific scene. Special effects, use of atmospheric fog/lighting blend perfectly with the authentic surroundings of each structure creating memorable backdrops for each scare-actor to use to torment each guest.
Pennhurst Haunted Asylum is a mature, adult-themed haunted attraction and the scare actors go above and beyond to target everyone that passes through each scene. While many haunted attractions go for the “cheap” scare targeting girls who scream or those who act scared, Pennhurst’s actors target everyone and work extra harder to garner reactions from each guest. You will get touched at Pennhurst, at times pinned against the wall, forced into containment areas and separated from groups in an experience that is exhilarating. Not only have the actors become far more physical in their approaches but Pennhurst utilizes “dark” humor at the most unexpected of times. Demented doctors and victims laying limbless at times deliver lines that bring an odd sense of levity to the macabre environment of each haunt and creates “layers” to the characters themselves. Gone are the days where actors would sit in corners and yell, these are Asylum is all about creating “reactions,” and interactive characters that will convince you they are either insane, evil or truly dangerous. Perhaps no other indoor attraction can match the reality juxtaposed with twisted fantasy created at this attraction in 2018
“Pennhurst Asylum” is completely revamped this season featuring numerous new scenes and an increased emphasis on “fear” versus entertainment. Each room features a variety of different horrors brought to life by talented actors from twisted children dancing around, to a very violent head nurse, the inhabitants of the “Asylum” are extremely interactive and aggressive in their approaches. “Asylum” replaces its older more “tame” rooms with gritty scenes that depict a sense of insanity, embrace violence and at times use sensory assault to create fear. “Pennhurst Asylum” perfectly balances high action with moments of almost seclusion causing a feeling of dread to build as well as anticipation. We were pleasantly surprised to see several classic scenes that made the “Asylum” feel like a funhouse be transformed into an abandoned hospital of horror. Again Pennhurst is a mature haunt, and there were several scenes were adult humor and themes were used. There is something quite disturbing by a grown man in a baby’s outfit trying to force feces in one’s face, and it is downright shocking to be “whipped” by a bloodthirsty nurse. “Pennhurst Asylum” is a brand new experience that focuses on intense, quick moving action and a welcome change from its prior incarnations.
The former “Dungeon of Lost Souls” attraction, has been completely changed in 2018, transformed into “The Morgue.” “The Morgue” is the most theatrical and interactive attractions at Pennhurst Haunted Asylum and quite possibly the most entertaining. Brand new state of the art set designs is perfectly hidden amongst the heavy fog and lighting creating surprises around every single corner. Demented doctors aiming to “preserve” their dead creations are featured in rooms with massive containment units, and it is almost impossible to differentiate between what’s real and not real. “The Morgue” opens with an entertaining yet disturbing interaction with a mortician and a not-quite-yet dead body, employing dark humor to augment the already unsettling tone. Cautious exploration is encouraged throughout the basement regions of the property and actors appear almost out of thin air to create unique, intense interactions. Being placed into cages, abducted by the variety of monsters are all possibilities and the hauntingly realistic possible special effects blend with reality to create a memorable experience. “The Morgue” is an experience that once again demonstrates the high quality of Pennhurst “set” builds as cadavers and preserved bodies look almost like their “alive” counterparts. The world-class set design is enhanced by the interactive actors that stalk, prod at and focus on scaring each guest. Again we mentioned previously there is odd humor throughout each attraction and “Morgue” excels at blending styles. The various “doctor’s” do a great job at causing guests to “laugh” even when faced with fear and the entire experience is one that is best described as a surreal nightmare that challenges guests to differentiate between what is “real” and “show.”
The traditional “Tunnel Terror” attraction, has was re-christened as “Containment,” in 2017 and this attraction primarily is the same experience as last year. Major scenes of the original attraction known as “Tunnel Terror” exist, such as the extensive “catacombs” and extended hallways illuminated by slow strobe lights creating a constant sense of paranoia. What has been added to the attraction is a sci-fi themed futuristic “cryogenic research” facility. Guests now must escape this technologically advanced series of chambers that transform the asylum into a futuristic facility that spares no expense in its creative design. An infusion of “science fiction” into Pennhurst demonstrates a willingness to embrace diverse storylines and themes that depart from the historical horrors reported at the attraction’s home.
“Containment” while familiar, is still a creepy, intense experience, creating genuine moments of panic when submerged in deep fog/red light or being stalked by hulking monstrosities. A sci-fi themed addition to this core attraction is a fresh of breath air and embraces the dark creativity that moves Pennhurst further into the realm of focused haunted entertainment.
Mayflower After Dark
The fourth attraction is a self-guided tour through the Mayflower Building and needs significant changes to retain its value and has lost its appeal as a “Ghost Hunt.” It is nice to be able to “explore” the abandoned building, but each floor is roped off and illuminated taking away from experience. Mayflower After Dark” is a great concept allowing guests to “explore” the campus but due to logistical reasons prevents guests from having actual access to this fantastic property.
The Final Word
Pennhurst Haunted Asylum is embracing the “haunt” aspect of its show to create genuine fear and human reactions. Over the past few years, we felt that the attraction had lost its way, becoming almost a shell of what it was under the prior management team. However, this season’s show went far and beyond our expectations, and every single aspect of each attraction was refined and revamped to create a brand new, exciting experience. First class set design, incredible/intense (yet funny) scare acting and a mature approach to fear are what awaits you at this almost entirely new attraction. We noticed several buildings have been demolished and hope that those that are sustainable can contribute to the attraction’s growth. No other haunted attraction in the country has a chilling atmosphere that surrounds Pennhurst and we implore you to visit this haunt and its grounds this season.