Pennhurst Asylum (Spring City, PA) has evolved over the years into a “scare-focused,” mature, terrifying show that emphasizes fear and sometimes over-the-top presentation to target phobias and makes guests squirm. An infamous property that is one of the BEST locations for a haunted attraction, Pennhurst is designed to disturb, it has some of the most impressive set designs of any big-budget haunted attraction and “scare-performers” that are incredibly talented in conveying a sense of madness, chaos, dark humor and in some instances gruesome brutality. While the entire atmosphere, history, and reported “paranormal” activity at this iconic location are enough to disturb, an emphasis on the “show” aspect of fear dominates the current direction of this destination event. Every performer pours their heart and soul into scenes of the macabre, the strange and disturbing that convey a sense of utter violence and pure chaos.
Pennhurst thrives at a sensory-based style of scares, creating audio-visual images that create scenes of utter disturbance. By attacking the senses, Pennhurst builds tension, demented actors’ toy with unsuspecting guests by appearing from afar, taunting and then unleashing some of the most manic, energized, and deeply disturbing performances one can imagine. Each performer will make you “believe” they are portraying the insane, the demented, and they seem to bask in the energy created in the high energy haunt. From eating the “flesh” of rotten bodies, to “freezing” guests and jumping from beds across rooms, each actor works with the already horrific scenes to bring “life” to this long-abandoned facility. A large “baby” will ask guests to bathe him in the narrow bathrooms, nurses will torment, and the sense of fear is heightened by the sickening sights and smells juxtaposed to create horror. Disorientation in the tunnels and unexpected encounters with monstrosities down below just add to the surreal nature of what the Pennhurst Asylum “haunt” has become, an endless journey of ghoulish, unsettling aggression and fear.
Pennhurst employs a more “mature” adult-themed approach to scares, featuring a cast of the insane “characters” that feed off reactions, use physicality in performances, dark humor, and will work tirelessly to create memorable moments. From evil nurses “forcing” medication into demonically possessed patients to massive scare-actors slamming helpless “doctors” into walls, there is a distinct level of aggression in each scene, which builds constant tension and fear yet a continuous emphasis on safety, keeping a reasonable distance between guests and performers.
Pennhurst Asylum is designed to be a non-stop action-infused event that can leave one quickly in shock. One of the premiere haunted attractions in the country, Pennhurst Asylum, has remained a consistent, somewhat predictable show over the past several years. However, with some new scenes in each attraction, an already extreme level of detail and “big-budget” themes, and always engaging/interactive acting, the entire show continues to be one of the best in the country.
Pennhurst Asylum (Administration Building)
“Pennhurst Asylum is home to some of the world’s most dangerous criminally insane. Guests will be welcome to visit the infamous Max Security Wing. Guests will visit the cells of our most hostile patients and must navigate Maximum Security.”
The main “attraction” is a trip through the old “administration building” at Pennhurst, endless rooms and hallways of pure chaos. The attraction retains much of the previous scene designs featured over the past several seasons. Each scene is exceptionally detailed, featuring rooms of violence and settings almost too gruesome to view. No two rooms are alike, and at times Pennhurst Asylum feels more like a demented funhouse than an abandoned hospital facility. Inside the attraction, special effects, animatronics, and audio-visual tricks keep the talented scare-performers hidden. 1950’s era music bellow throughout the halls of this horrific facility, as patients scale their bunks, pop out of showers and bathroom stalls, nurses force patients to take their “medicine,” and doctors that use violent “shock treatment” to cure their patients. A visual and psychological nightmare, this attraction aims to push guests to their limits.
Hollywood-quality special effects, lighting, and sound create surreal nightmares that leave a lasting impact on one’s psyche. Animatronics and props distract from the actors who will taunt, make you feel uncomfortable, and try to do everything to disturb this season without touching. Intense scare acting and a rapid pace are portrayed throughout the entire journey, with a physically and psychologically exhausting finale. While there are not many defined “characters” in the haunt, these actors make you believe they are insane. There is passion in their performances and creates chaos throughout the attraction. We are still disturbed over the massive diaper-wearing “patient” who implored us to give him a bath. We only wish a more “impact” driven finale was utilized as the experience ends abruptly.
“From draining blood to incinerating bodies, The Morgue at Pennhurst is your full-service mortuary.”
“The Morgue,” which opened three seasons ago, is one of the most theatrical, creative attractions at Pennhurst, with some of the most impressive set designs you will likely ever see in a haunted attraction. Once again, the attraction balances “reality” with “fiction” using old, abandoned hospital remnants with the latest in “scare-technology” from frozen bodies to bodies preserved in odd-tubes, the presentation and development of the attraction is first-class. “The Morgue” plays on one’s senses, from frozen bodies to “incineration” the fear of death is played up upon during this attraction. Doctors and freaks perform unnecessary mutilations on “patients,” and others threaten unsuspecting guests to make sure they take their “medications.” Sound and visual special effects accentuate the experience, for example, rooms submerged in “steam,” coupled with blinding lights, slow strobe lights, and blaring sound effects hide the crazy actors, and at times, it is impossible to differentiate between what is “real” and not “real” in this action-packed attraction!
“The Tunnels” attraction features the most significant changes and upgrades this season. Formerly termed “Containment,” the “storyline” depicts this underground gauntlet as a stationed government facility with patients being experimented on in the most inhumane ways possible. Major scenes of the original attraction known as “Containment” exist, such as the extensive “catacombs” and extended hallways illuminated by slow strobe lights creating a constant sense of paranoia. Scientific mutations and almost “post-apocalyptic” scenes have been added to the extensive “tunnel system,” which matches perfectly with a theme of “trapping” lost souls within the confines of the Pennhurst property.
By building in brief storyline moments and allowing “scare-actors” to interact with guests, the sci-fi-themed futuristic “cryogenic research” facility makes complete sense within the context of a larger storyline. “The Tunnels balances the “new” with the “traditional” at Pennhurst, utilizing the already sinister tunnel-system to create moments of apprehension and fear. Being lost in complete darkness, guided by a slow strobe light and taunting actors, is quite a terrifying experience and even a unique take on a “vortex” tunnel creates a new level of distraction.
The Final Word
Pennhurst Asylum is a must-see haunted attraction and the opportunity to visit one of the most infamous, reportedly haunted locations on Earth. Over the past several years, the long-abandoned Pennhurst State School has had a new life as a site for paranormal research and a long-running haunted attraction. Furthermore, the property has been featured on various popular paranormal television shows, such as “Ghost Hunters” and “Ghost Adventures.” 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, they will likely succumb to the ravages of being exposed to the elements. It would behoove you to visit this property while you can explore this iconic property.
For those who have visited Pennhurst Asylum regularly, many of the attractions will, at first glance, feel familiar. Still, minor changes and additions to each create an almost entirely new, intense experience. A visit to the property itself is worth the trip. Pennhurst’s legendary reputation and sinister and sometimes convoluted history bring a level of authenticity that cannot be replicated or emulated. Any fan of horror or the haunt industry and those curious about the paranormal would be best served to visit this season as very few attractions are as “real” as Pennhurst Asylum!