Due to the graphic nature of this haunted place, listener discretion is advised this episode includes discussion of abusive treatments and attitudes towards disabled people and dramatizations of bodily harm, murder and abuse. We advise extreme caution for children under 13. Julian paused to catch his breath, watching his two friends race up to the columned stone portico. It was cold out.
He zipped up his red hoodie and took in the side of the building. Julian thought it looked like a school, the kind of austere academy where nuns hit kids and made them stand barefoot in the snow. But apparently it used to be a hospital. Ryan and Colin were already up at the entrance. Ryan yelled that they would meet Jillian inside. Julian let out a sigh. Lately, Ryan and Colin had been growing apart from him. Ryan had his track buddies and Colin had his new girlfriend.
Jillian didn't know where he fit in. He'd come today because he wanted to spend time with them not being left behind as they ran around a creepy old asylum. After resting for a moment, Julian slowly made his way to the building, he stepped into the entryway, wondering if his friends had already moved on to the second floor.
It was gloomy inside and dark, but when he looked around a corner, he spotted a figure.
At the end of the hall, Julian told Ryan to quit trying to scare him, but there was no response. Julian crept closer.
The figure came into focus.
But it wasn't Ryan at all. It was a woman in a white cotton dress.
She turned around and asked Julian what he was doing there. Julian stuttered.
The woman took a step forward, said he ought to be back in the ward, Julian's breath caught in his throat.
There was something wrong with her. She was holding a syringe, her hair whipped around her face.
And when she came closer, Julian saw that her eyes were nothing but empty black holes.
Julian started to back away, but she was too quick. She held up her arm and plunged the needle into his neck. Welcome to Haunted Places, a Spotify original fun podcast. I'm Greg Polson. Every Thursday, I take you to the scariest, eeriest, most haunted real places on Earth. You can find episodes of Haunted Places and all other Spotify originals from podcast for free on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts and every Tuesday, make sure to check out urban legends.
These special episodes of Haunted Places are available exclusively on Spotify this week. Join me on a supernatural journey to Pennhurst Asylum, an institution that was once called the Shame of Pennsylvania. And discover why to this day it's haunted. Coming up, we'll get into the dark history of Pennhurst Asylum. This episode is brought to you by Buggie, the directorial debut from writer director Eddie Huang Thuggy is the coming of Age story of Alfred Boogy Chen, a basketball phenom from Queens who dreams of playing in the NBA, starring Taylor Takahashi and Taylor Page.
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The eastern Pennsylvania Institution for the feeble minded and epileptic, later called Pennhurst Asylum, was originally established as a facility for the disabled, opened in 1988. The property contained an array of buildings all scattered around a large tract of farmland in Chester County, 35 miles outside of Philadelphia, though it might sound like it was designed for care and comfort. The reality was anything but. The institute was first created to house intellectually and developmentally disabled people alongside those who suffered from epilepsy.
But the strategy was unwise. As such, patients had very different needs. What's worse is that many of the institution's goals were based on the 19th century eugenics movement. Proponents of the movement believed that the human gene pool should be protected and anyone deemed genetically inferior should be prevented from reproducing by forced sterilization or segregation from the rest of society. For this reason, people with certain kinds of disabilities whose families could not care for them were sent to Pennhurst. Most of them came as infants or children.
Girls and boys were separated into different buildings, so there wouldn't be any sexual mixing. In the decades since the institution closed, a slew of modern day rumors claimed that Pennhurst carried out forced sterilizations on its patients. But while sterilization did occur at similar institutions in the United States, there was actually no record of it at Pennhurst. However, rumors of the institute's horrific procedures ran rampant nonetheless. Perhaps this is because the hospital was shrouded in an air of mystery.
It operated almost completely independently of the outside world. It had its own power plant and produced its own food and supplies were brought in by a special rail line. Pennhurst was designed so that no one from the outside could get in, but more importantly, so that no one on the inside could ever get out. Georgie was carrying a stack of folded sheets toward the finished piles when he noticed a girl arguing with an orderly, Georgie stopped in his tracks.
She had long, shiny black hair and was pointing a finger directly at him, confidently shouting and screaming. He was instantly captivated and continued to watch her.
But eventually two more orderlies came over to give her a shot and take her away. Georgie sighed. Good things never lasted long at Pennhurst. George's mother had left him there when he was only three. He never knew why not what he'd done or where she'd gone. He'd been stuck in this place for 12 years and he knew it like the back of his hand.
He knew that when the girl got taken away, it was the last he'd see of her, or so he thought. The next day, Georgie walked into the laundry building at his heart nearly stopped. There she was. If he were someone else, he could have tapped on her shoulder and introduced himself. But as it was, he could barely manage breathing and walking at the same time. Georgie sat down in front of this pile of sheets and started cursing himself for being so shy.
And that was when someone tapped him on the shoulder. Georgie turned. The girl was standing behind him, a fitted sheet in her hand. She asked Georgie how to fold it. Her name was Kerry. No one was happy to be a Pennhurst, but Kerry was indignant about it. She said she didn't belong there. That was why she'd been fighting with the orderly. There was no way she was going to spend the day slaving over an ironing board if she wasn't getting paid.
The orderly had said that a barbital injection might change her mind, but it obviously didn't. Soon, George, he was in love, he used to find laundry duty tedious, but now it was the only thing he looked forward to because laundry duty meant seeing Kerry. A few weeks after they first met, Georgie and Kerry were sitting on a low stone wall outside the laundry, Kerry turned to him with a frown. She asked if he thought she was a burden.
After her parents died, her guardianship went to her uncle. He told Kerry he had sent her to Pennhurst because she was too much of a burden for him to bear. Georgie looked into her tearful green eyes and said she wasn't a burden. She was wonderful. Kerry smiled and kissed him. For a moment. Georgie felt lighter than air, but when she pulled away, he was terrified. If anyone had seen them, they might be locked up or drugged or worse.
He told her this. Kerry stood up. She said. In that case, they would just have to leave. Judge's eyes went wide with shock, Pennhurst was the only home he'd ever known. The idea of leaving felt as plausible as sprouting wings. But Carrie was dead serious. George quickly asked how Carrie's plan was simple. First, Georgie would hide in the bushes outside the girl's cottages after bed check, he'd steal the key. Then he and Carrie would hop on a train and be on their way to Philadelphia before anyone could even say boo.
Once they got to the city, they could get real jobs paying jobs. No one would ever know. They didn't belong there and they could be together in peace. Georgie had no idea whether or not it would work, but he loved her. He imagined the two of them strolling down the city streets together. He had to try it. The night of the escape started easily, he waited in the bushes and stole the nurses key, but when he slipped inside the pitch black ward, he learned the nurses had taken Carey away.
Someone had seen her kissing a boy and they had taken her in for an operation. Georgie asked what kind of operation the girl said it was to make sure that she and the boy could never have a baby.
She added that they were going to give the boy the same kind of operation, Georgie backed out of the room and fled the building, he dashed across the lawn and up to the hospital. He crept up to the operating theatre and peered inside. Kerry lay on a metal table. Doctors gathered around her. Georgie could see a glistening red incision in her abdomen. George, you wanted to jump through the window and rescue her, but he couldn't stop thinking about what the little girl had told him, if he didn't leave now, it was going to be him on that table.
He'd heard rumors about these procedures that lots of people didn't make it out alive. But if he did leave, it would mean abandoning Carrie. He felt frozen. Then one of the nurses pointed at him. Finally, George didn't think she just ran right for the train's.
The orderly shouted behind him, but he made it to the train just in time, but the doors closed.
Georgie crawled into the corner and leaned against the wall. He was alive and Kerry was gone. He put his head in his arms and began to cry. George spent three days sleeping in empty boxcars. Eventually, he wandered into a shop called Sabbat Tellies, bright and Clean. An old man greeted him, Mr. Sportelli himself. He sold Sabadell brand detergents and ran a laundry out of the back door. He asked if there was any work to be had.
There was Mr. Zapotec. He told them that as long as he worked hard, Georgie could sleep in the storage room. Years passed, but Georgie didn't forget about Kerry. How could we forget about the worst thing he'd ever done? Every day he thought about going back for her.
He just needed the right opportunity.
Then finally, he got one.
Georgie was passing by Mr. Sepetys office when he heard the words Pennhurst State School and Hospital. His heart skipped a beat. Georgie had known Mr. Submittal delivered his detergent, but he'd never realized he delivered it to Pennhurst. Georgie burst into ask if he could help with the deliveries. Mr. Spottily look surprised, but he told Georgie, of course he could. He'd be happy for the help. Georgie was elated. But as soon as Georgie caught sight of Pennhurst, his gut tightened into a knot.
He was excited to see Kerry, but also terrified. What if she was furious with him or met someone else? After all, he'd left her all these years. But when Georgie stepped out of the delivery van and walked towards the laundry building, he noticed there were no patients. He asked Mr. Capitally what had happened. He shrugged and said the patients didn't help with the laundry anymore. Georgie fell back against the low stone wall, heartbroken, but suddenly he caught a glimpse of something through the trees.
It was a woman in a simple white frock and long dark hair whipping around her shoulders. Kerry. Georgie called out to her, she turned around and his heart skipped a beat, it was Kerry. He took off towards her. But Mr. Song Bertelli grabbed his arm and asked what Georgie was yelling about. Georgie shook him off and turned back towards Kerry, but she was gone. Georgie told him it had been nothing and unloaded the rest of the soap.
Kerry had probably just been scared of Mr Capitally and of the van. So when Mr. Spottily went to collect payment from the administration building, Georgie ran off. He found her standing in a nearby clearing. He sprinted towards her. Kerry turned to face him. When she recognized him, tears glinted in her green eyes. She was a radiant. Georgie burst into a frantic apology. He was so sorry he'd been cowardly. He asked if she could ever forgive him for leaving her.
Kerry smiled. Sadly, she said there was nothing to forgive. He'd done the right thing when he'd seen her that night. It had already been too late. He frowned and said he didn't understand. Kerry pointed towards something in the ground, a plank of wood with a few lines crudely burned into it. Here lies Kerry White House, May 1st, 1945 to June 25th, 1921. June 25th was the night he'd escaped Georgie's eyes filled with tears.
When he'd seen her on the operating table, she was already dead. Soon after its inception, conditions at Pennhurst became overcrowded and unsanitary, making residents vulnerable to disease because of a lack of resources or perhaps a lack of genuine concern. Many patients were not given the medical attention they needed. Their injuries were left to fester and their teeth began to fall out.
Then there were the dangers of unnecessary drugs and physical restraints that were routinely used to control and punish patients who stepped out of line. Many Pennhurst residents died.
The majority were buried on the grounds with some of the graves unmarked, but though their names have been forgotten, their souls linger on.
Visitors have reported experiencing a range of phenomena from recorded voices to strange sounds.
On occasion, people have seen ghostly figures walking through the halls.
There is one ghost in particular who always looks especially sad a young girl with green eyes and long black hair. Coming up, we'll hear the story of one of Pennhurst most notorious villains. Hi, it's Vanessa from Podcast Network, and I'm thrilled to tell you that this month marks a huge milestone for us. It's the four year anniversary of a podcast I hosted called Serial Killers. If you haven't had a chance to dive into the stories and psychology behind the most nightmarish murderers of all time, why wait?
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Now back to the story. In the summer of 1968, a five part news series forced Pennhurst into the national spotlight. In this television documentary, a young reporter named Bill Baldini exposed the depths of cruelty and neglect that the residents of Pennhurst had been subjected to. One particularly chilling segment involved a position proudly describing how he punished a resident by finding the most painful injection available and forcing him to take it. Many of the workers at Pennhurst were good people doing the best they could, but some were not qualified for their positions and some were completely apathetic toward the residents.
Then there were the few truly sadistic employees, the ones who took pleasure in hurting people. Those are the employees who stayed at Pennhurst long after it was close. When Mary stepped into the Mayflower building, the first thing that hit her was the smell of ammonia and urine, an older nurse letter to a ward where two dozen people were wandering around listlessly.
Mary's stomach sank when she had applied to work here. She hadn't expected to work directly with patients. She thought they might put her in an office. She didn't have any medical training, but she was an excellent typist. She'd imagine filing papers and typing up memos. Mostly, though, she thought working at Pennhurst would mean spending more time with Nick. She'd met Nick at a dance hall in Philadelphia, and immediately he knew he was marriage material, he had a strong jaw and a bit of gray peppered into his thick black hair.
He was a doctor, but he wasn't just a doctor. He was in charge of an entire institute. Nick took her to fancy restaurants and the theater. They spent many nights together. But he said he wished he could spend every day with her. He just hated every minute that he wasn't with her. So in October, when Mary spotted the ad for the position at Pennhurst, she applied. She didn't tell Nick, nor did she say anything when she got it.
She wanted it to be a romantic surprise. But toward the end of her first day, Mary was thoroughly disheartened. The place was depressing. The only thing that could make it worth it would be the smile on its face. When he saw her, Mary walked into his office and paused at the door.
She could smell cigar smoke and hear laughter before she could knock. An older gentleman swung open the door and nearly walked into her. Nick was seated at the back of the room, wearing a doctor's coat, holding a clipboard in his lap. When he saw Mary, he stood up nervously and asked what she was doing there. All the men in the room turned to stare at her, Mary's face got hot, she suddenly felt like a foolish child. Mary turned around and sprinted out of the building.
She found a secluded corner of a nearby garden, sat down and began to cry. After about 10 minutes, Nick found her, he came and sat down beside her. He said he hadn't meant to be unkind. He was just surprised he hadn't realized she was even interested in working at Pennhurst. Mary wiped away her tears and said, of course, she was. She loved children and helping the less fortunate. Nic said that in that case, he had something to confess, he'd been married before he and his wife are now separated, but no one at work knew about it.
One of the board members was his father in law. If he wanted to keep his job, he couldn't let anyone know he was getting a divorce, at least not until his father in law retired. And that could happen any day now. He said while they were at work, it would be best if she pretended that they weren't together. Mary nodded thoughtfully, she suppose that made sense and said she certainly didn't want to endanger Nick's position, Nick smiled and touched her chin.
It would be their little secret.
In the beginning, Mary struggled at Pennhurst, she had a hard time making friends and injecting the patients was absolutely terrifying, but she eventually grew numb to it. The screams of patients became background noise. The smells were normal.
And she learned that the best way to handle the patients was to medicate them. If someone so much as looked at her funny, he would get a dose of Thorazine or Mellaril. She didn't feel safer on the patients unless they were drugged or toothless by the end of her first month. Mary was wielding the needle like a pro.. Occasionally, patients would bite or threaten to bite. Then all Mary had to do was fill out a form to have their teeth removed.
It wasn't pretty, but it was for everyone's safety, especially the patient's own. She did get to sneak in some time with Nick, at least initially they'd steal kisses in broom closets or take long, secretive lunches together. But as time went on, Nick grew distant. Mary blamed his father in law. If only they could let people know what they were dating. Mary asked Nick about him whenever she saw him. When was he going to retire?
It seemed like he always had a different answer. First, it was the end of the year. Then by the summer, then by the fall. He blamed it on the board, said they weren't very well organized.
Mary just had to be patient. On a chilly November day, Mary was filling syringes in the clinic when she overheard a couple orderlies gripe about the higher ups at Pennhurst, Mary mentioned that she didn't think much of the board of directors. A few of the orderlies giggled. Pennhurst didn't have one. Mary frowned. Of course it did. Nick's father in law was on it. The woman asked if Nick had told her that. Mary nodded. The orderlies exchanged looks.
Then they all burst out laughing. Mary's face turned red. They thought she was a fool, and it was all Nick's fault. Mary gripped the needle she'd been filling. She turned around and march toward his office, demanding to know if it was true. Nick asked what she was talking about. Mary tried to keep her voice steady as she asked Nick how many girls thought he was just waiting for his father in law to retire.
Nick smiled in a way she hadn't expected, like he was amused or something. Of course, his father in law wasn't on the board of directors.
He said he was married and of course, there had been other women. This was a hospital, not a nunnery. What did she expect? He added that he'd gotten tired of the charade and was waiting for the day she quit. Mary gripped the syringe, unable to find the words to respond. Nick said that he had to hand it to her. Of all the women he'd lied to, none of them had believed him as easily as she did.
She must have been really desperate. Mary never felt so much anger in her life. She ran toward Nick syringe in hand, and then the room dissolved into a haze of red. Mary woke groggy and disoriented. She was laying on a bed in one of the wards, a fan whirling overhead. She looked around, the room was empty. She was gripping a syringe. She tried to remember how she'd gotten here and what had just happened.
Then she remembered about Nick Nick, who had wasted a year of her life. Nick, who had made her the laughing stock of Pennhurst, who had called her desperate. Mary jumped out of the bed, remembering that she'd been trying to confront him.
She ran to the door, flung it open and strode out into the hallway. As Mary made her way toward the administration building, she couldn't help but notice how empty the place was. It wasn't just the ward. She might have wondered where everyone was, but there wasn't time to make sense of things. She didn't care about anything except hurting Nick. She stepped into the administration building and spotted someone at the end of the hall. At first she thought it was one of the patients.
But then she saw the doctor's coat, a clipboard and silver streaks in his hair. She gripped the syringe tighter. She called out to him. He turned and then laughed at her neck. Mary ran to him, grabbed him by the collar and pushed the needle into his neck. He sank to the ground, falling face first into the tile floor for a moment. He was still. Then he moaned and turned over, Mary gasped, this wasn't Nick's face a moment ago, he'd been Nick.
She had seen him. But now he was someone else, someone she didn't know. Mary's hands tinkled. They were fading away. When we looked up, suddenly remembered where she'd been before she woke up, she'd been in Nick's office. She had run toward him with a needle, but he caught her arm and sent the needle sprawling to the floor.
She remembered the struggle. Next chair breaking. She remembered clutching the syringe and then it's slipping. Nick had grabbed it and plunged a lethal dose of Haldol into her neck. Mostly, though, she remembered how the last thing she saw was Nick's smug face, laughing at her as the world faded away. Today, Pennhurst is a common destination for ghost hunters and paranormal experts, and some of these visitors claim to have been physically assaulted by the ghosts of Pennhurst, paranormal investigators have reported being pinched, scratched, pushed and shoved.
But perhaps the most terrifying reports are the ones that involve the sensation of being stabbed in the neck with a needle. These attacks are usually accompanied by sightings of a nurse in an old fashioned uniform.
No one seems to know who she is, but most of those who have encountered her agree she's not the kind of nurse you want at your bedside. Coming up, Pennhurst finally releases its residents, but there are some who will never escape, this episode is brought to you by Thumbtack.
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Now back to the story. Bill Baldwin's 1968 report did a lot to expose the horrors of Pennhurst, but didn't put an end to them just yet, there were calls to close down Pennhurst almost immediately. And in 1971, an important statute was passed in the history of disability rights, which allow children in Pennsylvania with intellectual disabilities to attend public schools. Then in 1974, the mother of a patient named Terry Lee Halderman brought a class action suit against Pennhurst on behalf of her daughter and all residents.
Much of the case reads like the script of a horror film Broken Jaw, Bones, Lost Eyes and even rape.
But despite the mountains of damning evidence, Pennhurst was not reformed or closed for years, and Halderman wasn't discharged until 1979.
After a long and protracted trial, Halderman vs. Pennhurst was thankfully decided against the institution.
Residents were transferred from the facility gradually in order to provide the time to find them new accommodations. But there were an unlucky few who would remain at Pennhurst until it finally closed for good in 1986 and a few who would never leave at all. Bonnie ran her hands over her special dress, something she put on for the once a month visits from her mother. These visits were always brief, but they were the only thing Bonnie had to look forward to, especially now that the asylum was nearly empty.
A nurse escorted her to the visitor's cottage. Her mother stood and greeted Bonnie with a pat on her head. She was wearing a blue and gold skirt suit and had a string of pearls around her neck. Bonnie like to imagine that someday her mother would let Bonnie borrow her jewelry. She'd never done it before. Bonnie's mother had instead discouraged Bonnie from wearing jewelry. She said there was no need to draw attention to a face like hers, where one side was just always a little off.
But Bonnie thought that when she finally went home, like the other kids had started, two things would be different.
They sat down together. Bonnie's mother drank tea.
They said very little, as they usually did until Bonnie asked if today was the day she was finally leaving. Bonnie's mother smiled and told Bonnie that, no, it would not be. The judge had granted them an appeal. If they won, they might be able to keep Pennhurst open for years more. She said the outside world wasn't ready for a people like Bonnie, but people at Pennhurst were slower. They needed the special care that Pennhurst provided.
There was no reason to give up hope. Bonnie didn't think she was slow. She talked slow, maybe, but her brain moved pretty fast and that was true of lots of kids at Pennhurst. Her friend Lily's burnt lips made it difficult to talk, but she was one of the smartest people Bonnie knew. Her other friend, Donna, had a bad stutter, but she was one of the kindest people Bonnie had ever met. None of them deserved to be a Pennhurst, where they got sprayed down with a hose once a week and ate food that had been dumped into a bowl like pig slop.
They were given painful injections and medication that made Bonnie feel sad. In the early days, Bonnie had tried to explain all this to her mother, but she had called Bonnie ungrateful. She said Bonnie didn't know how much effort it would have taken to raise a child like her, that Bonnie didn't know how lucky she was to be there.
And even after the lawsuits and threat of closure and other kids leaving bit by bit, Bonnie and Lily and Donna were still there, but Bonnie had learned not to complain. She told her mother she was glad to hear Pennhurst wasn't closing and that she understood it was the best place for her to be. Deep down, her mother loved her body, thought she only wanted what was best. The visit ended and a nurse escorted Bonnie back to her cot, but as soon as she stepped into the ward, she sensed something was wrong.
The other beds had been stripped. Bonnie turned to the nurse and asked where Donna and Lily had gone and learned they had gone home. Bonnie's chest hurt, she hadn't gotten to say goodbye, she protested, but the nurse said they hadn't wanted Bonnie to get upset. So the visit with her mother had been arranged for when the girls were scheduled to leave. It was easier that way. Bonnie sat down at her cot. She was happy for her friends, but she couldn't shake the feeling of emptiness that she got every time another person left.
There was one place she knew she could go to feel better, and that was her secret clubhouse. Bonnie headed out to the girls cottages, went inside and climbed into the attic. It looked just like a storage room. But Bonnie moved aside a few boxes of cotton gauze to reveal a little door open to a tunnel she could crawl through, taking her to her secret room whenever she felt frightened or overwhelmed.
She would come here, but now, sitting on the wood floor, she didn't feel safe or warm, just abandoned, and her body heavy. Going to her room hadn't been a good idea. She began to crawl out, but then I heard voices on the other side of the tunnel. She stopped her heart, started to beat faster. Several men were talking and laughing. She heard one of them say to put it against the far wall. Then she heard the sound of something heavy being moved.
But she knew that they were probably just workmen putting old furniture into storage. But she was afraid they might discover her and tell one of the nurses so but waited until she was sure they were gone, then pushed on the door. It didn't move, but he wondered if the door was stuck. She pushed harder, but it wouldn't budge. Suddenly, she had a terrifying thought. The men had moved something heavy. What if they had moved it in front of the door?
Barney started banging on the door.
She threw herself against it repeatedly, even calling out for her mother.
But it was of no use.
She was never going to leave Pennhurst now. She was never even going to leave this room. Several days later, Bonnie woke up only when she got up, her hands were translucent and her body was still behind her looking emaciated. She was dead, but somehow she felt lighter than she ever had before her body walked off and found she could pass through the walls, which was more fun than she could have imagined. She floated through the secret door and sure enough, a big, heavy trunk had blocked it.
She walked through the cottage and onto the grounds. She was about to see if she could finally leave Pennhurst. When she spotted her mother, she was wearing her pearls and speaking with one of the nurses. Bonnie hid behind a tree and overheard the nurse saying that Bonnie had been missing for several days. They waited to call because they knew Laura didn't like to be bothered. Her mother snorted, said it was such an obvious guilt trip she knew what the nurses thought of her, but she couldn't be bothered to look after her own child.
But if only they knew everything Laura had done for that child all the way, she'd tried to fix her and cure her, all the heartbreak when none of it had worked.
Maybe then they wouldn't rush to judgment. Bonnie wasn't sure how to feel when she heard this, but when the nurse said she was going to grab some paperwork and walked off, Bonnie found herself stepping out from the tree. She wanted to get her mother's attention. So when her mother spotted her, Bonnie pointed to the brick buildings where her secret room was. Then she took off. Bonnie headed towards the cottages, calling to her mom to follow, she could hear her mom coming after her, but she didn't yet want her mom to see that she was a ghost.
She went into her cottage up to the attic. She flickered on the light and found that she could move the trunk easily. She opened the secret door, went into the room and sat back into her corpse. Bonnie called out for her mother again and again. Soon she heard her mother crawling through the tunnel, the pearls jangling around her neck. Her mother was murmuring to assault that this was the nurse's problem, that she shouldn't have to go crawling around for her daughter.
Her mother entered the small room. Bonnie took in her reaction. Her mother's skin went pale and her jaw dropped in shock. She wobbled slightly. Then she fainted. Bonnie got up from her corpse and walked over. Her mother would soon wake up, or maybe a nurse would find her. Maybe Bonnie could never leave Pennhurst, but at the very least, she thought she reached down and unclasp the necklace from around her mother's neck. She could finally wear her mother's pearls.
Today, part of the Pennhurst campus is privately owned by a company that holds a haunted house there every October of the many spirits and apparitions that have been reported by visitors and employees, one of the most common is that of a little girl wandering about the campus and calling out for her mother. Pennhurst defenders often cite a lack of funding as having been the asylum's main issue. They say that with the right staff and resources, Pennhurst could have been the ideal place to house the intellectually disabled.
But Pennhurst was based on the idea that people with disabilities were a problem to be dealt with. No matter how it was run, its core identity was always going to be inhumane. People who are different can make us uncomfortable, and in the early 1980s, much of society wanted to deal with that discomfort by hiding these people away. Tragically, many families were unable to care for their disabled children and sent them to Pennhurst because they felt they had no other options.
And rather than being understood and cared for, they were often neglected or even abused. Their institutions like Pennhurst all over the country, places where anyone different could be segregated, forgotten, abandoned, and for a long time it remained that way. But nothing stays hidden forever. Perhaps the ghosts that haunt Pennhurst are a chilling reminder that although we can try to abandon our fellow humans or try to forget them, they'll never forget about us, not while they're living and sometimes not even after they're dead.
Thanks again for tuning into haunted places. We'll be back on Thursday with a new episode. And don't forget to come back on Tuesday for our Urban Legends series available only on Spotify. You can find more episodes of Haunted Places and all other Spotify originals from podcast for free on Spotify. I'll see you next time. Haunted Places is a Spotify original fun podcast, executive producers include Max and Ron Cutler, Sound Design by Kenny Hobbs with production assistance by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden and Travis Clark.
This episode of Haunted Places was written by Zoe Louisa Lewis with Writing Assistants by Greg Castro, fact checking by Claire Cronin and research by Adriana Gomez. I'm Greg Polson. Hi, listeners, it's Vanessa again. Before you go, don't forget to check out the Spotify original from podcast Serial Killers each week. Join me and my co-host Gregg for a deep dive into the minds and madness of history's most notorious murderers. You can binge hundreds of episodes, four years worth and catch new episodes every Monday and Thursday.
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