Why Preserve the Memory of Pennhurst?

A lone wheelchair in Union Hall
photo: Wayne L. Benner

Memory is the critical language and terrain of human rights. Through preserving past evidence of neglect, we make it real, we make it present, and we make it public. The place that bears the mark of the painful past becomes a powerful catalyst for awareness, action, relevance, inspiration, and investment in multiple senses. What happened at Pennhurst and how did caring families and employees finally rise up to end it? How did that change create reform across the globe? What does it mean to be classed as "the other" and how and where is it still happening today? A place of memory at Pennhurst must approach these questions, and lead toward a national dialogue leading toward a more preferred future.

At some point many of us will become disabled in some manner, whether from injury or old age. But the events played out at Pennhurst affect all of us in ways that are even more profound. The struggle for acceptance, understanding, and, ultimately, freedom, is central to what it means to be an American. Moreover, it is the dream of oppressed people the world over. Here, at Pennhurst, we have a complex but positive and inspiring story to tell. This place of pain can become place of healing, reconciliation, and insight. It will be a center of national conscience with a message that knows no political, racial, or socio-economic bounds.

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Read more About Pennhurst on our About Pennhurst State School page...

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Kaeden Hoisington11/11/2020
I think the negative feedback about the haunted attraction is deserved, at the same time I think it is a good thing for Pennhurst. Some of the profits from the haunt can be put back into Pennhurst to keep the buildings maintained and preserved. I also think that this place should also be a museum.
Katerina Drury10/27/2020
Pennhurst should be preserved as a memorial to those who suffered there, and as a reminder that our work is not done in ensuring rights and quality community placements for people with developmental disabilities. It should be a lesson from the past and a call to action for the future.
DIANE POWELL12/31/2019
I went to Pennhurst on a Halloween event. New to the area, did not know the history. To stand in a building looking out a window of stained curtains, old furnishings, was the saddest I could have experienced. There is enough background to prove the existence of horror. Buildings need to go!
Teresa Gallagher08/20/2019
I think the buildings should be knocked down, and then build anew. Put a memorial in the center or somewhere on the grounds.
Let the spirits of those who lost their lives here rest in peace. Let us remember honor them. Let us learn from the mistakes atrocities made here. God bless all those who passed thru these doors lets never forget.
The abusers deceivers from Pennhurst should also be indicated for the purpose of education remembrance of the victims. Like the Holocaust museums memorials. This should not be a place for haunted investigations ghost parties. I'm sure that is bringing in money, but not for the right reasons.
Pennhurst has true historic significance was the beginning of establishing the rights freedoms of the mentally physically disabled. The med, educational, admin, etc. staff members who were good truly tried to help, should as be remembered for their work with/for kindness to the patients.
Pennhurst should be cleaned up refurbished to its orig state as much as possible. Used for educational tours, historic dats memorial to all those institutionalized here due to ignorant, intolerant, misinformed, bigoted, narrow-minded individuals society of the time.
Dr. Fatima Abdul Johnson05/13/2019
Many lives were lost at Pennhurst due to horrible treatment and neglect.I know... I had an uncle that lost his life due to mistreatment and neglect at Pennhurst. In will not allow the memory of my uncle to be forgotten. I have started a nonprofit organization and scholarship fund in his honor.
Pennhurst needs to have a memorial or a museum. This haunted attraction is so sickening and disrespectful. It makes me sick to my stomach.
Timothy Trotter10/12/2018
I am outraged and disgusted that pennhurst is still now nothing more than a haunted attraction for people to get thrills what those kids went through there is horrifying beyond comprehension! they weren't just abused and neglected they were often experimented on! SICK Basterds!
patrick frawley01/08/2018
I agree Susan it should be museum not some fun house for some stupid high school kids go some amusement as hunted house in live new jersey we also have places like Pennhurst we have once had Greystone now gone for ever we should have National Mental museum for things like never happen a again
Wow. I am not sure how much I understand about Pennhurst. Please... Quit letting kids use it as Halloween parties., This is a sacred memory of our past. Respect the forgotten. PTSD, Mental disorders, maladies, will refuse to be forgotten. It is more than a haunted house. Leave Pennhurst alone.
I find it sick that these buildings are left the way they were the day it closed. Personal possessions, cribs etc. A disgrace. And the fact people visit there as entertainment is vile. Bless it. Tear it down. Then use the vass grounds as a beautiful.park with a memorial.
Sabrina 09/03/2017
As an archaeologist, historic and cultural preservation is of the utmost importance. Like much of our American history, Pennhurst has a dark past. Unlike the recent controversy over the Confederate statues there is true potential. Reading your mission statement, I agree with the proposed future plan

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