Expect to experience:
- Difficulty finding it
- Packed Shuttle bus
- Average age 19
- Smell of BO
Finding Pennhurst in the first place was a little bit of a debacle. GPS got us far enough to where we saw signs for the place on the narrow streets of Royersford (I think). Once we finally thought we were making some real progress in finding the Asylum, we got detoured into some residential neighborhood where we basically followed the flow of traffic right into a really creepy looking parking lot filled with old junk cars and an abandoned garage. Swarms of teenage-looking kids energetically filtered their way through the lot around the parked cars and up towards the road where they filed neatly into a ominously long line. As I stood there looking at this curiously, (and came to grips with the fact that I’m twice the age of 99% of these people) I wondered why on earth they would be standing beside the road in such a long line. Then I saw a yellow school bus approach the kids (as if it were a pub crawl vehicle on St Pats Day) and at that point realized we were facing a shuttle bus situation. I really hate shuttles. Whether its an offsite work event, or a vacation situation, I just cant stand them. I kept my complaints to myself as my friends and I took our place in line, and after three buses filled up, we finally got on board. The trip was about 10 minutes, mostly through a forest. This would have been a nice effect to add a precursory creepiness towards the event, but……we were packed on a school bus with about 100 teenagers. As our bus finally pulled up in front of the asylum, excitement built as we saw foreboding and imposing buildings at the entrance. That image alone was probably my favorite part. The buildings just look sinister and some are kept deliberately run down for an extra eerie atmosphere.
The asylum tour begins with a familiar technique of gathering several attendees into a room and one of the hyped-up and loud female performers instructs and warns the guests about what to expect and how to behave. The usual ranting and berating of attendees ensued, and then the scares began as the signal was given to proceed from one room to the next. My buddy Joel found himself leading the way for the entire group and no less than 10 seconds into this, it was funny to see him reel back in horror as a caged woman angrily yelled at him. The shocks came from all different directions as performers were even stationed on the floor, and occasional arms would come up and do their best to catch you off guard. My girlfriend Kate probably caught the worst of the abuse as her non-stop screaming, ducking and attempted evasion of the performers only served to make her a bigger target. Some performers were very loud with shoving tendencies and others would relentlessly stay on your trail doing nothing but gently caressing your hair. Be warned, the smell of BO is probably more rampant here than any other event of its kind.
Towards the end of the asylum tour I started getting an uneasy feeling, but probably not for the reason you would expect. After the Asylum and all throughout the Dungeon of Lost Souls, the feeling became even harder to ignore. I’m not an activist by any stretch and I avoid making ethical commentary about these things, but an old memory of controversial debate surrounding Pennhurst suddenly became connected in my mind with what was unfolding right in front of me. Pennhurst has many true stories of abuse during its run as a real-life mental treatment operation many years ago. The long-standing controversy about this place is that its current-day private owners used the concept of actual abuse to create the attraction they have today. The behavior of the patients is exaggerated to an extreme level (I suppose the techniques of abusers too) for the purpose of entertainment. Regardless of how realistic any of the current show actually is….this event is making a profit off the misfortunes of the mentally ill and overall, I left with a bad taste in my mouth. One example is a very large man with no shirt and excessive body hair wandering around with child-like mannerisms and wearing what looked like a diaper. Another female performer in a cage reaches into a toilet and pulls out what looks like crap. She then taunts the guests as if she is going to throw it. This kind of stuff isn’t scary, its just gross and insulting to the people they are portraying.
As you might have guessed, I probably wont be back anytime soon. If it were possible to come back sometime in the summer when the haunted event is NOT going on and no one were around, it would be much scarier.
Attractions Selected: Asylum and Dungeon of Lost Souls
Paid: $30 per person x 4–Total $142 after tax and handling
Attended with: My girlfriend Kate, my friend Joel and his wife Jenn.