“This place looks awful…why write even one book about it?”
I’ve never received this question, but I feel like it sits on the tip of the tongue for some. Of course, Pennhurst is a very creepy looking place. Gloomy. Uncomfortable. And there is a palpable energy that still lingers there, even though the place has sat dormant and abandoned since 1987.
For starters, Freeing Linhurst and Freeing Linhurst: Into the Tunnels are not based in the kinds of horror and unfounded rumors of abuse that have perpetuated in stories over the years. Rather, it looks at the mystery and stigma surrounding a place like Linhurst/Pennhurst, attempting to capture the feeling of a small town that has to live with the shadow of an institution over them as if they were the ones to blame for its awful purpose and major closure.
Either way, you can see and feel in these photos how that stigma can perpetuate. I had the opportunity to take a guided tour of the vast campus in October 2018. While I know more about Pennhurst than I ever wanted to, it was a great chance to remind myself why I wrote this story in the first place. It wasn’t to glamorize abandoned horror house asylums (because that is just senseless hype for the undereducated) but to capture the essence of how we mistreat those around us based on our own fears and prerogatives.
But what’s most striking is how Pennhurst has failed to change from over 30 large buildings that housed people with serious disabilities to something of better use all around. Despite many attempts to convert those buildings, roughly 1,400 acres of land is home to crumbling buildings still to this day. One could certainly look at the history of those attempts to make a change and think that a curse is preventing it from happening. Now that is far more interesting and terrifying than fake stories of abuse and murder.