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Behind Closed Doors

Definition: Over 10,000 patients crossed through the doors into Pennhurst, residing in one of the many buildings in the school's network.

 

Over 10,000 patients crossed through the doors into Pennhurst, residing in one of the many buildings in the school's network. Overwhelmed parents dropped off their children who were mentally retarded or autistic, hoping the school would provide for them. Sadly, many of these children were abandoned to become wards of the state. While some patients could care for themselves, many more suffered from severe disabilities. Those patients who couldn't care for themselves became the school's most vulnerable victims.

Despite the high number of patients requiring special care, the state provided the institution with meager funds. There were very few doctors, nurses and orderlies available to meet the patients' needs. Many patients spent their days and nights trapped in metal cribs in horrid conditions. Others were so desperate for human contact that they went to great lengths for attention by injuring themselves or even smearing themselves with their own feces in hopes of a bath.

Cruel punishments were common at the facility. Overworked staff responded to unruly patients by drugging them into submission or chaining them to their beds. Other residents were isolated for such long periods of time that they regressed and lost their will to speak, fight or even to live. One particularly harsh rule chastised patients for biting. When a patient bit someone the first time, he or she was reprimanded. But if it happened again, the patient was sent to a dentist who would pull all of his teeth. Thousands of teeth were removed in a rusty dentist chair that still sits in the tunnels beneath the Pennhurst complex.

Collections:

Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution

 

Related Categories:

| Interactive Pennhurst Timeline | Pennhurst State School and Hospital | Excerpts from Halderman vs. Pennhurst State School | Pennhurst - Property Layout | Pennhurst Today | Pennhurst - Categorizing the Children | Pennhurst - General Operations | Lost in a Desert World | Pennhurst - Suffer The Little Children | Hauntings at Pennhurst |

Resources:

  external linkGhost Adventures investigate Pennhurst State, a former facility for the mentally disabled, in Spring City, PA.

 

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