Share your Pennhurst Memories

Pennhurst has affected the lives of many people in many ways.  If you have a Pennhurst story or memory that you would like to share, please click the Add A Comment link below and post your story.  You may include up to 2 images.

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CC Rosati06/06/2017
I had 2 maternal uncles who lived here from 1947 until ?. Both died in the '80. I was told very little about them and only met them once one played a guitar and sang - pleasant people they were. I surely would like to know more about what happened to them and what turns their lives took, but how to find out? Ralph and Christopher Daniels.
Gregg Hershberger04/22/2017
I worked at Pennhurst the summer of 1975 as an intern while taking a summer social work course at West Chester University. I trained severely mentally retarded adults in basic hygiene such as brushing their teeth and washing themselves. During my internship Pennsylvania State employees went on strike and as interns we went. To Pennhurst and worked 24hours a day living there until the strike ended. This allowed us to see all areas of the institution including locked wards and areas normally not viewed by outsiders. It was an experience I'll never forget. Some of the clients were so disabled they were blind and unable to care for themselves in any manner, needing diapers and crawling on the floor. Some wards were very dangerous where staff assaults were common due to the severe mental disabilities. I graduated from Elizabethtown College in 1976 and again worked with mentally retarded adults for a short while in another facility. Conditions had already improved for the disabled.
Katt Eddy DuBose07/22/2016
I am trying find anyone that can help me get records from Pennhurst. My father was there from the time he was 6 years until transferred. This was in 1962. I don't know much more he never spoke about it. He sadly passed away. His name was Robert Samuel Eddy but went by bob! Date of Birth is 4/13/1956 I don't have any pictures of him as a child anything will help. After watching all the videos I am terrified that my father was left in that place to suffer. I am so ashamed that in that time people thought that was the only thing to do was to lock someone up and throw away the key. If anyone knows anything please email me.! God Bless!
Lee Ann Fulmer01/20/2016
My first year of teaching 1977 was at the Pennhurst school/library building. I worked for the Chester County Intermediate Unit. At that time there were only two classrooms left at Pennhurst. The rest of the school-age population was bused to Liberty Forge School in Phoenixville. One of the classrooms that remained at Pennhurst was for students who were medically fragile. It was in the hospital building. My class was made up of 6 students who were considered too volatile to ride a bus to the new school. Two of my young men lived on Q Ward and I quite often had to call the ward for help with their wildly maladaptive behaviors. At that time the ward would send 3 or 4 men with restraints to my room to return them to their ward. My other students came from C Building. I also volunteered time on weekends at the library where I met some of the older residents and had the opportunity to listen to their stories. I have many fond memories of my time at Pennhurst and a million stories.
Stephen Webb10/17/2015
My grandfather had three children from his first marriage two of which were placed in Pennhurst when it opened in 1908. I never knew of the existence of these two girls and it was never discussed to my knowledge. It seems they both lived at the facility and became teachers there in adulthood. Sadly, we located living descendants of one sister but they wanted nothing to do with any members of that side of the family.
Terri Messina02/22/2014
My sister resided at pennhurst. Every couple of weeks my parents would pack the car and we would ride from northeast Philadelphia to pennhurst for a visit. My sister was bedridden and mentally handicapped. Usually the kids had to wait in the waiting room as my parents went to visit Maria. There were always people walking around and talking to themselves or hollering or sitting in a chair and rocking. But, I was never afraid. As I got a little bit older, I was allowed to visit Maria with my parents and l would be lucky enough to hold her hand and tell her I loved her. I was seven when she passed away. When all the horrible stories came out about pennhurst, I tried to talk to my mom about it. She just said my sister was taken care of and she did the best she could. I could see the guilt she felt for not keeping my sister at home. But, there was no way she and my dad could manage that and feed a family. I have named my daughter Maria after her aunt.
Kathleen Slagle09/01/2013
Twenty years ago I accidentally found out about a brother I didn't know existed. Sadly, I found out about him after he died. After much digging, learned that he spent his life at Pennhurst. When the facility closed, he was supposed to be in a group home within 5 minutes of a hospital because of severe asthma. Well he died from an asthma attack on night and he didn't live anywhere close to a hospital. My heart breaks to this day and probably always will for the horrors he must have suffered. RIP Patrick.
Dani Costa02/07/2012
My first introduction to Pennhurst was through Bob. He was a trainee of mine at a non-profit I worked for in south central PA. Bob was a resident at Pennhurst at one time and was abused there. I didn't know much about Pennhurst and never dared ask him about his time there. I've taken it upon myself to educate myself about Pennhurst, visited there the first time last fall. I left that non-profit back in 2009, due to many abuses I witnessed going on there at the hands of management. I've tried to do something about it, but have hit a brick wall. I think about those trainees there, including Bob, who has retired and attends a day program now, but I think of them all every day, trying to figure out a way to improve life for them from the outside. People just don't understand, don't care, and are too caught up in their own lives to get involved and it breaks my heart. I'm gearing my career path and academic path towards advocating for these guys. I love them all dearly.
My paternal grandmother's brother Walter was an epileptic. Given how little was known about fits in the early 20th century he was locked away in Pennhurst so that family didn't have to care for him. By the time epilepsy was treatable and controllable, Walter had spent so many years in Pennhurst he had no ability to function in society so in Pennhurst he stayed. It wasn't until Pennhurst was finally shut down in the '80s that he was finally given a chance to really live his life. He lived in a group home for a number of years until he finally passed away. At least when he died he was free of that hellhole of Pennhurst.
Marc Reed10/13/2011
Mine is the story of an outsider. I was fortunate to grow up ignorant of places like Pennhurst. I knew nothing of the plight of the developmentally disabled - or of their hard-won achievements like Halderman v. Pennhurst. I finally learned the story 20 years after Pennhurst closed. Initially, it was Pennhurst's dramatic decay that got my interest. From there, Pennhurst's incredible true story began to unfold for me. In the winter of 2007/2008 I set out to make a little YouTube video that captured Pennhurst from my perspective - of an old, forgotten institution with this fascinating history. My video is called 'Abuse and Neglect' and I was very honored when the PMPA informed me they wanted to include it on their site. Now Pennhurst has been discovered. First the ghost shows, then the haunted house. But I encourage people to learn as much about it's real past as possible The people, their plight, and the reform that was born here. It's a powerful and important place.

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