On Saturday I got to begin to explore an abandoned institution I’ve been itching to check out. Pennhurst State School was shut down in 1986 after a class action suit by parents of patients/students there. There is a lot of history and a lot of conflicting accounts of what happened there, but the fact that it became overcrowded remains. And overcrowding can lead to neglect. I’ll let you read the information and draw your own conclusions. This site is incredibly thorough!
It was an incredible afternoon. A Flickr friend of mine, Christy, took the train up from Delaware and we spent three hours exploring. It was exhausting physically, but also psychologically, and we really hadn’t fully prepared ourselves for that emotional impact. We are already organizing another trip there, this time an all day event and better preparation now that we know what is there. We only scratched the surface on Saturday, managing just three buildings on the 1,400- acre campus. There are probably 20 buildings to investigate, at least!
I am working on a set of photos on Flickr, and here is one story from the trip to go with this photo.
There is a large network of tunnels that run underneath Pennhurst, connecting most of the buildings on the campus. Within 20 minutes of arriving, Christy and I ran into two other photographers (who turned out to be on Flickr also and I'm waiting for them to come find me). They had been there once before, but expressed no interest in the tunnels when I asked if we could all go in together (figuring more=better). So Christy and I went to the basement to check it out with the flashlights she'd brought. The dripping water echoed. I shone my light down the tunnel entrance and immediately saw this wheelchair.
No fucking way, I said. I'm not going in there.
We went back upstairs and saw the two photogs again. I said it was too scary, but that they should go have a look. The guy (Chris, I think) went running down and his friend came up behind us as we followed. I suggested again that if we all went together it wouldn't be as scary, and I think Chris had a male moment and needed to lead the charge. ;-)
We passed this and I forced myself to document it even though it meant standing still in there for a second. This chair was halfway between the entrances. We also passed several other tunnels. I'm glad I got the photo. I would go in again if I was with more than 3 others and we had lanterns instead of flashlights. LOL.
Oh, and that thing behind the door? A big clunker of a typewriter (some of you younguns may have never seen one) that appears to be covered in blood, but we're pretty sure it is paint.
P.S. 5 Weeks no smoking today! Forgot to post my video last week, but it is on Flickr. Will be doing a video update at some point today on Flickr as well. Yay me!