Even though the Pennhurst school and hospital closed in 1987 it is still not without controversy. This time the controversy isn't over mistreatment of patients, it's over the possibility that these former patients will be exploited.
The former institute is being renovated into a haunted attraction, this has caused quite a stir given Pennhurst's notorious past. Many fear how the scares will come and if they'll be at the expense of those with mental disabilities. But haven't we been doing that for years? Isn't anyone who murders someone being exploited for someone else personal gain? When a murder occurs in any small town what makes front page news? And every summer we flock to the big screens to watch the latest psychopath on the loose hacking everyone to bits. We find it entertaining! But do we find it to be exploiting to those with mental disabilities? A few may but I believe the majority doesn't. Point being we don't often associate Leatherface as someone with mental disabilities. I'm also not comparing the patients at Pennhurst with a fictional character such as Leatherface, but he is obviously psychologically challenged.
When a family member murders their entire family and themselves you always hear the whispers around town, " something was wrong with them" or "they weren't right in the head!" Yes, something was wrong! People don't murder each other when they have a stable mind. What I find the most horrifying is the way the system has failed those with mental disabilities the most.
I'm someone who will admit to having been a victim of the mental health care field. I can tell
you firsthand there's too much over medicating, not enough listening, and still too much prejudice against those who suffer. I often say a majority of society is closer to having a breakdown than they care to believe. Often times it just takes a traumatic circumstance in your life, or a past tragedy you still haven't properly dealt with. Mine came from a combination of both. Most of the medications prescribed to me often made me feel worse than I originally felt. I would personally rather feel depressed than to feel no emotion at all.
I'm not too sure of the intentions of the haunted attraction, though they are working with a psychiatrist in order to remain sensitive to the disabled, I'm willing to give them a chance.
There are talks that the monies raised will be donated to charity's that care for the disabled, and will also go into helping to restore the legacy of Pennhurst.
In this day and age of instant technology, not all are too immersed in protecting or learning history. I feel if this is a way to generate interest in Pennhurst and help to preserve it for many other generations to learn from, than I'm all for it.
Though I would prefer that if instead of a guy in a hockey mask wielding a chainsaw, how about a terrifying doctor chasing victims down attempting to strap them into an adult crib, and inject them with Thorazine.