The Hallways of Pennhurst State School & Hospital


The number one abandoned place on my bucket list of places to photograph is Pennhurst State School & Hospital in Spring City, Pennsylvania.  I had the opportunity to go two Saturday’s ago with Matthew Christopher’s Abandoned America Workshop.  It was everything I thought it would be and more.  I didn’t run into any ghost and nothing about either building was particularly spooky (except the basement in Devon Hall is pitch black and you cannot see one foot in front of you without a flash light).  The only odd thing I heard was this incredibly loud banging in Devon Hall on the second floor.  It could have come from outside but it was over the top loud. I asked a fellow photographer who was shooting right down the hall from me what she thought it was and she told me she was hoping the owners were just trying to scare us!  Pennhurst State School & Hospital opened in 1908 and was originally called the Eastern Pennsylvania State School for the Feeble Minded and Epileptic.  The conditions and crowding of the school were deplorable and was exposed in a five-part series in 1968 called “Suffer the Little Children”.   In 1983 nine employees were indicted on charges of slapping and abusing the patients.  The shocking part is the school did not close until 1985.  A lot of sadness and terror permeate the buildings and it is known for its paranormal activity and has been featured on Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures and Celebrity Hauntings.

With all that has happened there I still looked for the beauty in the decay of the buildings themselves.   This week I wanted to show the incredible hallways with peeling paint (I love peeling paint) and that lovely light spilling out from the doors.  The hallway above was located in Devon Hall on the first floor.  I just loved the color and light. I processed this image in Photoshop CC using two different exposure layers (I bracket all my shots with a 1 stop up and down) and then brought it into Lightroom to use one of the presets by Trey Ratcliff called Recreational Drugs.   I did not use any textures since the building had enough texture from the decay.  I used my Fuji X-Pro 1 as my main camera on the tripod with the Fuji x100s as my backup and hand-held camera.

The image below is of another hallway in Devon Hall.  Again just a creepy hall with great color and light.  I processed the image in Photoshop CC again using my bracketed layers and then brought it into Lightroom and used another preset by Trey Ratcliff called Amazing Raisins (one of my favorites but you really have to play with it because it can look way, way over the top strange).  I then ran it through Topaz Clarity to pop the sharpness as well as using high pass filter layers.



This one was shot in a pitch dark basement in Devon Hall and it is looking from the hallway into a room with light coming in from a tiny window.  I just loved the eerie mood it created.  I am always amazed how much detail the camera sensors can pull when I can’t even see it. Processed again in Photoshop CC using my bracketed layers to pull detail in the shadows and tone down any blown highlights.  I then ran it again in Lightroom with the Amazing Raisins preset and then Topaz Clarity.


I wanted to put one of my iPhone5s shots in of the basement area in Devon Hall known as Candyland.  It is a play area where the little children admitted to Pennhurst would play .  This area was pitch black and if I wanted to shoot this wall with my Fuji I would have had to light paint it with my flashlight.  A long process that I really did not want to spend my time doing when there were some many other great areas to photograph.  So I took out my iPhone and  I could not believe how bright the wall looks with that little iPhone flash.  It looks as if there was daylight streaming in.  Believe me you could not see in this room.  The wall art is really creepy so I think it was better not to see to clearly in there.  I did run this through Photoshop CC and Topaz Clarity.



9 thoughts on “The Hallways of Pennhurst State School & Hospital

    • Edith, you have to go but the only way is through an approved group and Abandoned America is the one. Matthew will be having more trips to it so sign up and go. You’ll love it! They open up more buildings and if they do I’m going back with Abandoned America. Just so everyone is aware you cannot trespass on this property they prosecute!

    • The banging sounded like a giant pipe was being hit be a freight train. It reverberated all around you. Building didn’t move so nothing was hitting the building but it was so loud and would stop then start again.

    • Thank you Marcelo! B&W would work for the third one but I loved the colors to much. I am posting B&W from Pennhurst next week because I found some really worked better in B&W then color.

  1. Your third photo actually looks like you can see the face of a little girl in the doorway with the the outline of her body. It may have not been your intention, but you might have caught a spirit. Great photos all around.

  2. Pingback: The Gray House, Week 4 – Silvia Cachia

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