SPRING CITY, Pa. (CBS3) – A building once a home for the mentally handicapped in Chester County opened its doors Friday evening as a haunted attraction much to the chagrin of some residents.
The “Pennhurst Asylum,” on the grounds of the former Pennsylvania Pennhurst Center in Spring City, attracted thousands of paying customers.
While it was open, the mental hospital was accused of abusing patients until its eventual closure.
CBS3′s Valerie Levesque some residents fought hard to keep the painful memories from becoming a Halloween attraction.
Saul Rivkim filed a lawsuit arguing the haunted house would bring traffic and safety concerns to the area. Rivkim fought to keep the attraction from opening, but a judge on Friday denied his argument.
“I can’t say that I was entirely surprised. We knew we had a tough case to prove, proving that there would be harm for an event that hadn’t happened yet,” Rivkim said.
However, the zoning issue was not the only argument against the haunted house. Some say they find the attraction offensive.
Linda Dezenski is the Chief Operating Officer for Liberty Resources, a non-profit organization that advocates and promotes independent living for people with disabilities.
“We really feel that this whole haunted house thing really disrespects the atrocities that occurred there,” Dezenski said.
Neighbors who live near the building are also opposed to the attraction.
“I’d like to say that I advocate for people with disabilities. And it’s very heartbreaking to think that now we take that institution and we say ‘ok, it’s okay to go ahead and scare people in a place where there were a lot of people that were really scared because they were abused and hurt,’” neighbor Stephanie Adrian said.
The owner of the attraction responded to his critics.
“We have tried absolutely our best to distance this haunt from anything that has to do with mental disability,” Randy Bates said.
The attraction is expected to draw between 15,000 to 20,000 people at $25 a ticket.