Batman's Arkham Asylum. Whenever shown it is a dark, dank, brick facility run by burly nurses and mad doctors. Probably because whoever's funding the place is more concerned with keeping the inmates in than making them sane. Not that that works, either.
Not ALL the villains put there are actually considered insane. Arkham is just the only place in the area that is able to hold some of the more super powered villains (such as Mr. Freeze). Conversely, the ones that are dubiously sane but manageable in a normal setting (such as Catwoman) get sent to a normal jail. Some, such as the Joker, truly are insane (and some of the 'sane' are just as dangerous as the ones who are genuinely mentally ill).
Ironically, the Joker has been stated to find the Asylum relaxing. Some depictions show him willingly get captured after a caper so he can get some needed R&R.
In The Sandman, The Scarecrow notes that he views Arkham as his home and the only place he's really comfortable, and implies that most of the other rogues are the same.
One issue tries to explain this by showing that it was secretly built by insane, nigh-Lovecraftian settlers to cultivate homicidal madness instead of curing it.
Considering that the name is taken from Lovecraft's writings....Yeah.
Pre-Crisis, it was established canon that Arkham's own founder himself went crazy and was bound into his own institution, until he died. Don't worry, he kept himself occupied in the meantime by etching gibberish into his cell's walls with his fingernails while humming "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." The current canon of this, and the items immediately below, isn't especially clear.
In one version his parents were both killed by crazies, he thought that he could cure the killer, the killer seems cured but kills his secretary in front of his eyes, then pleads for pity. Arkham decides that only discipline works against the "filth", that is revealed to not help with the super criminals either, so he starts murdering them. In another version, the killer thanks Arkham for his efforts by killing his entire family. Arkham insists on continuing his treatment, and in a way does so — by electro-shock therapying him to death.
One Elseworld, The Batman of Arkham, had Bruce Wayne as a psychiatrist in an early 20th century Arkham... where, in a surprising subversion, he genuinely helps people; The story opens with a breakthrough therapy session with Killer Croc, who is nearly rehabilitated because Dr. Wayne simply treated him like a human being instead of chaining him like an animal. Later, Wayne says that before he came, Arkham was indeed "the old Bedlam, where unfortunates were whipped, chained, and starved." But, under the later direction of Dr. Crane, it reverts to the old ways immediately. Things got better.
Another mini, Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, had it show that even when a sane person goes in, there's little hope he comes out the sane. This mini also showed us a side of Arkham rarely seen before, exploring the patients who were committed and never escaped but stayed as lunatic as can be, from ghastly cult leader Death Rattle to Mad Artist Doodlebug.made him legitimately crazy.
Indeed, The Great White Shark was a perfectly sane Corrupt Corporate Executive who plead insanity to avoid prison. Well, itworked and he wound up in Arkham. The abuse he suffered from his fellow inmates left him genuinely insane.
It doesn't help that Dr Jeremiah Arkham, the asylum director and descendent of its insane founder, has a tenuous grip on sanity himself, and is often portrayed as more interested in exploring his charges' psychoses (For Science!!, naturally) than curing them.
And currently, Arkham was redesigned as a house of punishment by the new, nefarious... building manager or somesuch, without Jeremiah's knowledge. The Raggedy Man is already dead and attempts have been made on the lives of Mr. Freeze, Clayface, and Killer Croc, as well. Following Jeremiah's final breakdown, the new director is a member of the Church of Crime...
They actually managed to cure one patient. The Cluemaster entered a criminal mastermind who had the compulsive urge to leave clues at his crime scenes, and exited... a criminal mastermind who didn't leave clues. Oops.
In Hellblazer, Ravenscar was pretty rough on John Constantine, even if he had been convicted of killing a ten year old girl. . .
Dunwich Sanatorium, in Wolverine Weapon X. The place used to be run by a crooked doctor who hired psychopaths out for untraceable mob hits, and was then taken over by Dr Rot, a Mad Doctor / Mad Artist who makes Jeremiah Arkham look like Frasier Crane.
Dunwich was also a Lovecraft town.
Subverted in The Stalking Zuko Series while the Fire Nation has Victorian Era level understanding of mental health the asylum Azula gets put in treat her the best they can and hope for her recovery.
Films — Animated
In Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Gaston's last attempt to force Belle to marry him involves bribing the manager of an asylum to incarcerate her father there, even though Monsieur D'Arque himself comments that Maurice is just a harmless eccentric. The general setting of the movie seems to be in the late 1700s, so considering how cruelly asylums were run back then, it could have been a very effective threat.
Films — Live-Action
The asylum in Shock Corridor is depicted that way, witch electroshock treatment and straight jackets and murdering wardens.
In another Mel Brooks film, High Anxiety, the main character works at the Psychoneurotic Institute for the Very, VERY Nervous, which is less interested in curing its rich clientele than in keeping them indefinitely and thus getting more of their money.
The Channard Institute in Hellbound: Hellraiser II, where the most insane patients are kept in the steam tunnels, and the head of the place is a psychopathic lunatic who feeds his patients alive to the hellish Cenobites.
In Return to Oz, the doctor is scarily eager to use the new-fashioned electroshock therapy on Dorothy, to "cure" her of her memories and dreams of Oz. During the very early 20th century, electricity was still seen as a magical force with properties that included curing the sick.
Indeed. Otherwise she would have ended up like her mother Lucy Barker, who was sent to the actual Bedlam House following her rape by Judge Turpin and her attempted suicide by taking arsenic..
The Boris Karloff film Bedlam was a fictionalized account of the atrocities that occurred at the infamous Bethlehem Royal Hospital for the mentally ill.
In the House On Haunted Hill 1999 remake, the house was evil specifically because the doctors were evil, the patients took over, raped and killed them, and then the house was set on fire.
See the documentary Titicut Follies for a horrifying glimpse of this in the Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminally insane at Bridgewater, MA, in the 1960s. The documentary was banned for many years, by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The overt reason was that the film invaded the privacy of the inmates, but the real reason was to keep the horrors from the public.
The insane asylum in the opening of Amadeus appears to be such a beast for the non-wealthy inmates. It is much friendlier and more comfortable for the aged composer Antonio Salieri. It doesn't hurt he's suffered Sanity Slippage and resides in private quarters available to the rich.
The madhouse to which the Marquis de Sade is committed in Quills fits this trope, more or less — although it is probably an enlightened institution by 18th-Century standards. At least the inmates are allowed enough freedom to stage their own plays.
Shutter Island: Subverted in the Twist Ending, as the horrific experiments are all part of the protagonist's delusions.... Maybe. The story plays with the audience, as it is because of familiarity with the trope that one so readily accepts Daniels' version of reality as truth.
Westin Hills from the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. The place was originally decrepit, with the most insane patients being kept together in a giant pit. The facility was closed for an unknown amount of time after the volunteering Sister Mary Helena (aka Amanda Krueger) became trapped in the aforementioned pit (where she was raped and tortured for days) due to staff incompetence.
By Freddy vs. Jason the place, while still housing the mentally ill, is used primarily as a quarantine for those with even the slightest bit of knowledge about Freddy Krueger. Patients are forced to take the dream suppressant Hypnocil, which has been known to put the taker into a (presumably permanent) coma.
Sucker Punch takes place in an asylum run by an especially crooked orderly, with the main characters plotting to escape the place before protagonist Baby Doll's lobotomist arrives.
Railley in 12 Monkeys is a doctor and researcher into mental health and prophecy in a similar institution in Baltimore, where she meets Cole. Goines, the suspected villain, is incarcerated alongside Cole, and gives him the tour. Cole is shown restrained by some very fanciful instruments of torture.
In The Wolfman (2010), Lawerence Talbot is sent to one as the police believe he's a random but human nutcase rather than, well, the Wolf Man. Their attempts to cure him of believing he is a werewolf includes forcefully dunking him, repeatly, into ice water. As you can imagine, once the next full moon comes around, he escapes quite easily, killing most of the doctors in the process.
In Changeling, which takes place in the 1920s and is inspired by actual events, Angelina Jolie's character is sent to the Psych Ward of the Los Angeles County General Hospital. (The aftermath of this case led to a new California law forbidding police in committing someone to a psychiatric facility without a warrant.)
Grave Encounters centers around a reality TV crew locked in an allegedly haunted insane asylum. It ends badly.
Played with in John Carpenter's The Ward, where it's hard to tell if the titular ward is actually an example or just the result of the protagonist's insanity (she does do a few things that could warrant a certain amount of brutality). Also it's hard to say if the real horror is the staff or the ghost that's supposedly killing the patients one by one. In any case, the staff aren't wholly demonized and the psychologist at least seems an okay guy. In fact he is- he's spent months trying to help a young girl overcome a split personality disorder.
The mental hospital in The Jacket is full of sadists.
Subverted in Martin Day's Doctor WhoEighth Doctor Adventures novel The Sleep of Reason, in which Mausolus House looks like Bedlam House, but is actually run by a very caring and progressive doctor (well, for 1904; he's specifically contrasted with the previous governor, who believed the House's purpose was simply to keep the inmates away from normal folk). In 2004, it's been rebuilt as the Retreat, a proper modern care home.
Arkham Asylum was named after H.P. Lovecraft's fictional Massachusetts town, whose Arkham Sanitarium is a popular destination for his less-fortunate characters. It is itself a subversion of this trope, making its namesake look like a magical fairyland filled with tiny psychiatrists flitting about on butterfly wings.
Subverted in the Ben Elton novel Dead Famous. One of the contestants on a Reality TV show tries to curry favor by talking about the time she spent in this kind of insane asylum when she was younger; one of the other contestants knows immediately that she's lying, because her mother is actually institutionalized.
Edgar Allan Poe's The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fethersubverted this with a nice clean asylum which took proper care of its inmates, but had some very quirky doctors. Turns out, the slack treatment allowed the inmates to escape and take over the asylum. The real psychiatrists were locked in the cells, tarred, and feathered.
The Funny Farm (St Hilda of Grantham's Home for Distressed Waifs and Strays) in Charles Stross's Laundry short story "Down On The Farm", has elements of the trope, although the truth is far more bizarre, and possibly even more sinister.
St Cerabellum's in the Nursery Crime novels. When it was built, it was the most forward-thinking and up-to-date psychiatric centre in Britain. Unfortunately, that was in 1831, and it hasn't changed since.
In the Garrett, P.I. series, Garrett is tossed into the Bledsoe charity hospital's mad ward by the villains in Deadly Quicksilver Lies, and leads an uprising among its patients to escape. A warehouse for the mad, with the added presence of men whose minds were twisted by magic in the war.
Bethlem Royal, the original Bedlam, features prominently in the Matthew Hawkwood novel Resurrectionist in all its hellish glory. The place creeps Hawkwood out.
As are the early chapters of Earthquake Weather by Tim Powers.
THE Bedlam is referenced in Dickens' A Christmas Carol - as Scrooge observes his nephew and Cratchit's happiness over Christmas he grumbles "I'll retire to Bedlam."
Clifford Beers wrote A Mind That Found Itself, which related his own experiences in an early 20th century string of Connecticut asylums and kickstarted the Mental Hygiene movement. The author was suffering from genuine delusions and depression, was cured when he was convinced by a sensitive act on his brother's part, but was still driven to an opposite extreme by the revelation he had been wrong. It took him a year after his recovery from the delusions to be finally released.
The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, by Emilie Autumn, juxtaposes a fictional story of a group of young women trapped in a Bedlam House with the story of the author's time in a modern psychiatric institution that, while at least survivable, seems to be making little effort to actually treat (rather than simply contain) its patients.
Defied and Invoked in The Gates of Sleep. Physician and Earth Master Andrew Pike tries to help the both the charity cases and the upper-class paying patientsnote mainly women burned out on social obligations, but he keeps a close eye out for worse issues he milks for operating funds to the best of his knowledge and power at the sanitarium he set up, but when summoned to the bedside of half-trained Water Mage Marina Rosewood in a magical coma by her suspiciously unconcerned aunt he pretends he never met hernote she had been helping him with a breakthrough in treating lead poisoning and plays a vaguely sociopathic experimenter stereotype to the hilt in order to get her out of there without arousing suspicion.
St. Crellifer's from Doctrine of Labyrinths. The staff includes a rapist, a sadist, and a religious fanatic, you don't get adequate clothes or bedding, the "treatment" consists of being forced to scrub the floors by hand, and if you're really unlucky, a wizard will arrive to Mind Rape you.
An early two-parter on Alias, "Reckoning"/"Color Blind," sent Sydney to one such asylum in Romania [read: Ruritania]. It turned out to be run by an agent for recurring nemesis K-Directorate, and she ended up under interrogation with shock therapy as Electric Torture.
"The Shakespeare Code" featured the historical Bethlem Royal Hospital - or Bedlam.
"The Asylum of the Daleks" took place on a planet containing automated systems to care for Daleks so violent even other Daleks feared them. Thanks to one genius human/Dalek, the place was reduced to a miserable wreck.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The Bedlam House-esque psych home where the nurses don't speak English, people wander around without pants, and one woman died of heat stroke was a scam run by a man providing bare minimum care while padding his own pockets with rest of the government's funds.
The Torchwood episode "Adrift" has one of these for victims of the Rift which were brought back to Earth who can't be returned to their families, set up by Capt. Jack Harkness. Subverted in that although the buildings are grubby and run down, the staff are actually quite nice and the patients need to be there for their own safety. One victim who was taken as a boy, came back 6 months later as an adult screams for 20 hours a day as his body remembers what it went through.
In one episode Daniel goes insane due to someone's anti-Goa'uld weapon; unaware of the real problem, General Hammond has him sent to an asylum where he is kept in a straitjacket and heavily medicated. Perhaps not terribly awful in the real world - Daniel has had at least one violent episode - but given the bizarre nature of several adventures the group has already had, Daniel's Applied Phlebotinum explanations weren't that farfetched.
A later episode reveals that Daniel's grandfather was institutionalised after he became obsessed with a Crystal Skull he had discovered whilst on an archaeological dig in South America, which had briefly transported him to an alien world. In retrospect, this makes the possibility that Daniel might be genetically predisposed towards developing a similar mental illness not all that far-fetched.
An episode of Ghost Whisperer had a former insane asylum that was being turned into a school. Melinda was worried that one of a handful of insane ghosts was a negative influence on the young students, but the ghost was only trying to give them a Survival Mantra ("FrŤre Jacques") against the influence of her psychotic doctor's ghost.
JAG: In "The Martin Baker Fan Cub", paraplegic Vietnam veteran Roscoe Martin (from "King of the Fleas") has been placed in a secured psychiatric ward in a VA hospital, rather than in prison due to Harmís lawyering skills. Now heís charged with second degree murder for the death of a fellow patient who jumped out of a window. While the hospital isnít outright bad, itís understaffed. Roscoe, quite obviously, donít like being institutionalized there, is described by a doctor as the most disruptive patient, and he makes an escape with a few other patients.
Averted in House, when House eventually checks into a mental hospital in the finale of season 5. It doesn't look very promising from the outside, but the staff are honestly trying to help him - the biggest issue is House accepting the help. The other patients prove to be interesting influences on House. The outside looked foreboding because it was an abandoned ex-bedlam house, called Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital.
The eponymous house in Bedlam, although it's being turned into luxury apartments.
MacGyver: In "A Prisoner of Conscience", Mac fakes insanity so he can infiltrate a Russian mental hospital to break out a political dissident.
Subverted in The Millennium Trilogy- the children's psychiatric unit wasn't one of these as such... but Lisbeth Salander got special treatment. It's implied that there was a conspiracy to turn her Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour into serious mental disability, through psychological torture
Once Upon a Time: While we don't see enough of it for it to count completely, the "asylum" in Storybrooke is essentially a dark prison in the basement of the hospital behind a keycode-lock door that probably only two people actually have access to (Regina and the Nurse-Ratched-lookalike nurse who works the desk down there). For most of the first season, there's only one person in it- Belle, who Regina was keeping locked up in case she needed to kill her at some point or use her as a trump card against Gold.
Supernatural: in Sam, Interrupted ( season 5), Sam and Dean pose as patients at a mental institute in order to help an old hunter track down something that is killing the patients. however they start to find that maybe they should be there for other reasons.
The Metallica song "Sanitarium (Welcome Home)," which is about life in one of these asylums:
Welcome to where time stands still No one leaves and no one will Moon is full, never seems to change Just labeled mentally deranged Dream the same dream every night I see our freedom in my sight Sleep, my friend, and you will see This dream is my reality They keep me locked up in this cage Can't you see it's why my brain says RAGE?
Lots of her music centers around one of these kinds of places, referred to as "The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls" this is most notable in her concerts where she and The Bloody Crumpets are inmates.
Miss Lucy Had Some Leeches is a song in the style of Miss Suzy Had A Steamboat about one of these sorts of places.
She wrote 4 o'clock which is about the girls in these places.
There is an very old folk song about Bedlam Hospital. It is variously known as 'Tom O'Bedlam', 'Mad Tom' and 'Bedlam Boys' or 'Bedlam Girls'.
German metal band Stormwitch had a song called 'Welcome to Bedlam'.
King Diamond has written more than a few songs from the point of view of a tormented asylum inmate, including a concept album about one escaping and going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the people he thinks were responsible for putting him away.
The Kaizers Orchestra song "Dieter Meyers Inst.", is about someone committing himself to a Bedlam House because he thinks he's crazy, and then actually goes crazy after he's there. And the end of the song is just as crazy. The lyrics (and the translation) can be found here, and the recording here.
The follow-up songs "Auksjon (i Dieter Meyers hall)" ("Auction (in Dieter Meyer's Hall)") and "Medisin & Psykiatri" ("Medicine & Psychiatry") involves the same man either hallucinating (or performing) the murder of his psychiatrist and escaping with intent of revenge on the people who convinced him to check in the first place.
Disturbed's song "Asylum", though only the music video. The actual song is about a metaphorical asylum, using the dual-meaning behind the word for both "mad house" and "safe haven". In other words, the dark places in the mind become a place of both chaos and security.
Away In A Madhouse by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society is sung from the point of view of an inmate of such an establishment, and he is disturbingly grateful for the pills, electroshock therapy, pre-frontal lobotomy, and rubber room, because "outside it's hell". The track is interspersed with demented giggling and heavy breathing.
The island of Dominia in the Ravenloft setting. The centre of the Domain is Dr Heinfroth's Asylum for the Mentally Disturbed, run by the island's Darklord, who is a cerebral vampire. The Dragon article "Dr Heinfroth's Manual of Methods" suggests the Asylum also exists in Gothic Earth's Massachusetts ... presumably, near Arkham.
Dr. Illhousen, narrator of in-character material from the Nightmare Lands boxed set, tries hard to subvert this trope by introducing some actual theraputic care and defenses against the nightmare-inducing entities that plague its patients to a Bedlam House.
As in Lovecraft's original source material, some pretty dodgy stuff is liable to go on in Call of Cthulhu's insane asylums.
In the horror RPG KULT, most asylums are torture chambers where people only grow more insane. This includes the doctors. In fact, such asylums tend to work as holes in the illusion that humanity inhabits; portals to Inferno and other nasty parts of the dark Reality surrounding us.
New World of Darkness sourcebook Asylum describes one of these in detail. The sample asylum has many, many reasons to be weird by nature (ranging from its proximity to ancient mounds to the religious cult that sprung up on the grounds to the occasional patient riot), and each patient profiled for plot hooks has a Multiple Choice Past with options ranging from "just plain normal mental illness" to "some really weird shit."
Ironically this is averted in the Arkham Horror board game. A visit to Arkham Asylum is a good idea if you want any hope of keeping your sanity meter high
Napoleon XIV Mental Institution in Dino Attack RPG is heavily implied to be a case of this, although fortunately in this world it may be the exception rather than the rule. We also only got to see two patients in the Institute - Wallace Bishop (the real one, as opposed to the other guy who was impersonating him) and Athena Fabello - and they weren't exactly very well off. On top of that, the institution has a number of security problems, and to avoid bad press, administrator Mr. Bonaparte wrote a formal letter claiming that Fabello passed away when she actually escaped. Mr. Bonaparte also reportedly did not take responsibility when a third patient, Carl Lutsky, was Driven to Suicide.
Feng Shui's fan supplement Out For Blood features an adventure in one of these. The Asylum of the Damned is a feng shui site staffed by demons bent on breaking the spirits of Secret Warriors sent there, by convincing them that their pasts and abilities are delusions that must be "cured". Because of the corrupted chi of the site, supernatural and chi-based abilities do not work within the grounds, and the demons have plenty of drugs on hand to pacify their "patients". Needless to say, getting out is not going to be easy...
In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Fogg's Asylum is one of these. Among other things, insane asylums like this back in the day let wigmakers come in and clip the hair of its inmates for their wigs. Sweeney and Anthony use this as a way for Anthony to get into the madhouse to rescue Johanna.
In the play The Insanity of Mary Girard, Mary Girard, a sane woman, has been confined to one of these by her husband because she is pregnant by another man's child, and this infidelity is treated as a disease. There's even a device called the Chair, where they strap unruly inmates down, hands and feet, and put a black box over their heads so they can't even see. In the end, she decides that it's better to live away from her husband and the world outside, even if she does have to be trapped, because if she is obedient she will be treated reasonably well. However, when the tourists come and pay to gawk at the inmates, she will flaunt once and for all that she is insane... insane... insane....
Arkham serves as Level 1 on the console versions of Batman Forever. The background textures were taken from a scene detailing Two-Face's escape in the film, which was deleted from the theatrical release. However, since the most we see of the film's Arkham Asylum is a cell and a small stretch of hallway, the game's version more resembles a medieval dungeon than a thriving, modern hospital.
Arkham Asylum a Bedlam House in Batman: Arkham Asylum, but the marketing (as evidenced in the tie-in Arkham Care website and some of the in-game PA announcements) desperately tries to make it seem like a pleasant, modern psychiatric institution. To utterly hilarious degrees; it's really something to stand in a dank, creepy and falling-apart Arkham corridor listening to a pleasant voice on a commercial witter on about how Arkham is 'the state's premier psychiatric therapeutic facility', how the famous supervillains who get locked up there 'are only half the story' and other such nonsense.
Batman: Arkham City: The sequel features an even worse solution: Arkham City, a walled off slum section of Gotham where former Arkham patients and Blackgate convicts alike are thrown in and left to their own devices. Then hired mercs kill everyone in the place. How therapeutic.
Baldur's Gate II features Spellhold: A combined dumping ground for dissidents, "magical deviants" and madmen. That's how it STARTS. Then the Big Bad takes over.
In Call of Duty 5, the second Nazi Zombie mode map Verruckt is an abandoned asylum with all the usual stigmata of this trope: blood stained rooms, electric barriers, power outage, crazy writing on walls and rather dangerous looking medical equipment.
Considering the fact that Those Wacky Nazis generally exterminated Mental patients outright and handed the remainders to the same group of people who produced Dr. Mengele for cruel and terrifying experiments which were obscenely deadly For Science!!- and this is before we get into the habit of shipping dissidents to said mental asylums when they ran out of the original patients- this is probably justifiable.
The last third of the campaign level "Ring of Steel" forces you to travel through a bombed out insane asylum that's pretty damn normal compared to other examples on this list. However, no small amount of tension is derived from the fact that there are no Germans to fight until you reach the second floor. As Sergeant Reznov says: "This place reeks of nightmares and madness, but only the insane would stand against us!"
The rendered cinematics of Diablo II (but not Lord of Destruction) take place in a Bedlam House style of sanitarium, where the inmates are whipped and tend to scream a lot. The Archangel Tyrael "visits" to interrogate a man named Marius about how he'd gotten caught up in the events of the story. The twist is that it's not Tyrael, but Baal. He burns the asylum down behind him as he leaves.
In his Quest for Identity, the protagonist of Hitman, Mr. 47, traces his creator back to a sanitarium in Romania. The place is in extreme disrepair and operates mainly as a front; the good doctor is exploiting the patients for his research in a secret lab below. As such, the sanitarium is pitch-black, crammed with urine-stained mattresses, and the so-called Operating Theatre has a corpse just lying unattended on a gurney. Yuck.
In Address Unknown, a Show Within a Show in Max Payne 2, the protagonist is sent to an insane asylum that seems to fit this trope. We see The Theme Park Version when Max visits an abandoned fun-house based on the show. Abandoned presumably because a TV series about insanity (whose plot more-or-less parallels Max's own battle with his inner demons throughout the game) doesn't make for a wholesome day out for the family.
One level of Painkiller is the reflection of one of these in Purgatory. It's the most disturbing level in the game. Examples? Electroshock therapy victims who wander the hallways, still being zapped every now and again, unable to communicate except by painful moans. Giant hallways full of rotting padded walls. And quadruple amputees who attack by vomiting at you and lunging. Many of them are found walking around on the ceiling. And they have no eyes or teeth.
In Sanitarium, the various acts shift back and forth between a rather creepy and disturbing sanitarium, and various strange locales (a village populated by mutilated children, a stranded circus, an alien colony...) until you're not certain which is real and which isn't. None of it is.
The asylum in which the protagonist was held, however, was a much more modern looking facility.
One of the dungeons in the first Shadow Hearts game is the very creepy Calios Mental Hospital.
Silent Hill's Brookhaven Hospital. Cedar Grove might qualify as well. The fact that the town has two mental hospitals might say something about the relative sanity of its inhabitants.
Part of The Suffering takes place in an Abandoned Hospital version. The recent supernatural happenings have awakened its twisted doctor as a ghost, manifesting in the form of an image from a movie projector.
Thief: Deadly Shadows gives us the awesomely terrifying Shalebridge Cradle. A Bedlam House-cum-Orphanage. And it's a burned-out ruin. And you go snooping around. At night. Hilarity Ensues. And by hilarity, we mean "Blood-curdling terror".
The mansion of Alastair Grout in Vampire: The Masquerade Ė Bloodlines. Justified by Grout being a vampire, a pre-Freudian psychologist (with nothing but scorn for Freud's wishy-washy 'talking to people' treatments), and a Malkavian, which takes the other elements into account and makes him utterly insane (even by vampire standards) on top of it.
In Eternal Darkness, Maximillian Roivas gets carted off to one of these at the end of his chapter.
Evil Dead: Regeneration, a story that takes place on an alternate timeline from the films where Ash, instead of getting sucked into the past, is found in the cabin with a lot of hacked up corpses. The game starts at an asylum for the criminally insane, and his doctor now has the copy of the Necronomicon and intends to use it. If it didn't start off right in Bedlam House, you can bet it gets there fast.
American McGee's Alice has a section set inside Wonderland's interpretation of a Victorian asylum. It says something that the person in charge is the Mad Hatter, who views the inmates as little more than spare parts. It's revealed at the end of the game that Alice has been in a catatonic state in a real-life asylum throughout, and Wonderland was a subconscious mechanism for her to deal with the deaths of her family in a fire. The title screen and intro sequence make this place look like the archetypal Bedlam, but in line with the entire game being Alice's perception of reality the ending shows it to be a much more pleasant place.
The sequel, Alice: Madness Returns, has Alice being subjected to having holes drilled into her skull, electrotherapy, leeches, tonics and head shaving in one of these places in a cutscene. And the guy actually running the place is more interested in pimping out his young female patients once he's gotten them to forget everything than actually curing them, and was the bastard responsible for the above-mentioned fire in the first place. Emilie Autumn would probably like these games.
In the Casebook Trilogy the apartments from the second case used to be one until it was changed into a apartment building. Burton comments that the mental stability of the residents haven't changed and he's right. Espically since The Big Bad of a serial killer is living there.
Penny Arcade Adventures has the Cloying Odor Sanitarium. Decrepit victorian architecture? Check. Creepy fog and withered trees? Check. Deranged roaming crazies? Check. Corrupt owner who keeps otherwise sane people prisoner to bill their families so he can finance his own personal pursuits? Yes that's a check. Electroshocks and pills given out like Pez? That's a playable level.
Doc Brown "They'd ship us both off to the loony bin! And trust me, you don't want to see the inside of a 1930's insane asylum!"
MediEvil has The Asylum, which is filled with cackling madmen in strait-jackets who want to headbutt you to death.
The award-winning Interactive Fiction game Slouching Towards Bedlam is all about the Trope Namer, in a steampunk-Victorian setting. Depending on the ending you choose, the entire world may wind up infected with a mental illness carried by one unusual patient.
Mystery Case Files: Escape From Ravenhearst features a reconstruction of the asylum Charles Dalimar was locked up in, including an electroshock therapy room.
Both games in the Manhunt series have a level devoted to these.
A popular Self-Imposed Challenge for The Sims 2 is the Asylum Challenge, in which the player creates a mental hospital... that isn't equipped for seven uncontrollable "inmates" and the one playable sim forced to Go Among Mad People. Unsurprisingly, most players go the Bedlam House route for their asylums.
Bioshock Infinite sends you through one of these near the end of the game, Comstock House. The inmates are near-catatonic and dressed in drab jumpsuits and creepy masks of the Founding Fathers, and security involves the "Boys of Silence", who wear horrible iron masks with noise-amplifying trumpets sticking out of the sides, and if they spot you they'll let out a dreadful scream that drives nearby inmates berserk. Then you meet the person running the place: a Bad Future version of Elizabeth. She gave up hope of being saved by Booker and became the Dark Messiah her father wanted, and you find her watching with regret as Columbia lays siege to New York City in The Eighties.
Although the suicide ward that Susan gets checked into at the beginning of The Cat Lady stops short of actual patient abuse, the nurses there can be a bit too trigger-happy with the sedative injections at times.
Outlast takes place in the Mount Massive Asylum for the Criminally Insane. There is little detail about what the staff was like when it originally opened in the 1950s, but you find a lot of old equipment which resembles torture devices walking around the older parts of the asylum. The asylum was abandoned, but reopened in modern times by the Murkoph Corporation, who used the new patients as guinea pigs for experiments not necessarily related to improving mental health, since they figured no one would care about the rights of mental patients.
From the little we've managed to gather, Jonas of The Phoenix Requiem has spent far, far more time than he would have liked to in a house such as this one.
The Continentals: In the steampunk murder/mystery/adventure "The Continentals", the criminal asylum Timbre Dark Manor is a manmade monument to madness built like a dark castle on the sins of man. here.
The Water Phoenix King has had one show up on several occasions, as Prince Thrale of Nammathar, the local ruler, likes to meet with his agents there over dinner, among the screams and chains. He seems to believe that it's a good way of foiling spies — but he's also himself well on the wrong side of sane, carving blood sacrifices in his own skin to their world's version of Ishtar in hopes that she will grant him total war as a boon. It's pretty twisted.
The Mercia Sanitarium and Straitjacket Emporium of A Loonatic's Tale is sort of half-this. It's kind of foreboding on the outside, the inside is either stark white or dim and grimy depending on which part of the asylum you're in, and the patients seem semi-neglected because the only staff it appears to have is the staff that's appeared onscreen, so it's more like a detention center for people diagnosed as insane, with occasional bouts of genuinely attempting to cure patients who may or may not be too intimidated by the staff to accept the help. The staff has their own share of psychological issues: The directors used to be a crack therapeutic team (aside from being slightly trigger-happy with lobotomies) but have retired from active practice, and the actual therapists are a tiny idealist with a fragile ego; his old college classmate who is a hateful shrew with misandrist tendencies, a mechanical claw for a left hand, and no bedside manner to speak of; and an equally hateful, slightly pathetic middle-aged man who is theoretically smart enough and skilled enough to be a decent therapist, but is too apathetic to do anything but cram medication down the patient's throat. The best therapist on staff is the 25-year-old intern, who spends more time running around catching escaped inmates with an oversized butterfly net. And that's part of his job description.
In the sixth episode of Mortal Kombat Legacy, Raiden arrives to Earthrealm into a mental hospital. Conveniently, his white outfit makes him look like a patient, so he is restrained and kept there (apparently, the fact that there's no record of the man being checked in doesn't faze the staff in the least). After several failed methods, including psychotherapy (talking) and psychopharmacology (drugs), the doctor chooses to lobotomize "Lord Raiden" to calm him down. Luckily for Raiden, he's a Physical God, so it likely doesn't do any permanent damage to him. Not that it justifies the quack who thinks it's a great idea to remove parts of a patient's brain to keep him quiet. He probably has a jar of leeches in his office in case the lobotomy fails.
Subverted in Adventure Time. The mental hospital in the show is obviously a very nice place, and the patients are, for the most part, content with their surroundings and treated well. The hospital is run by Doctor Princess, one of the most respected doctors in the kingdom. A character who attempted suicide was taken here, to show the audience that he has hope of recovering and being happy.
Some fans theorize that Castle Lemongrab originally started out as a Bedlam House constructed by Princess Bubblegum as a means of "curing" Lemongrab using electroshock therapy. Made puzzling by the fact that the castle contains an electrocution chamber...
Arkham Asylum is less a case of Bedlam House in Batman: The Animated Series than in the source comic. The architecture is still oppressive, and the better-known inmates seem to enjoy making life hell for each other, but it is shown to have some good doctors, who have some sadly temporary success with Harvey Dent, Harley Quinn and Edward Nygma.
Harely Quinn was also a therapist at Arkham that fell in love with the Joker. It shows the place isn't that great for its staff either.
The episode Lock-Up, however, features Arkham guard Lyle Bolton, who gets fired after it's revealed he's on a serious power trip that has made him violently abusive to inmates including Harley and Jonathon Crane.
In the alternate world of Justice League, Arkham Asylum looks incredibly pleasant both inside and out. Everything's clean, bright and modern... but all the inmates have been lobotomized and lost their humanity.
Arkham's been brought back in all its Bedlam House glory in The Batman, where it's portrayed as an extremely tall gothic building complete with prison cell-like rooms and padded walls (for some reason, though, The Penguin constantly gets checked in, despite him generally being one of the sanest of Batman's enemies). Oh, and the guards have the authority to carry around tasers and dress in robes that make them look like they're prepared to do a lobotomy on a second's notice.
In the Futurama episode "Insane in the Mainframe", Fry is accidentally sent to an insane asylum for robots. Although the treatments seem appropriate for curing insane robots, they drive the all-too-human Fry to madness, leading him to think he's a robot... and thus is considered "cured".
Which is even more hilarious given that all the robots act like humans, and Fry was acting like a stereotypical sci-fi robot, complete with No Indoor Voice.
Though not depicted as evil, The Simpsons does have a recurring mental institute known as the "New Bedlam Rest Home for the Emotionally Interesting". The horror factor here seems to be the ease with which a resident of Springfield can be committed to it. Homer ends up in it for carelessly letting Bart fill out a self-report mental exam at work. And when Ned Flanders checks himself in after a simple emotional breakdown, the disinterested admitting nurse only asks if he wants to be dragged off with or without kicking and screaming. Ned cheerfully chooses the kicking and screaming.
In the Transformers season three episode Webworld, Cyclonus takes Galvatron to the planet Torkulon in the hopes that his madness can be cured. Galvatron doesn't take to the therapy very well, and the Torkulons eventually try to give him a lobotomy-equivalent by jacking his mind into the planet itself while Cyclonus helplessly looks on in horror. Fortunately, Galvatron's willpower is so strong that he drives his mind into the planet and figures out how to destroy it. A Crowning Moment Of Awesome / Roaring Rampage of Revenge soon follows... and once he's done, Galvatron actually seems quite calm. For a little while, anyway.
It was less a case of Galvatron's willpower than the fact that he was so insane that the planet itself was driven nuts just looking at his processor.
Wanda/Scarlet Witch in X-Men: Evolution was abandoned at one of these by her father, Magneto when she was just a child. As a result, all she can think of after being broken out is getting revenge on him only to have her memories altered by the end.
And the worst part? Teachers get two free passes a month to have kids sent over there at their own discretion.
"The Ranch" featured in the Batman Beyond episode "The Last Resort" turned out to be a Bedlam House for teenagers designed to break (and I do mean break) their spiritsnote They would stand for long hours listening to the owner demean them and say he is their only hope for being better. And if people act out, they get sent to "Iso" which is isolation to the extreme. No light. No sound. Alone in the dark. Most end up breaking in it after a short time. Fortunately Terry gets involved when one of his friends is sent there by her father. At the end of the episode when Terry exposes The Ranch's horrors and frees the teens, said friend understandably refuses to forgive her father for sending her there.
Regrettably, this sort of environment isn't as extinct even in modern times as we'd like to believe. If you're ready to have your heart broken, check out the Judge Rotenberg Center. Electric shocks for offenses such as swearing, ceasing an assigned task for more than ten seconds, or "nagging," is only the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, the JRC is not a one-of-a-kind anomaly.
The place, by the way, is named after the judge who allowed them to keep running after "casually" receiving a generous payment from them.
Conversely, Scientologists believe that every mental hospital on the planet, without exception, is like this. Their front group, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, is dedicated to "educating" the public about this fact. (And the fact that psychiatrists caused 9/11 and the Holocaust.) Their solution to this is to close them all down and replace the entire mental health industry with the wonders of L. Ron Hubbard's "tech".
Many psychiatric hospitals in Soviet Union were these. Especially ones where they kept dissidents. Some still are. The Soviet government considered everyone who disagreed with Communism (i.e. them) to be mentally ill (After all, Communism is the wave of the future, right?). These 'hospitals' were deliberate brainwashing facilities where they would send priests and other people they didn't like in an attempt to break them with torture and turn them into atheists who worshiped the Soviet system - they were the real life Room 101.
Joseph Brodsky's poem Gorbunov and Gorchakov is about two patients in one of these institutions. But are they madmen or dissidents? Or both?
Many "Teen Treatment" facilities are systematicallyabusive. The most infamous was Tranquility Bay. They finally closed it down after multiple lawsuits in 2009.
Poveglia Island, located in the bay of Venice, housed a Bedlam House which was directed by a lobotomy-enthusiastic doctor. Before that, it was used for dumping thousands of terminally sick people (most of them suffering from the Black Plague) there to die.
China has "Video Game Addiction Clinics". The treatment is, pardon the sick irony, like Arkham Asylum. Electroshock? Check. Beatings? You're in China, what do you think? Murder? Yes. Murder for TOUCHING THE DIRECTOR'S CHAIR? Yep.
Due to improperly trained and supervised personnel and What Measure Is a Non-Human? applying to the patients in the minds of many, abuse is quite rampant at many mental institutions, and serious injury and death are not uncommon - regardless of the patient's age, the patient's illness, what they thought the patient's illness was, or what led the personnel to, er, use the more severe restraining techniques. There's a "psychiatric survivors" community of people who barely survived their brush with institutionalization, often with PTSD, brain damage from medications they didn't need, or both. A positive experience is more likely than it was 100 years ago... but that doesn't mean that anything you've read above is by any means rare, or only limited to countries that are not yours or are considered Acceptable Targets.
Lack of funding, and cutting out numerous programs, contributes to much of this. Too few staff taking care of too many patients (or whatever the euphemism of the year is) means that bad things will happen, no matter how enlightened and sympathetic the staff. There's sometimes confusion about whether or not patients can be physically restrained, and fear of punishment keeps staff second-guessing their responses to events. The causes are many, and solutions are complicated.
Most of the medications that are older than roughly 25 years are, well, entirely random guesses used because it looked like they worked. Doctors will still prescribe medications that haven't been yanked from the market purely because the only known treatment for their side effects is to keep taking them. In case this isn't horrible enough to you, try keeping up with the implications of current research — particularly the ones that indicate that not only are some forms of insanity you getting to feel the effects of your brain dying or something equally pleasant, but that any cure (not counting prevention) will be horror of a different flavor...
Interestingly, while Bethlehem Royal is the Ur Example, it was also one of the first subversions. In the 19th century, the director and surgeon were hauled up before a medical board and summarily dismissed. The new regime focused on occupational therapy and integrating the patients into society — although this was admittedly made easier by the fact that the "incurables" were now being sent to Broadmoor Criminal Asylum, which was the old Bedlam but more so.
Nellie Bly the reporter got herself sent to one of these in order to do an honest expose on the conditions. She took a false identity, convinced people she was insane and was sent to the Woman's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's island. It turned out to be a cruel place where the inmates were often freezing, due to too little clothing, were abused and teased by the nurses, and were fed incredibly poor food. Nellie also found that there were many other women there who were just as sane as she was, who had been sent there because they were sick, poor or had lost their temper, and now couldn't leave as no one would listen to them (notably, one woman was admitted because they could not be bothered to get a German interpreter). When she finally was able to leave, after 10 days, Nellie published the account of her time in the asylum, causing a major overhaul of the system.
The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, used to be one of these. It used to be a treatment center for incurable diseases during the early part of the 1900s, but it was actually run by a con man who purposefully sought out rich families with ailing elders. He would trick the families into checking their sick family members into the hospital, where they would never come out, periodically forcing them to write to their family to ask for more money. Some of them would die and the deaths would go unreported, and letters would still be sent to the family asking for money as if they had never died. Needless to say, the hotel is reportedly very haunted.
Another account is "Down Below" by Leonora Carrington, who was given experimental seizure-inducing drugs when she was interned after a nervous breakdown.
The Beatrice State Developmental Center, in Beatrice NE, was supposed to be a caring facility for the state's mentally disabled. They carried out forced sterilizations as recently as 1966, didn't bother with anesthesia if the patients needed dental treatment because "these people don't feel pain", allowed male staffers to have intimate contact with female patients, and ignored injuries to the patients. In one year during the late 2000s, there were over 100 proven cases of abuse and neglect. They were averaging one medication error per day, and federal experts said they were giving the highest doses of psychotropic drugs they'd ever seen (double the recommended level in some cases) and overusing restraints. The center lost its Medicaid certification in 2009, which finally got some reforms in place.
The Willowbrook State School in Staten Island was an institution for children with intellectual disabilities that was open from 1947 until 1987, when it was shut down by the state for very good reason. By 1965, it was 50% over capacity, holding 6,000 people instead of the 4,000 it was built for. Senator Robert F. Kennedy called it a "snake pit" and compared the living conditions, unfavorably, to those of a zoo. Geraldo Rivera, then just a reporter for a local news station, did an exposť on the place titled Willowbrook: The Last Disgrace that won him a Peabody in 1972. The horrors of Willowbrook inspired the passage of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act in 1980.
Sadly, the existence of places like this tends to overshadow the existence of mental hosptials that are actually effective and compassionate towards its patients. This is one of the reasons that mental hospitals are so stigmatized- because of outdated stereotypes that are less common than the good mental hospitals which are typically ignored by the media.
"Mental Institution Running Humanely and Effectively" makes for bad news- copy and worse fictional drama.