Makes you long for the good old days of exorcisms
, doesn't it?
"You must admit, it's hard to imagine this place being conducive to
anyone's mental health."
Poor Alice. She's lost her grip on sanity. She's stark raving mad. Surely what she needs to get well is a sleek modern psychiatric facility
with freshly-washed sheets, nice nurses, and friendly doctors, just like the one Britney Spears
keeps getting checked into.
Just kidding! What Alice needs is Bedlam House, a dark, dank insane asylum straight out of the mid-18th to 19th century, staffed by Mad Doctors
and Psycho Psychologists
in aisle four, sadistic Nurse Ratched figures
please report for surgery, slow descent
from minor quirks in Cloudcuckoolanders
to sitting in the corner mumbling cryptic phrases
about Things Man Was Not Meant to Know
and Eldritch Abominations
will begin after your four o'clock slop from the creepy orderlies
Modern psychological techniques do not exist
. Electroshock therapy is handed out like lollipops at the doctor's office - and unlike modern, painless electroshock, we're talking high voltage screaming shocks. Those padded walls haven't been scrubbed in weeks and even if they had been, the inmates would just keep writing on them
. And sure, there may be straitjackets in the wardrobe, but patients are just as likely to be chained to the wall. Abandon all hope, ye who enter Bedlam House!
After the nickname of Bethlem Royal Hospital,
the first psychiatric hospital in the world. First turned into a "madhouse" in 1403, by the 18th century it had basically become another part of London's entertainment industry. For a penny (or free on the first Tuesday of the month), visitors could watch the inmates' antics, and bring long sticks to "poke and enrage" them.
is still active, albeit having undergone multiple relocations, and is now, according to Wikipedia
, at the forefront of humane psychiatric treatment
Probably a case of Truth in Television
, as some mental patients' feature is his/her failure to conform to the relatively lax social norms of the outside world. The stricter rules of an asylum naturally tend to accentuate that particular character trait, leading to a predictable escalation
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- 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 and Killer Croc). Conversely, the ones that are dubiously sane but manageable in a normal setting (such as Catwoman and the Penguin) get sent to a normal jail.
- 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, it worked 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. In flashbacks, he's been shown being beaten, screaming and weeping in dark rooms while huddling in the corner, standing in front of the conveniently placed nearby cliff while considering suicide after being released, and finding himself so unstable that he ends up back at the mental hospital off and on for a period of two years. It doesn't help that John does have real mental health issues, including often crippling depression that can even veer toward psychosis and suicidal thoughts.
- Ravencroft in the Marvel Universe which somehow seems to feature mostly crazed Spidey villains.
- 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.
- John Gage ends up in a borderline one of these in the Emergency! fanfic . He checks himself in voluntairily and should have been allowed to leave, but they were afraid he'd blow the whistle. Before Roy uses his medical power-of-attorney to get John out, he ends up getting shock treatment while awake. He tried to escape after seeing that the place wasn't a good one, and was being combative, so they couldn't sedate him for it. When Roy arrives, John is lying naked in a locked room and still suffering after effects of the treatment.
- This is played with in Gensokyo 20XX. This is subverted and alluded to in 20XXII, it's not really this but that is how Yukari and Kaguya tend to view where they are imprisoned, as the the purpose is to drive them insane as an a way of control and that they both fear lobotomies, which makes sense as apparently that warden had a small child injected with tranquilizers for screaming. It also makes sense in that it was described by Yukari as being something akin to a "draconian asylum" that people were terrified to go to for the above mentioned reason.
- The facilities where Yukari was sent to for readjustment, is another subversion, in that she did note that the staff are rather kind and did help her make progress in readusting, which seems to be good place to be. Given the setting in 20XXV, Amoridere stated that asylums, like hospitals, are duly feared, thus leaving no real alternatives to deal with Reimu's mental illness, aside from making her a Madwoman in the Attic, as the alternative would be worse.
- Super Smash Bros fanfiction A Basket of Fruits features a rather cruel asylum where serial killer "The Masked Slasher" also known as Marth was held and later returned to.
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.
- Used in Mel Brooks' Dracula parody Dracula: Dead and Loving It where Renfield is kept in one of these and his insanity is treated by a combination of solitary confinement and lots of enemas.
- 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 hospital in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is something of a Bedlam House, especially considering the menacing figure of Nurse Ratched.
- 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.
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Todd's daughter Johanna is sent to Fogg's Asylum, a notorious madhouse, by Judge Turpin, who is furious that she won't go along with his Wife Husbandry and plans to elope with Anthony. She's lucky she didn't have to spend too much time there.
- 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.
- The mental institution in Rob Zombie's Halloween (2007) remake. Michael Myers is kept chained like a dog, the orderlies degrade and insult him on a daily basis, and he is beaten at night. The nurses are heartless, the female patients are raped by the orderlies and electroshock therapy seems to be a common treatment.
- 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 Twelve 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 Lambert Asylum 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.
- The 1996 Hallmark version of Gullivers Travels is partially set at the very facility of Bethlem itself, with the requisite display of lunatic patients.
- Stonehearst Asylum: Stonehearst used to be like this under Dr. Salt, with "treatments" that amounted to little more than torture. Lamb abolished these and has instituted kinder methods. The actual Bedlam, Bethlehem Hospital in London, also gets a mention.
- In Dragon Bones there is the king's asylum, allegedly a place where the patients are properly cared for, but Ward visited it once and didn't like what he saw. They don't seem to be very picky, either - Ward was just Obfuscating Stupidity, and his father intended to have him locked up there, which he would have done if the fees hadn't been so high.
- Subverted in Martin Day's Doctor Who Eighth 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 HP Lovecraft's fictional Massachusetts town, whose Arkham Sanitariumnote 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.
- Actually, the guy who created the hospitals on which Arkham Sanitarium is based wanted them to be Hospitals of Love. The reason they're so gigantic is to afford each patient privacy and comfort, with lots of light and fresh air! Unfortunately, between the expense of maintenance and the inevitable warehousing, they soon became this trope.
- 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 Fether subverted 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.
- Part of the Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith is set in a Victorian women's insane asylum very much like this. The head doctor starts out making a honest attempt to cure his patients... until he actually succeeds with one young woman, and then quickly realises the breakthrough has merely gotten him one less paying customer. After that he leaves the inmates to the sadistic nurses.
- 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.
- Accidentally being locked in one of these for a while leads to Mayor Poynt's Pet the Dog moment in Welkin Weasels.
- 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.
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is set in one of these, which maintains an outward appearance of being a modern, progressive facility.
- 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.
- In The Pale King, Meredith spends her 18th birthday in one after getting caught cutting.
- In Diary of a Madman the eponymous madman Poprishchin eventually winds up in one.
- The actual Bedlam asylum is a major part of the plot of Rebel Angels. Although it's portrayed as well-meaning, if not overly effective. Tom, who works as a doctor, is dedicated and gentle to his patients, honestly wanting to help them.
- 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 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 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.
- Apparently the poem, Cure, takes place in one of these, with the orderly set on "curing the sane", fitting a rather archetypal description of the trope.
- 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.
- Doctor Who:
- "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.
- Stargate SG-1:
- 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 ex-bedlam house, called Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital. (Greystone is still in business, but has been extensively renovated and keeps up with modern treatment techniques.)
- 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.
- There's a reason why the second season of American Horror Story is subtitled Asylum. Briarcliff Manor meets all of the above criteria, and then some. Adding to the terror, the place is a Corrupt Church institution run by a Nun Too Holy Knight Templar. Also, their attending physician is a Nazi war criminal and Mad Scientist, the court appointed psychiatrist is a Serial Killer who skins women alive and wears their inside-out faces, one of the nuns is possessed by the actual, literal devil, and the whole place is being monitored by aliens for some reason. Briarcliff is a fucked up place.
- Mission: Impossible: In "Committed", Casey gets herself committed to a prison-like mental hospital in order to save the only witness in a murder trial against a Syndicate boss from being driven insane by the corrupt staff.
- 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?
- Emilie Autumn:
- 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 HP 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 song Bedlam Sticks by Diablo Swing Orchestra sounds like it could be about this...hard to tell with the Word Salad Lyrics, however... then again, that might be the point:
- The song Twisted Mind by Avantasia. Notable because it's one of the few songs to feature Roy Khan as a guest vocalist.
- The grandaddy of all Bedlam House-themed songs would have to be the traditional British folk song Tom O'Bedlam. The folk-rock band Steeleye Span adapted this song as "Boys of Bedlam."
Role Playing Games
- 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...
- Planescape has the Gatehouse Asylum in Sigil. It's run by the Bleak Cabal, a faction composed of depressed nihilists who often have serious mental problems of their own. The conditions may be unpleasant, in reflection of the actual early history of psychiatric care, but the Bleakers are the only ones actually trying to help people with serious mental illnesses and hope to move on to better methods and standards once they figure out what works (and actually find the money to improve the Gatehouse).
- Harbinger House from the eponymous adventure is also a special asylum run by the Believers of the Source (Godsmen) faction, fostering people driven mad by strange powers or conditions - what the Godsmen suspect to be sparks of divinity trying to manifest and causing problems for the merely mortal hosts.
- 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.
- The setting of Marat/Sade, Charenton.
- 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....
- 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.
- Islington Asylum for the Criminally Insane in Autumn Bay is "a place of palpable madness that many people don't even know exists".
- All of the scenarios in The Holders Series take place in one of these.
- The Chamoix most definitely qualifies.
- 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.
- Robot Chicken sent Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes fame to one of these after his murderous rampage. "Mars is amazing...!"
- 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.
- The Crazy House for Boys in Invader Zim definitely fits this trope, complete with men in white coats rushing into a school, grabbing an 11-year-old kid and throwing him into the back of a padded truck.
- 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 . 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.
- Moreover, their "treatment" methods have been condemned as torture by the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on torture, and about 9 months after that condemnation was issued, America's largest autism "charity", Autism Speaks, endorsed the place for providing "a drug-free autism cure offered nowhere else in the nation". Want to know what's really terrible? There is no cure for Autism. It's just something you have to live with.
- 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 systematically abusive. The most infamous was Tranquility Bay. They finally closed it down after multiple lawsuits in 2009.
- It should be noted that many of said "Teen Treatment" facilities and places like them are deliberately built in areas outside of government jurisdiction so they can blatantly commit their abuse without fear of retribution.
- 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. Unsurprisingly, it is rumored to be one of the most haunted places in Europe.
- 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...
- If your disabled and mentally ill the behavior of the doctors can be worst..
- 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.
- Emilie Autumn wrote her book, The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, about her experiences in a real life example of this trope.
- 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 hospitals 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.