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Extranormal Institute

"I guess you could say it's not exactly your typical school."
Shinigami-sama ("Lord Death"), Soul Eater

The Extranormal Institute is a strange and/or wonderful place where bizarre is the new normal. It makes good internal sense (as opposed to farce played for laughs) and is genuinely functional (as opposed to a Crapsack World or the like), but has a very high weirdness level as real people deal with fantastical things.

Such a location is usually an important part of the attraction of whatever series it's featured in. Naive Newcomers (perhaps Strangers In A Strange School) can be expected to drop their eyes. The regulars may well be aware of their madhouse status and even proud of it.

Often, stories in such a setting will be in a genre (besides/in addition to the obvious sf/fantasy) in which the protagonists spend a lot of time exploring the details of the setting, such as School Story, Medical Drama, or Police Procedural. Of course, the contrast with the mundane aspects of that genre helps the bizarre details of the setting to stand out even further.

Subtropes include:

Contrast with Mundane Fantastic and World of Weirdness, where the entire world is like this (at least for the protagonists).


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Soul Eater has the macabre "Death Weapon Meister Academy" lead by The Grim Reaper. Has an eclectic mix of (usually human) "Meisters", and their (usually human) "Weapons".
  • Doumori Primary School in Hell Teacher Nube is a huge, glowing focus of paranormal activity in the Doumori district. Hardly a day goes by without it (or its students) being attacked by hordes of demonic creatures from the deepest, darkest reaches of Japanese mythology. Even the staff and the rest of the student body are pretty much used to this sort of thing, but Nube's class gets most of the attention.
    • Even further along, there's an actual Youkai High attended by high school-age demons and apparitions.
  • While on the subject of Youkai and high school, Youkai Academy in Rosario + Vampire, where the teacher is a Cat Girl and the students are any and every type of monster imaginable. Except for Tsukune, the lone human (or at least, he used to be) who got there by accident. All the students are required to stay in human form constantly as practice, which is lucky for the one actual human there, as there is a rule that states any human who comes across Youkai Academy will be executed. Of course, he manages to escape this fate when one of his harem injects him with vampire blood to temporarily change him into a vampire and trick the rest of the school. Later on, a more permanent transformation occurred and this trope no longer applied.
  • The American Manga Pantheon High focuses on a school for demigods/goddesses.
  • Hollow Fields, an American, Manga-style work published by Seven Seas Entertainment, has a girl get lost and end up at a school for Mad Scientists where bad grades are punishable by death, and a homework assignment is sewing a parrot's head on to a fish while keeping the resulting monstrosity alive.
  • Kunpuu High School in Kanokon turns out to be, basically, a boarding-school for demons and spirits who find it hard to fit into human society — as such, several dozen spirits and demons are liberally mixed with the human students, and have to stay there until they learn how to maintain The Masquerade. Something tells us that Chizuru will be stuck there for a while...
  • EVERYONE at Mahora Academy (or at least MANY) seems to be abnormal in some way. You have vampires, ninjas, time-travelling Martians from the future, robots, mad scientists, mages, princesses, ghosts.... And that's not even touching the tip of the iceberg. And yet, somehow the majority of the student body seem to be Muggles.
  • Tomobiki High and, to a lesser extent, Fuurinkan High from Rumiko Takahashi's Nerima. Aliens, ghosts, demons, exorcists, supernatural martial artists, oh my!
  • Somewhat similar to the X-Men example below, To Aru Majutsu no Index has Academy City. It has hundreds, if not thousands of schools. 80% of the population are students, over 60% of which are espers. Teaching them how to use their abilities to their fullest potential is part of the local curriculum. No one finds it unusual; in fact, the whole world knows about it and don't particularly care.
  • Bleach: The Spiritual Arts Academy (nicknamed in-universe and in the fandom as the Shinigami Academy) trains people who possess spiritual power to become shinigami. It teaches four Shinigami Arts (Zanjutsu, Hakuda, Hohou and Kidou) to prepare students for one of three organisations, the Gotei 13, the Kidou Corps or the Stealth Force. The emphasis on meritocracy was lampshaded in universe when it was observed that only those with the best grades make it into these organisations, but that the best students often find themselves only "average" once into the organisation itself. Given the needs of the three organisations, the bizarre curriculum and unique threats the students are trained to handle, the Academy functions as a Superhero School, Military Academy, Wizarding School, Ninja School and Spy School all rolled into one. Students certainly don't find the education boring, and may not even make it out the other side alive!
  • Il Sole penetra le Illusioni: Sephiro Fiore maintains the girls education while sending them out to fight monsters.
  • Tokyo ESP has these set up in the wake of the Mass Super-Empowering Event unleashed by the Arc Villain.

    Comics 
  • In Marvel's The New Universe, DP 7 introduced a clinic for people developing paranormal powers as a result of the White Event.
    • To a lesser extent, the Ballad Institute from Nightmask also qualified.
  • The comic book series Top 10 is a Police Procedural set in a city where everybody, from the mayor down to the lowliest street bum, is a Super Hero; the city was founded expressly to get all the weirdness out of the rest of the world.
  • The Research Technical Institute from Doug TenNapel's Creature Tech is a warehouse and lab for cataloguing and studying everything that the U.S. Government can't explain. This includes disintegration guns, were-pigs, Cold War Russian teleporters, and the real Shroud of Turin. The building is also haunted by the ghost of a mad scientist.
  • The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense from the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. comic books.
  • PS238 is set in a secret grade school for the children of superheroes. Most of which also have superpowers and are training to be superheroes, except for the main character...
    • Las Vegas is apparently also an example in the PS238 universe, being a place of neutral ground for superheroes and supervillains to go when they want a vacation.
  • She-Hulk once had a job working at a law firm that catered to people with superpowers, and employed a lot of them. Real law firms wish they could hire a shapeshifter to deliver subpoenas!
  • The home base of the X-Men, Professor Xavier's Institute, is a school for Mutants, both to teach them how to use their powers, and more mundane forms of education. It's also a refuge from the prejudice against mutantkind, although that also makes it a major target and it's been levelled and rebuilt enough times that they make jokes about it.
    • After the above school is destroyed, Wolverine opens the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. Its students include a brood, and one of the teachers is the time travelling child of the namesake Jean Grey. Homework is basically training for adventuring, e.g jetpacking and snow ball fights. Students also include a galactic Proud Warrior Race Guy, time travellers, and the front lawn is a mutant.
    • Cyclops opens the New Xavier Institute. It is located at the old Weapon X Facility, the place that gave Wolverine his unbreakable skeleton and sharp-ass claws, and the students regularly go out on missions with the teachers. Said teachers consist of: A mutant revolutionary who shoots lasers from his eyes and is wanted for the murder of Charles Xavier, a mutant telepath who can turn her skin into diamond and wears Stripperific outfits, a mutant Nazi-survivor terrorist who can control magnetic fields and a sociopathic mutant sorceress who regularly takes the students through limbo when teleporting and time travels.
  • The Intimates, a fairly obscure comic from Wildstorm, has The Seminary, a school for teenage SPBs.
  • Tesladyne Industries is a workplace that specializes in Action Science, including such fields as Imaginary Physics and Advanced [Other] (it's so revolutionary it doesn't have a name yet). Giant bugs and extra-universal incursions are the order of the day. Vampire attacks are treated with as much concern (but much less surprise) than a fire in a normal office compound, and the receptionist keeps a shotgun and helmet under his desk just in case.

    Fan Works 
  • Pokeumans: The Pokeuman bases, which are like normal school except that all the students are humans that have been transformed into Pokemon. And as a result, their lessons include 'Battle Class'. Pokextinction has similar bases, except they also brainwash their students to obey Mr. X and join his side of the war.
  • Royal Heights entirely revolves around the school in the title itself, Royal Heights Academy, a school within the dimension Utopia traveled to by portal creating jets that is entirely riffed with Technology Porn and houses a multitude of students of differing species from multiple dimensions.
  • Troll Cops gives us SEER, the Society for the Elevation of Ectotechnological Research, a sort of SCP Foundation pastiche led by Rose Lalonde and including most of the city's active vigilante superheroes.

    Film 
  • Consider Kay from Men In Black: He has a job, goes to work every morning, and has coffee with colleagues... but the workplace is packed with interstellar immigrants, and his coffee pals are two feet high and chitter.
  • Sky High. Yeah.
  • Also, Starfleet Academy in Star Trek, where students and professors can be from many different planets (including actual Green Skinned Space Babes).
  • The Library from TNT's The Librarian series of movies. Especially played up in the beginning of the third movie, when Flynn is completely bored with his job — which involves such duties as dueling with Excalibur.
  • Real Genius' "Pacific Tech".
  • The Soviet film Sorcerers is loosely based on the Strugatsky Brothers novel Monday Begins on Saturday (see below). Ivan Puhov's fiancée Alyona (unbeknownst to him) works as a witch at the Scientific Universal Institute of Extraordinary Services, a subsidiary of the Scientific Research Institute of Sorcery and Wizardry from the novel. Thanks to a rival at the institute, Alyona is cursed by the jealous director of the institute (who thinks that her boyfriend is cheating on her with the young witch) to be a cold-blooded bitch, who doesn't care about anyone. It's up to Ivan and a pair of magic wood masters from the institute to lift the curse.
  • The Jedi Temple from Star Wars, the building where the Jedi Order is based on Coruscant and where Jedi apprentices train as children. Among other things, some of the Force powers they learn include precognition, telekinesis and mind-reading.
  • The unnamed institution in The Cabin in the Woods. Their job is to house hundreds of unspeakable monsters, and use them to kill groups of young people in annual ritualistic sacrifices to ancient gods who, if not appeased, will come back and bring forth the apocalypse. They also have office pools.

    Literature 
  • Miskatonic University from various H.P. Lovecraft Stories. The only institute of higher learning in America that gives a degree in Eldritch Horrors.
  • Diana Wynne Jones's magical university in Dark Lord of Derkholm's sequel, Year of the Griffin.
  • The eponymous hospital in James White's Sector General series, a 384-story structure in outer space that houses such things as humans, giant furry caterpillars, six-legged elephant-things with their symbionts, 60-foot eels, telepathic gestalt intelligences, shapeshifters, superheated and cryonic beings and ones that metabolize hard radiation — to say nothing of the patients — all working together to make it a smashing hospital, though apparently finding suitable seating in the oxygen-nitrogen dining halls is a pain.
  • The 1964 Strugatsky Brothers novel Monday Begins on Saturday is about a young Soviet programmer shanghaied into working at the "Scientific Research Institute of Sorcery and Wizardry," an organization that combined a magical and often logic-defying setting with an insane and equally logic-defying Soviet bureaucracy, which the work hilariously mocked.
  • The Talamasca from the books of Anne Rice is not full of paranormal activity as such, but full of people who study it.
    • Some Talamascans do possess paranormal abilities, the most notable of which being Jesse Reeves, descended from a (very) long line of witches dating back to Ancient Egypt. Her abilities are, pretty much, limited to seeing ghosts and weird dreams.
  • The Jokertown Clinic in Wild Cards is a low-budget hospital for those mutated by the Wild Card virus, as well as the workplace and research center for the only (generally known) extraterrestrial living on Earth.
  • The House of Night, eponymous academy from the awesome books, is a school where vampyres (their spelling, not mine) learn how to behave in society. It also helps students deal with the Change- in this particular mythology, vampyres are not made by biting but as the result of a biochemical change, which, once it has started, either leads to becoming a full-fledged vampyre or dying.
  • Hogwarts may be the most obvious instance of this from the Harry Potter books, but other places inhabited solely by wizards are similar examples: Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, for example.
    • There are other wizarding schools located in this 'verse, most notably the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic (France) and the Durmstrang Institute (Sweden or Norway). The film version of The Goblet of Fire makes it appear that these schools are all-girl and all-boy, respectively, but the books reveal that this is not the case. The Salem Witches Institute, however, may be all-girl.
  • A non-supernatural version in The Melting Season. The performing arts school where the main character Giselle goes used to be a hospital during World War I(or the Civil War) and is filled with crazy people.
  • Codex Alera: The Cursor's academy fits this description. It is a school for teenaged youths in a world where everyone has magic abilities, so between math and history class there are classes on magical theory and actual training to use magic. However, it also happens to be the school for training the empire's messengers and spies, so some classes have final exams like "figure out that your mentor is a traitor to the Crown in time" or "catch a certain thief who has eluded all detection so far".
  • The Higher Institute of Villainous Education in the H.I.V.E. Series is a school for training supervillains.
  • While not being a school in the proper sense, the Wizard Tower in Septimus Heap is the hub of the Castle and of its Magyk system.
  • St Merlin's University from the Mediochre Q Seth Series is a university on the other side of The Masquerade. Subjects include technomancy, dracology and zontanecrology.
  • In Dragon Slayers' Academy, the school for which the series is named.
  • Inverted in the middle grade novel Ordinary Magic, in which everyone has magic and there's a special school for normals.

    Live Action TV 
  • The town of Eureka from the TV series of the same name, where everyone is a Mad Scientist.
  • In Torchwood, the Torchwood hub has a pet pterodactyl, which is probably one of the more mundane fixtures.
  • An episode of That's So Raven has Raven briefly join an institute for teens with various Psychic Powers.
    Student: I'll get it!
    Doorbell sounds.
  • Sanctuary is about a clinic that helps 'abnormals' (mutant humans and cryptids with strange abilities). One of their employees is a Sasquatch, yet he is treated as if he was simply a misunderstood human being.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The GURPS setting Illuminati University, which covers more than just magic. Classes include hysteria and future history, the botany building is a tree, and destruction of any planetary bodies requires written permission from the Arch-Dean (who, according to rumor within the setting, is either a former angel, a former demon, or both). The favorite sport of IOU (you're not cleared to know what the 'O' stands for) is Moopsball, which... well... just look at the rules.

    Theater 
  • The Monsterssori School in Avenue Q, is just a normal public school that happens to have monsters as pupils.

    Video Games 
  • Whispering Rock Summer Camp in Psychonauts
  • The Evil Academy from Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice.
  • Though originally intended as a joint wartime Anglo-American espionage agency, The OSA ended up dealing with armies of undead, Nazi Ubersoldaten, Bilogical weapons, zombies, the Spear of Destiny, an ancient interdimensional amulet and an undead superhuman prince. Oh, Those Wacky Nazis...
  • The otome Visual Novel (P)lanets has a designated high school called the Psychokinesis Learning Academy for New and Exciting Tactical Studies for teenagers with Psychic Powers.
  • Grissom Academy in Mass Effect is a school for biotics and gifted techies (the two "wizard" classes in the game).
  • Pokémon: Sabrina runs a training school for humans with psychic powers in addition to her Gym Leader duties.
  • The Red Wizard Academy in Neverwinter Nights 2 Mask of the Betrayer is a typical boarding school or college... dedicated to studying souls, where the library is a repository of souls, a pair of pit fiends run a business downstairs, and there's an entire wing of the infirmary for soulless patients. The professor who asks the protagonist to devour a soul (it's a long story) in front of the class as a practical demonstration is stated to be typical of the faculty.
  • Saint Pigeonations, the school where Hatoful Boyfriend takes place, turns out to have elements of this. All right, in-universe the fact that all the faculty and the entire student body save one Token Human is composed of sentient birds is completely standard - well, having a human is weird - and it's simply seen as a prestigious high school for gifted birds. Bad Boys Love reveals that much of the student body was specially invited because they have varied unusual skills and abilities, some of which are cultivated. But they are not taught these things. The doctor medicates or operates them into fruition for his own sinister purposes, and sometimes kills the students on the way. Most of them have no idea.
  • The Carrington Institute from Perfect Dark, an N.G.O. Superpower and Spy School that also carries out research on SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) and ends up contacting the Maians, a technologically advanced and friendly alien race.

    Webcomics 
  • The Repository of Dangerous Things from the webcomic of the same name.
  • In Skin Horse, the eponymous tight-budget American nonhuman sapient protection project shares the Annex One building with the Clerk of the Clerk of Clerks, the Department of Jetpack Suppression, the Department of Precambrian Defense, the Feline Trauma Project, the Department of Irradiation, etc.
  • The eponymous boarding school of Gunnerkrigg Court is interesting in that some of the weirdness (Robots in the hallways, monthly holosimulator classes) is out in the open, while other part of it (the Cretan labyrinth off the old library, the secret railway with stops at the giant animal holding cells) is hidden from most students. (Many of whom have supernatural powers or hail from non-human backgrounds.) As if that's not enough, there's also the TicToc birds, whose presence in the Court no one can explain.
    • In other words, Gunnerkrigg Court supports technology and freely uses it, while it tries to deny or at least hide things that it cannot explain with technology. A major theme in Gunnerkrigg Court is the conflict between technology in the court and the unexplainable, etheric magic in the forest beyond the court.
  • Nowhere University has main characters that include a magical girl, a witch, a Jedi, etc., & the teachers come from literary classics. It's sister schools, Somewhere University, Anywhere University & Everywhere University probably qualify as well.
  • Magellan has Magellan Justice Academy on Magellan Island.
  • The Institute Of Metaphysics
  • The titular school of Overlord Academy.
  • A piece of side art in Dubious Company, shows a flashback to Walter in Elementary school. The desks float. The students are all bird people and the professor appears to be teaching wormholes while using a Holographic Terminal and wearing a battle helm. Guess who becomes the Magitek engineer.
  • Roommates and its Spin-Off Girls Next Door have the St. Jude university where most of the cast works or studies (They are all fictional characters from various fandoms)

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Beacon Academy is the most prestigious school for training future Huntsmen and Huntresses, people trained in Aura and advanced weapons skills to protect humanity from the Creatures of Grim. Beacon is next to a monster-filled forest which the Headmaster uses to break in the new students on only their first day in school. If they survive that, they then have to survive Professor Port's class. If his boring speeches don't kill, his habit of releasing caged monsters in the classroom to fight unwary students just might. And that's only Day Two. The headmaster had announced it was going to be an interesting year. He wasn't joking. The kids don't just have fairytale monsters and crazy teachers to worry about; the human villains want to attack the school, too.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

    Truth In Television 
  • Sci-fi, fantasy, anime, and comicbook conventions. Outsiders see a bunch of strange people in strange garb doing strange things, but to people inside the fandom it's all perfectly normal.
    • Ditto for ren faires.
  • The Society for Creative Anachronism.
  • One of the selling points of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is that it is a very strange place. You might be woken up at three a.m. by an explosion, or be heading to class when you spot a large spaceship in the middle of the Infinite Corridor, or see a group of students randomly attacking each other with padded weapons. After the first few months, students apparently become quite blasé about the whole thing.
    • The same or similar can probably be said of any school whose student body consists largely of nerds (ie. Rice, Caltech, etc.)
      • Brown College UVA.
      • The University of Chicago goes as far as to invoke this trope, embracing unashamed expressions of nerdiness. This is helped by how the college's gothic architecture resembles a certain wizard school. One of the best-selling T-shirts in the bookstore says, "I was waitlisted at Hogwarts."
      • Texas A&M University. Large number of nerds + corps of Cadets + the cultures the university tends to draw its students from = large number of strange things that are generally met with apathy.
      • Hollins University, which is an all women's university in Roanoke, Virginia, may qualify. The school has secret organizations, such as Freya (members wear black, hooded robes, remain anonymous in their lifetime, and pass out cookies during finals), as well as traditions such as Ring Night that require junior class volunteers to do silly stunts. Other traditions include things like Tinker Scares, in which the senior class runs through dormitories banging pots and pans yelling that Tinker Day has come. The seniors will perform several of these before Tinker Day actually arrives—during which time classes are canceled, and students and faculty dress up in strange costumes and climb Tinker Mount in Roanoke. It's worth noting that that last tradition dates back to when the university was a seminary institute in the late nineteen century.
      • This can also be said about any school with a large, well established game of Humans vs. Zombies. For students at these schools, discussions of how to avoid zombies on the way to class, people sprinting across the quad shooting Nerf darts at people chasing them, or seeing forty people suddenly siege a dorm are quite normal.
    • This also applies to art schools.
    • Not to speak for all religious schools, but at some universities, the extranormal is more with the students than with how the institute is run. Some of the kids come from extremely sheltered backgrounds, and for them the very prospect of living in the dorm or going to the cafeteria by themselves is terrifying; some of the others are MK (missionary's kids) and come from various jungles, islands, and so forth and find Los Angeles as a whole basically stifling (expect a lot of Does Not Like Shoes). Throw in a few cases of visions or demonic possession, and this place probably qualifies.
  • The military tends to get like this sometimes, having its own distinct culture which can be quite baffling to outsiders (expect tons of swearing and impenetrable jargon, especially Fun with Acronyms). Also, consider that their training consists of learning how to operate deadly weapons like machine guns, grenade launchers, and tanks. Learning how to kill people and blow stuff up are quite typical activities for them.
  • Since the Adelaide Fringe often tends to involve some type of light related street art, pity the tourist who walks down North Terrace and forgets that the Fringe is on.
  • Any functioning studio facility, creature shop, props workshop or film school tends to be a bit like this trope — even when there's not a sci-fi or fantasy project in production.
  • The Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Well, all of San Francisco, but the Haight just comes to mind. Yes, that is a naked man wearing a cowboy hat standing on the street corner; no, no one cares. Especially egregious when the Pride Parade hits town. In fact, a lot of big cities across the world would qualify as an Extranormal Institute.
    • This trope goes back to the 1960s, when Haight-Ashbury was the center of the hippie movement and the Summer of Love, which largely meant being self-sufficient, listening to avant-garde music and dropping acid a lot.


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