Poor Alice. She's lost her grip on sanity. She's stark raving mad. What she needs to get well is a sleek modern psychiatric facility with freshly washed sheets, bright, cheery paint, kind nurses, and friendly doctors.
But what she'll get is Bedlam House, a dark, dank insane asylum straight out of the mid-18th to 19th century, staffed by Mad Doctors and Psycho Psychologists. Lobotomies 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; 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.
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. Seriously.
Bethlem Royal is still active, albeit having undergone multiple relocations, and is now, according to The Other Wiki, "at the forefront of humane psychiatric treatment".
A case of Truth in Television, as some "mental patients"' real problem is chronic failure to conform to the relatively lax social norms of the outside world. The rules of an asylum naturally tend to accentuate that particular character trait, leading to a predictable escalation. Compare Hellhole Prison for the kind applied to regular criminals. This can be a Justified Trope when the work in question is actually set in the 18th-19th century period where such madhouses were common.
- The Alien comics that the Aliens (Steve Perry Trilogy) novels were based on saw Newt — and by extension of the reedited versions and said novels, Billie, after Alien≥ made her being Newt impossible — being committed to one of these after she got to Earth, with the doctors trying to gaslight her into thinking what happened was a delusion, and dealing with perverted orderlies. She was also planned to get a lobotomy until Hicks/Wikes broke her out.
- Batman's Arkham Asylum. Whenever shown, it is a dark, dank, brick facility run by burly nurses and Mad Doctors. Evidently, whoever's funding the place is more concerned with keeping the inmates in than making them sane... And they can't even do that, either. That said 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. Even so, Blackgate Penitentiary isn't any more secure or safe.
- 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. Likewise, in The Sandman (1989), 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, which is rather appropriate considering the name is taken from Lovecraft's writings. 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, and he thought that he could cure the killer. When the killer seems cured but kills his secretary in front of his eyes and then pleads for pity, Arkham decides that only discipline works against the "filth", which 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-shocking 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 that he will come out that way. 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.
- 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.
- At one point, 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.
- Arkham Asylum is so bad that at times Batman's veteran rogues have been running an Academy of Evil for less experienced inmates out of it For the Evulz. Jeremiah Arkham himself described it as "The Ivy League of Insanity". During her Start of Darkness, Batgirl's enemy Knightfall went so far as to get herself committed to Arkham on purpose so she could learn how to be a supervillain and D-lister Condiment King is said to have upped his game after Poison Ivy taught him about how to turn plants used in condiments into poisons.
- Following the destruction of Arkham Asylum (again) in Infinite Frontier #0, Arkham Tower, constructed in the wake of Fear State, is very specifically defined as Not This, being a modern health facility with an excellent recovery rate. It immediately proved to have a dark secret, but once that was taken care of, the new management is still determined to destigmatise mental health while also doing their best to deal with, well, Gotham. Time will tell how long this lasts.
- 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.
- Turns out he wasn't technically even released. A Mafia don bribed the doctors to let him out because of John's alleged magical skills. Morals!
- Ravencroft in the Marvel Universe which somehow seems to feature mostly crazed Spidey villains. It was originally staffed by Dr. Ashley Kafka with Colonel John Jameson (son of the Daily Bugle publisher) heading security, and they were somewhat competent folks who actually managed to cure a few patients, including Vermin. (A victim of Baron Zemo's gene-splicing technology, Vermin was a rat-like cannibal and originally deemed a hopeless case; Kafka managed to cure him completely.) Unfortunately, both were fired due to some rash decisions by Kafka (she trusted the Chameleon too much in her efforts to help him) and the place only went downhill from there.
- Ruins of Ravencroft shows that Ravencroft Asylum is built on land that the natives of the New York region considered cursed because it was inhabited for centuries by a tribe of violent cannibals who worshiped the omnicidal God of Evil Knull, who are directly responsible for the Kassady family's history of violence and mental illness by infecting Carnage's ancestor with Knull's essence. The end shows a second facility under the Asylum and implies that inhumane experiments were done there, which is confirmed in the following issue, by Mister Sinister, not only on humans but on all manner of aliens, mutants and fantastic beasts up to and including a lobotomized Wolverine. It further states that after Knull's cult moved on, the land was the sight of a bloody battle during the Revolutionary War, of a Cult of Shuma-Gorath summoning their God, the birth of a Ghost Rider(specifically THE Headless Horseman), the site of a Skrull invasion, and that construction was interrupted by someone being told to murder the Foreman by Mephisto. Finally, after Sinister went to Germany, Weapon Plus moved in and were openly experimenting on the patients in a collaboration with Dracula to make vampires wit no weaknesses with them using the holding cells in sinister's lab to hold the "Unwanted," hideously deformed and feral mutant vampires made from the patients. The Founder of Ravencroft eventually turned them all loose to kill the Weapon Plus operatives, then shot himself out of guilt for letting it happen. It's almost like Marvel is trying to win an award for most horror cliches in one location.
- Marvel's eighth Moon Knight series opens with a Cuckoo Nest plot in which Marc Spector is seemingly locked in Mercy Hospital for the Mentally Ill with sadistic guards gleefully giving him electroshock therapy, despite knowing perfectly well "hospitals like this don't even exist any more!"
- 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.)
- The Invader Zim fic Asylum of Doom features the Burke Lunatic Asylum. It's abandoned by the present, but Dib describes it as having been like this when it was operational — patients were beaten and drugged into submission, given ice baths, regularly electroshocked as "treatment", and in extreme cases lobotomized. The main plot features Gaz having to live through this after she ends up in the asylum's past as a patient, either as a concussion-induced nightmare or a vision granted by ghosts.
- The 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.
- In Bird, we have Alchemilla Asylum, a shoutout to Silent Hill, but its depiction is largely that of an institution trying to do its best and running into the ever-present issues of staffing and funding, therapy groups and psychologists are present and well-meaning, and most of the inmates are decent people in a bad situation. On the other hand... the lower levels are used as a prison for various superpowered nightmares and creations.
- By the Sea: In keeping with the mundane, American-ish late 1940s setting, Obi-Wan fears that he'll be hauled away to an asylum if anyone finds out about his attraction to men, and specifically cites electroshock therapy. This, combined with his severe PTSD, is what keeps him living so isolated away from people.
- Cornwall Heights Hospital from The Doctor Will See You Now was formerly one but has since been abandoned. Chris takes the contestants there for a challenge and they discover things far worse than they were expecting.
- Gensokyo 20XX:
- Subverted and discussed in 20XXII. It's not really this, but Yukari and Kaguya tend to view where they are imprisoned this way (as the purpose is to drive them insane as a means of control), and they both fear lobotomies, which makes sense as that warden apparently 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 are another subversion, in that she does note that the staff are rather kind and do help her make progress in readjusting, which seems to be a good place to be. Given the setting in 20XXV, Amoridere states 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.
- My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic: If the one that Ace Ray is checked into is any indication, Starfleet asylums essentially serve as glorified solitary confinement, as their "treatment" of his condition boils down to strapping him into a straitjacket and repeatedly sedating him when he gets too distressed (which, as you can imagine, doesn't help a bit) in the rewrite, or just straight-up forcibly probing his memories in the original. Starfleet also has interesting priorities as to what kind of ponies they put in one of their asylums, as Ace was thrown in for badmouthing Starfleet (and assaulting his sister that one time, but the writing heavily suggests that it's mostly the former) while hospitalizing the pony Mykan Stevens, who by all rights is a legitimate raving lunatic, never gets brought up once.
- John Gage ends up in a borderline one of these in the Emergency! fanfic The Patient. He checks himself in voluntarily 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.
- The institution in A Snowflake In Spring is implied to be this or that they definitely hire some unfavorable staff with Dr. Kotsabi being implied to have been involved with Unit 731 (yes, you've read that correctly)] and there's the business with Level 4. Adding to this, the reason for Elsa's mutism because she was lobotomized to keep her silent about what went on in Level 4.
- Subverted in The Stalking Zuko Series. While the Fire Nation has a Victorian-Era level understanding of mental health, the asylum that Azula gets committed to treats her the best they can and hopes for her recovery.
- In the sexually explicit Dark Fic The Witch with No Name, the plot of the Ben 10 episode "A Change of Face" is deconstructed. Not only is Gwen's continual insistence of being trapped in Charmcaster's body completely disbelieved by all the staff and residents of the juvenile penitentiary, but the head guard has utter contempt for Charmcaster due to her mother being severely injured by one of Charmcaster's previous attacks. Gwen is forced to undergo continuous physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at the hands of the other residents, and to top it all off is prescribed anti-psychotic drugs that will help to bury the "Gwen" in Charmcaster's head, effectively leaving her an Empty Shell.
- The unnamed psychiatric ward in To The Night Sky, in which the nurses treat patients as toddlers throwing tanthrums even when they are begging for no more painful drugs, ice baths or sojourns in a padded cell wearing a straitjacket. It's justified on two levels, the first being that the doctor managing the ward has kidnapped the patients and wants to break them into compliant puppets, the second being that Amestris operates at a rather less enlightened understanding of mental health courtesy of the setting being in the 1910s.
- In Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Gaston's last attempt to force Belle to marry him involves bribing Monsieur D'Arque, the manager of the local asylum, to incarcerate her father there, even though 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.
- A downplayed case in DC Showcase: Death as the film first shows the focus character as an adult getting fired from painting the gates at Arkham Asylum, but outside of the man thinking he should be glad he was fired given it's Arkham, it's not really in focus.
- 12 Monkeys: Railley 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, but in a way it is justified: to the staff, he's a lunatic who incoherently talks about time travel, plus he's incredibly strong and very resistant to drugs, so they had to restrain him in some way. The rest of the hospital appears a lot more humane than most fictional examples.
- 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.
- In An Angel at My Table, Janet Frame is sent to different mental institutions during the late 1940s/early 1950s where she is misdiagnosed as a schizophrenic. As a patient, she is routinely given electroshock treatments and narrowly avoids undergoing a lobotomy.
- Asylum: Dunsmoor Asylum is not a very cheerful place, and Dr. Martin objects strenuously to the manner in which Dr. Rutherford is treating his patients. Additionally, some of the staff seem to be insane.
- Averted in Asylum Breakout, as the facility is actually very clean and the inmates are treated like sick human beings.
- As in the comics, Arkham Asylum doesn't escape this in Batman films:
- While not seen much in Batman Forever, Batman & Robin does show the asylum in its dark glory with darkened halls, and guards who'll taunt and mock inmates (like Freeze once he gets there) and be lecherous (as the aforementioned guards watching Freeze try to hit on Poison Ivy). The novelization adds to this, revealing that Freeze had bribed the guards to get into Ivy's cell so he could kill her for almost killing his wife.
- Batman Begins shows that Dr. Jonathan Crane runs the asylum, using it as his personal lab and the inmates as the test subjects for his fear toxin. However, as the film is intended to be a more realistic depiction of the Batman franchise, Arkham is portrayed as a modern, clean, spacious, and well-lit facility rather than gloomy and gothic, giving more of a Daylight Horror effect.
- It is shaping up to be this in the DC Extended Universe. In the Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, in the scene where Bruce confronts Luthor, Luthor has a smug look on his face when he taunts Bruce with knowledge of his secret identity, and that he was declared insane and thus wouldn't stand trial for blowing up the Capitol Building and creating Doomsday (thus supposedly killing Superman)... which promptly vanishes the second Bruce reveals that he's arranged for Luthor to be transferred to Arkham. It appears briefly in Suicide Squad as part of a montage dealing with Harley Quinn's past and true to form, it is a gothic mansion with darkened halls. And also true to form, its security is shit, as said flashback sees the Joker's goons lay siege to the place to spring him, and The Stinger to Justice League (2017) and Zack Snyder's Justice League sees Luthor escape and leave behind another inmate as a stand-in and a guard realize this after it's too late.
- Joker (2019) sees Arthur Fleck, the film's Joker, go there, including riding an elevator with a restrained patient acting up and sent there at the end, where Arthur kills his doctor.
- Bedlam is a fictionalized account of the atrocities that occurred at the infamous Bethlehem Royal Hospital for the mentally ill. However, unlike other examples of this trope, the faults of the place lie strictly with the guy running it; the patients are cowed victims who can be reasoned with, and the facility sounds nice once the protagonist starts working to get the patients beds and such.
- By Hook or By Crook: Val was institutionalized in what he sarcastically describes as a "very nice place in the country" as a child, as a form of conversion therapy for his gender identity. After a run-in with the police, he is institutionalized again. He is forcibly restrained and sedated. The building is run-down, patients mill about aimlessly, seemingly sedated or out of touch with reality, and there are messages written on the walls in blood.
- In Changeling, which takes place in the 1920s and is inspired by actual events, Christine 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.)
- Cradle of Fear: Fenham Asylum, where Serial Killer Kemper is being held, looks more like something out of the 19th C. than a modern 21st C. mental health facility: even a maximum security one.
- Dancing In The Dark: Confirming the Truth in Television of this trope, this movie is based on the true story of a woman who is committed to an abusive mental hospital because nobody believed her when she reported being sexually assaulted.
- In Dead Again, Mike initially doesn't want to get involved with the amnesiac woman's problems, and tries to fob her off on the city's mental hospital. The place is full of extreme insanity cases and the staff is clearly either apathetic or overburdened, and he can't bring himself to leave her there.
- 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.
- Grave Encounters centers around a reality TV crew locked in an allegedly haunted insane asylum. It ends badly.
- Although oddly, despite the asylum's macabre history, it looks like a regular building from the outside, which adds to the surreal horror.
- The 1996 Hallmark version of Gullivers Travels is partially set at the very facility of Bethlem itself, with the requisite display of lunatic patients.
- 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.
- Heaven Knows What: The opening credits take place in a psych ward where the main character has landed after attempting suicide. A lengthy tracking shot reveals many patients freaking out as staff struggle to contain them. After fleeing her hostile roommate, Harley moves to the common area, where she's quickly accosted and physically attacked by a sneering "psych ward bully."
- 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 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.
- 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.
- The Initiation: The little that is shown of the sanitarium where Jason Randall is housed show it to be fairly nightmarish.
- Instinct: The psych ward where Powell is held isn't a nice place. Patients are overmedicated and routinely pitted against each other by a sadistic guard who brutalizes them at any opportunity, all for the authorities maintaining control. Dr. John Murray, who Theo Caulder comes to assist, says this was even worse before he took over.
- The mental hospital in The Jacket is full of sadists.
- In Mermaid Down, the Beyer Psychiatric Facility for Women looks from the outside like a pleasant suburban house. On the inside, the patients are subjected to abuse from the sadistic Dr. Beyer that includes Electric Torture, punishment boxes inside a highly unsafe Creepy Basement, rough treatment by orderlies even when they weren't resisting, and the windows being boarded up because they abused their window privileges by making an escape attempt. And that's before they find out that Dr. Beyer is a serial killer.
- In Murder by Decree, to keep her out of the way, the conspirators have Annie Crook confined to a barbaric asylum far out in the country. Even the normally stoic Holmes sheds Manly Tears on seeing her plight.
- 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 hospital in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is something of a Bedlam House, especially considering the menacing figure of Nurse Ratched.
- 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.
- 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.
- The asylum in Shock Corridor is depicted that way, witch electroshock treatment and straight jackets and murdering wardens.
- 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.
- Stairway to Light features an 18th-century insane asylum that is actually a prison, with mental patients chained to the walls of cells, sprayed with water hoses for discipline, left to rot for decades. Reformist director Phillipe Pinel seeks to help the inmates by letting them out of their chains.
- 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.
- Sucker Punch takes place in an asylum de facto run by an especially crooked orderly, with the main characters plotting to escape the place before protagonist Baby Doll's lobotomist arrives. In a subversion, the head psychiatrist tried to treat Baby Doll, but she didn't have enough time before the surgery date while the lobotomist questions the effectiveness of lobotomies in general, viewing it as flawed and ineffectual, especially considering his latest patient wasn't in need of a lobotomy. When he points out she ordered the surgery, she realises her signature was forged and uncovers the corruption.
- 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..
- 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.
- Unsane features a more modern example of this trope, with the protagonist getting institutionalized at a crooked hospital that makes up excuses to keep patients there in order to make money off of their health insurance.
- 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.
- In The Wolfman (2010), Lawrence 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, repeatedly, 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 White Trash Warlock, A teenage Adam is sent to a mental institution by his mother and older brother because of his ability to see/hear magic. Not only is the Liberty House mental institution a terrible place in general (with abusive orderlies, a heavy reliance on sedating patients, and generally abysmal living conditions, Adam's magic is empathic in nature, meaning he was essentailly being tortured by the mental anguish of the patients around him.
- Ash (2012): In its dungeons, expensive secret retreat Comraich Castle keeps several violently insane inmates - one of whom, the bodily and mentally disabled daughter of Unity Mitford and Adolf Hitler, after years of tests, is kept in horrifically unsanitary isolation.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- In Diary of a Madman the eponymous madman Poprishchin eventually winds up in one.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the sequel, Dragon Blood, Ward is taken to the asylum and falls into the hands of a wizardly Mad Scientist. Things don't go well from there.
- The early chapters of Earthquake Weather by Tim Powers are set in a mental institution that maintains an outward appearance of being a modern, progressive facility but really fits this trope.
- Elemental Masters series:
- Defied and Invoked in The Gates of Sleep. Physician and Earth Master Andrew Pike tries to help 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.
- Also invoked in Phoenix and Ashes. Allison intends to have her orphaned step-daughter Eleanor locked up in an asylum like this in order to get control of her fortune.
- In Doris Lessing's The Fifth Child the protagonists have the title character shipped off to an unnamed institution once he becomes impossible for them to care for at home. The wife, suspecting something is wrong, eventually goes to the institution to retrieve him only to discover that it is a horrific place where grotesquely deformed children are abandoned. The staff freely admit that they have no treatment plan of any kind, and essentially just keep the patients tranquilized until the drugs finally kill them.
- 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 an 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.
- 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.
- The Girl Who Drank the Moon has the Tower at the center of the Protectorate, where anyone judged to have a mental illness (such as defying the Council of Elders) is held in solitary confinement. No mention is made of treatment or release.
- Journey to Chaos has an inversion with the Trickster's Shelter in Dnnac Ledo. It houses all the local elves who have gone insane due to immortality or traumatic experiences and it is run by a grandmotherly Apron Matron. She treats them as gently as porcelain and screens visitors to make sure their fragile states are not disturbed.
- The Funny Farm (St Hilda of Grantham's Home for Distressed Waifs and Strays) in Charles Stross's The Laundry Files short story "Down On The Farm", has elements of the trope, although the truth is far more bizarre, and possibly even more sinister.
- Arkham Asylum was named after H. P. Lovecraft's fictional Massachusetts town, whose Arkham Sanitariumnote is a popular destination for his less-fortunate characters. It makes 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 Millennium Series — 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 Behavior into serious mental disability through psychological torture.
- 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, who 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.
- 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.
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is set in one of these, which maintains an outward appearance of being a modern, progressive facility.
- In The Pale King, Meredith spends her 18th birthday in one after getting caught cutting.
- 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.
- Bethlem Royal, the original Bedlam, features prominently in the Matthew Hawkwood novel Resurrectionist in all its hellish glory. The place creeps Hawkwood out.
- The Stormlight Archive: Downplayed. Psychiatric care is still in its infancy; while sanitariums are not actively abusive, it is clear that the caretakers have no idea what they are doing. First off, they assume that curing any mental disorder is impossible, so it's best to just keep the patients safe. Second, they treat all disorders exactly the same—in particular, they believe that too much stimulation is dangerous for the patient, so they just put them somewhere dark and quiet where they can't talk to each other, as traditional wisdom is that insanity feeds on itself, so the patients will make each other worse. In Rhythm of War, Kaladin starts a revolution in psychiatric care pretty much just by saying "let's let these depressed people spend time in the sun and talk about their problems."
- In the penny dreadful that began Sweeney Todd's legend, The String of Pearls, Fogg's Asylum is just as horrendous as the musical, only it's Tobias Ragg that gets sent there by Sweeney himself.
- In A Study in Emerald, the madhouses-as-entertainment is taken even further by a visiting prince of royal blood, who apparently gets the same entertainment from Mind Rape as visiting London's brothels. Oh yes, "royalty" here means "related to the Eldritch Abominations who rule the world".
- 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.
- Accidentally being locked in one of these for a while leads to Mayor Poynt's Pet the Dog moment in Welkin Weasels.
- An early two-parter on Alias, "Reckoning"/"Color Blind", sends Sydney to one such asylum in Romania (read: Ruritania). It turns out to be run by an agent for recurring nemesis K-Directorate, and she ends up under interrogation with shock therapy as Electric Torture.
- 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, there's a horde of shambling mutants running around the grounds, 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... and after being taken over by the state it somehow gets even worse.
- The eponymous house in Bedlam, although it's being turned into luxury apartments.
- Doctor Who:
- "The Shakespeare Code" features the historical Bethlem Royal Hospital ó or Bedlam. The trope is also discussed and justified by one of the locals:
William Shakespeare: I went mad once. Fear of this place set me right again. It serves its purpose.
- "Asylum of the Daleks" takes place on a planet containing automated systems to care for Daleks so violent even other Daleks fear them. Thanks to one genius human/Dalek, the place has been reduced to a miserable wreck.
- "The Shakespeare Code" features the historical Bethlem Royal Hospital ó or Bedlam. The trope is also discussed and justified by one of the locals:
- Flashbacks in Forever show that, after gaining Resurrective Immortality 200 years ago, Henry Morgan returned home and told his wife, who naturally didn't believe him. When he tried to prove it via suicide, he was prevented and sent to an asylum, implied to be Bedlam itself. The penny tours are seen once, with a guide commenting on Henry's sad situation as a once-respected member of society now fallen to madness. Henry eventually escaped by killing himself, which caused him to regenerate in a large body of water outside the grounds.
- A French Village: Hortense, after developing a paranoid disorder, is sent to a psychiatric hospital where she's "treated" with hot baths, electroconvulsive therapy, drugs and restraints that do nothing except exacerbate her condition (as now she's sensibly afraid of what the staff will do). This is very realistic, unfortunately, for the 1940s. Even worse, many patients are being left to die in a building they call "Purgatory" because with food shortages they can't all be fed.
- 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 ("Frère Jacques") against the influence of her psychotic doctor's ghost.
- The Gifted (2017): The mental institution where many mutants were held, drugged, restrained, and in shock collars. It was used instead of prison, with them often being given false diagnoses (one psychiatrist there hated this, but the rest went along with it). It's stated there are many used this way.
- 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 in New Jersey. Greystone is still around, but has been extensively renovated (the actual building in the episode has since been demolished) and keeps up with modern treatment techniques.
- Frank Reynolds of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia states that as a child he was put into a "nitwit school" due to being seen as having "donkey brains". According to him, the experience was deeply traumatizing and his descriptions of it are so outrageously horrifying (including psychiatrists using giant butterfly nets to wrangle patients) that Dee asks if the place was a cartoon.
- 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, doesnít like being institutionalized there, is described by a doctor as the most disruptive patient, and he makes an escape with a few other patients.
- 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 heatstroke was a scam run by a man providing bare minimum care while padding his own pockets with rest of the government's funds.
- A student who rapes his teacher is sent to a facility. The attendants routinely rape the residents and the residents rape each other.
- Logan's Run: In "Fear Factor", Logan, Jessica, and Rem discover an insane asylum that has been operating continuously since before the nuclear holocaust in 2119. It is run by the Mad Scientist Dr. Rowan, who subjects the inmates to extremely invasive mind probes in order to rid them of all emotions. His goal is to create an emotionless army that will follow him unquestionably.
- MacGyver (1985): In "A Prisoner of Conscience", Mac fakes insanity so he can infiltrate a Russian mental hospital to break out a political dissident.
- The Method has the protagonists visit one every once in a while — it mostly looks run-down, due to being underfunded, as the staff struggles to provide the best care possible with limited funding. The sad truth is that not only one of the leads a prime candidate for being put there permanently because of his violent tendencies and hallucinations, several of his former arrests ended in people having been put there, which he regards as My Greatest Failure.
- The knife is twisted further when his apprentice goes undercover as a patient to wait out the return of an ambulatory patient they suspect. She manages to endure it only for two days.
- 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 "incurable" wing of Toronto Asylum in the Murdoch Mysteries episode "The Incurables", although by the end of the episode Awesome Shrink Julia Ogden is determined to do something about this.
- 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. Later Sidney ends up there, again in case Regina finds a use for him in the future.
- In the Season 6 finale, the Black Fairy's new version of the Dark Curse sticks Emma in the asylum, with everyone (including Emma herself) given altered memories to think that she suffers from dangerous delusions.
- Alice is sent to a terrible Victorian asylum in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland; White Rabbit and the Knave of Hearts manage to break her out right before she's scheduled to receive a lobotomy.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Dagger of the Mind," the Enterprise visits a mental hospital run by one Dr. Adams. Kirk insists that the place is humane, unlike those horrible asylums of the olden days, but Bones is skeptical. Turns out Bones is right, and Adams is a Mad Scientist.
- Supernatural: In the Season 5 episode "Sam Interrupted", 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 Torchwood episode "Adrift" has one of these for victims of the Rift who were brought back to Earth but can't be returned to their families because they were too traumatised or physically altered, 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.
- 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
No locked doors, no windows barred
No things to make my brain seem scarred
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?
- Napoleon XIV's novelty hit "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha Ha!":
[chorus]: They're coming to take me away, ha haaa,
They're coming to take me away, ha ha, hee hee, ho ho,
To the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time,
And I'll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats
And they're coming to take me away...
To the happy home with trees and flowers and chirping birds
And basket weavers who sit and smile and twiddle their thumbs and toes
And they're coming to take me away, ha haaa...! [fade out]
- 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 a 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 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:
In a place where long lost souls are led astray
A penny is a cheap price to pay
We play those poke'em in the nostril games all day
- 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."
- Ozzy Osbourne: Patient Number Nine is sung from the perspective of someone who's been locked in a sanitarium. They're convinced they're sane and being held and tortured by sadistic staff.
- The Big Finish Doctor Who audio Minuet in Hell has the Doctor locked in an apparently modern facility (the Brigham Elijah Dashwood Laboratory for Alternative Mentalities) whose acronym is no coincidence.
- 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
- As in Lovecraft's original source material, some pretty dodgy stuff is liable to go on in Call of Cthulhu's insane asylums.
- 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 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."
- 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.
- 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 therapeutic care and defenses against the nightmare-inducing entities that plague its patients to a Bedlam House.
- Providence Asylum in Freedom City is obviously named as a riff on Arkham, but how much it fits the trope is left to the GM; the book gives some examples of how it could have dark secrets its past and staff that are more disturbed than the patients, but if you want to run it as a modern mental health facility trying its best, that works too.
- In the Broadway musical version of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Monsieur D'Arque joins Gaston and Le Fou in a song about their scheme to lock up Maurice in order to get Belle to marry Gaston. Judging by the lyrics, the Maison des Lunes is a very unpleasant place indeed.
- 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....
- Marat/Sade is set at the insane asylum of Charenton, where the inmates perform a play about the murder of Jean-Paul Marat under the direction of the Marquis De Sade.
- 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 after she is sent there by Judge Turpin for wanting to marry Anthony instead of him.
- One of the punishments for Prideful souls in Afterlife (1996) is to be locked up in the Looney Bin, a decrepit insane asylum "combining the savage prison politics of San Quentin Scareantino with the humiliating patronizing of St. Elscare".
If you're not crazy when you get there... wait a few weeks.
- 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.
- It is not a good thing to be sent to Danvers Asylum in the titular town of Anchorhead. But you get there all the same...
- Referenced in episode one of Back to the Future: The Game:
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 1930s insane asylum!
- 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.
- Batman: Arkham Series:
- Arkham Asylum acts as 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 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.
- 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.
- Batman: The Telltale Series: The first game revolves around Arkham and Bruce's attempt to demolish it in favor of a modern mental health facility. It's revealed early on that his father would use his status as a doctor to falsely diagnose his rivals and have them institutionalized there, ruining Bruce's reputation by association. At the end of the game, the demolishment plan is cancelled with the final choice being to either financially support the Gotham PD in the face of rising supervillainy or renovate Arkham to improve its quality of care.
- 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 '80s.
- In Bully, the town of Bullworth has one of these, called "Happy Volts Asylum".
- Call of Duty: World at War:
- 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 justified.
- 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!"
- In the Casebook Trilogy the apartments from the second case used to be one until it was changed into an apartment building. Burton comments that the mental stability of the residents haven't changed and he's right, especially since a Serial Killer lives there.
- 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.
- The video game Countdown opens with your character waking up in a Turkish mental hospital with total amnesia. You shortly realize you've been accused of murdering your boss and have been scheduled for a lobotomy in the morning.
- Criminal Case
- The second half of the Grim Chapel district in Criminal Case: Mysteries of the Past focuses on investigating Gryphon Sanctuary, a mental asylum where lobotomies and electroshock therapy are common and completely sane people are being hospitalized by the corrupt Rochester family.
- Criminal Case: Supernatural Investigations takes the Supernatural Hunters to Blackmoor Asylum during Case 9, a decrepit mental hospital run by the sadistic Dr Lucrezia Stein who has been performing inhumane experiments for years on her patients. Fortunately, she is already dead by the time everyone arrives, killed by one of her very own experiments, and the rest of the case focuses on finding her killer among the staff and demented patients of the hospital.
- The Sanitarium in Darkest Dungeon certainly looks like one of these, and evokes an appropriate reaction from any hero sent there, but it's an Inverted Trope: it turns out that the Sanitarium an extremely effective and efficient method of curing various mental afflictions and negative quirks (or reinforcing positive ones) and wiping out diseases in your heroes, provided you're willing to shell out the coin needed to pay for their powerful experimental techniques. With the Crimson Court DLC installed, they can eventually even cure vampirism!
- Implied in Daylight, as the hospital's heyday was in the late 19th century to early 20th century. However, the notes portray the overall running of the hospital as generally orderly with the staff trying to do the best they could, despite a level of monetary-driven corruption by the management and recurring disturbing paranormal events. The management of the attached prison next door, on the other hand, was an entirely different matter, with prisoners being tortured to obtained confessions, in order to justify keeping them there.
- 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.
- Dungeons & Dragons Online features a quest called "The Sane Asylum," where the orderlies want to eat your brains, and the place is run by "Nurse Ratchet" in a blatant Shout-Out to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Justified Trope, as the place has been taken over by Xoriat, the plane of Madness.
- 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. Long before the demons invade, though, patients are hideously mistreated. The walls are filthy, neglect is rampant and the guards beat patients. It's almost a relief when the monsters invade.
- Averted in the strangest of ways in Fallen London: The Royal Bethlehem hotel is actually a 5-star hotel with fees only the wealthiest can ever hope to afford. But the owner's got quite an interest in The Mentally Disturbed, and so he waives their fees, allowing them to stay in unparalleled luxury. Many of them come back to (relative) sanity from their wonderful stay. It does have certain elements of creepiness in the fact the owner will patiently wait at the side of your bed in the night if you're having horrific nightmares that risk driving you insane until he can finally deem you to be worthy of his hotel (AKA you've gone off the deep end), at which point he kidnaps your screaming, gibbering self and gives you your new room until you're out of your "state of some confusion".
- The Parsons State Insane Asylum in the Cabot questline of Fallout 4. Depicted as a large gothic mansion, the purpose of the asylum — at least in part — is to hold Lorenzo Cabot, Jack Cabot's father who has been driven insane by an artifact he retrieved from somewhere in the Middle East in 1894. The grounds of the asylum feature wheelchairs and the skeletons of those who died when the bombs dropped, implying that the asylum may have been more kind to its residents than most depicted in fiction. However, the basement of the asylum features the cells of many of the residents of the asylum (some still containing the skeletons or ghoulified residents), as well as intentionally creepy scenes set up in various cells. The asylum itself is based on the real-life Danvers State Insane Asylum, and is a reference to H.P. Lovecraft (in whose works Danvers appears, as well as the Arkham Sanitorium) as well as an homage to Arkham Asylum (a terminal makes references to Nightman, a lady dressed all in black leather, and a 10-year-old murderer who won't stop laughing.
- Grand Theft Auto 2: The asylum in Sunnyside has literally been taken over by the inmates.
- In his Quest for Identity, the protagonist of Hitman: Contracts, 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.
- Both games in the Manhunt series have a level devoted to these. Heck, asylums are the source of many of the characters you encounter.
- The original has the Darkwoods Penitentiary, which has been vacated of any correctional personal, and is in control of the former inmates, a gang known as the "Smileys". Sound like nice guys, right? Problem is, they have absolutely no grip on reality, and they're all out to kill the player. It's telling, that in a game featuring neo-Nazis, Rambo imposters, and Ax-Crazy, Always Chaotic Evil, Satan Worshiping Latino gangsters, the Smileys are the gang Lionel Starkweather chooses for Cash's final "scene"
- The second has one at the start: Dixmor Asylum. Daniel had been cooped up in it so long that he can't remember his past, but a convenient lightning-induced power malfunction lets most of the inmates loose, allowing Danny to escape while the Asylum Orderlies and Dixmor Inmates beat each other up.
- In Address Unknown, a Show Within a Show in Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, 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.
- MediEvil has The Asylum, which is filled with cackling madmen in strait-jackets who want to headbutt you to death.
- Missing Stars: Saint Dymphna's Privatgymnasium is not one of these. It's a friendly and modern secondary school aimed to help teenagers with mental health issues. It is, however, an old campus dating back to the mid-1800s and it still has some equipment from a few decades ago. Irene lets it slip that there are still old therapy rooms where they "still have all the cool, antique heavy-duty leather restraints and mental dentist chairs 'an stuff". The equipment sounds worse than they actually are. The image doesn't help ease New Transfer Student Erik's tensions, neither does the slip that they still use the equipment in worst-case situations.
- Murdered: Soul Suspect features the Lux Aeterna Mental Hospital, where Electroshock Therapy is still in use. Its past is even more sinister than that.
- Mystery Case Files:
- Escape from Ravenhearst features a reconstruction of the asylum Charles Dalimar was locked up in, including an electroshock therapy room.
- Ravenhearst Unlocked, one of the following games in the series, features the asylum that once housed Charles's father, Alister. The Master Detective wakes from a near-drowning to find herself trapped there, specifically Alister's cell and at the mercy of his psychotic granddaughter, Gwendolyn.
- The aptly named "Insanity" segment of Neverending Nightmares takes place in a decrepit insane asylum. Blood cakes the walls (including piles of severed limbs lying about), pharmaceuticals such as "purified lead tablets" and "cocaine extract in alcohol" have been left lying around, and the place is generally in a state of abysmal disrepair. The only other inmates are bound in straitjackets, have had their eyes sew shut, and have apparently been abused to the point that they will rip Thomas's throat out if he gets too close or they hear him walking around.
- The blasted plains of Stygia in Nexus Clash are littered with Dark Sanitariums that are either this trope played straight or just an empty hollow shell that eats hope. Fortunately, by the time the player characters arrive on the scene they're usually abandoned save for hints of what once happened there. Stygia's angelic rivals also had an unhealthy understanding of mental illness but used a different strategy.
- 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 that resembles torture devices walking around the older parts of the asylum. The asylum was abandoned but reopened in modern times by Murkoff 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.
- 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.
- The town's insane asylum/prison in Pathologic carries the darkly humorous name of "The Apiary".
- 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.
- Phantasmagoria 2 has Greenwood Psychiatric, which Curtis Craig was admitted to before the game began. From flashbacks during the game, Curtis was strapped to a wheelchair and simply left there in a room full of other cuckoo patients, and the nurse in charge refuses to help Curtis. The place is also run by the twisted Dr. Terrence Marek, who took pleasure in "punishing" Curtis, and was in cahoots with Curtis' boss, Paul Warner, by providing him with his own live patients to be used in his shady research. Naturally, when Curtis starts experiencing weird phenomena during the game, he is adamant about not going back to such an asylum ever again.
- Thorney Towers Home for the Disturbed, the Abandoned Asylum in Psychonauts. The inmates only stay because they haven't been told they can leave. It gets worse as soon as you get to the upper floors, when it starts going all M.C. Escher on you and throwing around those rats...
- 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.
- Second Sight eventually leads the protagonist to Penfold Asylum, a crumbling Gothic mental hospital where Jayne Wilde is being held. Interestingly enough, the in-game files acknowledge the fact that the Asylum is woefully outdated for its time, and suggest that this is the very reason why Jayne was sent here in the first place.
- The asylum in which the protagonist was held, however, was a much more modern-looking facility.
- One of the dungeons in the original Shadow Hearts 1 game is the very creepy Calios Mental Hospital.
- Mentioned in Shadowrun Returns: Hong Kong. Racter was placed in a Russian mental hospital during his teenage years due to 'personality issues' (he's a sociopath), and mentions that the partial collapse of the Russian state following the end of the Eurowars meant the budget for the place was near-nonexistent and the staff and facilities were appropriately horrible. Racter quickly learned how to put on a Mask of Sanity in order to ensure his release.
- Averted in Silence of the Sleep. The staff at the mental facility take great care to help their patients and the building has a great many amenities to help with the healing process. Of course, this is a horror game, so the place has some dark secrets, the most important of which is that it isn't real. It is located in a Dream Land or a sort of purgatory or limbo.
- Silent Hill
- Brookhaven Hospital is a mainstream of the series, appearing in the second, third and arcade game as well as the film. Through the franchise, it makes it very clear the hospital faculty cares little about their patients' health, and instead want to profit off them as much as possible. This includes employing barbaric, cruel and inhumane practices to threat patients, such as locking mentally ill people in dark and claustrophobic padded cells for hours.
- Cedar Grove Sanitarium from Silent Hill: Origins might qualify as well. The fact that the town has two mental hospitals might say something about the relative sanity of its inhabitants.
- 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.
- In Slender Fortress, one of the many maps include a large, barren asylum haunted by the Slender Man.
- 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.
- In Standstill Girl, there's mental hospital in the Shadeling Town. It's immediately clear something is not right, as when you walk into it, you'll hear ominous music combined with periodic heavy thudding, even though the Shadeling doctors assure you everything is fine. Then, once you manage to best the Red Shadelings in combat in every area, you can come back to help the staff deal with their only two patients. One is a woman losing her mind due to being pregnant with a demonic foetus, and doctors are planning to carry out an abortion against her will to cure her. The other one is a former soldier now consumed by depression and melancholy, and the dialogue between him and the doctor implies that the hospital is considering euthanasia against his will. In both cases, their refusal sparks a difficult boss fight that ends with them alive and their fate uncertain (they're subdued, but doctors also appear to back down on their extreme plans in favour of other measures.)
- 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".
- To be fair, the Cradle itself is merely terrifying in atmosphere, while the actual danger comes from the... puppets
- The 2014 Continuity Reboot has another one in Moira Asylum. It might not be the Cradle but it certainly has...atmosphere.
- The Town of Light is an Environmental Narrative Game set in an Italian asylum almost forty years after it was closed down. The player relives the horrible history of the main character in that institution (including electroshock therapy and lobotomy) by exploring and interacting with the environment.
- Blackfield Asylum in Twisted Metal: Black. But then, the whole game is a nightmare, so why not?
- Blackwood Pines from Until Dawn has been shuttered and left to decay since the early 50's, when a group of miners, slowly turning into wendigos, were experimented on by the doctors there, only to escape and slaughter them all. The present-day protagonists spend much of the game learning of this and dealing with the lingering effects of it.
- The mansion of Alastair Grout in Vampire: The Masquerade - 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.
- Zork Nemesis has an abandoned asylum as one of its "islands" (to use a Myst parallel). As anticipated, there's plenty of muffled screaming and distant clanging metal in the ambient soundtrack, blood-stained items and relics implying highly experimental procedures on patients. Just to pile on the horror, there is also an Ax-Crazy electroconvulsive therapy technician (who gives you a mains-current strength shock, so that you can open a door), and a morgue, where you must find a naked corpse in a metal drawer, decapitate it, place the head onto a machine to reanimate it and make it say the combination to the lock a safe. Similarly, gruesomely retrieving an amputated arm and hand mounted on a spike in a display case is necessary to open an electrified keypad lock. Needless to say, all of this contrasts rather starkly to the jovial tone in previous games in the Zork series.
- Islington Asylum for the Criminally Insane in Autumn Bay is "a place of palpable madness that many people don't even know exists".
- 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 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.
- Lovely Lovecraft: Azalea and Hildred are inhabitants of an early 20th-century asylum full of dark, grimy corridors, padded rooms, and straitjackets. However, the head doctor Willett takes a personal interest in Azalea and genuinely seeks to help her.
- 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 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 Chamoix most definitely qualifies.
- All of the scenarios in The Holders Series take place in one of these.
- 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.
- Averted 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'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. It also features water flowing through open trenches in the middle of the hallways, making one wonder what the building could possibly have been originally built for.
- Batman: The Animated Series
- In general, Arkham Asylum is less a case of Bedlam House in 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.
- Harley 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.
- Ironically, one episode of the series where the staff seems competent at both treating and restraining inmates is in "Dreams in Darkness" where Batman is accidentally committed and seems to have more trouble escaping (or convincing the doctors he is sane) than most of the inmates do.
- 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 Justice Lords alternate world, 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.
- "The Ranch" featured in the Batman Beyond episode "The Last Resort" turned out to be a Bedlam House for teenagers designed to 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.
- Beavis And Butthead: In the episode "Breakdown", McVicker gets sent to one of these, where the staff slap him for having a Freak Out and later send him in for electroshock therapy. They also don't understand he doesn't want to be near Beavis and Butt-Head, and allow him visitors even when he isn't ready.
- In Courage the Cowardly Dog, Bedlam Houses seem rather specialized, seeing as Freaky Fred is committed to Home for Freaky Barbers. Clearly, the treatment at the place (if there is any) doesn't take, and security there is a little lax, as he escapes shortly before the start of the episode.
- Family Guy: Parodied when Peter and his friends look for a recycled mattress in a 1950's bedlam house. The doctor goes out of his way to be as fascist as possible by declaring three of them insane with Insane Troll Logic and gladly accepting a bribe to let the pervert rape some of the female inmates.
1950's Doctor: May I help you?Peter: Yes, 1950's doctor. Me and my friends are looking for-1950's Doctor: You're friends with a negro and a cripple?! This man is insane! Take him away!*Peter is laced into a straightjacket and sent to the nuthouse*Cleveland: Now wait a second, you can't do that to hi-1950's Doctor: A negro speaking up to a white person?! This man is insane!*Cleaveland is laced and locked in*Joe: Now look, I don't think-1950's Doctor: All cripples are insane! Euthanize this man!*Joe doesn't get a straightjacket, they just run in and grab the wheelchair handles*1950's Doctor: Something I can help you with?Quagmire: Yeah, you got any brain-dead women in there you let people have sex with for a few bucks?1950's Doctor: Sure, come on back.
- In the Futurama episode "Insane in the Mainframe", Fry is accidentally sent to an insane asylum for robots (mainly because the judge presiding over the trial forgot he filled up the human asylums when he declared poverty a mental illness). 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.
- 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.
- Robot Chicken sent Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes fame to one of these after his murderous rampage. "Mars is amazing...!"
- 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. In "Stark Raving Dad" Homer ends up in it for carelessly letting Bart fill out a self-report mental exam at work. (Several elements of the story lampoon One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). And when Ned Flanders checks himself in after a simple emotional breakdown in "Hurricane Neddy", the disinterested admitting nurse only asks if he wants to be calmly shown his room or dragged off kicking and screaming. Ned cheerfully chooses the kicking and screaming. (Ironically, the doctor in charge there seems rather competent.)
- 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 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 Judge Rotenberg Center, a children's "treatment center" in Massachussetts, USA is still operational today. While its most infamous practice, painful skin shock, was finally banned in 2020 after decades of protest (only to be unfortunately overturned a year later), the facility continues to torture children using restraint, seclusion, conversion therapy, and starvation.
- Many psychiatric hospitals in the Soviet Union were these. Especially ones where they kept dissidents. 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 and scientific truth, so only the mentally ill could reject it, 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. Most were diagnosed with the made-up disorder of "sluggish schizophrenia", something unique to the Soviet psychiatric community, which all psychiatrists elsewhere rejected.
- There is a sharp distinction between neurosis clinics and psychiatric clinics in modern Russia. The former is a modern humane institution, where the potentially curable patients with minor diagnoses end up. The latter is the old Soviet bedlam where everyone else gets shoved into.
- Many "Teen Treatment" facilities are systematically abusive. The most infamous of them was Tranquility Bay, which was finally closed 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. States that don't provide adequate oversight and regulations for the treatment of minors are also prime targets for these programs.
- 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? Definitely. Murder? Yes. Murder for TOUCHING THE DIRECTOR'S CHAIR? Yep. Check them out here.
- Residential psychiatric facilities still trap the patients inside, and many of those imprisoned find themselves traumatized by the inherent coercion of the situation. Due to poor staff training, ads for the job announcing that it's a position of power, and What Measure Is a Non-Human? applying to the patients in the minds of many, further abuse is quite rampant at most mental institutions, and serious injury and death are not uncommon — regardless of the patient's age, physical condition, or diagnosis (or if they even got a diagnosis). Many personnel jump at any excuse to, er, use the more severe restraining techniques. There's a "psychiatric survivors" community of people who understandably find themselves traumatized by their experience being locked up, or by coercive behavior therapies, or by brain damage from medications they didn't need. 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 surveilling too many patients (or whatever the euphemism of the year is) means that restraining people is just easier, and no matter how enlightened and sympathetic one staff member may be, they can't catch everything, and even if they do, their report likely won't change anything. There's sometimes confusion about whether or not patients actually have rights, and fear of punishment for speaking up keeps the staff complicit.
- Most of the medications that psychiatric facilities force on people are 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 you're disabled, LGBTQIA+, or a person of color, the behavior of the staff is likely to be even worse. Racist stereotypes lead to more aggressive acts from the staff, many facilities steal people's mobility aids (and don't necessarily return them afterward), and in at least one case, a transgender boy was driven to suicide by the staff constantly misgendering him.
- A less coercive model exists in the form of peer respites, mental care facilities that allow clients to come and go as they please, but unfortunately there aren't nearly as many of these as there are psychiatric jails.
- Lack of funding, and cutting out numerous programs, contributes to much of this. Too few staff surveilling too many patients (or whatever the euphemism of the year is) means that restraining people is just easier, and no matter how enlightened and sympathetic one staff member may be, they can't catch everything, and even if they do, their report likely won't change anything. There's sometimes confusion about whether or not patients actually have rights, and fear of punishment for speaking up keeps the staff complicit.
- 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.
- 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, Nebraska 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 exposé 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.
- The set for the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was actually a real asylum. Years after the filming it was discovered cremated remains had been simply abandoned in the facility. Real-life horror, not movie horror.
- The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia, opened from 1864 to 1994, originally built for 250 patients, saw overcrowding (at its peak, 2,600 in the 1950s) and was home of the West Virginia Lobotomy Project by Walter Freeman in the early 1950s, which aimed to reduce overcrowding by the use of lobotomy. By the 1980s, the hospital had a reduced population due to changes in the treatment of mental illness, and some patients were locked in cages.
- This Cracked Article describes a nurse in a psych ward named Clyde and how he came to hate his patients, how he looked the other way while they were being abused, and how he regularly abused them as well.
- The Kaufman House, which was run by Linda and Arlan Kaufman (the former of which was a registered nurse), received abuse complaints from 1984 until its closure in 2004 following an investigation in 1999 brought on by reports of children in a school bus seeing patients working naked in the fields. Acts included sexual abuse, use of a stun gun on the genitalia of patients, and forced labor, among others. Arlan got 30 years in prison, while Linda initially got seven years but had it later increased to 15 after she appealed.
- Scientologists believe that every psychiatric facility 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 supposedly caused 9/11.) 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". While CCHR levels some legitimate criticisms against the psychiatric industry (mostly toward pharmaceutical lobbying) their association with Scientology causes these criticisms to be taken no more seriously than the organization's more outlandish claims.
- The Aradale Lunatic Asylum in Ararat, Victoria, Australia. In operation for over 130 years, the asylum saw over 10,000 deaths and has endless stories about both the horrors that occurred whilst it was open as well as enough paranormal activity to dub it as the most haunted place in Australia.