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Orphanage of Fear

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Grelod the Kind: Those who shirk their duties will get an extra beating. Do I make myself clear?
Orphans: Yes, Grelod.
Grelod the Kind: And one more thing! I will hear no more talk of adoptions! None of you riff-raff is getting adopted. Ever! Nobody needs you, nobody wants you. That, my darlings, is why you're here. Why you will always be here, until the day you come of age and get thrown into that wide, horrible world. Now, what do you all say?
Orphans: [unenthusiastically] We love you, Grelod. Thank you for your kindness.
Grelod the Kind: That's better. Now scurry off, my little guttersnipes.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, upon entering Riften's Honorhall Orphanage

Losing your parents is no fun. Depending on your circumstances (and the relative benevolence of your creator), you may end up with some clueless but good-natured Muggle Foster Parents, or you could be Raised by Wolves. If you're really unlucky, though — or if you need an appropriately tragic backstory — you'll end up in an Orphanage of Fear.

No one cares for you a smidge when you're living in an Orphanage of Fear. You will usually be presided over by gaunt, dour women — often brutal nuns — with nasty sneers. Your chores are long, grueling, and mandatory; toys and other amusements are strictly forbidden. You can expect to be spanked, smacked, and otherwise "punished" frequently; no matter what you do, you can't please the Evil Orphanage Lady in charge. The food is usually unidentifiable, mushy, and foul-smelling if it's solid at all; you may have nothing to eat but thin, probably cold vegetable broth. You will be in bed by 8 and up by 5, and you will never, ever, ever be allowed to have any fun. Your only hope of escaping is either to get adopted, find your real parents (after all, they're probably only hiding), or simply run away. Or kill everyone/destroy the place.

In darker and more adult-oriented versions, the people directing the orphanage will be downright criminal or insane; sometimes secretly enslaving the children as unpaid labor and punishing them harshly or even tortuously if they fail, refuse, or for no reason at all. Other times, the directors are using the orphanage as a cover for their evil cult, using the children as Human Sacrifices to appease their subject of worship. And those are if you're lucky. Sometimes, the orphanage directors like to do the unthinkable...

The opposite of an Orphanage of Fear is the Orphanage of Love — a place where you will be cuddled, given plenty of toys, read to before bed, and have all your boo-boos kissed, even if you never get adopted. Although you will rarely find the series's Kid Hero thrust into one of these — right off the bat, anyway — a good way to make a character seem kind or loving is to put them in charge of an Orphanage of Love.

Orphanages have been largely phased out in the western world, but they are still in use in parts of Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia, and parts of North America have them if there are no foster homes. Compare Boarding School of Horrors. Sadly, both institutions are still Truth in Television. Read up on conditions in Victorian orphanages some time; current group homes are not always significantly better. Modern orphanages are usually in disrepair. Also compare Department of Child Disservices. The ultimate setting to invoke Kids Versus Adults, especially when the kids want/have to save the orphanage from evil overrulers. Such a conflict can be terminated by the kids Burning the Orphanage. See also Juvenile Hell, which is about children being imprisoned for criminal offenses, but plays out in a similar way.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The main characters in the prequel story in The Canis series live in one, since it's a front for human trafficking.
  • Bungo Stray Dogs:
    • During his childhood in an orphanage, Nakajima Atsushi was shamefully singled out for the most mundane things and then tortured relentlessly for just existing. He was starved, bullied, and beaten until his self-esteem was crushed into fine powder. It's later revealed that the Headmaster did this in hopes of toughening Atsushi in preparation for facing the even crueler real world, but that doesn't erase the horrendous childhood Atsushi had.
    • It turns out that the Headmaster was in one of these himself as a child. And it's said that it made what Atsushi went through seem like nothing in comparison.
    • Lucy Montgomery was raised in another such orphanage, where physical abuse was quite common. She also mentions having been forced to clean all day with a sponge dumped in ice-cold water, to the point that her fingers wouldn't function for a long time after.
  • In Chainsaw Man, Asa ended up in a orphanage after her parents were killed by devils. The other children treated her fine, but the caretaker murdered her cat out of jealousy.
  • Though it varies by personal fanon, Death Note's Wammy's House can qualify — the place is set up to produce the ultimate Tyke Bomb, after all, which is bound to be an unpleasant process. Another Note tells us that it doesn't work out so well for all of the kids, but L, Near, Matt, and Mello all seem pretty content with their upbringing, and L's absolute trust toward Watari would imply that Wammy's is something of an Orphanage of Love; however, all four of them have their not-so-normal traits. Then we get the ones like A and Beyond Birthday...
  • Dokuro has one of these, where the future warden Kawashima is the head, and children are horribly abused.
  • Lucy/Nyuu/Kaede from Elfen Lied grew up in one of these. It wouldn't have been so bad except for the torment Lucy was subjected to by the other orphans for being different. She would eventually snap out and murder a room full of the little hellions into literal bloody paste after they beat a dog she had started caring for to death right in front of her and made her watch, with the cherry on top being the girl she thought she could entrust the secret of her taking care of a dog, this is shown when, as her "friend" is crying after the boys mention she told them about her dog, a wicked smile can be seen beneath the crying facade.
  • One of the stories of the Ghost in the Shell manga has Section 9 tackling one of these. It's used for manual labor because the water filters that the kids make are deemed more important than their human rights. It turns out to be a government brainwashing facility that got out of hand, punishing those who try to escape with "ghost-back" or "ghost-out" — cyber-brainwash or death.
  • Kinderheim 511, from Monster. It was a heartless and abusive attempt to breed the perfect soldier, through severe physical and psychological abuse and neglect. It meets its end when almost every single person kills themselves in a massive fight, instigated by none other than Johan. The children would do nice things for each other, in a desperate attempt to be remembered. Because they were starting to forget who they were.
  • The orphanage in The Promised Neverland looks like an Orphanage of Love on the surface. The orphans receive excellent care, good food, and education. All to make them more appetizing to the demons who rule the world.l'':
  • Saint Seiya: All the future Saints had to deal with this at the Kido Fundation. They were taken away from normal orphanages by force (the one where Seiya was pretty much kidnapped from was a downright Orphanage of Love, for example), forced to train all day long, were beaten by Tatsumi if they stepped out of line, seen as mere objects and playthings for Saori (who was a Spoiled Brat at the time), and the place had electric fences, dogs, and security guards. Afterwards, they were sent to Training Grounds where 90% of them died at.
  • Remy: Nobody's Girl: Gaspard takes in orphans and then abuses them, forcing them to steal money and fulfill a specific quota or they'll be severely beaten. Remy found this out the hard way.
  • SPY×FAMILY: At the start of the story, Anya is living in a clandestine orphanage run by a sleazy Fat Bastard eager to get rid of as many kids as possible (and her in particular). Loid didn't even need to fill out any paperwork to adopt Anya, which is why he actively sought out the most run down place he could find. Loid is a foreign spy who needed a child he can pass as his by birth for a Deep Cover operation, so he wanted to adopted one with as little documentation as possible.
  • Tokyo Ghoul features one in the back story of Koutarou Amon, who was raised in a Catholic orphanage. On the surface, it was an Orphanage of Love run by a kind-hearted Russian priest that loved Amon like his own son. But in truth, Donato Porpora was actually a sadistic Ghoul that enjoyed feasting on children and used the excuse that they had been adopted to cover up their deaths. After Amon uncovered the truth, Donato kept the boy at his side and had him assist in murdering the other children. Eventually, the CCG discovered the church and defeated Donato.
  • Tsukipro's Issei and Ichiru were raised in an Orphanage of Love, more or less, so when they get cast in a play with a setting like this, they're miffed at the stereotype and ask for it to be changed.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Seto Kaiba and Mokuba Kaiba lived in one of these after their parents' deaths, complete with facing bullying from other kids.

    Comic Books 
  • The EC Comics story "Halloween" is set in one of these: Though the direct childcare person is desperately trying to turn it into an Orphanage of Love, the management tells her that there simply isn't enough money for decent food, clothing, lights... and certainly not a jack-o-lantern! Naturally, the manager is revealed as having kept two-thirds of the orphanage's income for his own personal benefit... and then the children get their jack-o-lantern.
  • The Flash: Mis Pritchard's orphanage in a Max Mercury story set in 1910s New York. Mrs. P hates children but gets money from the city to raise them. She also gets a cut from child-hating toymaker Archimedes Schott, for supplying him with cheap labour. And then she takes the kids' wages as well. When Schott tells her that he's going to burn down his factory, because Max has pressurised him into giving the kids more rights, she decides to send them to work that day anyway. (And yes, Archimedes looks a lot like his presumed descendent, Winslow.)
  • Sandman Mystery Theatre: The Goblin features a Deliberate Values Dissonance in Standard House - since the comic takes place in the 1930's, Standard House is less of a typical orphanage, and more an asylum/prison for "undesirable children" such as the chronically ill, the disabled, and non-white, who are virtually guaranteed to never be adopted since no one with the resources for it will want any of them. The staff isn't abusive on purpose, but they're working with very limited funds and resources, and there's only so much to go around.
  • Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer: Madame Eva Martinette's Bleakdale Home for Bereaved Children was run by an abusive woman, and given that Sara was only a child in appearance by the time she was forcibly sent there due to her lack of aging, the fact that she ran away is no surprise.
  • Supergirl: Pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El grew up in Midvale Orphanage after losing her parents and crashing into Earth in The Supergirl From Krypton (1959). Although she didn't get into details, in Supergirl (1982) she states that she hated her life in the orphanage, felt very lonely, and was extremely grateful when the Danvers adopted her and she escaped that place in The Unknown Supergirl.
  • X-Men: The State Home for Foundlings in Nebraska that Cyclops ended up living in for a large point in his childhood. We don't know for certain how many of the other orphans actually existed, but we do know that his roommate was the mental projection of the man running the place who had an unhealthy obsession with him. The children were experimented on, had their memories wiped, and had mental suggestions placed in their brains, which is implied to be the reason why any real children bullied young Scott mercilessly. The director actually stopped several attempts to get children adopted and wiped the minds of teachers who suggested it (he is implied to have outright murdered a couple who wanted to adopt Scott) and the other adults were just as bad as the children.

    Fan Works 
  • Naruto fanfiction tends to use this since if no one cared about Naruto, he would have had to have gone to an orphanage due to being an orphan. It's not known whether there was an actual Orphanage of Fear in the series, but given the status of Jinchuuriki, it doesn't seem at all unlikely. Not to mention, he's living by himself at the age of around twelve at the beginning of the series — it certainly seems to imply there was a place he couldn't get away from fast enough.
  • Sailor Moon fanfiction tended to paint Mamoru's childhood home as one of these, at least in the early days. At least one fanfiction lampshaded this assumption by stating that Mamoru actually had it pretty good in the orphanage what with charity and donations, so he doesn't get why all the girls think he had a terrible childhood there.
  • Within the fandom for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, many fanfiction writers take advantage of the fact that Scootaloo of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, who accompanies the younger sisters of two other characters, has no visible family to portray her as an orphan. As such, Scootaloo is frequently depicted as either living in one of these or having run away to Ponyville in order to avoid living in one. This, combined with stories about Scootaloo having abusive parents, have resulted in the creation of an entire subgenre within the fandom dubbed "Scootabuse". In contrast, many "Scootalove" stories have Rainbow Dash adopting Scootaloo.
  • Starlight Glimmer's Freudian Excuse in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic canon is expanded in the Aftermath of the Games universe to involve this; Starlight was raised in an abusive orphanage where the staff never bothered to provide the foals other than the basic necessities, banned any of them from having personal possessions, and would take meals away and paddle them even for the tiniest amount of misbehavior. The only one who actually cared about her for the first nine years of her life was another orphan and her only friend Sunburst, who, after getting his cutie mark, was sent to Canterlot to study magic. Starlight Never Got to Say Goodbye because she accidentally overslept the day he left, and the staff showed her No Sympathy for her loss. She never heard from him again because he died in a freak accident at the school, and she blamed his Cutie Mark for it, leading to creating "Our Town". When Princess Twilight was left with no choice but to wipe the villainous Starlight out of existence when she refused any and all chances of redemption, she went to the filly Starlight shortly after Sunburst abandoned her and offered her the role as her personal student. It didn't take too much convincing because Starlight would have done anything to get out of the orphanage at that point.

    Unlike other stories involving this trope, Twilight didn't ignore the abuse that was dished out by Starlight's former caretakers; after getting Starlight settled into the present time, she used her authority to arrest the entire staff for child abuse, then hired trustworthy caretakers to change it for the better.
  • Starting in "How I Spent My Summer Vacation in Miller County, Kansas", barnabas930's Dawn-centric Buffy the Vampire Slayer fic American Girls invokes a special (read: black magic-powered) breed of Orphanage of Fear in Radclif's Home for Wayward Youths.
  • In The Bond of the Orphans, Harry and Laura end up at Draygone House, a decrepit establishment with substandard food and a matron who's unaffectionately known as "The Dragon".
  • The Homestuck fanfiction He Has A Name has Dave grow up in a particularly nasty example. Not only are the staff oppressive and dickish, but the children there are also being used as prostitutes. In Dave's case, this means that while staying there he was raped every night of his life from the age of about six and ended up a Cute Mute from the trauma.
  • Downplayed in the Vocaloid fanfiction Of Fur, Fangs and Flying Brooms; Oliver's life in the orphanage was uneventful until he became a werewolf, at which point the orphanage became a collective Jerkass to One towards him, locking him away in a basement, wrapping him in chains made out of silver and keeping him from escaping by placing wolfsbane, a silver cross and a vampire's fang on the floor in front of him. He ends up getting sick of it and escaping, kickstarting the plot of the story.
  • In Smallville fanfic Stronger Together Kara's cover story is that she spent eighteen years trapped in a completely understaffed orphanage after her parents' deaths before finding her cousin. Lois asked if it was "one of those Dickens wet dream orphanages".
  • In The Witch of the Everfree, Sunset analogizes her orphanage's social food chain to the Everfree Forest's physical food chain.
  • In the My Hero Academia series The Aizawa-Yamada Family Hitoshi is from one. They are decent to most kids but cruel to quirkless kids and kids like Hitoshi with “villainous” quirks. They scrub his record so his quirk isnt listed and pass him off to foster parents who keep abusing him, label him a villain, muzzle him and call the orphanage to take him back. They also give him a muzzle to give to fosters if he talks. Papa Wolf Aizawa and Yamada won’t stand for it when they learn what Hitoshi endured and get it shut down.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Despicable Me, Margo, Edith, and Agnes live in one of these. If they don't make their quota selling cookies they are banished to the "box of shame".
  • In Wakko's Wish, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot lived in one of these for a time, until it was shut down by Baron Von Plotz during his merciless taxation. In their own words (well, song), they were fed inedible gruel, the beds were broken and painful to sleep on, and the taps ran "hot and cold dirt". Ironically, they actually miss the orphanage, because homeless life is even worse.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ana: Ana strongly objects to the idea of being put in a foster home, saying that the people there only care for kids to get money, with some molesting them. Rafa reluctantly concedes and doesn't put her in one. When she actually gets into one, two older girls bully her to get cash, but Ana soon makes her escape.
  • The Day Will Come is about two brothers in the 1960's being placed in a boys' orphanage that also doubles as a boarding school. The headmaster and teachers are unsympathetic and beat the kids for almost anything, even yelling at the brothers and stuffing their faces into their food when they loudly cry at dinner after learning that their sick mother passed away. In the end, the younger brother is able to get a former teacher (who was fired for interfering in their beatings) to help him get the orphanage investigated by an inspector. Sadly Based on a True Story, with Denmark having a history of abusive orphanages throughout the 1940s to the 1970s.
  • Deadpool 2 has Essex House, a white marbled hell ran by a vicious anti-mutant fundamentalist where mutant children are tortured with "alternative therapies" with the intention of "curing" their powers while being shackled with Power Limiter collars like animals. When Deadpool learns that Russel's breakdown with his powers was because he was being physically (possibly sexually) abused by an orderly, he doesn't even blink before shooting the orderly in the head. The main conflict of the film centers around Russel's desire to burn Essex House to the ground and kill the staff, which nobody particularly cares about him doing, but in the process he'd also kill the innocent children inside and find a taste for killing. In the film's climax Domino finds the orderlies planning to execute all the children and ends up killing them all protecting them, and the headmaster gets turned into paste by Dopinder at the end.
  • Despite the best intentions of the staff, the orphanage in The Devil's Backbone is an Orphanage of Fear thanks to the Spanish civil war, dwindling resources, and a ghost, but mostly the return of a now-adult orphan.
  • Dick Tracy: Downplayed. The Kid is constantly trying to run away whenever there's any talk of sending him to the orphanage. Once he actually gets sent there, though, the food isn't very good but he's otherwise treated okay.
  • The Kirkmans' house in The Gathering used to be the town's orphanage, which was rumored to be a hotbed of abuse. It was, with the children present sold for sexual encounters to the powerful men in town, leading to Argyle's rampage to get revenge on everyone associated, including the Kirkmans, whose only sin was buying the house, not knowing its history.
  • The ironically named "House of Happy Children" seen in a flashback in Hansel and Gretel (2007) is especially horrific — the girls are raped and the boys are starved and beaten, sometimes to death.
  • Downplayed in Lion. Saroo ends up in an orphanage, which is overcrowded, underfunded, and not a particularly nurturing or happy place for the children to live. However, most of the staff is doing their best. They keep the kids housed and fed, they try to find Saroo's mother, and, failing that, they do eventually get Saroo adopted into a kind and loving family. Saroo's stay in the orphanage was at least slightly traumatizing, but he was clearly safer there than he was on the streets.
  • While not technically an orphanage, the juvenile detention facility House of Refuge from Newsies qualifies; the corrupt warden bribes judges to condemn orphans to imprisonment there so he can pocket the money the government gives him to take care of them.
  • The Orphanage, despite all expectations, is for the most part not an example. The movie is actually about a woman returning to an orphanage years after she grew up there. Although according to her, she was actually happy at the orphanage, and all the kids saw each other as one big happy family. Until they got on Benigna's bad side, that is. It's after she poisons most of the kids that it becomes a place of actually supernatural fear, and even then the tortured souls of the kids only manifest because they wish to help Laura.
  • From Our Mother's House: "It's a place with bars on the windows. Big iron bars and you can't get out. And you're not allowed outside except when they say. And they whip you. They whip you with whips. And they never give you enough to eat. And you wear sackcloth and sleep on bare boards. And they put the girls in one place, and the boys in another. And you're not allowed to talk or they'll whip you!"
  • Prime Cut: Poppy grew up in an orphanage of this type and was sold into prostitution by the abusive madam as soon as she came of age.
  • The Rainbow Room orphanage from RoboCop is a good example. The director of the orphanage is more concerned with making commercials to earn money than taking care of the kids.
  • The orphanage in Slumdog Millionaire definitely qualifies. The seemingly kind owner drugs and blinds a boy so he'll earn more money busking.
  • Sparrows, starring Mary Pickford, is about a horrific "baby farm" in which unwanted children are fed barely enough to keep them alive while being used as slave labor.
  • Venom: Let There Be Carnage: St. Estes Home for Unwanted Children, the orphanage Cletus and Frances grew up at, was a hellhole for the both of them. Cletus claims he was bullied by other children there, and based on the intro, the children's rooms look more like prison cells. After reuniting, Cletus and Frances return to their former home and burn it to the ground.
  • Wanda from Wanda Nevada used to live in an orphanage staffed by nuns where she worked in the laundry room. She calls it a hellhole and is determined not to go back, although she never says exactly what was so horrible about it.

  • In Albertine And The House Of The Thousand Wonders by Frank Reifenberg and Jan Strathmann, the Children's Happiness Home where the heroine lives pretty much embodies the trope. Though the headmistress has her favorites, they aren't particularly happy either. The kids are forced to paint the lawn green to make the orphanage look at least halfway decent.
  • In the American Girls: Samantha stories, Samantha's friend Nellie gets sent to one of these with her two younger sisters Jenny and Bridget after their parents die and her uncle Mike squanders their funds on drink. At Coldrock House, the girls are taught to be fortunate to have anywhere to stay at all and how to defer to their betters. Any small gifts or luxuries, like sweets or gloves, are snapped up by the headmatron, Ms. Frouchy and not returned—or accused of being stolen resulting in punishment. The girls are trained to become servants and separated by age—or separated permanently by the orphan train. Samantha helps the three girls escape and they are adopted by Sam's extraordinarily wealthy aunt and uncle. It's made even worse in the movie; Mrs. Frouchy is stealing from the donations for her own self-use, and when they see her and soon escape, she accuses Samantha of stealing the money and her "dear girls." Fortunately, Cornelia and Gardner don't believe a word of it, and the maid sends Mrs. Frouchy away—and then, once Cornelia uses her connections, she's fired altogether.
  • Anne of Green Gables has a downplayed example: Anne mentions that the staff meant well, and she wasn't abused, but it was a cold and dreary place where no one was loved. For Anne, though, the orphanage was often a better option than living with some of the many families she grew up with. Not only was she only "adopted" to take care of other people's children, but often these families didn't have enough to feed and clothe themselves (let alone Anne), and a few of the fathers were implied to be mean drunks.
  • In Ascendance of a Bookworm, a combination of customs and circumstance turns the temple orphanage into this. The children are usually fed with leftovers and gifts from the noble-blood blue-robed priests, but a recent purge of the nobility has resulted in a recall of most of those, leaving precious few left in the temple. Worse, a custom that doesn't even consider the youngest orphans people until they hit baptism age means that by the time Myne stumbles upon the orphanage, the remainder are literally starving to death. It's telling that Myne putting them to work on her paper-making business is considered an improvement because the money she pays them can go to their own care.
  • The BFG: Sophie is living in one at the beginning before she is carried away by the Big Friendly Giant. The owner, Mrs. Clonkers, imposes all sorts of petty rules on the orphans and locks them in a rat-infested cellar as punishment for breaking them.
  • In the Books of Pellinor series, the main character's younger brother (and the main character of book three) Hem grew up in a terrible orphanage in a corrupt and rotting town. It came complete with dismal living spaces, horribly abusive adults, murderously petty and emotionally scarred children, all capped off with the disturbingly common instances of death by starvation or murder — because of the fierceness of the other children.
  • In Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell, although the protagonists aren't mistreated in their government-run orphanage, all the children are indoctrinated to become patriotic Cannon Fodder for the US military.
  • Chronicles of Chaos: While the children of Orphans of Chaos are not actively maltreated, they are certainly kept in the dark about their origins, and apparently kept captive past the age of majority. They also learn that their keepers have used Laser-Guided Amnesia and Restraining Bolts on them.
  • Anaïs Nin describes one of these in her Cities Of The Interior novella Children of the Albatross. Djuna, a beautiful young woman with "enormous fairytale eyes", tells the story of how she grew up in one of these grim places. "The Watchman" was supposed to keep the girls within walls at night but would let them out for a few hours in return for sexual favors.
  • In Daddy-Long-Legs, Jerusha "Judy" Abbot grows up in a borderline example of the trope, John Grier House. The employers aren't directly abusive and the kids have what they basically need thanks to the sponsors, but it's still far from an Orphanage of Love and there is a lot of emotional/intellectual neglect of them. She's still smart and lucky enough to have one of the well-meaning sponsors, the titular DDL (a.k.a. Jervis Pendleton, local Bunny-Ears Lawyer and The Casanova), send her to a local college. They meet in person, fall in love, and get married. The sequel, Dear Enemy, has Judy's school friend Sallie McBride struggling to turn John Grier House into a proper Orphanage of Love, under Judy's explicit request. She manages to do it with the help of the orphanage's doctor, Dr. Robin TragicHero McRae. Whom Sallie falls in love with.
  • In The Declaration by Gemma Malley, Surpluses, or children born to people taking the immortality drug, are put in these. They are often told they do not deserve to exist and have futures as servants. The main character, Anna, escapes with the help of a boy named Peter. They are allowed to stay out of the group home because both Anna's parents died, and Peter's father died, and the only way to get out of the homes is if one person in your family dies. That way, you're not adding more people to the world.
  • Discworld:
    • The Working House for Young Women, from Monstrous Regiment, was one of these (and implied to be run by a Pedophile Priest), with three characters having escaped from it, all of them pretty damaged. One lives on a hair-trigger, one became a pyromaniac, and one thinks that the Duchess, the deified ruler of their country, talks to her. As it turns out, she does, and eventually reveals her presence. The first two, though, become bank robbers, and come back and burn the place down near the end.
    • We don't learn much about the Home for the Destitute in The Wee Free Men, except that Miss Female Infant Robinson, who grew up there, also ends up damaged, and this is apparently not uncommon — the Chalk's only prison is next door, and there's popularly believed to be a connecting door to save time.
  • A Drowned Maiden's Hair: Girls live in squalor in the severely underfunded Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans, which is run by Miss Kitteridge, who seems to dislike kids and Maud in particular and is constantly inflicting harsh punishments.
  • In Faraway Dream by Jane Flory, Seafarers Safe Harbor for Orphans is run by Mrs. Dempey, who is physically abusive and lazy.
  • In Freckles, Freckles grew up in one of the not actively cruel ones. Still—
    "Were they kind to you?" McLean regretted the question the minute it was asked.
    "I don't know," answered Freckles. The reply sounded so hopeless, even to his own ears, that he hastened to qualify it by adding: "You see, it's like this, sir. Kindnesses that people are paid to lay off in job lots and that belong equally to several hundred others, ain't going to be soaking into any one fellow so much." [...] "When I was too old for the training they gave to the little children, they sent me to the closest ward school as long as the law would let them; but I was never like any of the other children, and they all knew it. I'd to go and come like a prisoner, and be working around the Home early and late for me board and clothes. I always wanted to learn mighty bad, but I was glad when that was over."
  • St. Aegolius' Academy for Orphaned Owls in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series is a pretty good example; stealing hundreds of eggs and owlets and going on to indoctrinate them through brainwashing techniques, completely erasing their sense of self, fiercely punishing any who ask any questions, forcing them to do labor such as picking through pellets and organizing what is found in them, and so on... Also, one of the owls in charge eats owl eggs.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Played with in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Aunt Marge declares that Harry should be grateful to the Dursleys for taking him as he would have gone straight to an orphanage if he'd been dumped on her doorstop. Harry's unspoken retort is that he would've preferred the orphanage.
    • Played with. Voldemort grew up in a Muggle orphanage that Harry thinks is "grim", but the overworked staff is clearly taking care of the kids' needs as best they can. The scariest thing about the orphanage was actually Voldemort (then called Tom) himself, an Enfant Terrible who used his undeveloped magic to traumatize his peers, even if the staff could never figure out how he did it.
  • The Hitman novel Enemy Within depicts Agent 47 on a quest to hunt down a mole in the ICA, which takes him to Morocco in pursuit of a drug lord that runs an orphanage as part of his legitimate businessman appearance. The orphanage turns out to be a child brothel that also doubles as a slave trafficking ring.
  • The House of Silk features an orphanage doubling as a pedophile ring.
  • In The Hunger Games, Katniss says that if it was ever discovered that their mother was depressed and couldn't take care of them, she and her sister Prim would be sent to the community home. The kids who live there always look sad, and Katniss was afraid it would crush Prim's spirit, so she began providing for the family herself to cover up her mother's illness.
  • In Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation, the orphanage that the titular character comes from is called "St. Barnaby's Home for the Hopeless, Abandoned, Forgotten, and Lost". In fact, at one point, the headmaster attempts to change the title from "Home" to "Ward" simply because "home" sounds too pleasant.
  • In The Kid, St. Ailanthus doesn't appear to be this at first, as it's actually a high-quality orphanage and school whose students often go on to college or trades if they aren't adopted. What makes it this trope is the fact that two of the priests are pedophiles who rape the protagonist repeatedly and then, when he begins doing the same thing to other students, they cover it all up to preserve their reputation and then kick him out.
  • The Kite Runner has one of these, though it's more the fault of the setting (Taliban-occupied Afghanistan) than any malevolence on the part of the owners, who are doing the best they can in a near-impossible situation.
  • The children's home in the second half of The Last Dragon is pretty much this — no food, horrible "caretakers", and so on. The children are told all day long about how their parents were selfish, horrible people and they deserved to die. Robi doesn't quite believe it.
  • In Sam Gayton's Lilliput, Finn was an orphan at one of these, ironically called "The House of Safekeeping". The clocks there were designed to run quickly during the orphans' free time, and slowly during their work time. Christmas Day was forty minutes long there.
  • In Michael O'Halloran, Mickey's mother had raised him to be able to look after himself because otherwise he would be taken to the home. When he meets Peaches after her granny died, other boarders are talking of how the girl will be taken to the home, and she's terrified.
  • The Missing Piece of Charlie O'Reilly: Before the New York Asylum for Orphaned Children burned down, it was a miserable, filthy place where the children were barely fed enough to stay alive.
  • Momo (1973): Momo is an orphan who lives in a ruined amphitheater on the outskirts of the city. The neighboring families keep her supplied with food and other essentials, but she refuses to have anything to do with official social services because she previously lived in an orphanage that had bars on the windows and daily beatings, and doesn't want to end up in another.
  • Older Than Radio: Oliver Twist starts out in one of these. Technically it's a workhouse — a homeless shelter where the inhabitants did grueling physical labor to pay for their extremely basic accommodation (though in reality, they were more like work camps for the crime of being broke and desperate); these would encompass a section for children (some of whom would actually have one or both parents living in the men's or women's wards respectively). In fact, social reformers of the time actually regarded orphanages as a more humane alternative to workhouses.
  • In Benjamin Black's (a.k.a. John Banville's) novels about pathologist Quirke, set in mid-twentieth-century Ireland, Quirke spent his childhood in Carricklea, a horribly abusive orphanage run by the Christian Brothers. Truth in Television, unfortunately, as the novels are responding to recent revelations about what such orphanages could be like.
  • The Ravenor short story Playing Patience features the Kindred Youth Scholam, a seemingly respectable institution that takes in orphans from the slums and gives them a home and an education. In reality, the whole place is a front for laundering children and young adults into the hands of criminals for nefarious purposes. Ravenor shuts the place down as part of an investigation.
  • Oscar from The Real Boy has vague but horrible memories of his time at the Children's Home before Caleb took him in when he was six. He's blocked out most of the details, and trying to remember anything upsets him.
  • Subverted in The Reckoners Trilogy. Most orphanages in Newcago are factories, where the children are forced to work dangerous jobs in exchange for meager food rations. David is quick to point out that in a Crapsack World, it could be much worse — if someone is willing to look after kids and pay them for work, they're practically a saint. His own matron even saves up their money until they turn 18, and then gives them 25% of it every year for four years, by which point they hopefully understand how to spend it responsibly. Plus, they get goodies from the factories.
    Abraham: How is a grenade a goody?
    David: [genuinely confused] How is a grenade not a goody?
  • Richard Sharpe from the Sharpe series grew up in the workhouse as a child. In one of the later books, it is shown that despite twenty years and numerous battles, Sharpe still has PTSD when he returns and faces the orphanage master. If that weren't enough, the children are served gruel. Of course, he savagely murders said orphanage master... right in front of a little orphaned girl before proceeding to the main plot, so you could say the book brutally explores this trope front, back, and sideways.
  • "Thrift House", run by the corrupt and abusive Mrs. Spindletrap in The Silver Spoon Of Solomon Snow, by Kaye Umansky.
  • In the Spellsinger books, one city orphanage is considered a great place with well-behaved kids. Jon-Tom discovers that it is an Orphanage of Fear with every child required to be "perfect". The food is great and healthy, however any misbehavior is whipped and all kids have their sexual organs removed because sex isn't "perfect". When they learn this, it's one of the only times Jon-Tom's usually amoral sidekick Mudge gets truly angry.
  • Philip Pullman's Spring Heeled Jack includes the trio of orphaned protagonists escaping from one of these. The ones who run it pursue them relentlessly, because they don't get paid unless the orphanage is full to capacity.
  • The Clarissa Frayne Institute for Parentally Challenged Boys in The Supernaturalist qualifies. The institute gets the money for the boys' maintenance by making them test all kinds of products.
  • The Sunlight Home from The Talisman probably qualifies, with boys who don't love Jesus enough being beaten, locked in a tiny shed, or even killed. Inspired the Ash song "Jack Names the Planets".
  • They Cage the Animals at Night, which is supposedly an autobiography, puts the protagonist in one of these. It is run by nuns — some of them are nice, while others are... not. Apparently, the punishment for bed-wetting is stripping the child naked and telling the rest of the orphans about it. And whipping them the whole time.
  • In Thursdays Child by Noel Streatfeild, St. Luke's Orphanage is run by "Matron", who steals from the children to enrich herself and is physically abusive. After she leaves, it becomes an Orphanage of Love, due to the influence of Lady Corkberry.
  • As Simon aptly describes it in The Witch Watch, Ravenstead Academy takes in orphans and teaches them to fear Lord Mordaunt.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Barney Miller, Jilly Pappalardo has similar feelings about the New York City Children's Centers. "I'm not going back to Children's Center. I hate it, I don't want to live there, you get pushed around and the food stinks!" Sgt. Fish's reply: "If I can take it, you can take it."
  • On Call the Midwife, set in 1950's and 1960's London, orphanages of any kind are quickly falling out of fashion in favor of private foster homes, so the ones that are left are viewed as outdated, old-fashioned in their views on childrearing, and often understaffed:
    • In early seasons, St. Gideons, a home for special needs children, is featured in several storylines; one episode has a family considering sending their newborn, born with spina bifida, there. The father asks Jacob, a young man with cerebral palsy who is a recurring character, about it. He says they live down the road from a biscuit factory. When the father expresses positive feelings for it, Jacob is quick to clarify: "We get the broken ones." Reggie, a cousin of Fred's with Downs syndrome, is nearly sent to a similar institution after the death of his mother, but the facility is in such poor condition that Fred can't bear to leave him there.
    • Nurse Corrigan comes from a religious orphanage in Ireland, where it's implied that she was at least emotionally neglected if nothing else. She had a Teenage Pregnancy and the nuns at her orphanage arranged for the baby to be placed in an orphanage in London, under the guise that Collette and Nancy were sisters. Nancy removes Collette from that orphanage after finding bruises on her. With the help of Nonnatus House, Collette is placed in a foster home near where Nancy works, while she saves up money for them to live together.
    • The Turners' adopted daughter, May, comes from a Chinese orphanage which is implied to be better than the family where she came from, but still overburdened and understaffed. She is sent to England with several other young Chinese children adopted by English parents. May initially has another adoptive family that can't take her right away, and so she is sent to an orphanage run by the same religious order the Nonnatus nuns are with. It's portrayed as a place where children are warehoused. Physically cared for, but not loved. One of the novice nuns connects with a special needs little boy who is left in his crib most of the day, as he needs individualized attention to interact with the world. May herself ends up in the care of the Turners because she isn't doing well in institutionalized care and the director of the orphanage is afraid for her health.
    • A variation is found in the haunting recollections of Poplar's elderly population about the Victorian-era workhouses. The 2012 Christmas special has Jenny helping an old woman find closure about the whereabouts of her children, who entered the workhouse with her in the early 1900's. She fondly remembers one daughter, and when asked about her, the only thing she says is that she "didn't thrive." When Jenny finds the records, "failure to thrive" is listed as that child's cause of death, aged about 9. There are three or four younger children listed, all of whom died of contagious disease or malnutrition. Jenny is able to find exactly where they were buried on the grounds of the workhouse, a great comfort for the woman.
  • Dark Matter (2015): The Orphanage where Five grew up hasn't been described in any detail, but kids don't run away from such homes to try and survive alone on the streets at age 12 for no reason. And even without any conscious memories of the place, her reaction to the plan of having her sent to a group home after the rest of the crew of the Raza is arrested and thrown into prison is basically: "I'd rather go to (adult, high security) prison instead."
  • The Doctor Who episode "Day of the Moon" features one of these, with a Mind Raped single occupant, and "GET OUT NOW" scrawled all over the walls for extra goodness. Oh, and it's full of sleeping Silents on the ceiling. Made even worse later when you realize that the little girl living there was young Melody Pond/River Song.
  • In the first episode of Y Gwyll, "Devil's Bridge," the murder victim, Helen Jenkins, ran one of these. The Pontarfynach Children's Home also took in juvenile delinquents as a sort of "last resort" effort. The "fear" part of this trope is downplayed, but terrifying things that took place there included removing the children's teeth without anaesthesia, locking them in the "hard room" when they misbehaved, and holding secret burials for the dead infants of one of the teens.
  • Law & Order:
    • In Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a mother who is completely paranoid raised her children to believe that they would go to an Orphanage of Fear where they would be raped and murdered if they were ever taken away from her. Her son is then convinced that they're going there, so she has him kill his brother and then commit suicide, but for him, the gun jams. Adding to this, she even tells them that their older brother wound up in such an orphanage where he was killed. In fact, the brother in question went to an Orphanage of Love and came out of is reasonably well-adjusted, and even came back to shred their mother's lies.
    • On an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, a wealthy man embroiled in a custody dispute is found murdered in his home. It eventually comes out that he was killed by his adopted sons, over whom he was engaged in a custody dispute: they had been raised in an Eastern-European Orphanage of Fear, and their mother had tried to turn them against him by telling them that he would send them back if he got custody.
  • Leverage: In "The Stork Job", the Leverage team end up rescuing all the kids from one of these in Serbia, which is being used as a front for arms dealers. This wasn't the original mission, but Parker refuses to leave the kids behind.
  • Smallville: Granny Goodness's orphanage in "Abandoned", St. Louise's Orphanage. The place is made of pure horror, as scared young girls are psychologically abused (and it's heavily implied if not outright stated that they are beaten as well) and forcibly re-programmed into sadistic soldiers-in-training to pave the way for Darkseid's coming invasion of the Earth, sometimes by being blood-thirsty assassins, but sometimes by becoming sleeper agents and penetrating the Earth's upper institutions to secretly spy on them and destabilize them for Darkseid, the revelation of which ends up being Paranoia Fuel among the good guys in-universe. What makes it even scarier is the possibility that St. Louise's used to be a regular orphanage until Granny Goodness showed up one day and took over. When Tess rediscovers the place — which is where she grew up — a whole montage of very disturbing repressed memories play out on-screen. What makes the place even more disturbing is that Granny Goodness is very much a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, and Faux Affably Evil to boot. She forcibly (and, by all accounts, painfully) erases the memories of the girls in her care so that they have no memory of their Parental Abandonment. And if she is forced to let one of her girls leave the orphanage, as is what happened in Tess's case, she also erases their memory of the orphanage completely. The entire first few years of Tess's life were completely eradicated, only popping back up as nightmares after Granny wanted her back twenty-five years later.
  • In the back-story for Street Justice, shortly after losing his parents and getting separated from Marine veteran Adam in Vietnam, Grady grew up in one of these, whose caretaker frequently beat him. Grady ran away from there eventually... but unfortunately he wound up in prison, where he would spend a significant portion of time before eventually making his way to the United States.
  • Not orphanages per se, but the group homes for unplaced foster children on The Wire are complete hellholes. Said to be the source of Laetitia's anger, and later shown to be where Randy's youthful innocence goes to die.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted gives us the orphanage run by the Dowager of the Irreverent Vulgate in Unrent Veils. Just how bad can you make an orphanage? Well, if it's run by one of the Deathlords... and she's the one who made them orphans in the first place... and she's basically using it as a backup plan in case her favored Deathknight gets killed in the field... pretty damn bad. Not to mention that the previous orphans in the orphanage were the parents of the current ones, and the toys the orphans play with are made out of their parents' souls. It's not very nice in general. Oh, and another thing? She started this after the Great Contagion... which is to say, several centuries before the first Deathknights. Before then? She was just entertaining herself.
  • Warhammer 40,000's Schola Progenium is a system of orphanages run by the Ecclesiarchy which trains orphans to fill various offices in the Imperial military, especially Commissars and Sisters of Battle. Harsh discipline and brutal training methods are commonplace, and deaths, while meant to be avoided, are expected and not uncommon.

    Theme Parks 
  • Universal's Halloween Horror Nights 2010 features a house called The Orfanage, which is a prequel to the popular Screamhouse series revolving around the Caretaker, Albert Caine. The Orfanage features his daughter, fan favorite ex-icon Cindy, before her adoption in an orphanage where she and the other students were tortured until Cindy's latent pyrokinetic powers allowed her to free the children and burn down the orphanage. The house has you going through the burnt-down remains of the orphanage, facing the (ghosts of?) children and Cindy, with a spectacular scene involving fire roaring next to the window you walk by.

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: Alluded within Holtz' personal journal at the Flores household. He mentions that he found Nakamura covered in bruises before he adopted her and would later found out it was done by the residents of the orphanage she came from which was ignored by the caretakers.
  • Dr. Bumby's Home For Wayward Children in Alice: Madness Returns has to be the worst "orphanage" in videogame history. The kids get neglected, emotionally abused, beaten, and probably half-starved, their caretaker and therapist brainwashes them and then pimps them as child prostitutes. And not even very secretly. The little plaque says it all: "Earn Your Keep."
  • Arc the Lad II gives us the White House. Unlike most examples of this trope, the kids are not openly mistreated by uncaring or sadistic by the people in charge (in fact, one of its former managers, Vilmer, is shown to be a descent, loving grandfather), but when the employees are pretty much on Cthulhu's payroll, you know that the facility hides very dark, horrific secrets, and oh boy does it not disappoint: the orphans (which were forcibly taken from their family at best, witnesses of their family's slaughter and people's genocide at worst) are kept compliant by being forced to take "control medicines" suspiciously similar to rape drugs which pretty much end up wiping their memories — the protagonist had amnesia for the better part of a decade thanks to them — until they are dissected (chairs equipped with huge rotating saws are found in the basement)... if they are lucky. If they are unlucky, the paid-by-the-local-Cthulhu scientists overseeing the orphanage will use a mix of genetic engineering and dark magics which will turn the kids into sentient monsters whose free-will will then be overridden by powerful mind-control devices.
  • Battle Arena Toshinden 3 makes mention of the Organization's brands of orphanages set up all across the world. Their function? A shelter for children and youths, and a holding place for their blood-required black occult magic rituals at night. Fridge Horror abound.
  • In BioShock, there is the Little Sister Orphanage, which is really a front for little girls to be used in science experiments.
  • St. Martha's Orphanage from the backstories of the Vestal and the Runaway from the Darkest Dungeon games seems to have been this, especially if the backstory of the Runaway from Darkest Dungeon 2, who had to escape the nuns who ran the place after they took to branding her with hot irons, is any indication.
  • Willow from Don't Starve is revealed to have grown up in one in the short "From the Ashes". After she's attacked by Shadow Creatures and protected by her beloved teddy bear Bernie, the two Evil Orphanage Ladies running the place confiscate Bernie and lock her in a supply closet as punishment for being up past bedtime, with the one who took Bernie giving her a sadistic little smile just to rub it in. She ends up doing something off screen that causes an explosion that sets the orphanage ablaze and is implied to kill at least one of the matrons, and possibly also the other people in the orphanage.
  • The orphanage in the Elven Alienage in Dragon Age: Origins. It's an example because it was overrun by demons after a massacre during The Purge ordered by Arl Howe. The demons and ghosts only arrived after the horrific bloodshed and lingering feelings of pain and rage tore a hole in the Veil.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
    • Honorhall Orphanage in Riften is run by a terrible old woman called Grelod the Kind. She constantly gives speeches to the kids about how worthless they are and that they won't be adopted, ever. The kids themselves tell you that beatings are frequent and snooping around the building reveals that there is a cell with shackles on the wall. The kind normally seen in prisons. Grelod also starves the children by giving them only one meal a day in the afternoon. She even keeps them from being adopted — she's that much of a power-hungry Control Freak. It's so bad that one of the kids, Aventus Aretino, escaped and tried to recruit the Dark Brotherhood to kill Grelod.
    • You can pretend to be from the Brotherhood and kill Grelod yourself (though nothing's stopping you from slicing the evil old bat into hamburger before even meeting Aretino, which the latter will even comment on). The children will cheer and praise the Dark Brotherhood. Needless to say, the Dark Brotherhood is not happy about this, but it does mark the beginning of the Dark Brotherhood questline. It is the only character in the game that you can murder in plain sight and not be bothered by guards afterwards, as your Riften bounty will not increase for it. She is disliked that much by everyone. Once you install the Hearthfire DLC and kill Grelod, management of the orphanage will be taken by her assistant, Constance Michel. Michel is a much nicer person then Grelod was and is willing to make the orphanage better, allowing you to adopt children from it.
  • Fallen London:
    • The mysterious institution, known only as The Orphanage, where agents of the Masters experiment on kidnapped orphans; you have the choice to burn it down.
    • High-level characters can open their own, and act as The Fagin to its residents.
  • Gunhouse: While the Caretaker does care for her charges (in an aloof and distant sort of way), the fact that the orphanage is constantly under attack by various bizarre monsters bent on kidnapping the children definitely pushes it into this territory.
  • Levi from Fear & Hunger: Termina had the misfortune of growing up in St. Domek's Orphanage, where children were regularly abused in all sorts of ways by the priests. The orphanage also had no problem using orphans as Human Sacrifices or handing them off to be Child Soldiers.
  • Subverted in Morpheus. The Goodman Home for Boys was really an Orphanage of Love, just that the caretaker, Grace Thermon, was cruel to all involved, so much that she was repeatedly disciplined, and eventually fired. Although one particular orphan, Jan Pharris, still suffered in more ways than one throughout his life, leading to his inviting Grace and Jan's family to his father's ship, Herculania.
  • Mother's Garden from Octopath Traveler II is a place dedicated to the training of future Blacksnakes members disguised as an orphanage. The children there are trained to be thieves and killers, and they are frequently abused by Mother during the process. It would eventually become a formal orphanage following the game's events.
  • The Edgewood Home for Lost Children in Our Darker Purpose fits here. The enigmatic teachers are noted to be pleasant enough, but the administrators are capricious, and the entire place is an Eldritch Location where the architecture shifts and inanimate objects spring to hostile life. Once the teachers disappear and the children go feral, things get even worse.
  • Painkiller features the ultimate Orphanage Of Fear, full of undead psychopathic children, a butcher with no feet, and sad children in sacks who explode.
  • In Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus, the orphanage the Progs were at seems to have been unpleasant at best; Vendra's holo-diaries mention that she and Neftin don't have any friends and the adults don't care that they're being bullied. On the inside, the nature of how the orphanage was run becomes noticeable. There are small metal baskets lying around and robotic claws are going along the ceiling, some still holding some of the baskets. Said claws follow a path that goes through some showers before ending at a conveyor belt which leads into the basement. The basement turns out to have been the windowless sleeping room for the children, with three giant hamster drinking stations.
  • Resident Evil 2: The Racoon City Orphanage sells its children to Umbrella Corporation as test subjects for their Bio-Organic Weapon development. After one kid escaped Umbrella and snuck back into the orphanage, the staff massacred every kid inside, fearing contamination.
  • Shadow Hearts has Jack's orphanage. Jack was creepy before he got his hands on the Emigre Manuscript. Now he sees the kids as ingredients. Unfortunately for him, one of the kids sent to it is a friend of Halley's, and Halley gets Yuri and allies involved... If you visit the orphanage after the story events, you learn that it's now run by a woman who plans to make it an Orphanage of Love.
  • The Silent Hill cult ran one of these, where they brainwashed the children into new members. One of the areas you go to in Silent Hill 4 is subtly implied to be part of it — a mysterious cylindrical outbuilding alluded to in earlier games, then again here in case you forgot.
  • Silversoul Orphanage, an indie horror game set in an abandoned orphanage since the 1940s where you're exploring the whole building. Notes recovered from various rooms and an old set of newspapers reveals that the caretakers, tired with dealing with "annoying kids", decide to discreetly allow a Serial Killer into said orphanage to "deal with them".
  • The Shalebridge Cradle from Thief: Deadly Shadows. The Cradle started out as a dedicated orphanage. Then when financial problems struck, it was sold to people who turned it into an asylum for the criminally insane. Out of the goodness of their hearts, the doctors allowed the orphans to remain there. So to clarify, The Cradle was an Orphanage of Fear and a Bedlam House simultaneously. Then it burned down with both children and lunatics inside. Then the building developed sentience and imprisoned the souls of the children and inmates inside itself so it could play with them... for all eternity.
  • Tokyo Xanadu: In Shio's backstory, there was a child abuse incident at the orphanage he and his old friend Kazuma lived at, so they attacked the headmaster, leaked the incident to the media, and then ran away.
  • The White Orphanage from Wild ARMs 4 was actually a laboratory where war orphans were experimented on to make them more compatible with ARMS. Given that Yulie was there from around the age of five, you can see why she's so downbeat and apologetic.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, after her parents died in an accident, Miyoko Tanishi a.k.a. the Big Bad Miyo Takano spent some time in a horrific orphanage in the middle of the woods as part of her Start of Darkness. The orphanage is run by bitter ex-military staff, who take joy in torturing and sexually abusing the children, including subjecting them to cruel and unusual punishments or deaths, like making Tanishi lick a toilet after a soldier just defecated in it or feeding a kid to hungry chickens. Fortunately, Tanishi was able to call for help and was adopted by a man named Takano, but we never find out what happened to the orphanage or the other kids.

    Web Animation 
  • Helluva Boss: "Seeing Stars" portrays hellhound adoption centers like these in a flashback, mixed with Pounds Are Animal Prisons. The pups are malnourished and deformed, the cells are filled with grime, and the social worker's dialog implies the pups are mostly sold as slaves or family pets, and she doesn't acknowledge pups being violent towards each other, even when one is threating his cellmate with a bloody nail bat in front of her, implying it's a regular occurrence. This is where Blitzo found and adopted Loona, a month before she turned 18.

  • A number of the main characters of Dreamkeepers live in an orphanage run by Grunn, an angry shark who hates kids and is probably only doing it as a cover.
  • In When She Was Bad, Gail Swanson grew up in an orphanage where "catching the biggest cockroaches was considered a fun past-time". She ran away from it when she was eleven years old.

    Web Videos 
  • Pinkie Pie from Friendship is Witchcraft lived in at least an emotionally abusive one as a filly. It left her with deep insecurities about being Romani and being an Earth Pony.
  • Ultra Fast Pony plays this for black comedy. Young Rainbow Dash grew up in a lot of abusive orphanages (and with a lot of equally-abusive foster families). As she explains in "Shameless Self Reference":
    Rainbow Dash: Anyway, this is the seventh orphanage I got kicked out of. I think it was my third longest-running orphanage. [...] Aw, coming back here, so many good memories. I mean, there's a lot more bad memories, but there's a few good memories, too.

    Western Animation 
  • As we learn in the Alvin and the Chipmunks episode "The Chipette Story", Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor spent their early life in this trope in Australia with their best friend Olivia. In this orphanage, the caretaker Miss Grudge would try to force some of the orphans to sing to make more money, but they all had rotten singing voices. When Olivia is lucky enough to be adopted, Grudge kidnapped and locked the Chipettes away so she wouldn't be able to take them with her, intending to make money off the three little chipmunk girls. They barely managed to escape and then hid in a ship sailing to the USA.
  • In American Dad!, Francine used to live in an orphanage before her Chinese parents adopted her. In that orphanage, any time she tried to use her left hand (being naturally left-handed), the nuns would smack her with a fish. Which is a reference to a now rarer practice of forcing people to be right-handed that was once common in Catholic schools, and also happened in some secular schools.
  • In the Arthur episode "Mom and Dad Have a Great Big Fight", Arthur and D.W. fear that their parents may be getting a divorce and worry that they will be abandoned. Cue Oliver Twist-inspired Imagine Spot.
    Arthur: We have to avoid going to an orphanage at all costs, especially one set in the 1800s.
  • Boo Boom! The Long Way Home: In episode 20, Boo-Boom and a group of war orphans are forcefully taken from a red cross camp and placed in one of these. The place, a partly destroyed rundown building, is run by a group of very strict female soldiers who enforce an iron discipline, and the building houses an industrial laundromat where the orphans are put to work. Fortunately, thanks to Boo-Boom's animal friends, they are all able to escape and the place itself is burned to the ground.
  • The Christmas Special The Christmas Tree is set in one these, where the lady in charge gambles away the orphanage's money on a regular basis. It's so bad that the children latch onto a huge pine tree for emotional comfort.
  • The Cuphead Show!: As revealed in "Dance With Danger", Miss Chalice lived in one of these for a time, with the heads all being tyrants who refused to let the kids have any fun and any attempt to do so was punished with harder chores and getting Denied Food as Punishment. It says something about how bad it was that Chalice preferred living on the streets to living there.
  • In Futurama, Leela grew up in Cookieville, a minimum-security orphanarium. With a warden. Who used to tell her, daily, that she's worthless and no one will ever love her. And there are bars on the windows. By her own account, the best day ever of her entire life was Double Soup Tuesday at the orphanarium. Although she is shown laughing about it all later, with the very same warden, and looks at this time of her life with some fondness.
    Leela: Just like old times. Gosh. The bars on the windows seemed so much thicker back then. Mr. Vogel? Remember me?
    Warden: Leela! You're worthless and no one will ever love you!
    [they laugh and hug]
    Leela: You used to say that all the time!
    Warden: Oh, those were happier days.
    Also, there's an episode where Warden Vogel tries to take the kids ice-skating in Central Park and seems genuinely saddened when he's forced to cancel the field trip.
  • The orphanage in Tigress's backstory in Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five qualifies... but not in the way you might think. The orphanage in question did have darkness underneath its brighter front, but rather than the traditional Evil Orphanage Lady enforcing fear in the orphanage, Tigress herself was the source of this fear, as despite the young cub being genuinely innocent in her motives for the most part, everyone else feared her because of her fangs, claws, temper, and overall strength, and she was left alone and ashamed. With some help by Master Shifu, Tigress managed to learn to control herself and turned the place into an Orphanage of Love.
  • In The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, Flapjack gets sent to another unique variation in "Oh, You Animal!". The caretaker is actually a good person and just wants to protect, even adopt Flapjack. What makes the orphanage horrifying is the fact that the other "orphaned boys" are actually grown men disguised as little boys so they could have free meals and a roof over their head, and Flapjack, being the only real kid in the place, is bullied mercilessly.
  • Three Delivery: According to the main trio, the orphanage where they used to lived before being adopted by Nana was not pleasant when Sid mentions a Noodle Incident when a birthday went terribly wrong because they were denied to have celebrations.
  • In Time Squad, Otto lived in an orphanage ran by a cruel nun who used the children that were in her care for cheap labor, kept them well underfed and is shown to be able to willingly physically harm children with a whip.


Video Example(s):


Loona's Adoption

During the show, Blitzo has a traumatic flashback when a little girl (in-universe) asks Blitzo to adopt a dog. He remembers when he adopted Loona, about how she was an angry and scared hellhound in the adoption center, and would be "out of our hair next month" according to the adoption center. This caues Blitzo to freak out and refuse to give up the dog on the show he's acting in.

How well does it match the trope?

4.97 (30 votes)

Example of:

Main / TraumaButton

Media sources: