Bedlam House

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Makes you long for the good old days of exorcisms, doesn't it?

"You must admit, it's hard to imagine this place being conducive to anyone's mental health."

Batman, on Arkham Asylum

Oh no... your character has gone crazy. Stark raving mad. Surely what they need is a modern facility with friendly doctors, like the one Britney Spears used to check into on a regular basis.

Just kidding! What your character needs is Bedlam House, a dark, dank insane asylum straight out of the mid-18th to 19th century, staffed by Psycho Psychologists. Lobotomies in aisle four, please pick up your straitjacket before proceeding, sadistic Nurse Ratched figures please report for surgery, slow descent from minor quirks in Cloudcuckoolander to sitting in the corner mumbling cryptic phrases about Things Man Was Not Meant to Know will begin after your four o'clock slop.

Modern psychological techniques do not exist. Electroshock therapy is handed out like lollipops at the doctor's office. Those padded walls haven't been scrubbed in weeks (even if they had been, the inmates would just keep writing on them). Abandon all hope, ye who enter Bedlam House!

After the nickname of Bethlem Royal Hospital, the first psychiatric hospital in the world. First turned into a "madhouse" in 1403, by the 18th century it had basically become another part of London's entertainment industry. For a penny (or free on the first Tuesday of the month), visitors could watch the inmates' antics, and bring long sticks to "poke and enrage" them. Seriously.

Bethlem Royal is still active, albeit having undergone multiple relocations, and is now, according to Wikipedia, at the forefront of humane psychiatric treatment.

Probably a case of Truth in Television, as a mental patient's defining feature is his/her failure to conform to the relatively lax social norms of the outside world. The stricter rules of an asylum naturally tend to accentuate that particular character trait, leading to a predictable escalation. Compare Hellhole Prison

Has nothing to do with the Beldam.

Examples of Bedlam House include:

Comic Books

  • Batman's Arkham Asylum. Whenever shown it is a dark, dank, brickwalled facility, run by burly nurses and mad doctors. Probably because whoever's funding the place is more concerned with keeping the inmates in than making them sane. Not that that works, either.
    • It should be noted that not ALL the villains put there are actually considered insane. Arkham is just the only place in the area that is able to hold some of the more super powered villains (such as Mr. Freeze). Conversely, the ones that are sane and manageable in a normal setting (such as Catwoman) still get sent to a normal jail. Some such as the Joker truly are insane however (and some are just as dangerous as the sane people kept there)
    • Ironically, the Joker has been stated to find the Asylum relaxing. Some depictions show him willingly get captured after a caper so he can get some needed R&R.
      • In The Sandman, The Scarecrow notes that he views Arkham as his home and the only place he's really comfortable, and implies that most of the other rogues are the same.
    • One issue tries to explain this by showing that it was secretly built by insane, nigh-Lovecraftian settlers to cultivate homicidal madness instead of curing it.
    • Considering that the name is taken from Lovecraft's writings....Yeah.
    • Pre-Crisis, it was established canon that Arkham's own founder himself went crazy and was bound into his own institution, until he died. Don't worry, he kept himself occupied in the meantime by etching gibberish into his cell's walls with his fingernails while humming "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." The current canon of this, and the items immediately below, isn't especially clear.
      • In one version his parents were both killed by crazies, he thought that he could cure the killer, the killer seems cured but kills his secretary in front of his eyes, then pleads for pity. Arkham decides that only discipline works against the "filth", that is revealed to not help with the super criminals either, so he starts murdering them.
        • In another version, the killer thanks Arkham for his efforts by killing his entire family. Arkham insists on continuing his treatment, and in a way does so—by electro-shock therapying him to death.
    • One Elseworld, The Batman of Arkham, had Bruce Wayne as a psychiatrist in an early 20th century Arkham... where, in a surprising subversion, he genuinely helps people; The story opens with a breakthrough therapy session with Killer Croc, who is nearly totally 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." But, under the later direction of Dr. Crane, it reverts to the old ways immediately. Things got better.
    • Another mini, Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, had it show that even when a sane person goes in, there's little hope he comes out the sane. This mini also showed us a side of Arkham rarely seen before, exploring the patients who were committed and never escaped but stayed as lunatic as can be, from ghastly cult leader Death Rattle to Mad Artist Doodlebug.
    • It's a Bedlam House in Batman: Arkham Asylum, but the marketing (as evidenced in the tie-in Arkham Care website and some of the in-game PA announcements) desperately tries to make it seem like a pleasant, modern psychiatric institution. To utterly hilarious degrees; it's really something to stand in a dank, creepy and falling-apart Arkham corridor listening to a pleasant voice on a commercial witter on about how Arkham is 'the state's premier psychiatric therapeutic facility', how the famous supervillains who get locked up there 'are only half the story' and other such nonsense.
      • The upcoming sequel features an even worse solution: Arkham City, a walled off slum section of Gotham where former Arkham patients and Blackgate convicts alike are thrown in and left to their own devices. Then hired mercs kill everyone in the place. How therapeutic.
    • It doesn't help that Dr Jeremiah Arkham, the asylum director and descendent of its insane founder, has a tenuous grip on sanity himself, and is often portrayed as more interested in exploring his charges' psychoses (For Science!!, naturally) than curing them.
    • And currently, Arkham was redesigned as a house of punishment by the new, nefarious... building manager or somesuch, without Jeremiah's knowledge. The Raggedy Man is already dead and attempts have been made on the lives of Mr. Freeze, Clayface, and Killer Croc, as well. Following Jeremiah's final breakdown, the new director is a member of the Church of Crime...
  • Ravenscar was pretty rough on John Constantine, even if he had been convicted of killing a ten year old girl. . .
  • Ravencroft in the Marvel Universe which somehow seems to feature mostly crazed Spidey villains.
  • Dunwich Sanatorium, in Wolverine Weapon X. The place used to be run by a crooked doctor who hired psychopaths out for untraceable mob hits, and was then taken over by Dr Rot, a Mad Doctor/Mad Artist who makes Jeremiah Arkham look like Frasier Crane.
    • Note that Dunwich was also a Lovecraft town.


  • In Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Gaston's last attempt to force Belle to marry him involves bribing the manager of an asylum to incarcerate her father there, even though Monsieur D'Arque himself comments that Maurice is just a harmless eccentric. The general setting of the movie seems to be in the late 1800s, so considering how cruelly asylums were run back then, it could have been a very effective threat.
  • 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.
    • Showing how concentration camps are not so fun than they used to be.
  • In another Mel Brooks film, High Anxiety, the main character works at the Psychoneurotic Institute for the Very, VERY Nervous, which is less interested in curing its rich clientele than in keeping them indefinitely and thus getting more of their money.
  • The hospital in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is something of a Bedlam House, especially considering the menacing figure of Nurse Ratched.
    • Its even more so on the book, with a prime example being Max Taber. Mr Taber was a man there who was alright until he asked what was in his medication. They sent him to shock therapy for this and is soon after lobotomized and released as a completely different person. Ironically, the nurse who treats patients on the Disturbed Ward is a kind little Japanese lady who openly resents Nurse Ratched and her methods.
  • The Channard Institute (where the most insane patients are kept in the steam tunnels) in Hellbound Hellraiser II.
  • 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.
    • Possibly Truth in Television as during the very early 20th century, electricity was still seen as a magical force with properties that included curing the sick. It was considered the spark of life and at least one author had written a book about it doing just that.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Todd's daughter Johanna is sent to Fogg's Asylum, a notorious madhouse, by Judge Turpin, who is furious that she won't go along with his Wife Husbandry and plans to elope with Anthony. She's lucky she didn't have to spend too much time there.
    • Indeed. Otherwise she would have ended up like her mother Lucy Barker, who was sent to the actual Bedlam House following her rape by Judge Turpin and her attempted suicide by taking arsenic..
  • The Boris Karloff film Bedlam was a fictionalized account of the atrocities that occurred at the infamous Bethlehem Royal Hospital for the mentally ill.
  • In the House on Haunted Hill remake, the house was evil specifically because the doctors were evil, the patients took over, raped and killed them, and then the house was set on fire.
  • See the documentary Titicut Follies for a horrifying glimpse of this in the Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminally insane at Bridgewater, MA, in the 1960s. The documentary was banned for many years, by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The overt reason was that the film invaded the privacy of the inmates, but the real reason was to keep the horrors from the public.
  • The insane asylum in the opening of Amadeus appears to be such a beast for the non-wealthy inmates. It is much friendlier and more comfortable for the aged composer Antonio Salieri. It doesn't hurt he's suffered Sanity Slippage and resides in private quarters available to the rich.
  • The madhouse to which the Marquis de Sade is committed in Quills fits this trope, more or less—although it is probably an enlightened institution by 18th-Century standards. At least the inmates are allowed enough freedom to stage their own plays.
  • Shutter Island: Subverted in the Twist Ending, as the horrific experiments are all part of the protagonist's delusions.... Maybe. The story plays with the audience, as it is because of familiarity with the trope that one so readily accepts Daniels' version of reality as truth.
  • Westin Hills from the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. The place was originally decrepit, with the most insane patients being kept together in a giant pit. The facility was closed for an unknown amount of time after the volunteering Sister Mary Helena (aka Amanda Krueger) became trapped in the aforementioned pit (where she was raped and tortured for days) due to staff incompetence.
    • By Freddy vs. Jason the place, while still housing the mentally ill, is used primarily as a quarantine for those with even the slightest bit of knowledge about Freddy Krueger. Patients are forced to take the dream suppressant Hypnocil, which has been known to put the taker into a (presumably permanent) coma.
  • The mental institution in Rob Zombie's Halloween 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. Even if Myers was a mentally stable individual, that sort of treatment would turn anybody into a Complete Monster.
  • Sucker Punch takes place in an asylum run by an especially crooked orderly, with the main characters plotting to escape the place before protagonist Baby Doll's lobotomist arrives.
  • Railley in 12 Monkeys is a doctor and researcher into mental health and prophecy in a similar institution in Baltimore, where she meets Cole. Goines, the suspected villain, is incarcerated alongside Cole, and gives him the tour. Cole is shown restrained by some very fanciful instruments of torture.
  • In the 2010 remake of The Wolf Man, Lawerence Talbot is sent to one as the police believe he's a random but human nutcase rather than, well, the Wolf Man. Their attempts to cure him of believing he is a werewolf includes forcefully dunking him, repeatly, into ice water. As you can imagine, once the next full moon comes around, he escapes quite easily, killing most of the doctors in the process.
  • In Changeling, which takes place in the 1920s and is inspired by actual events, Angelina Jolie's character is sent to the Psych Ward of the Los Angeles County General Hospital. (The aftermath of this case led to a new California law forbidding police in committing someone to a psychiatric facility without a warrant.)


  • Subverted in Martin Day's Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures novel The Sleep of Reason, in which Mausolus House looks like Bedlam House, but is actually run by a very caring and progressive doctor (well, for 1904; he's specifically contrasted with the previous governor, who believed the House's purpose was simply to keep the inmates away from normal folk). In 2004, it's been rebuilt as the Retreat, a proper modern care home.
  • Arkham Asylum was named after H.P. Lovecraft's fictional Massachusetts town, whose Arkham Sanitarium is a popular destination for his less-fortunate characters. It is itself a subversion of this trope, making its namesake look like a magical fairyland filled with tiny psychiatrists flitting about on butterfly wings.
  • Subverted in the Ben Elton novel Dead Famous. One of the contestants on a Reality TV Show tries to curry favor by talking about the time she spent in this kind of insane asylum when she was younger; one of the other contestants knows immediately that she's lying, because her mother is actually institutionalized.
  • Edgar Allan Poe's The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor 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 literally take over the asylum. The real psychiatrists were locked in the cells, tarred, and feathered.
  • Part of the Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith is set in a Victorian women's insane asylum very much like this. The head doctor starts out making a honest attempt to cure his patients... until he actually succeeds with one young woman, and then quickly realises the breakthrough has merely gotten him one less paying customer. After that he pretty much leaves the inmates to the sadistic nurses.
  • The Funny Farm (St Hilda of Grantham's Home for Distressed Waifs and Strays) in Charles Stross's Laundry short story "Down On The Farm", has elements of the trope, although the truth is far more bizarre, and possibly even more sinister.
  • St Cerabellum's in the Nursery Crime novels. When it was built, it was the most forward-thinking and up-to-date psychiatric centre in Britain. Unfortunately, that was in 1831, and it hasn't changed since.
  • Accidentally being locked in one of these for a while leads to Mayor Poynt's Pet the Dog moment in Welkin Weasels.
  • Garrett P.I. 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. Basically a warehouse for the mad, with the added presence of men whose minds were twisted by magic in the war.
  • Bethlem Royal, the original Bedlam, features prominently in the Matthew Hawkwood novel Resurrectionist in all its hellish glory. The place creeps Hawkwood out.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is set in one of these, which maintains an outward appearance of being a modern, progressive facility.
  • As are the early chapters of Earthquake Weather by Tim Powers.
  • THE Bedlam is referenced in Dickens' A Christmas Carol - as Scrooge observes his nephew and Cratchit's happiness over Christmas he grumbles "I'll retire to Bedlam."
  • Clifford Beers wrote A Mind That Found Itself, which related his own experiences in an early 20th century string of Connecticut asylums and kickstarted the Mental Hygiene movement. The author was suffering from genuine delusions and depression, was cured when he was convinced by a sensitive act on his brother's part, but was still driven to an opposite extreme by the revelation he had been wrong. It took him a year after his recovery from the delusions to be finally released.
  • In The Pale King, Meredith spends her 18th birthday in one after getting caught cutting.
  • In Diary of a Madman the eponymous madman Poprishchin eventually winds up in one.
  • The actual Bedlam asylum is a major part of the plot of Rebel Angels.

Live-Action TV

  • An early two-parter on Alias, "Reckoning"/"Color Blind," sent Sydney to one such asylum in Romania [read: Ruritania]. It turned out to be run by an agent for recurring nemesis K-Directorate, and she ended up under interrogation with shock therapy as Electric Torture.
  • The Doctor Who episode "The Shakespeare Code" featured the historical Bethlem Royal Hospital - or Bedlam.
  • Law and Order Special Victims Unit: The Bedlam House-esque psych home where the nurses don't speak English, people wander around without pants, and one woman died of heat stroke was a scam run by a man providing bare minimum care while padding his own pockets with rest of the government's funds.
  • The Torchwood episode "Adrift" has one of these for victims of the Rift which were brought back to Earth who can't be returned to their families, set up by Capt. Jack Harkness. Subverted in that although the buildings are grubby and run down, the staff are actually quite nice.
  • In one episode of Stargate SG-1, Daniel goes insane due to someone's anti-Goa'uld weapon; unaware of the real problem, General Hammond has him sent to an asylum where he is kept in a straitjacket and heavily medicated. Perhaps not terribly awful in the real world - Daniel has had at least one violent episode - but given the bizarre nature of several adventures the group has already had, Daniel's Applied Phlebotinum explanations weren't that farfetched.
  • 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.
  • Averted in House, when the eponymous character eventually checks into a mental hospital in the finale of season 5. It doesn't look very promising from the outside, but the staff are honestly trying to help him - the biggest issue is House accepting the help. The other patients prove to be interesting influences on House.
    • The outside looked foreboding because it was an abandoned ex-bedlam house for real, called Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital. It was built in the 19th century and closed down in the 2005. It's original name was New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum.
  • The eponymous house in Bedlam, although it's being turned into luxury apartments.
  • MacGyver: In "A Prisoner of Conscience", Mac fakes insanity so he can infiltrate a Russian mental hospital to break out a political dissident.


  • The Metallica song "Sanitarium (Welcome Home)," which is about life in one of these asylums:

Welcome to where time stands still
No one leaves and no one will
Moon is full, never seems to change
Just labeled mentally deranged
Dream the same dream every night
I see our freedom in my sight
Sleep, my friend, and you will see
This dream is my reality
They keep me locked up in this cage
Can't you see it's why my brain says RAGE?

  • Emilie Autumn's 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 also wrote 4 o'clock which is about the girls in these places.
    • Everything she currently does 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.
  • There is an very old folk song about Bedlam Hospital. It is variously known as 'Tom O'Bedlam', 'Mad Tom' and 'Bedlam Boys' or 'Bedlam Girls'.
  • German metal band Stormwitch had a song called 'Welcome to Bedlam'.
  • King Diamond has written more than a few songs from the point of view of a tormented asylum inmate, including an entire 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 pretty much 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...but, 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."


Tabletop Games

  • The island of Dominia in the Ravenloft setting.
    • Dr. Illhousen, narrator of in-character material from the Nightmare Lands boxed set, tries hard to subvert this trope by introducing some actual theraputic care and defenses against the nightmare-inducing entities that plague its patients to a Bedlam House.
  • As in Lovecraft's original source material, some pretty dodgy stuff is liable to go on in Call of Cthulhu (tabletop game)'s insane asylums.
  • In the horror RPG Kult, most asylums are hellholes and 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."


  • In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Fogg's Asylum is one of these. Among other things, insane asylums like this back in the day let wigmakers come in and clip the hair of its inmates for their wigs. Sweeney and Anthony use this as a way for Anthony to get into the madhouse to rescue Johanna.
  • The setting of Marat/Sade, Charenton.
  • In the play The Insanity of Mary Girard, Mary Girard, a sane woman, has been confined to one of these by her husband because she is pregnant by another man's child, and this infidelity is treated as a disease. There's even a device called the Chair, where they strap unruly inmates down, hands and feet, and put a black box over their heads so they can't even see. In the end, she decides that it's better to live away from her husband and the world outside, even if she does have to be trapped, because if she is obedient she will be treated reasonably well. However, when the tourists come and pay to gawk at the inmates, she will flaunt once and for all that she is insane... insane... insane.... Nightmare Fuel? Why, most certainly!

Video Games

  • 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.
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online features a quest called "The Sane Asylum," where the orderlies literally 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.
  • In Call of Duty 5, the second Nazi Zombie mode map Verruckt is an abandoned asylum with all the usual stigmata of this trope: blood stained rooms, electric barriers, power outage, crazy writing on walls and rather dangerous looking medical equipment.
    • Considering the fact that Those Wacky Nazis generally exterminated Mental patients outright and handed the remainders to the same group of people who produced Dr. Mengele for cruel and terrifying experiments which were obscenely deadly For Science!!- and this is before we get into the habit of shipping dissidents to said mental asylums when they ran out of the original patients- this is probably justifiable.
    • The last third of the campaign level "Ring of Steel" forces you to travel through a bombed out insane asylum that's pretty damn normal compared to other examples on this list. However, no small amount of tension is derived from the fact that there are no Germans to fight until you reach the second floor. As Sergeant Reznov says: "This place reeks of nightmares and madness, but only the insane would stand against us!"
  • The rendered cinematics of Diablo II (but not Lord of Destruction) take place in a Bedlam House style of sanitarium, where the inmates are whipped and tend to scream a lot. The Archangel Tyrael "visits" to interrogate a man named Marius about how he'd gotten caught up in the events of the story. The twist is that it's not Tyrael, but Baal. He burns the asylum down behind him as he leaves.
    • Although this type of mental institution shouldn't be in any way surprising when one considers that the game takes place in the equivalent of our Dark Ages, where the mentally infirm really were just left to rot in cells.
  • In Address Unknown, a Show Within a Show in Max Payne 2, the protagonist is sent to an insane asylum that seems to fit this trope. We literally see The Theme Park Version when Max visits an abandoned fun-house based on the show. Abandoned presumably because a TV series about insanity (whose plot more-or-less parallels Max's own battle with his inner demons throughout the game) doesn't make for a wholesome day out for the family.
  • One level of Painkiller is the reflection of one of these in Purgatory. It's the most disturbing level in the game. Examples? Electroshock therapy victims who wander the hallways, still being zapped every now and again, unable to communicate except by painful moans. Giant hallways full of rotting padded walls. And quadruple amputees who attack by vomiting at you and lunging. Many of them are found walking around on the ceiling. And they have no eyes or teeth.
  • The Abandoned Asylum, "Thorny Towers home for the mentally disturbed" in Psychonauts. The inmates only stay because they haven't been told they can leave.
  • 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 first Shadow Hearts game is the very creepy Calios Mental Hospital.
  • Silent Hill's Brookhaven Hospital. Cedar Grove might qualify as well. The fact that the town has two mental hospitals might say something about the relative sanity of its inhabitants.
  • Part of The Suffering takes place in an Abandoned Hospital version. The recent supernatural happenings have awakened its twisted doctor as a ghost, manifesting in the form of an image from a movie projector.
  • Thief: Deadly Shadows gives us the awesomely terrifying Shalebridge Cradle. A Bedlam House-cum-Orphanage. And it's a burned-out ruin. And you go snooping around. At night. Hilarity Ensues. And by hilarity, we mean "Blood-curdling terror".
  • Blackfield Asylum in Twisted Metal Black. But then, the whole game is a nightmare, so why not?
  • 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 Nightmare Fuel, 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.
  • In Eternal Darkness, Maximillian Roivas gets carted off to one of these at the end of his chapter.
  • Evil Dead: Regeneration, a story that takes place on an alternate timeline from the films where Ash, instead of getting sucked into the past, is found in the cabin with a lot of hacked up corpses. The game starts at an asylum for the criminally insane, and his doctor now has the copy of the Necronomicon and intends to use it. If it didn't start off right in Bedlam House, you can bet it gets there fast.
  • American McGee's Alice has an entire 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 pretty much Alice's perception of reality the ending shows it to be a much more pleasant place.
    • The sequel, Alice: Madness Returns, has her being subjected to having holes drilled into her skull, electrotherapy, leaches, tonics and head shaving in one of these places in a cutscene. Emilie Autumn would probably like these games.
  • The town's insane asylum/prison in Pathologic carries the darkly humorous name of "The Apiary".
  • In the Casebook Trilogy the apartments from the second case used to be one until it was changed into a apartment building. Burton comments that the mental stability of the residents haven't changed and he's right. Espically since The Big Bad of a serial killer is living there.
  • 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...
  • 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? Hell yes that's a check. Electroshocks and pills given out like Pez? That's a playable level.
  • Lampshaded in episode one of Telltale Game's Back to The Future:

Doc Brown "They'd ship us both off to the loony bin! And trust me, you don't want to see the inside of a 1930's insane asylum!"

  • Medievil has The Asylum, which is filled with cackling madmen in strait-jackets who want to headbutt you to death.
  • Subverted in Darkest Dungeon with the Sanitorium. While it has the feel of this Trope initially, sending a hero there for treatment can cure them of Disease, remove a negative Quirk, or "lock" a positive Quirk. It costs money, of course.

Web Comics

  • From the little we've managed to gather, Jonas of The Phoenix Requiem has spent far, far more time than he would have liked to in a house such as this one.
  • The Continentals: In the steampunk murder/mystery/adventure "The Continentals", the criminal asylum Timbre Dark Manor is a manmade monument to madness built like a dark castle on the sins of man. here.
  • The Water Phoenix King has had one show up on several occasions, as Prince Thrale of Nammathar, the local ruler, likes to meet with his agents there over dinner, among the screams and chains. He seems to believe that it's a good way of foiling spies—but he's also himself well on the wrong side of sane, carving blood sacrifices in his own skin to their world's version of Ishtar in hopes that she will grant him total war as a boon. It's pretty twisted.
  • The Mercia Sanitarium and Straitjacket Emporium of A Loonatics 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.

Web Original

  • Pretty much all of the scenarios in The Holders Series take place in one of these.
  • The Chamoix most definitely qualifies.
  • In the sixth episode of Mortal Kombat: Legacy, Raiden arrives to Earthrealm into a mental hospital. Conveniently, his white outfit makes him look like a patient, so he is restrained and kept there (apparently, the fact that there's no record of the man being checked in doesn't faze the staff in the least). After several failed methods, including psychotherapy (talking) and psychopharmacology (drugs), the doctor chooses to lobotomize "Lord Raiden" to calm him down. Luckily for Raiden, he's a Physical God, so it likely doesn't do any permanent damage to him. Not that it justifies the quack who thinks it's a great idea to remove parts of a patient's brain to keep him quiet. He probably has a jar of leeches in his office in case the lobotomy fails.

Western Animation

  • Arkham Asylum is less a case of Bedlam House in Batman the Animated Series than in the source comic. The architecture is still oppressive, and the better-known inmates seem to enjoy making life hell for each other, but it is shown to have some good doctors, who have some sadly temporary success with Harvey Dent, Harley Quinn and Edward Nygma.
    • Harely Quinn was also a therapist at Arkham that fell in love with the Joker. It shows the place isn't that great for its staff either.
    • The episode Lock-Up, however, features Arkham guard Lyle Bolton, who gets fired after it's revealed he's on a serious power trip that has made him violently abusive to inmates including Harley and Jonathon Crane.
    • In the alternate world of Justice League, Arkham Asylum looks incredibly pleasant both inside and out. Everything's clean, bright and modern... but all the inmates have been lobotomized and lost their humanity.
  • Arkham's been brought back in all its Bedlam House glory in The Batman, where it's portrayed as an extremely tall gothic building complete with prison cell-like rooms and padded walls (for some reason, though, The Penguin constantly gets checked in, despite him generally being one of the sanest of Batman's enemies). Oh, and the guards pretty much have the authority to carry around tasers and dress in robes that make them look like they're prepared to do a lobotomy on a second's notice.
  • Robot Chicken sent Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes fame to one of these after his murderous rampage. "Mars is amazing...!"
  • In the Futurama episode "Insane in the Mainframe", Fry is accidentally sent to an insane asylum for robots. Although the treatments seem appropriate for curing insane robots, they drive the all-too-human Fry to madness, leading him to think he's a robot... and thus is considered "cured".
    • Which is even more hilarious given that pretty much all the robots act like humans, and Fry was acting like a stereotypical sci-fi robot, complete with No Indoor Voice.
  • Though not depicted as evil, The Simpsons does have a recurring mental institute known as the "New Bedlam Rest Home for the Emotionally Interesting". The horror factor here seems to be the ease with which a resident of Springfield can be committed to it. Homer ends up in it for carelessly letting Bart fill out a self-report mental exam at work. And when Ned Flanders checks himself in after a simple emotional breakdown, the totally disinterested admitting nurse only asks if he wants to be dragged off with or without kicking and screaming. Ned cheerfully chooses the kicking and screaming.
  • In the Transformers season three episode Webworld, Cyclonus takes Galvatron to the planet Torkulon in the hopes that his madness can be cured. Galvatron doesn't take to the therapy very well, and the Torkulons eventually try to give him a lobotomy-equivalent by jacking his mind into the planet itself while Cyclonus helplessly looks on in horror. Fortunately, Galvatron's willpower is so strong that he drives his mind into the planet and figures out how to destroy it. A Crowning Moment of Awesome / Roaring Rampage of Revenge soon follows... and once he's done, Galvatron actually seems quite calm. For a little while, anyway.
    • It was less a case of Galvatron's willpower than the fact that he was so insane that the planet itself was driven nuts just looking at his processor.
  • Wanda/Scarlet Witch in X-Men: Evolution was abandoned at one of these by her father, Magneto when she was just a child. As a result, all she can think of after being broken out is getting revenge on him only to have her memories altered by the end.
  • The Crazy House for Boys in Invader Zim definitely fits this trope, complete with men in white coats rushing into a school, grabbing an 11-year-old kid and throwing him into the back of a padded truck. Naturally, It Gets Worse.
  • "The Ranch" featured in the Batman Beyond episode "The Last Resort" turned out to be a Bedlam House for teenagers designed to break (and I do mean break) their spirits. 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.

Real Life

  • Regrettably, this sort of environment isn't as extinct even in modern times as we'd like to believe. If you're ready to have your heart broken, check out the Judge Rotenberg Center. Electric shocks for offenses such as swearing, ceasing an assigned task for more than ten seconds, or "nagging," is only the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, the JRC is not a one-of-a-kind anomaly.
    • The place, by the way, is named after the judge who allowed them to keep running after "casually" receiving a generous payment from them.
  • Conversely, Scientologists believe that every mental hospital on the planet, without exception, is like this. Their front group, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, is dedicated to "educating" the public about this fact. (And the fact that psychiatrists caused 9/11 and the Holocaust.) Their solution to this is to close them all down and replace the entire mental health industry with the wonders of L. Ron Hubbard's "tech". Horrible as some mental hospitals can be, this is no reason to tear down all therapy everywhere, which is what Scientologists aspire to do.
  • Many psychiatric hospitals in Soviet Union were these. Especially ones where they kept dissidents. Some still are.
    • Joseph Brodsky's poem Gorbunov and Gorchakov is about two patients in one of these institutions. But are they madmen or dissidents? Or both?
    • The Soviet government considered everyone who disagreed with Communism (i.e. them) to be mentally ill. After all, Communism is the wave of the future, right?
  • Many "Teen Treatment" facilities are systematically abusive. The most infamous was Tranquility Bay. They finally closed it down after multiple lawsuits in 2009.
  • Poveglia Island, located in the bay of Venice, housed a Bedlam House which was directed by a lobotomy-enthusiastic doctor. Before that, it was used for dumping thousands of terminally sick people (most of them suffering from the Black Plague) there to die.
  • China has "Video Game Addiction Clinics". The treatment is, pardon the sick irony, like Arkham Asylum. Electroshock? Check. Beatings? You're in China, what do you think? Murder? Of course. Murder for TOUCHING THE DIRECTOR'S CHAIR? Of course, ya dumbass!
  • Due to improperly trained and supervised personnel and What Measure Is a Non-Human? applying to the patients in the minds of many, abuse is quite rampant at many mental institutions, and serious injury and death are not uncommon - regardless of the patient's age, the patient's illness, what they thought the patient's illness was, or what led the personnel to, er, use the more severe restraining techniques. There's an entire "psychiatric survivors" community of people who barely survived their brush with institutionalization, often with PTSD, brain damage from medications they didn't need, or both. Mind you, a positive experience is more likely than it was 100 years ago... but that doesn't mean that anything you've read above is by any means rare, or only limited to countries that are not yours or are considered Acceptable Targets.
    • Lack of funding, and cutting out numerous programs, contributes to much of this. Too few staff taking care of too many patients (or whatever the euphemism of the year is) means that things will happen, no matter how enlightened and sympathetic the staff. There's sometimes confusion about whether or not patients can be physically restrained, and fear of punishment keeps staff second-guessing their responses to events. The causes are many, and solutions are complicated.
      • Most of the medications that are older than roughly 25 years are, well, entirely random guesses used because it looked like they worked. Doctors will still prescribe medications that haven't been yanked from the market purely because the only known treatment for their side effects is to keep taking them. In case this isn't horrible enough to you, try keeping up with the implications of current research—particularly the ones that indicate that not only are some forms of insanity pretty much you getting to feel the effects of your brain dying or something equally pleasant, but that any cure (not counting prevention) will be Nightmare Fuel of a different flavor...
  • Interestingly, while Bethlehem Royal is the Ur Example, it was also one of the first subversions. In the 19th century, the director and surgeon were hauled up before a medical board and summarily dismissed. The new regime focused on occupational therapy and integrating the patients into society—although this was admittedly made easier by the fact 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. When she finally was able to leave, after 10 days, Nellie published the account of her time in the asylum, causing a major overhaul of the system.
  • The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, used to be one of these. It used to be a treatment center for incurable diseases during the early part of the 1900s, but it was actually run by a con man who purposefully sought out rich families with ailing elders. He would trick the families into checking their sick family members into the hospital, where they would never come out, periodically forcing them to write to their family to ask for more money. Some of them would die and the deaths would go unreported, and letters would still be sent to the family asking for money as if they had never died. Needless to say, the hotel is reportedly very haunted.
  • Emilie Autumn wrote her book, The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, about her experiences in a real life example of this trope.
    • Another account is "Down Below" by Leonora Carrington, who was given experimental seizure-inducing drugs when she was interned after a nervous breakdown.