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  1. shadowblade

    shadowblade New Member

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    Setting: mental asylum horror story

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by shadowblade, Feb 3, 2021.

    So, I’m currently deciding on a setting for my horror/fantasy story, and I think a mental asylum would work well. The thing is, I can’t find anything on google, safari, writing websites, reddit, and basically any writing forum on mental asylums. What I have in my mind is that they’re like prison-hospitals? I’m not sure if this is right, but do they go in to like an appointment every day to work on their mental health or something? What do they do the rest of the day? If you could help that would be absolutely amazing!
     
  2. Madman

    Madman Life is Sacred

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    This all depends a lot on the timeframe. Mental hospitals aren't really the horror places that they might have used to be. At least not in my experience. They may also differ depending on what kind of patients they are equipped to handle.

    My experience(only a few years ago) was this:
    I had a room for myself, quiet a large one with a very large window and a bathroom with shower + toilet. I was in a wing of something like nine such rooms. We could close the door behind us, and only the caretakers could open it. We had television in our room and a large television in the wing. The wing had like a square outside area in the middle where people could get some fresh air(usually smoke cigarettes). We could go out into a closed courtyard to get some exercise, the facility also had a gym that you could book with a personal trainer. The facility was very modern and in good quality.

    Was there for about a month, but I could also come and go a little as I pleased, I was never locked in fully. I went to university at the time, and I could go to some of my classes. Everyone in the staff was very professional and friendly, despite me telling them some things about myself that were morally wrong.

    There were a lot of strange events that occurred during my stay, but I think most of them were due to me hallucinating. For example, two employees stood near me and talked about things I had done that they couldn't possibly know of.

    My fellow patients were never hostile towards me, but one patient had smashed a window during one night. Another patient told me he had destroyed his summer home. There were a lot of strange characters there, and I guess I was one of them. Had to call the caretakers one time as a fellow patient had fallen unconscious.

    What else... The facility was regularly cleaned and kept in a very nice condition. Security was tight, had to pass a metal detector and something like 5 keypad doors to get to my wing. 2 keypad doors to get to the courtyard.

    So, I would rate the whole thing 4/5. Minus one point due to strangeness... which was probably my brain's fault anyway...

    You can ask me pretty much anything you want about my experience there if you want. I can share in PM if something is too sensitive for the board.

    EDIT:
    During the day, I was mostly reading or watching television. I had some appointments with a psychiatrist and a psychologist.

    The only horror element probably comes from the patient's own mind.

    Oh.. and my username... hilariously prophetic... really, what the hell, universe?
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2021
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  3. alw86

    alw86 Member

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    If I google 'experiences in a mental asylum', I come up with quite a few potentially promising hits? One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is the classic fiction and an excellent read, though outdated in practical terms.

    As @Madman says, asylums as they were (basically just a holding place for anyone who didn't fit into 'normal life', covering everything from Down's Syndrome to anxiety disorders) don't really exist any more. We know (and care) A LOT more about mental health and neurodivergent conditions than we once did, and consequently we treat each differently according to its needs, which means no more locking everybody up in a big house together and throwing away the key. Even for the most severe situations, where people would be unable to live independently in any way and struggle to communicate their most basic needs with the world, there is a general understanding in psychiatry that there is still a person in there. I'm not saying that this always leads to exemplary care, and there are still many tragic and horrifying stories about people with these conditions being subjected to appalling cruelty, but it's now recognised as cruelty rather than 'oh well they're lunatics, they don't matter anyway'.

    As a concrete example, directly behind my house there is a care home for people with extremely severe mental disabilities, people who will never be able to live alone or care for themselves in any meaningful capacity. I read the annual inspection report out of curiosity and was quite amazed at what is expected for a place like this. Every patient has their own room, and in it is a 'personality board', basically a notice board which displays their interests and things they like, even if it's just 'the colour yellow'. They also have a file which tells of their dislikes and medical and personal history in their room, and staff are expected to familiarise themselves with all of this. A sample of patients able to communicate in a rudimentary way were interviewed by the inspectors and asked questioned (in appropriate language) like 'do you feel the staff listen to your wants and needs', 'if you have a problem with your primary caregivers do you know how to make a complaint without going through them', and 'do you expect that you would be listened to if you did make such a complaint'. These are standard questions asked by the inspectors for all these types of institutions, and while I'm certain that in many cases they still fall short, the fact that they even exist shows you how far we've come from the 'mindless drooling lunatic' stereotype of yesteryear.
     
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  4. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If you want a few good contemporary personal narratives from inside mental health treatment centers (they aren't called asylums anymore) i would read Suzanne Scanlon's Promising Young Women (fiction) and Susannna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted. Both are almost completely set inside mental health facilities and are built on an interesting cyclical plot structure that is meant to echo their fractured mental states. Very fast reads. You coild complete each in three hour stints. Valuable for what it actually feels like to live there. You could do horror there, but more on the psychological horror ghan anything else. It is a lot less of the zombies locked in a room sort of style than it used to be.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2021
  5. Dogberry's Watch

    Dogberry's Watch Swaggin like a Baggins Contributor

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    There's the classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as another example of fiction, and it tends to be a bit on the darker side.

    My experience inside a mental health facility was not quite what others have described. The ones in my area are more for addicts and sometimes there are people with mental health issues. They're very understaffed, and the times I was there we didn't really have much structure. We were kind of left to our own distractions. The last one I visited had a particularly violent man (I'm not gonna go too far into what he did/said), and he picked fights with people. He had to be sedated most of the time. The staff we did have were usually friendly and did their best to keep the peace.

    I shared a room, and it had bathrooms that only locked from the outside, so you couldn't have a secure experience inside. One of the places had food delivered to us, and the other had a small cafeteria. Both had a big common area, and sometimes we were allowed outside.

    If you want a more historical look at asylums, I recommend looking up Penhurst or Waverly. Those places were for long term mental health patients in the past (as well as a few other functions over the course of history). But there are rumors that those places are haunted, too, so that might help you?
     
  6. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, as others have mentioned, asylum is an archaic thing of the past. You could turn it into a period piece, research realistic modern mental hospitals, or go unrealistic. I'm writing a paranormal asylum at the moment so I've gone unrealistic. Think Arkham Asylum, therefore it is a prison. A place where criminally insane "people" (in my story they have supernatural abilities) who are too dangerous to be anywhere else are thrown and kept forever.
     
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  7. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    You can use Riverview Hospital as an example. It's where a lot of the "ghosts in the asylum" movies are filmed. Look it up in Google Images. It's creepy. I think there's webpages on it. Probably entire books too?

    Brief link. I'm sure there's better.
     
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  8. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Supporter Contributor

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    In Okinawa there's an abandoned childrens mental asylum stuck on an abandoned base. I'vd spent the night in that place during a typhoon and it was quite the experience as well. Just look up a few scary places like the old abandoned asylums if you want to go more down the horror route. You won't find the same kinds of horror in modern treatment facilities. They used to be more like holding facilities or prisons than they are today.
     
  9. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    From @Madman 's description it sounds like Nightmare on Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors actually got it pretty right. Watch that one, and add in the elements of the gym and all the keypad doors and you should have a pretty good idea for it.
     
  10. Storysmith

    Storysmith Active Member

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    It might be worth watching American Horror Story: Asylum, since that is an example of a horror/fantasy story set in a mental asylum.
     
  11. making tracks

    making tracks Active Member

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    There's a documentary called 'Cropsey' which might help. It is about an urban legend of this scary figure called Cropsey, but they think it developed when an old psychiatric facility was shut down due to lack of funding and a lot of the patients who didn't have family to look after them were basically just abandoned. It's been a long time since I watched it but I think that was the gist of it.
     

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