Escaped Lunatics: Reality Versus Urban Legends

Urban legends often include escaped lunatic asylum patients, such as "hook" story and "Bunnyman." The movie "Alone in the Dark" was one of the best portrayals of that - 

Let's talk real cases, and they can get pretty bizarre and even chilling -

Here (above) we have Owen Bonner in the UK. He escaped the mental hospital after having a history of knifing a woman he held hostage in a siege in a chicken factory. He had made demands for TV cameras, a Michael Jackson outfit, and the Thriller album. 

This guy (above) is Paul Williams who escaped a mental facility in the London area. He assaulted a driver and stole his car. 

Friends helped this crazed killer get out of a locked down mental hospital in Queens, NY.  Raymond Morillo had slashed up some people on the subway with razor blades, permanently disfiguring them and then was locked up. 

Although we might be afraid of escaped patients, the real horrors occurred in the institutions. 

I had an older sister who went into one in 1970 because she had cut up her arms in frustration as a teenager. That cutting behavior was not understood and popular ways of dealing with teens was putting them in expensive institutions like Taylor Manor (where my sister went). There answer was to put on strong meds and give lots of electroshock therapy. In 18 months, she had so many shocks, she had no memory of her childhood or any of us. Her mind was devoid of the past. My father got sick of it and pulled her out and she went onto have a very productive life. But, it shows the harm that was done and is still being done when we do not understand the human mind at all.

In Long Island, one mental institute utilized lobotomies and electroshock therapy, but eventually doctors tried using some heavy duty meds to put patients into comas to get rid of them. 

In 1913, Kansas actually castrated the male patients. They were also known for strapping patients down until their skin grew over the ropes.

At Metropolitan State Hospital in Massachusetts, they had a very terrifying horror-novel type scenario going on: This macabre tale for which Metropolitan is best known for also earned it the nickname "The Hospital of Seven Teeth." In 1978, a patient named Anna Marie Davee went for a walk around the grounds and never returned. It wasn't until 1980 that her killer, a fellow patient named Melvin Wilson, brought police to the three separate graves where he had buried parts of her hacked-up body. As if dismembering her wasn't enough, Wilson kept seven of Davee's teeth as a souvenir.

Abandoned asylums

Over 100 escaped patients a year in UK
Top 10 asylum stories
Six horrifying backstories on asylums

It would appear the real harm involving mental patients is the treatment they received in archaic facilities more so than the general public's threat from their rare escapes. 

Of course, some of those patients that landed in these facilities did so because they had done criminally insane acts. Even today, we aren't really sure how to deal with mental illness, especially when it involves violent tendencies. Even high-security facilities have escapees. 

Do any of them escape with a hook? Probably not. But, the legends are delightfully demented. 

Escaped Lunatic Movies 

Escaped lunatic themes drive many legends from the Bunnyman of Virginia to the Lover's Lane dude with the hook hand. If you want to hunker down and enjoy a film with a particularly unpredictable stalker, choose an escaped lunatic flick - 


Michael Myers killed his teenaged sister when he was just a kid. A stay at the local psychiatric hospital didn't rehab him, as he silently awaited a chance to escape and continue the slaughter. 

Starring: Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis. 

Terminator 2

When someone from the future comes to tell you that your destiny is be the mother to the rebel that will rescue humanity from robot dominance, you might seem a big crazy. In this second installment of the Terminator series, Sarah Connor breaks out of the asylum to save humanity.

Starring: Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger

In Dreams

An artist and mother suddenly gets psychic connections to a serial killer. Is she insane? Well, they think so. But, this determined lady escapes to find the killer.

Starring Annette Bening, Robert Downey Jr., and Aidan Quinn

Campfire Tales

Four teens racing too fast on the road, crash and are stuck in the woods for the night where they tell each other urban legends about escaped maniacs and such.

Alone in the Dark

"Alone in the Dark" is a 1982 film that somehow missed a lot of viewers when it came out. I am not sure why it wasn't more popular, but this is a classic with a lot of big-named actors. 

The premise of this one was a psychiatrist moves to a new town to fill a position for a psychiatrist who is leaving a mental hospital. He relocates his family, settles in to the duties at the hospital with the very troubled patients. The problem is, the paranoia of the group of patients has them believing their old doctor would never have left, the new doctor must have killed him! And, so they plot to escape and take matters into their own hands. And, be ready for a surprising ending that is a treat.

Starring Jack Palance, Donald Pleasence, and Martin Landau.

Maniac on the Loose

When an extremely dangerous lunatic escapes the psychiatric hospital, the head of the hospital attempts to cover it up.

When a Stranger Calls

The babysitter had an easy gig. The kids were sleeping upstairs. She just had to sit and study her books. That is, until a stranger calls and scares her so much she calls the police. They tell her they will tap the line. Only they find out the escaped lunatic caller is a killer and he's in the house.

Starring Carol Kane and Charles Durning

More Movies
"Cropsey" (a truly chilling documentary about a closed asylum and children going missing) - I highly recommend this one!
"Gothika" A psychiatrist becomes a prisoner at her own mental health facility when she is blamed for a murder she didn't commit.
"House on Haunted Hill" (remake) A party is held overnight in lockdown in a building that was a retired mental hospital and haunted.
"Campfire Tales" A series of urban legends told around a campfire in which a few lunatics torment citizens.
"Terror Train" A college boy who was tormented and put away, comes back to kill his tormenters.
"Bad Ronald" A troubled teen kills someone and his mom walls him away in the house to hide him.
"Silence of the Lambs" A crazy killer gets loose to stalk again.

**Tomorrow's post "Mysteries of the Ancient Labyrinth Russian Islands" **