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.
- Get your urban legend fill here -
Over 100 escaped patients a year in UK
Top 10 asylum stories
Six horrifying backstories on asylums
"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.
"In Dreams" A woman is having a psychic connection with a serial killer and everyone thinks she's insane.
"Halloween" A boy kills his sister and is put away in a mental institute for the criminally insane where he escapes years later.
"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.
"Alone in the Dark" Mental patients think their psychiatrist was killed by the new psychiatrist, so they escape and torment him and his family.
"Silence of the Lambs" A crazy killer gets loose to stalk again.
"Terminator 2" A woman is hospitalized for thinking a robot from the future instigated her plans to kill off people who would ruin the future. She escapes to act on that fear.
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.