In the Comics
The Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane, commonly called Arkham Asylum, is a fictional psychiatric hospital in the DC Universe, usually appearing in stories featuring Batman. Many criminals who experience Psychosis, mostly from Batman's own rogues gallery, have been patients within the Asylum and also escaped from it.
Arkham Asylum has a long and brutal history, beginning when its own architect became mentally unwell and hacked his workers to death with an axe. He was convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in the same asylum he had been building. The asylum was named after Elizabeth Arkham, the mother of founder Amadeus Arkham. The original name of the asylum was "Arkham Hospital". Its dark history began in the early 1900s when Arkham's mother, having suffered from mental illness most of her life, committed suicide. However, it was later revealed that her son had actually euthanized her, and repressed the memory. Amadeus then decided, as the sole heir to the Arkham estate, to remodel his family home in order to properly treat the mentally ill, so others might not suffer the fate as his mother. Upon telling his wife Constance, and his daughter Harriet of his plans, they moved back to his family home from Metropolis to oversee the remodeling. While there, Amadeus Arkham one day discovered the corpses of his wife and daughter in an upstairs room, murdered by a serial killer, named Martin "Mad Dog" Hawkins, with his alias carved on Harriet's body. Despite this family tragedy, the Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane officially opened that November. With his sanity in tatters, Dr. Arkham designed a floor plan that evoked occult runes, he believed that the pattern would drive away the mysterious bat that haunted his dreams. One of its first patients was Mad Dog, whom Amadeus Arkham insisted on treating personally. After treating Mad Dog for six months, Amadeus Arkham strapped him to an electroshock couch then deliberately and purposefully electrocuted him. The staff treated the death as an accident, but it contributed to Amadeus Arkham's gradual descent into mental illness, which he began to believe was his birthright. Eventually, Amadeus Arkham was a patient in his own asylum, where he died.
Arkham Asylum is located on the outskirts of Gotham City and is where those of Batman's foes considered to be mentally ill are patients (other foes are incarcerated at Blackgate Penitentiary). Although it has had numerous administrators, the latest was Jeremiah Arkham, the nephew of Amadeus.
Arkham Asylum does not have a good record, at least with regard to the high profile cases—patients, such as the Joker, are frequently shown escaping at will—and those who are considered to no longer be mentally unwell and discharged tend to re-offend. Furthermore, several staff members, including its founder, Dr. Amadeus Arkham, and director Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, as well as staff members Dr. Harleen Quinzel, Lyle Bolton and, in some incarnations, Drs. Jonathan Crane and Hugo Strange, have become mentally unwell, too.
In addition, prisoners with unusual medical conditions that prevent them from staying in a regular prison are housed in Arkham. For example, Mr. Freeze is not always depicted as mentally ill, but he requires a strongly refrigerated environment to stay alive; Arkham, with special conditions required for certain patients or inmates being a regularity rather than exception, is seen by authorities to be an ideal location under certain circumstances. Gotham criminals deemed "criminally insane" or "mentally unfit" by the court of law generally are treated at Williams Medical Center before being deemed dangerous enough to be sent to Arkham Asylum.
Arkham Asylum was seriously damaged at the beginning of the Knightfall storyline, when Bane uses stolen munitions to blow up the facility and release all the patients. After these events, the asylum is relocated to a large mansion known as "Mercey Mansion". It was also blown up by Black Mask during the Battle for the Cowl story arc. In the Arkham Reborn mini-series, Arkham Asylum is rebuilt and financed by Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, who discovered blueprints created by his ancestor, the first Dr. Arkham, for a new Arkham Asylum. Jeremiah has three "special" patients, who as he says he has cured as they are the only nonviolent patients in the Asylum and occasionally meets with them, seeking for their advice and support. Later, Dr. Arkham is revealed to be the new Black Mask and is a patient in his own asylum and that as both Dr. Arkham and Black Mask, he had begun to manipulate patients, with Alyce Sinner becoming the new head of the facility, but secretly working with Arkham/Black Mask. It was also revealed that the "special" patients were figments of Arkham's imagination.
- Arkham was first mentioned in Alien and was not featured in it.
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