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Asylum Paperback – August 26, 2014
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MY TOP 5 ASYLUMS By Madeleine Roux
While writing ASYLUM, I turned to some of the following hospitals and institutions for inspiration, to bring in that real world touch. Some of the stories and histories I stumbled across were almost too intense and gruesome to be believed.
I. Norwich State Hospital for the Insane
Preston, Connecticut 1904 ― 1996
When most people think of an asylum, they probably picture a giant looming mansion that looks something like Norwich State Hospital for the Insane. It has one of those iconic, red brick exteriors with columns and a steep roof. The hospital is also notable for its maze of underground passageways. It’s considered by creep and ghost aficionados to be extremely haunted. Several shows have featured the hospital, including the popular series Ghost Hunters.
II. Whittingham Asylum
Lancashire, England 1869 ― 1995
Whittingham Asylum, charming and even quaint on the outside, makes the list if only for its sheer size. Whittingham was virtually a miniature city, and its expansive grounds included a brewery, post office, and even its own brass band. It was also the sight of some seriously scary allegations, with an inquiry in the 1960s that included reports of cruelty and fraud, complaints that were kept quiet with threats. Reportedly, some wards were infested with vermin, while others were left freezing cold. There were even rumors of a “wet towel treatment” involving a cold, wet towel wrapped around the patient’s neck until they passed out.
III. Waverly Hills Sanatorium
Louisville, Kentucky 1910 ― 1962
The architecturally stunning Waverly Hills was built to house a sudden influx of tuberculosis patients in the county, but closed after only fifty years when medical advances rendered the facility obsolete. Considered to be one of the most haunted hospitals in the eastern United States, it has played host to scores of reality TV shows about the paranormal, including Scariest Places on Earth and Ghost Hunters. It gets creepier―there are currently plans to renovate the hospital into a hotel for those looking to have a spooky spot to stay.
IV. Lier Mental Hospital
Buskerud County, Norway 1926 ― 1986
Perhaps the scariest thing about Lier Mental Hospital is its murky involvement in experimentation linked to pharmaceutical companies from the United States. This postwar hospital was used for experimentation and research into lobotomies, LSD, electroshock therapy and more.
V. Topeka State Hospital
Topeka, Kansas 1872 ― 1997
Topeka State Hospital may look cute and charming on the outside, but on the inside it was home to some unbelievably dark rumors. By far the creepiest allegations leveled against the hospital? (Brace yourself, it’s pretty gross.) There are stories of patients strapped down for so long that their skin began to grow around the straps. Yeesh. Nowadays, you can sometimes hear music playing from inside the abandoned hospital and spot shadows peering out at the windows.
Heather Brewer Interviews Madeleine Roux
HB: The imagery was so vivid in ASYLUM and the photographs throughout were just gorgeous―was it based on anywhere you’ve visited personally?
MR: The admittedly limited travel I’ve done in Europe included some incredible ruins and castles. There’s a feeling you get in those places, a sort of wonder and terror that you just don’t feel in new buildings. I tried to draw on those memories for Brookline. I also grew up in an old Victorian farmhouse, and . . . I don’t want to say it’s haunted but there were certainly times it felt haunted. To this day, when I visit my parents, I feel eyes on me at night in the hallway. The hairs on the back of your neck go up and you can sense there’s history there present with you. I wanted that same feeling to come through with Brookline.
HB: I felt really connected to Dan Crawford, your main character. What part of your fabulous mind did he come from?
MR: I was kind of a weird kid. I loved school. I wasn’t so much a loner as a gigantic nerd, always with my nose in a book or writing my own scripts and stories. There’s a good bit of my own insecurities and childhood memories in Dan; that same geek pride mixed with a constant fear that maybe life would be easier if I veered more toward the mainstream. Writing a male perspective is intimidating in the sense that I wanted it to feel authentic, so I would stop every once in a while and ask a friend if it was reading correctly to them. Having honest buddies helped, it always does for writing. They weren’t shy about saying, “I’m sorry but no guy would do/think/act that way, try again.”
HB: Has horror always appealed to you? If not, why now, why this story? If so . . . well . . . same question.
MR: The first two novels I did had a certain creep factor, too, since they were about zombies and survival. The irony here is that I’m a huge wuss when it comes to scary movies. I spent most of Cabin In the Woods whimpering in someone else’s lap. I’m not good with scary movies or gore or anything like that, but I find myself drawn to that kind of story again and again. It’s like I know it’s going to keep me up all night but I can’t help myself. I think that’s probably common, though . . . . We all test ourselves now and again, see where our boundaries and limits are. I get a kick out of pushing those limits for myself and exploring the darker parts of my imagination. My life isn’t all that adventurous, so writing darker stories gives me a chance to indulge in the more morbid thoughts that cross my mind.
HB: I know you probably get asked this a lot, but what’s your favorite piece of writing advice for the writers out there?
MR: It comes from Neil Gaiman and is infuriatingly straightforward and simple. “How do you do it? You do it. You write. You finish what you write.” And it’s true. As I’m sure you know, there’s no magic button. Sometimes you can’t write a sentence and other times you can’t stop, but just sitting down and making yourself do it is the key. You have to practice. You have to do the work, over and over. He also has another great piece of advice somewhere (I’m an unabashed Neil fangirl, I can’t help it) about getting out and living life, and not feeling upset or pressured if you don’t have a huge well of experience to draw on. The best inspiration comes from falling in love, falling out of it, getting your heart broken, just being present and showing up, you know? You won’t have anything to draw from if you guard yourself too closely. You have to risk life changing you in order to have something there to write about.
HB: What’s next from the shadowed mind of Madeleine Roux? What are you working on, and when can I have it? :)
MR: I’m notorious for starting new projects and then abandoning them, but I’ve had a gritty YA fantasy series cooking in my head for a while now. I’ve been taking down tons of notes for it and I’ve even started a few chapters, so right now I hope that has wings and takes off. You can have it the second I manage to get it all down!
From Publishers Weekly
Horror author Roux makes a strong YA debut with this creepy tale of a haunted asylum and the teenagers who are drawn to it. When Dan Crawford attends a summer program at New Hampshire College, he ends up housed in Brookline, a former asylum now being turned into a dorm. Along with fellow students Abby and Jordan, he starts exploring the basement of the dorm, where (conveniently) old records are stored. As they investigate, the students are plagued by horrifying dreams, and Dan starts to have blackouts, discovering strange unsent texts and emails and learning about conversations that he doesn't remember. Students are being attacked in the dorms, and as Dan begins to unravel his own ties to the asylum, he wonders if he might be responsible for the crimes. Roux (aided by unsettling photo illustrations of abandoned asylums and tormented patients) creates an entertaining and occasionally brutal horror story that reveals the enduring impact of buried trauma and terror on a place. Open questions at the end invite a sequel, though there's also a good sense of closure. Ages 14-up. Agent: Kate McKean, Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Let's get the good out of the way first. For everything that's wrong with this book, it does its overall job well. It's creepy. It gave me goosebumps. As far as horror fiction goes, Asylum does it well.
However, it has some problems. Pacing is a huge issue. Major encounters happen over the course of just a couple of pages and then everything is normal again. Chapters could ebb and flow but instead the author chose to typically end chapters with days instead of after major moments. The result is a jarring narrative that took me much, much longer to read than it should have--mostly because I kept putting the book down and leaving it for a week or two. The characters are flat, catty, and don't get along all the time for no reason at all. The entire book, Dan thinks to himself how much easier it would be if he just told his friends what was going on and then immediately doesn't. In general, it's a very frustrating read.
If you can get past stylistic problems, this is a good horror read. But otherwise, expect to be pulled out of the story every page or two due to very rough writing.
But Asylum is definitely well-written and engaging and makes for a fast read. I'll be reading the other books as well, but the text likely won't keep you up at night if you're older like I am. Or that's my impression. If you've read Stephen King, for example, Roux is not nearly as disturbing and doesn't have the sense of palpitating rhythm King does (but few do). There's also not the truly twisted sense of humans Gone Wrong that makes stories of ghosts and vampires pale in comparison, as far as acts of raw, inexplicable evil. But Roux's writing is also less terrifying, making Asylum a book that will entertain and spook you some without resulting in a few sleepless nights.
If you like YA ghost fiction with aspects of horror, Richard Pack's Blossom Culp (Ghosts I Have Been) books are classics; if you like being freaked out by deft combos of physical and psychological horror, try Something Wicked This Way Comes or the more modern Turtle Boy (Timmy Quinn series). Both, however, will stay with you after. So will Coraline, which kids find fun and adults have nightmares from, interestingly. Netflix's Stranger Things has something of Asylum's vibe, though the psychological imagery is frankly more haunting for its fantastical evocativeness.
Roux is good but not great, and her possession dialogue feels a bit forced at times, and a bit chuckling villain at one point late in the story. It's also not hard to figure out who's doing what, but this is less a mystery than an exploration of how family history can unbury itself and cause an otherwise stable person to question his sanity. But this was still an enjoyable read and didn't have plot breakdowns that a lot of horror has, where you feel as if the characters check their brains at the door on occasion because the plot needs to move forward. There are also enough questions left at the end of the book to make you want to delve more into the story.
I liked this story in parts seemed a little predictable. But it had the feel of The house on Haunted Hill.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It seemed rushed and was not real logical as to who the killer was.Read more