The Denholm Institute is a psychiatric asylum for those suffering from severe delusions.
Named for Katie Denholm, the first Kithain “cured” by Dr. Anton Stark, the Denholm Institute is Doctor Chapman’s base of operations, the place where many Kithain have been “cured” of their “delusions.” The chimerical artifacts of their suffering are scattered about in various hidden places, as those which have appeared in the open were quickly destroyed by Banality.
The building sits upon a beautiful tract of wooded land (evergreens) which covers a few acres in Marin County, and is fenced in and patrolled by security guards. At night, they let Dobermans loose to patrol the grounds. The building itself is three stories and quite beautiful, by human standards. To changelings, the exterior is a very unpleasant structure, a towering fortress of Banality, seeming to exist only to crush the Glamour from any who enter. It appears to be an imposing, drab structure of gray stone and ironshod doors. The faint screams of lost souls can be heard from within... or was that just the cry of a hawk? This appearance is something of an omen to the Kithain who enter, as it was caused by the feelings of hopelessness, fear, and loss which have been invoked by the good Dr. Chapman during his treatment of Kithain.
The Institute was originally a manor house which belonged to a man of strange repute. It was built in 1885 for Michael Bowman, a gold prospector who had made an incredibly fortunate haul. He used the money he’d gained to purchase the land, finance the building, and set up business as an architect. He was quite successful at it, although his work tended to be rather unique. His buildings were rarely what anyone would call “conventional.” Quite often, visitors to places he had designed would complain of dizziness, or loss of balance. Some would even become lost inside these structures. Strange dreams are reputed to haunt the sleep of those who live in the houses he planned.
Michael Bowman disappeared in 1917 under mysterious circumstances. The house was left to David Marten, Michael’s nephew. David discovered the house to be in a rather dilapidated condition. He had it cleaned up, refurbished, and sold within a year.
Due to its size, the house was considered to be ideal for a mental retreat and was established as such. The head of the new asylum, Dr. Johann Schmertz, dealt in several experimental treatments which he claimed guaranteed his patients some modicum of sanity. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that he was thoroughly insane and very sadistic. He delighted in twisting the minds of his patients in whatever way he could, quite often with horrid results.
His practice continued until one of his patients, a huge athlete, broke his neck. The patient was locked away in another asylum and the building was put up for public auction. It was purchased fairly cheaply by a woman named Helen Matthews, who turned it into a boarding house. During this time, the house gained a reputation for being haunted. Since this actually tended to increase business, Miss Matthews did nothing to discourage such rumors. She sold the house after World War II and married an ex-officer who had stayed with her while recovering from wounds he had received in the Pacific.
From that point on, the house has changed hands numerous times, and its owners have ranged from the eccentric wealthy to a reclusive serial killer. For a variety of reasons, none have kept it for very long. Not until Dr. Chapman came along, that is.
Dr. Chapman's Patronage Edit
Dr. Joseph Chapman had a vision of a hospital where he could treat the victims of a peculiar mental illness he had identified: Quixote Syndrome. This disease, he claims, is a delusional psychosis in which the victim is convinced that they are not really human. He managed to convince several wealthy philanthropists to finance this operation and used a portion of the money to purchase this house, which he had loved from the first time he had seen it. He had it carefully remodeled, adding accommodations for a modern mental health facility.
The first item of business after getting the Denholm Institute off the ground was to scour mental health facilities along the West Coast of the USA, searching for victims of the malaise. He felt he could give the best care (other psychiatrists tended to dismiss his theories and treatments).
He is now known to be among the best in the mental health field when it comes to treating delusional patients in general and those afflicted with Quixote Syndrome specifically. His success rate is among the highest in the country. Even his mentor, Dr. Anton Stark, highly recommends him.
Inside the Institute Edit
Security & Staff Edit
The front doors are unlocked from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. every night, during which time the building is open to visitors. There are security cameras at each doorway and window to ensure that no one enters or leaves unnoticed. These cameras are tied to Dr. Chapman’s office and the orderlies’ room.
The other doors are usually kept locked, with the exception of the garage. It is open at all hours. All entrances have cardlocks, which are keyed to allow anyone to enter as long as they have a cardkey and the appropriate passcodes. These locks can be overridden from either room with security monitors. All staff and security have cardkeys for the building. Only a select group of orderlies and security, along with Dr. Chapman and his assistant, have cardkeys for the Green Ward.
Orderlies & Security Guards Edit
The orderlies carry walkie-talkies and shock-prods to better coordinate their own activities and control the more disorderly patients. The staff prefers that the prods be the last resort if nothing else will calm down a violent patient.
None of the orderlies are particularly fanatic about their job; most of them would prefer to find a better-paying job elsewhere, one that wouldn’t involve dealing with lunatics. However, while they will not voluntarily die for this job, they won’t act to risk it either. This is the World of Darkness, after all, and unemployment is not only rampant, but also very harsh and unforgiving on its victims.
The security guards are much the same. If a firefight begins, they will take cover before returning fire. They will also call for police backup.
Most of the patients seem quite normal by everyday standards. However, beneath some of these calm exteriors lies stark insanity.
First Floor Edit
- Lobby: This part of the building is quite cheery, designed to set visitors and new patients at ease as they are processed in. There is a reception desk with a polite receptionist. The room is furnished with several chairs, couches, and tables. There are also many magazines scattered about.
- Offices: Some of the lower-ranking staff have their offices on the ground floor. Each is equipped with a desk, computer, and whatever personal touches the individual prefers.
- Visiting Rooms: These are small, private rooms where visitors can meet the patients for a period of time. They are here primarily for the visitors’ comfort.
- Cafeteria/Recreation: For the well-adjusted patients and the staff. The cafeteria serves three meals a day and the room is always open for playing games or socializing. Several well-known boardgames are either laid out on tables or stacked away on bookshelves. Oddly enough, copies of Black Dog roleplaying games are also kept on the shelves; in some cases, the staff feels that showing the patients that their fantasies are simply denizens of a game can help them understand their delusions are nothing more than that: a game.
- Library: This is used by all the staff and contains a wide variety of books on psychoanalysis. It is a good quiet area for those who wish to take some time to relax from their normally busy schedule.
- Garage: This is where staff and visitors park. It isn’t a large garage, but it suffices for the needs of the institute.
- Storeroom: Both office and medical supplies are kept here.
Second Floor Edit
- Patients’ Ward: The patients who are victims of milder forms of delusions or other mental illnesses are kept in this area. Each room houses two patients and is comfortably furnished with cots, desks, and a television. There are windows with views of the surrounding woodlands, and flowered wallpaper covers the walls.
- Offices: There are only three of these; the senior staff psychiatrists use them. Each office is larger, more comfortable, and better furnished than the downstairs rooms. They all have better views as well.
- Orderlies’ Station: This is where the orderlies tend to be when they have nothing else to do. They have a small break room with a television, a snack machine, and other amenities. There is also a monitor which can be used to keep tabs on the patients’ rooms.
Third Floor Edit
- Dr. Chapman’s Office: This is the plushest office available, with the best view. It has a direct link to the closed-circuit cameras in the Green Ward so Dr. Chapman may watch his patients more closely. There are several bookshelves with some rather surprisingly rare volumes on folklore. Dr. Chapman feels that he can get a better grasp on the way his patients think if he can study the source of their delusions. He finds most of the stories to be pretentious, self-indulgent, and ultimately impossible to believe.
- Dauntain Quarters: This set of rooms serves as the home of Dennis, Cheryl, and Don: the three Dauntain who work directly for Dr. Chapman. The rooms are fairly disorganized, but not really messy. Each of the three has their own bedroom, and they share a common living room and bathroom.
- Therapy Room: This is where Dr. Chapman meets his patients. In the past, few Kithain have shown hesitation about assaulting him physically, so he now has a thick barrier of bulletproof glass between himself and his patients. There is comfortable furniture on the patients’ side, as well as speakers and microphones on both sides so that anyone can hear whatever is spoken on the other side. This room is under the same surveillance as the rooms in the Green Ward.
- Green Ward: This is where those suffering from Quixote Syndrome are designated for individual habitation. These rooms are barely large enough for the one patient each is intended to hold. Since the patients are rarely allowed to leave the rooms (except for sessions with Dr. Chapman), most of their amenities are kept in their room. Despite this, the rooms are rather spartan. They are also populated by an overabundance of chimera, mostly nocnitsa and nervosa of the previous inhabitants. One current inhabitant of the Green Ward is Terry Wood.
The Dauntain Edit
These three Dauntain are skilled at tracking down and catching Kithain for Dr. Chapman. He has employed them for several years now. They are quite proficient at leaving no traces for police and other authorities. They believe that Kithain are people who are genuinely, even desperately, in need of help. They were taught this after Dr. Chapman cured them of the same affliction so many years ago. They are true fanatics when it comes to their work: to assist these sick people. They understand that most of them will not seek help on their own. After all, they themselves didn't.
It has been the Dauntains' experience since that time that these people are quite capable of concealing their unfortunate illness from others. According to Dr. Chapman, it takes a special person to spot the afflicted: a person who has been through the same hell, and who understands what troubles their minds. He often refers to unconscious visual and verbal cues which victims give off while in the throes of their illness.
The Green Ward Edit
Each cell is painted in soft, neutral, grayish tones to avoid exciting the patients. There is a cot and a padded chair, both of which are firmly bolted to the floor. There is also a sink and a toilet for sanitary purposes. The door has a meal slot in the bottom, allowing the orderlies to deliver meals without opening the doors.
At first, the rooms seem normal, but this will change quickly. Each cell has a chimerical counterpart... no two precisely alike. Their appearances are the result of the trauma of the previous occupants' having their Glamour mercilessly stripped from their lives. Some examples follow:
- A complete torture chamber. Each piece of equipment is lovingly crafted to cause pain in imaginative and horrific ways. The chimerical orderlies make extensive use of these machines whenever then have the opportunity.
- A dry, sifting desert with a hot sun. Food placed in the room will quickly dry and dissolve to dust. Drinks will evaporate. Unless a Kithain retreats into their mortal seeming, they will slowly starve and dehydrate as they are subjected to the extremes of the climate.
- A classical fairytale dungeon. The floor is covered with rotted, moldy straw, and the room is inhabited by several large chimerical rats. The door is a large, ironshod, wooden affair which seems strong enough to hold against nearly anything, including a troll. The meals delivered here will be spoiled and the water dirty.
- A sensory deprivation tank. The character is utterly deprived of their senses while the door is closed. Nothing is experienced, except thought. When the door is opened, the character will be overwhelmed by the sudden flood of sensory perceptions as light, noise, smell, and sensation awaken suddenly with no filtering. Think of what happens when you get the "pins and needles" sensation after a limb falls asleep.
While the cells are bad enough, changelings in them also attract active chimerical creatures, birthed by the torments other changelings have experienced here. These creatures seem to exist only to cause pain and suffering to Kithain, often driving them back into forgetfulness to save their sanity.