The Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane, also known as the House on Haunted Hill, is a now-abandoned building located on a cliffside on the coast of Los Angeles, California. It served as an insane asylum until 1931. After the Baphomet Idol was hidden in the asylum, its power made everyone who died in the building haunt it, until the Idol was removed in 2007.
The Institute was built by the grandfather of Watson Pritchett, and was run by Dr. Richard B. Vannacutt. At some point, when Dr. Vannacutt discovered the Baphomet Idol and was corrupted by its evil, he hid the Idol in the heart of the house; a chamber the entrance to which was hidden at the back of one of the furnaces in the asylum's crematorium. After he was corrupted by the Idol, throughout the early 20th century, Vannacutt began performing gruesome and torturous experiments and medical procedures on the patients.
However, in 1931, one of the inmates led a revolt against the institute's staff. However, during the revolt, Vannacutt was able to activate the mechanism which sealed the iron gates on all the asylum's doors and windows, thereby trapping the escaped inmates and him and his staff. A fire started in the sealed, chaotic asylum, and all of the staff and inmates were killed, except for five of Vannacutt's staff. The Baphomet Idol forced the souls of all the dead staff and inmates, including Dr. Vannacutt, who died in the building to remain trapped in the house and to do Baphomet's bidding by trapping and killing nearly anyone else who entered the facility.
Following the fire in 1931, the asylum was left abandoned. Several attempts were made to reconstruct it over the years, but the workers were killed by the ghosts inhabiting the building before reconstruction could be completed. At some point, Watson Pritchett became the owner of the house.
Sixty-eight years after the revolt and subsequent fire in the asylum, millionaire and amusement park mogul Steven H. Price decided to throw a scary party in the facility. The ghosts in the house hacked Price's computer and rewrote the guest list, replacing all but one of the guests (who was secretly invited by Evelyn Price as part of a plot to indirectly murder Steven) with the other descendants of the institute's surviving staff: Jennifer Jenzen, Eddie Baker and Melissa Margaret Marr.
All of these guests arrived at the asylum (except for Jennifer Jenzen, for whom Sara Wolfe went to the party in her place), and were sealed in with Evelyn and Steven when the ghosts reactivated the asylum's lockdown. The ghosts killed Melissa, and Blackburn was murdered by Evelyn. Evelyn framed Steven, and when Steven tried to take revenge on Evelyn for trying to kill him, he threw her through a decaying door into the old, rotted room where The Darkness resided, releasing it.
The Darkness assimilated Evelyn, Pritchett and Steven, and tried to absorb Sara and Eddie as well. However, Sara and Eddie (with the help of Pritchett's ghost) were able to escape through the attic window (which Price was able to reopen before he was absorbed) onto the building's roof before The Darkness could assimilate them.
After the incident at the former institute with Steven Price's party, the facility was left abandoned again. Eight years after Price's party at the asylum, Dr. Richard Hammer and his assistant Kyle arrived at the building to search it for the Baphomet Idol. Art dealer Desmond Niles and his team also came to the facility for the Idol, with a hostage Paul and Ariel Wolfe. The ghosts reactivated the facility's lockdown, and while Paul, Kyle, Dr. Hammer and Desmond's team were sealed inside, Ariel was able to escape at the last second. It is unknown why the house trapped Desmond and his team inside, but it was most likely in case they succeeded in finding the Idol and took it.
However, when Ariel realized that Paul was trapped inside as well, she decided to go back into the asylum for him, and the house let her back in. Kyle and Desmond and his team were all killed by the ghosts one by one, while Paul, Ariel and Hammer avoided the ghosts and searched for a way out. Through visions the ghosts showed her, Ariel realized that the group needed to remove the Baphomet Idol to escape. Having been told by Ariel's visions where the Baphomet Idol was, Ariel, Paul and Hammer were able to make their way into the Heart of the House, where they found the Idol. Ariel removed it and took it to the asylum's washrooms to throw it down a drain and expel it from the house.
Despite the attempts of the Idol, Vannacutt and the other ghosts to stop Ariel, she was able to drop the Idol down the drain and into the sewer, removing it from the house. With the Idol and its power gone from the building, the ghosts were freed from Baphomet's will and crossed over, and the facility came unsealed. Paul and Ariel then left the house as the only survivors.
The Psychiatric Institute has a lockdown mechanism which was installed by Dr. Vannacutt when the facility was an asylum to stop patients from escaping. When the mechanism activates, it seals all of the building's doors and windows (except apparently for windows that are barred, as shown in Return to House on Haunted Hill) with iron plates, making it impossible for anyone inside to escape the facility unless and until the lockdown is reversed. After the original asylum was destroyed in the 1931 revolt, the lockdown mechanism was never disabled as the ghosts stopped the reconstruction attempts made over the years before the workers could disable the lockdown.
Rooms and Structure
The lobby is at the front of the facility, and is a large, wide room. The stairs that lead up to the building's attic are also in the lobby.
There is at least one bedroom in the facility, which Evelyn Price slept in during Steven's haunted house party at the asylum.
This small room is a control room where Schecter watched over the house via cameras.
The basement of the facility is the main part of the asylum, and is where the inmates' former cells as well as most of the therapy rooms are located.
The Rotted Room
This room is an isolated, decayed, almost empty room, which can be accessed through an old, decaying door. The door to this room is located near the stairs that lead up from the basement to the lobby. The desks and desk lamp in it would suggest that it was originally a study. This room is apparently where The Darkness is imprisoned, and disturbing the room will release it.
This room is where the asylum's Saturation Chamber is located.
This compartment is one of the parts of the asylum where the staff performed electrotherapy on patients.
Corpse Dump Room
This room is a rotted chamber filled with the rotted remains of many of the asylum's patients. In a deleted scene from the 1999 House on Haunted Hill film, when The Darkness causes the floor to collapse in its chase through the house after Sara, Eddie and Price, Sara falls through into the chamber below. There, the corpses come to life and attack her, but Eddie is able to pull her back up into the house.
This room is an isolated, inescapable room where, during Vannacutt's reign of terror, patients would be put in the room alone in the dark, most likely to starve to death. There is no way in or out of the room (except for smashing through the wall), as patients were put inside by building the room's fourth wall in front of them.
This room is another part of the asylum where Vannacutt's staff performed electrotherapy on patients. It has two head harnesses which electrocute the patients when activated.
This large room contains a massive pool filled with freezing water. The old asylum's staff used the pool to perform hydrotherapy on patients, but the patients usually drowned in the pool.
This area is a washroom which was apparently for the asylum's patients before the fire of 1931. It is directly above the sewer that runs underneath the building, and has a drain which leads directly down into the sewer (although it has a grate on it which stops anything larger than a statuette fitting through).
This large room has many wooden tables, chairs, and a refridgerator in it (suggesting that it served as a lounge or staffroom before the 1931 fire).
This long corridor served as the asylum's crematorium during the tuberculosis epidemic, and thus has dozens of furnaces; one of which hides the tunnel that leads to the Heart of the House.
The Heart of the House
The Heart of the House is a chamber which can be accessed through a hidden tunnel that leads to the Heart from the asylum's crematorium. It is where the Baphomet Idol was hidden (until Ariel Wolfe found and removed it in 2007), and its walls are made of a thick flesh (presumably as an effect of the Idol's presence in the chamber for so long).
The asylum's attic is located at the top of the building, and can be accessed by a flight of stairs in the lobby. There are also several switches and levers for controlling the facility's lockdown in the attic.
- Watson Pritchett indicated in the 1999 House on Haunted Hill film that the Vannacutt Institute was built in the 1920s; but in Return to House on Haunted Hill, reference was made to the asylum's basement already existing at the end of the 19th century.
- In both films, the old asylum has fluorescent tube lights in many parts of it. But fluorescent lighting wasn't in commercial production until the late 1930s, and according to Watson Pritchett, the basement (where the fluorescent lights are) hasn't been renovated since before the 1931 fire.