Imprisoning superhuman criminals, New York’s Ravencroft Institute is one of the most dangerous places on the planet.
Built upon cursed land, Ravencroft has been associated with death since the 1400s. Many who venture there come across cannibalistic heathens, worshippers of the “spiral”, if they survived the encounter.
In 1594, explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano arrives to North America. After several of his men go missing while looking for supplies, Verrazzano leads a search party, only to find the remains displayed in a spiral formation. This discovery sends Verrazzano and his crew packing, and he never returns.
It wasn’t until the summer of 1664 that a newly arrived couple, Cortland Kasady and Molly Ravencroft, encounter the heathens. Molly escapes their grasp and shows Cortland that the heathens dwell in a cave. Cortland discovers a pile of skeletons from many years past as well as markings on the wall depicting Knull, God of the Symbiotes, though he did not understand their meaning precisely. Cortland suddenly makes contact with the heathens and emerges covered in blood and insane by unknown means. He goes on a murder spree but gets captured by the nearby villagers who build a cell to house him on the very cursed land where Ravencroft would one day be built. But Cortland ultimately escapes, kills his wife, and is thought to have joined the other remaining heathens.
The land also sees one of the last battles of the American Revolution in 1783, followed by the rise of the Shuma-Gorath cult in 1804, and a spirit of vengeance in 1820, and many other attacks. The region remains undeveloped until Jonas Ravencroft, relative of Molly Ravencroft, purchases the land in 1899 to address the lack of mental health care in the area. He begins constructing an asylum, but his vision is met with several setbacks, including arson and a deranged worker who slays the foreman, claiming the demonic Hell-Lord Mephisto tells him to do it. Jonas overcomes these trials and completes his vision as the Ravencroft Institute for the Criminally Insane.
Jonas hires Dr. Nathaniel Essex, AKA Mister Sinister, and Romanian Dr. Claudia Russell. Claudia often remarks on the strange and fantastic things that frequented the region surrounding Ravencroft, but Jonas dismisses them. In the year 1909, they take on several patients, one claiming to be the time-displaced Sir Percy of Scandia, AKA Black Knight, and a possible serial killer named Logan, AKA Wolverine. Essex removes Logan’s arm and fed up with Essex’s gruesome tactics, Claudia helps Logan escape. But one of the institute’s orderlies, Victor Creed, AKA Sabretooth, attacks her in the process. Logan comes to and tries to protect her, but she doesn’t need it as she transforms into a werewolf and defends herself. Though Essex came up behind her, taking her down with an unknown chemical. Jonas receives Claudia’s resignation notice the next day but feels as if something were off, thinking Essex was to blame. Little did he know that Essex kills and studies Claudia in the bowels of the institute, but he keeps an eye on him and his practices until Essex moves to Germany.
In 1918, Ravencroft accepts a new patient, the so-called Master of the World, a man claiming to be a 40,000-year-old caveman. Jonas concludes that he was actually more like 40 years old. In 1923, there was a breakout of a young Al Capone and Silas Burr. In 1932, a skin walker arrives carrying a near-dead woman. Jonas explained away all these strange incidents using conventional means. But in 1933, Jonas meets a new patient that would alter his belief in the fantastic, that of Loki Laufeyson, AKA Loki, God of Mischief. In this one moment, Loki switches places with Jonas, placing Jonas behind bars and tied up in his straitjacket.
In 1945, during World War II, the institute was taken over by the Weapon Plus program, with Lord John Falsworth, AKA Baron Blood, Vlad Tepes Dracula, AKA Dracula, and Professor Thorton experimenting upon the patients, who were now more like mistreated inmates. Their efforts turn the inmates into vampire-like monstrosities. When Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, and Bucky Barnes (later Winter Soldier) crash into their facility looking for a compatriot, Jonas helped them by unleashing the monsters on the Weapon Plus crew, and regretting his role in creating them, he takes his own life.
Late in the last half of the century, the pregnant Louise Kasady arrives at Ravencroft, admitted as a patient. She undergoes electro-shock therapy and is not treated kindly under Ravencroft’s care. She gives birth to her son Cletus whose umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, though the baby survives the ordeal.
Behind Closed Doors
The institute’s founder Jonas Ravencroft runs the institute, hiring several doctors to help him treat those with severe mental health issues. Though his staff takes liberties with treatment, such as Dr. Nathaniel Essex and orderly Victor Creed, brutalizing them and creating monsters in the underbelly of the institute.
In the modern era, decorated serviceman John Jameson, AKA Man-Wolf, joins the institute as their security chief where he begins a romantic relationship with the director, Dr. Ashley Kafka. After several problems with super-powered criminally insane inmates including Cletus Kasady, AKA Carnage, the Institute is temporarily shut down. After Chameleon escapes, Senator Roeberg fires Jameson and Kafka and hires Dr. Leonard Samson, AKA Doc Samson, as the new director of Ravencroft but his time there is brief.
Following a Knull cult gathering led by Carnage and the institute’s decimation, Jameson takes a security position in exchange for protection from Mayor Wilson Fisk, AKA Kingpin, who takes an interest in rebuilding the institute.
Many super-powered criminals pass through Ravencroft’s doors, some are institutionalized forever, such as the Unwanted—those brutally experimented upon by Ravencroft’s staff—while others breakout. One of the most well-known inmates is Cletus Kasady, who often escapes the institute with help from his bloodthirsty alien symbiote Carnage, but he’s almost always captured and returned. Fellow inmate Frances Barrison, AKA Shriek, also absconds with Kasady. Shriek also returns to the institute several times, breaking other inmates free and using it as a safe haven for her unborn child, which was actually the Carrion virus.
A Dark Past
Now a government-run facility, Ravencroft Institute is led by psychiatric Dr. Ashely Kafka, who showed promise in treating Super Criminals. As the director, her first patient was the rat-like Edward Whelan, AKA Vermin. She becomes romantically entangled with John Jameson, who heads the institute’s security.
When the serial killer Cletus Kasady was caught, Ravencroft opened their doors to the man that their institute helped bring into the world. Though contained, his symbiote proved less than easy to control and while Ravencroft’s doctors ran tests, it triggered the symbiote in his bloodstream and he killed everyone around him. During his escape, he met fellow inmate Shriek who joined him on a murder spree. But it wouldn’t be the last time they’d see Kasady.
Summoned to oversee Ravencroft after its director Ashley Kafka was injured by the sonic lunatic Shriek, Judas Traveller noted that the inmates were obsessed with Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man. He expelled Kafka and her staff from the asylum, and dispatched Chakra to lure Spider-Man there with an ultimatum; defeat Traveller and let the inmates escape or do nothing and allow Traveller to kill the inmates. Parker chose to fight, but Traveller overwhelmed him and imprisoned him in the asylum. Traveller searched Parker’s memories, learning of Peter’s clone Ben Reilly, AKA Scarlet Spider, and through Chakra, Traveller offered Reilly a choice; save Parker, or let him die and assume his life. Reilly chose to save his “brother,” and together he and Parker battled through the Host and several freed inmates to reach Traveller, who fled.
After Wanda Maximoff, AKA Scarlet Witch, cast a spell that altered reality, depowering almost all mutants, reporter Sally Floyd visited Ravencroft to check in on the mutant patients. There she found three of the 77 left with powers who used them to get back at their bullies within the institute.
When the resurrected mercenary for hire Raoul Bushman joined forces with Ebenezer Laughton, AKA Scarecrow, they laid siege to Ravencroft, making the hospital’s patients, some of whom had superhuman powers, his army. Bushman and Scarecrow led the patients against Marc Spector, AKA Moon Knight, who defeated Bushman but left his foe alive. A raving Bushman was then incarcerated at Ravencroft.
After the serial killer Marcus Lyman, AKA Massacre, arrived at Ravencroft, he murdered Dr. Kafka. When Carnage was reanimated, he brainwashed Jameson with an offshoot of his symbiote, and used Ravencroft for his Cult of Knull rituals. Deadpool intervened during one of the rituals and in his escape, burned the institute down, decimating it.
Crime boss and mayor Wilson Fisk took an interest in restoring the facility and made a deal with Jameson, who worked at the institute in security--Jameson would give him information about the institute’s day-to-day operations, and Fisk would prevent Jameson from being tried for his recent crimes committed as the Carnagized Man-Wolf. Fisk brings on Super Villains Norman Osborn, AKA Green Goblin, Tony Masters, AKA Taskmaster, Mac Gargan, AKA Scorpion, Dr. Karla Sofen, AKA Moonstone, and Roderick Kingsley, AKA Hobgoblin, all as heads of staff. Dr. Karl Malus eventually joins the staff as well, the scientist known for helping create augmented wrestlers with Curitss Jackson, AKA Power Broker.
Meanwhile, Special Agent Mercedes “Misty” Knight, AKA Misty Knight, takes a job there as a double agent for the shadow organization J.A.N.U.S. to keep an eye on Jameson.
Jameson asked Misty to join him at Ravencroft’s demolished site. As they stared at the rubble, Fisk arrived to oversee the reconstruction, though Misty was hesitant about trusting Fisk’s reasons for being there. Suddenly, workers discovered the institute’s founder Jonas Ravencroft’s journal in the middle of the ruins, oddly intact and untouched. Misty didn’t trust Fisk with the journal and neither did Reed Richards, AKA Mister Fantastic, who had just arrived and had donated to the reconstruction efforts alongside the Fantastic Four—he and the team felt a sense of responsibility for rehabilitating the world’s criminals.
Misty, Jameson, Fisk, and Richards were then notified that the workers uncovered something else, a hidden staircase in the rubble, which revealed a subterranean research wing, full of experimental horrors. They then stumbled upon the vampiric creatures known as the Unwanted, a group of mutated subjects from a former iteration of Ravencroft attacked them. Despite Jameson transforming into Man-Wolf and with the group’s combined fighting skills, their only option was to make a quick escape and contain the monstrosities within their prison.
But they weren’t held back for long. Their leader Bud Adams laid siege to the institute with plans to destroy it with everyone inside unless he obtained the journal of Jonas Ravencroft. The monsters used psychic ruses to distract Fisk and his staff of villains, while Misty and Jameson remained the only line of defense. Though John and Osborn are both captured and tortured for the journal’s location and inmates escaped the institute. Suddenly, Frank Castle, AKA the Punisher, joined the fray to save the day. Meanwhile, Osborn started egging Jameson on to turn into the Man-Wolf and after lots of yelling and spitting, Jameson transformed into Man-Wolf and deactivated the countdown to destruction. Afterward, Fisk addressed the press about the breakout and made Jameson Ravencroft’s new warden. Jameson introduced his team which included FBI Agent Misty Knight, Dennis Dunphy, AKA Demolition Man, and Dr. Ashley Kafka, a clone of the original discovered by Osborn in Professor Miles Warren, AKA Jackal’s old lab. Fisk’s villains leave the institute, but Dr. Karl Malus remained on staff.
But Ravencroft faced another problem. Thanks to Harry Osborn, AKA Kindred, Stanley Carter, AKA Sin-Eater, was resurrected and carried out an all-out assault on the institute. While there, he absorbed Cain Marko, AKA Juggernaut’s abilities and tore through the building to find Osborn. Osborn had joined forces with Spider-Man, but they couldn’t prevent the building’s collapse from Sin-Eater’s utter havoc.