Briarcliff Manor is the central location and focus of Asylum and reappears briefly in Freak Show.
Located in the state of Massachusetts, near the town of Framingham, the manor was built in 1910 and served as the largest tuberculosis ward on the East Coast. During this time, an estimated 46,000 patients died within its walls. The Catholic Church purchased the institute in 1962 and transformed it into a sanitarium for the mentally ill. The sanitarium was directed by Monsignor Timothy Howard and administered by Sister Jude, with Dr. Arthur Arden serving as the chief physician. In 1965, the church sold the manor to the state, before it was shut down in 1971 and abandoned. Though briefly restored as a place of note by Margaret Booth, Briarcliff Manor currently stands in ruin.
The foyer contains a spiraling staircase that leads to the administrative offices. The common room is provided for the recreation of patients. It contains a phonograph which, at the insistence of Sr. Jude, repeatedly plays the song "Dominique" by Jeanine Deckers (a.k.a. The Singing Nun). There are separate wards for men and women which contain rooms similar to prison cells. A sound insulated lower level houses Arden's lab. Adjoining the boiler room is a little-known tunnel that leads to the surrounding tangle of woods, which also houses the terminus of the "death chute"; it was here that victims who had succumbed to tuberculosis would be dumped, and carted to a crematory.
Besides the aforementioned Monsignor Howard and Sr. Jude there are many others administering to the needs of the asylum. Various orderlies and guards look after the patients. Sister Mary Eunice provides assistance to both Sr. Jude and resident physician Dr. Arthur Arden. Other professionals not employed at the asylum are occasionally called upon for services such as psychiatrist Dr. Oliver Thredson and exorcist Father Malachi.
The patients that reside in the asylum are varied. There's microcephalic baby murderer Pepper, the allegedly familicidal Grace, nymphomaniac Shelley and Bloody Face suspect Kit Walker. There's also reporter Lana Winters, whose only crime was crossing Sr. Jude.
Sister Mary Eunice was killed after being thrown from the top of a spiral staircase by Timothy Howard, during which the camera panned from a birds-eye view as she fell to her death. In "Welcome to Briarcliff", Sister Jude refers to this staircase as her "Stairway to Heaven"; consequently, Mary Eunice's descent downward may be symbolic of the Devil's fall from grace.
Interestingly, several seasons have featured similar spiral staircases, and all have been displayed from a birds-eye view at least once or more in their retrospective seasons. All of these staircases exist in places known for having dark and sordid histories - the Murder House, the Roanoke House, Briarcliff Manor, Mott Manor and Hawthorne School - implying a possible satanic connection.
Billie Dean Howard mentioned that negative energy could appear in places such as prisons and asylums, trapping ghosts in their depths forever. Ironically, no ghosts appeared there.
A photograph of Briarcliff Manor is briefly shown as part of Margaret Booth's macabre tour attractions.
THR Sets On Set with "American Horror Story'
↑In Chapter 10, Briarcliff appears in the opening titles of The Lana Winters Special.