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File:Extranormal Institute 2550.jpg

The Extranormal Institute is a strange and/or wonderful place where bizarre is the new normal. It makes good internal sense (as opposed to farce played for laughs) and is genuinely functional (as opposed to a Crapsack World or the like), but has a very high weirdness level as real people deal with fantastical things.

Such a location is usually an important part of the attraction of whatever series it's featured in. Naive Newcomers (perhaps Strangers In A Strange School) can be expected to drop their eyes. The regulars may well be aware of their madhouse status and even proud of it.

Often, stories in such a setting will be in a genre (besides/in addition to the obvious sf/fantasy) in which the protagonists spend a lot of time exploring the details of the setting, such as School Story, Medical Drama, or Police Procedural. Of course, the contrast with the mundane aspects of that genre helps the bizarre details of the setting to stand out even further.

Subtropes include:

Contrast with Mundane Fantastic and Planet Eris, where the entire world is like this (at least for the protagonists).

Examples of Extranormal Institute include:


Anime & Manga

  • Soul Eater has the macabre "Shinigami Weapon Meister Vocational School" lead by the Shinigami-sama, aka The Grim Reaper. Has an eclectic mix of (usually human) "Meisters", their (usually human) Equippable Allies.
  • Doumori Primary School in Hell Teacher Nube is a huge, glowing focus of paranormal activity in the Doumori district. Hardly a day goes by without it (or its students) being attacked by hordes of demonic creatures from the deepest, darkest reaches of Japanese mythology. Even the staff and the rest of the student body are pretty much used to this sort of thing, but Nube's class gets most of the attention.
    • Even further along, there's an actual Youkai High attended by high school-age demons and apparitions.
  • While on the subject of Youkai and high school, Youkai Academy in Rosario to Vampire, where the teacher is a Catgirl and the students are any and every type of monster imaginable. Except for Tsukune, the lone human (or at least, he used to be) who got there by accident. All the students are required to stay in human form constantly as practice, which is lucky for the one actual human there, as there is a rule that states any human who comes across Youkai Academy will be executed. Of course, he manages to escape this fate when one of his harem injects him with vampire blood to temporarily change him into a vampire and trick the rest of the school. Later on, a more permanent transformation occurred and this trope no longer applied.
  • The American Manga Pantheon High focuses on a school for demigods/goddesses.
  • Hollow Fields, an American, Manga-style work published by Seven Seas Entertainment, has a girl get lost and end up at a school for Mad Scientists where bad grades are punishable by death, and a homework assignment is sewing a parrot's head on to a fish while keeping the resulting monstrosity alive.
  • Kunpuu High School in Kanokon turns out to be, basically, a boarding-school for demons and spirits who find it hard to fit into human society -- as such, several dozen spirits and demons are liberally mixed with the human students, and have to stay there until they learn how to maintain The Masquerade. Something tells me that Chizuru will be stuck there for a while...
  • EVERYONE at Mahora Academy (or at least MANY) seems to be abnormal in some way. You have vampires, ninjas, time-travelling Martians from the future, robots, mad scientists, mages, princesses, ghosts.... And that's not even touching the tip of the iceberg. And yet, somehow the majority of the student body seem to be Muggles.
  • Tomobiki High and, to a lesser extent, Fuurinkan High from Rumiko Takahashi's Nerima. Aliens, ghosts, demons, exorcists, supernatural martial artists, oh my!
  • Somewhat similar to the X-Men example below, To Aru Majutsu no Index has Academy City. It has hundreds, if not thousands of schools. 80% of the population are students, over 60% of which are espers. Teaching them how to use their abilities to their fullest potential is part of the local curriculum. No one finds it unusual; in fact, the whole world knows about it and don't particularly care.
  • Pokémon Red and Blue: Sabrina runs a training school for humans with psychic powers in addition to her Gym Leader duties.


Comics

  • In Marvel's New Universe, DP 7 introduced a clinic for people developing paranormal powers as a result of the White Event.
    • To a lesser extent, the Ballad Institute from Nightmask and the Sanctuary halfway house from Psi-Force also qualified.
  • The comic book series Top Ten is a Police Procedural set in a city where everybody, from the mayor down to the lowliest street bum, is a Superhero; the city was founded expressly to get all the weirdness out of the rest of the world.
  • The Research Technical Institute from Doug TenNapel's Creature Tech is a warehouse and lab for cataloguing and studying everything that the U.S. Government can't explain. This includes disintegration guns, were-pigs, Cold War Russian teleporters, and the real Shroud of Turin. The building is also haunted by the ghost of a mad scientist.
  • The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense from the Hellboy and BPRD comic books.
  • PS238 is set in a secret grade school for the children of superheroes. Most of which also have superpowers and are training to be superheroes, except for the main character...
  • She-Hulk once had a job working at a law firm that catered to people with superpowers, and employed a lot of them. Real law firms wish they could hire a shapeshifter to deliver subpoenas!
  • The home base of the X-Men, Professor Xavier's Institute, is a school for Mutants, both to teach them how to use their powers, and more mundane forms of education. It's also a refuge from the prejudice against mutantkind, although that also makes it a major target and it's been levelled and rebuilt enough times that they make jokes about it.
  • The Intimates, a fairly obscure comic from Wildstorm, has The Seminary, a school for teenage SPBs.


Film

  • Consider Kay from Men in Black: He has a job, goes to work every morning, and has coffee with colleagues... but the workplace is packed with interstellar immigrants, and his coffee pals are two feet high and chitter.
  • Sky High. Yeah.
  • Also, Starfleet Academy in Star Trek, where students and professors can be from many different planets (including actual Green Skinned Space Babes).
  • The Library from TNT's The Librarian series of movies. Especially played up in the beginning of the third movie, when Flynn is completely bored with his job -- which involves such duties as dueling with Excalibur.
  • Real Genius' "Pacific Tech".
  • The Soviet film Sorcerers is loosely based on the Strugatsky Brothers novel Monday Begins on Saturday (see below). Ivan Puhov's fiancée Alyona (unbeknownst to him) works as a witch at the Scientific Universal Institute of Extraordinary Services, a subsidiary of the Scientific Research Institute of Sorcery and Wizardry from the novel. Thanks to a rival at the institute, Alyona is cursed by the jealous director of the institute (who thinks that her boyfriend is cheating on her with the young witch) to be a cold-blooded bitch, who doesn't care about anyone. It's up to Ivan and a pair of magic wood masters from the institute to lift the curse.


Literature

  • Miskatonic University from various H.P. Lovecraft Stories.
  • Diana Wynne Jones' magical university in Dark Lord of Derkholm's sequel, Year of the Griffin.
  • The eponymous hospital in James White's Sector General series, a 384-story structure in outer space that houses such things as humans, giant furry caterpillars, six-legged elephant-things with their symbionts, 60-foot eels, telepathic gestalt intelligences, shapeshifters, superheated and cryonic beings and ones that metabolize hard radiation -- to say nothing of the patients -- all working together to make it a smashing hospital, though apparently finding suitable seating in the oxygen-nitrogen dining halls is a pain.
  • The 1964 Strugatsky Brothers novel Monday Begins on Saturday is about a young Soviet programmer shanghaied into working at the "Scientific Research Institute of Sorcery and Wizardry," an organization that combined a magical and often logic-defying setting with an insane and equally logic-defying Soviet bureaucracy, which the work hilariously mocked.
  • The Talamasca from the books of Anne Rice is not full of paranormal activity as such, but full of people who study it.
    • Some Talamascans do possess paranormal abilities, the most notable of which being Jesse Reeves, descended from a (very) long line of witches dating back to Ancient Egypt. Her abilities are, pretty much, limited to seeing ghosts and weird dreams.
  • The Jokertown Clinic in Wild Cards is a low-budget hospital for those mutated by the Wild Card virus, as well as the workplace and research center for the only (generally known) extraterrestrial living on Earth.
  • The House of Night, eponymous academy from the awesome books, is a school where vampyres (their spelling, not mine) learn how to behave in society. It also helps students deal with the Change- in this particular mythology, vampyres are not made by biting but as the result of a biochemical change, which, once it has started, either leads to becoming a full-fledged vampyre or dying.
  • Hogwarts may be the most obvious instance of this from the Harry Potter books, but other places inhabited solely by wizards are similar examples: Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, for example.
    • There are other wizarding schools located in this 'verse, most notably the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic (France) and the Durmstrang Institute (Sweden or Norway). The film version of The Goblet of Fire makes it appear that these schools are all-girl and all-boy, respectively, but the books reveal that this is not the case.
  • A non-supernatural version in The Melting Season. The performing arts school where the main character Giselle goes used to be a hospital during World War I(or the Civil War) and is filled with crazy people.
  • Codex Alera: The Cursor's academy fits this description. It is a school for teenaged youths in a world where everyone has magic abilities, so between math and history class there are classes on magical theory and actual training to use magic. However, it also happens to be the school for training the empire's messengers and spies, so some classes have final exams like "figure out that your mentor is a traitor to the Crown in time" or "catch a certain thief who has eluded all detection so far".
  • The Higher Institute of Villainous Education in the HIVE Series is a school for training supervillains.
  • While not being a school in the proper sense, the Wizard Tower in Septimus Heap is the hub of the Castle and of its Magyk system.


Live Action TV

  • The town of Eureka from the TV series of the same name, where everyone is a Mad Scientist.
  • In Torchwood, the Torchwood hub has a pet pterodactyl, which is probably one of the more mundane fixtures.
  • An episode of That's So Raven has Raven briefly join an institute for teens with various Psychic Powers.

 Student: I'll get it!

Doorbell sounds.

  • Sanctuary is about a clinic that helps 'abnormals' (mutant humans and cryptids with strange abilities). One of their employees is a Sasquatch, yet he is treated as if he was simply a misunderstood human being.


Tabletop Games

  • The GURPS setting Illuminati University, which covers more than just magic. Classes include hysteria and future history, the botany building is a tree, and destruction of any planetary bodies requires written permission from the Arch-Dean (who, according to rumor within the setting, is either a former angel, a former demon, or both). The favorite sport of IOU (you're not cleared to know what the 'O' stands for) is Moopsball, which... well... just look at the rules.


Theater

  • The Monsterssori School in Avenue Q, is just a normal public school that happens to have monsters as pupils.


Video Games


Webcomics

  • The Repository of Dangerous Things from the webcomic of the same name.
  • In Skin Horse, the eponymous tight-budget American nonhuman sapient protection project shares the Annex One building with the Clerk of the Clerk of Clerks, the Department of Jetpack Suppression, the Department of Precambrian Defense, the Feline Trauma Project, the Department of Irradiation, etc.
  • The eponymous boarding school of Gunnerkrigg Court is interesting in that some of the weirdness (Robots in the hallways, monthly holosimulator classes) is out in the open, while other part of it (the Cretan labyrinth off the old library, the secret railway with stops at the giant animal holding cells) is hidden from most students. (Many of whom have supernatural powers or hail from non-human backgrounds.) As if that's not enough, there's also the TicToc birds, whose presence in the Court no one can explain.
    • In other words, Gunnerkrigg Court supports technology and freely uses it, while it tries to deny or at least hide things that it cannot explain with technology. A major theme in Gunnerkrigg Court is the conflict between technology in the court and the unexplainable, etheric magic in the forest beyond the court.
  • Nowhere University has main characters that include a magical girl, a witch, a Jedi, etc., & the teachers come from literary classics. It's sister schools, Somewhere University, Anywhere University & Everywhere University probably qualify as well.
  • Magellan has Magellan Justice Academy on Magellan Island.
  • The Institute Of Metaphysics
  • The titular school of Overlord Academy.
  • A piece of side art in Dubious Company, shows a flashback to Walter in Elementary school. The desks float. The students are all bird people and the professor appears to be teaching wormholes while using a Holographic Terminal and wearing a battle helm. Guess who becomes the Magitek engineer.
  • The fancomic Roommates and its Spin-Off Girls Next Door has the St. Jude university where most of the cast works or studies (They are all fictional characters from various fandoms)


Web Original


Western Animation


Truth In Television

  • Sci-fi, fantasy, anime, and comicbook conventions. Outsiders see a bunch of strange people in strange garb doing strange things, but to people inside the fandom it's all perfectly normal.
    • Ditto for ren faires.
  • The Society for Creative Anachronism.
  • One of the selling points of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is that it is a very strange place. You might be woken up at three a.m. by an explosion, or be heading to class when you spot a large spaceship in the middle of the Infinite Corridor, or see a group of students randomly attacking each other with padded weapons. After the first few months, students apparently become quite blasé about the whole thing.
    • The same or similar can probably be said of any school whose student body consists largely of nerds (ie. Rice, Caltech, etc.)
      • Brown College UVA.
      • Texas A&M University. Large number of nerds + corps of Cadets + the cultures the university tends to draw its students from = large number of strange things that are generally met with apathy.
      • This can also be said about any school with a large, well established game of Humans vs. Zombies. For students at these schools, discussions of how to avoid zombies on the way to class, people sprinting across the quad shooting Nerf darts at people chasing them, or seeing forty people suddenly siege a dorm are quite normal.
    • This also applies to art schools.
    • Not to speak for all religious schools, but at some universities, the extranormal is more with the students than with how the institute is run. Some of the kids come from extremely sheltered backgrounds, and for them the very prospect of living in the dorm or going to the cafeteria by themselves is terrifying; some of the others are MK (missionary's kids) and come from various jungles, islands, and so forth and find Los Angeles as a whole basically stifling (expect a lot of Does Not Like Shoes). Throw in a few cases of visions or demonic possession, and this place probably qualifies.
  • The military tends to get like this sometimes, having its own distinct culture which can be quite baffling to outsiders (expect tons of swearing and impenetrable jargon, especially Fun with Acronyms).
  • Since the Adelaide Fringe often tends to involve some type of light related street art, pity the tourist who walks down North Terrace and forgets that the Fringe is on.
  • Any functioning studio facility, creature shop, props workshop or film school tends to be a bit like this trope -- even when there's not a sci-fi or fantasy project in production.
  • The Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Well, all of San Francisco, but the Haight just comes to mind. Yes, that is a naked man wearing a cowboy hat standing on the street corner; no, no one cares. Especially Egregious when the Pride Parade hits town. In fact, a lot of big cities across the world would qualify as an Extranormal Institute.
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