The Harum-Scarum Sanitarium is the seventh episode of The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour, which aired on Oct 23, 1976. In this episode, the gang end up at a mental asylum haunted by a ghost doctor who goes by the name Dr. Coffin. (I don’t know about you, but if I had a Dr. with that last name, I’d be searching out someone new to treat me).
What is a Sanitarium?
A sanitarium is typically a privately owned facility used to treat an illness for the long-term. So it’s sort of like a hospital crossed with a hotel for sick people. In Canada, we have many old and abandoned sanitariums that treated tuberculosis. The word was also a polite alternative to ‘Psychiatric hospital’, which is what we have in this episode as Dr. Coffin enjoys experimenting with brain waves.
Harum-Scarum refers to a reckless person, or in this case a ghost. So the title for this episode basically means, ‘the reckless ghost at the psychiatric hospital’.
Just want to chill? Watch our video synopsis below
Harum-Scarum Sanitarium Plot (Spoilers galore!)
On a dark and stormy night, the gang are driving down a dark road after some awesome sightseeing in Niagara Falls in Canada.
As a Canadian can assure you that Niagara Falls is pretty awesome, as they have a Ripley’s Museum, a Hershey Factory, and a Burger King that not even the scaredy-cats of Scooby or Shaggy would avoid.
Being the 70s, and in a day where GPS and mobile phones were unknown technologies, the gang gets lost making an already nervous Shag and Scoob, just a wee bit cagier. Fortunately they run into a friendly Canadian border patrolman at a roadblock by the name of Officer Oldfield.
Shaggy explains that they are tourists (to which Scooby shows a totem pole and a pair of ice skates), and Officer Oldfield sets them off down Forester road and to take the left fork. The right fork, he warns, will take them past the sanitarium, which is rumoured to be haunted by the Ghost of Dr. Coffin. You’d think all this jibber-jabber about forks would make Shaggy hungry, but he seems quite spooked about hearing about the ghost.
The gang plan to heed the good officer’s advice, however a well-placed lightning bolt has struck the Foster Road directional sign, and points it to the Right Fork. After driving for an additional hour they realize that they are lost. However they spot an ambulance and decide to follow it as it must be going to somewhere civilised. Of course they are wrong as it brings them to the Shady Sanitarium (tell me that name isn’t a red flag like, say, oh I don’t know, Dr Coffin?). Velma thinks this is odd that the ambulance is admitting patients with it being such a dark and stormy night.
Curious as the gang tends to be, they get out of the Mystery Machine, and are accosted by two vicious guard dogs. Out of the blue, to the sound of organ music, the guard dogs stop mid-chase, and lose their fighting spirit. They gang then knock on the door of the Sanitarium and greeted Dr. Tooksbury, (former assistant to Dr. Coffin) who invites them in for dinner.
If only they visited the Sanitarium today. In this day and age they could have just looked up the Google Reviews!
The gang enquire about the guard dogs (aptly named Cuddles and Snookums) and Dr. Tooksbury tells him that they used to belong to Dr. Coffin, who could control them with music that altered their brainwaves. The organ music they just heard moments ago, was actually being played by Ghost of Mad Dr. Coffin.
Dinner at the Shady Sanitarium
At dinner, Dr. Tooksbury explains that patients keep arriving at the sanitarium however before he can even attend to them, they disappear. His theory is that Dr. Coffin keeps nabbing them to continue his life work of brain wave experimentation. Always up for a Mystery, Freddy, Velma and Daphne make the decision to spend the night to see if they can get to the bottom of this mystery.
Splitting up with the boys in one room, and the girls in another, the boys catch Dr. Coffin outside their window. This leads to Scooby finding a secret passage into a room containing a giant mirror that Freddy believes is used as a solar furnace. The way it works is that it concentrates sunlight to produce heat. The beam is so strong that even a touch of moonlight was able to sizzle Scooby’s fur. (how the moon was even visible on a stormy night is another mystery)
Awaken from their sleep from some strange noises, Daphne and Velma witness the paramedics bringing another patient into the hospital, and the patient looks unnatural, like they are deceased.
The entire gang follow the ambulance that vanishes into a deep chasm where the Mystery Machine cannot tread, due to a bridge being knocked out by the weather. Shortly after losing the ambulance, Dr. Coffin appears on a cliff and mocks the gang with his laughter.
Frustrated, the gang head back to the sanitarium to get some rest and solve this case in the daylight hours. Their sleep is quickly interrupted as Dr. Coffin starts playing an organ that puts Scooby into a trance. The rest of the gang dash to the organ room where they find Scooby doing the cha-cha with the guard dogs.
Shaggy yells at Scooby to wake out of his trance, which works, but it also wakes the guard dogs up who chases after the gang. Caught in the panic, the gang get separated and the mad Dr. also takes to the chase.
Shaggy and Scooby find hundreds of wigs as they are being chased about, and they also find Dr. Coffin’s lab where he chases them as well. Freddy, Daphne and Velma find the morgue where they discover the patients they’ve been watching are just piles of gold bars on a gurney, with wig tossed on top to make them look like patients. Clearly this has been a ruse for the paramedics to smuggle gold.
Dr. Coffin finally catches Scooby and Shaggy and tosses him into his ambulance. Always quick to the chase, Freddy and the rest of the gang follow Dr. Coffin right to a mine, which is full of gold bricks that are being wrapped in bread packaging by a machine.
Another chase ensues via mine carts, and Dr. Coffin and his henchmen fall into the bread wrapping machine where they are spit out and restrained by the bread wrapping packaging.
Who Was the Ghost of Dr. Coffin?
The gang unmasked Dr. Coffin, and it is revealed that it is Officer Oldfield, the border patrol officer. Actually, it was a man posing as a border patrol officer, and not an employee of the Canadian Federal Government. This entire time, the officer was using guard dogs and the Ghost of Dr. Coffin to scare pesky people away from discovering his gold smuggling operations.
You see the ringleader stole millions of dollars worth of gold from Montreal a month ago. His cunning plan was to smuggle gold as close to the border as possible by disguising it as patients. This way they wouldn’t have to be worried about being pulled over by any Mounties looking for them. They would then melt the gold using the solar furnace into bricks and smuggle it across the U.S. border with it disguised as bread.
To celebrate, Scooby starts dancing with Daphne, however the guard dogs (Cuddles & Snonkums) frighten Scooby off when they wish to cut in.
Don Messick: Scooby-Doo
Casey Kasem: Shaggy Rogers, henchman/paramedics
Frank Welker:Fred Jones, Ghost of Dr. Coffin, Cuddles and Snookums
Heather North: Daphne Blake
Pat Stevens: Velma Dinkley
John Stephenson: Dr. Tooksbury, Sheriff
Alan Oppenheimer: Officer Oldfield
Real Haunted Places in Niagara Falls
While there are no haunted sanitariums left in Niagara Falls, Canada, the Falls does have its share of haunted places that you can visit!
1. Sobbing Sophia at the Brockamour Manor Bed & Breakfast
Sophia sadly wanders the halls at Brockamour Manor mourning her lost love, who was General Isaac Brock. Brock unfortunately died on the battlefield during the war of 1812, and Sophia, spent the remainder of her life (along with her afterlife) mourning her lost love.
2. The Screaming Tunnel
A long time ago, on a bitterly cold night, a little girl’s house burned down, and the girl made it out just in time, albeit with serious injuries. With no nearby neighbours, and her family lost to the blaze, the young girl took shelter from the cold in a nearby tunnel where she succumbed to her injuries and the elements. Rumour has it if you light a match in the tunnel, the spirit of the ghost will blow it out as well as let out a terrifying scream.
3. Molly McGuire at the Prince of Wales Hotel
Forever trapped, Molly haunts room 207 at the Prince of Wales Hotel. Should you be brave enough to spend the night, expect flickering lights, echoing footsteps and the plumbing acting under its own influence.
Another victim of the War of 1812, Molly was accidentally killed by an American soldier who mistook her for a sniper in the second-floor window.
4. The Doll’s House Gallery
This place is a museum of sorts as hit houses 140 antique dollhouses (some which even date back to the 1700s) collected by Mrs. Mahoney who filled the dollhouses with such detailed joys of wonder like miniature furniture, carpets and dolls.
In her famous gallery, the basement once housed a tunnel that was used to help slaves escape from the United States into Canada where they would remain free. One young female slave unfortunately took a wrong turn in one of the tunnels and drowned in a well just beneath the dollhouse.
Today various dolls within the houses occasionally animate by themselves, and on some days the young slave girl will materialise in the main stairwell. When she does appear, the scent of Lillacs permeates the house as well.