The install gave me an error right at the start. It said there was some problem writing the file system. It was within about 30 seconds or so, so I can't imagine it formatted that quickly.
A hard drive can be "formatted" even faster than this.
What Windows calls "formatting" is in fact a two-stage process:
1. scan the whole partition for unreadable sectors (which can take hours to complete);
2. build a file system on the partition, using the bad sectors list from step 1 (which is complerted within a few seconds).
Since modern hard drives always keep a number of "spare blocks" that you can't use yourself to store data in, and since these "spare blocks" are automatically used as a backup if one of the "regular" sectors turns oput to go bad, step 1 is mostly unnecessary - except for hard drives that are so close to the trash that you better not put any valuable data on them. Thus, Linux skips step 1 by default (it is performed only if you explicitly request it) - and as a result, "formatting" on Linux is much faster than on Windows.
I haven't read this thread, but from your description I conclude that you did a lot of write operations on your hard drive since the error occurred. Each write access could destroy a part of what's left of your old file system and data - and together with the different ideal Windows and Linux might have about your RAID, I fear you won't have a great chance to recover anything.
I think your "RAID" controller was the root of all your trouble: The "RAID" controllers found on many mainboards are not necessarily well-supported on Linux. On the one hand, hardware vendors seem to be a bit afraid to publish the specifications for their products - but it is these specs that describe the interfaces to the product and how to use them, so without these documents, writing a driver for a piece of hardware is very difficult. Imaging buying a car, but the vehicle manufacturer has not built in a steering wheel, pedals and the other knobs and lever you usually find in a car, but has invented some fancy way the driver should operat the car - but you as the driver don't get a manual telling you how to do this... roughly the same situation.
On the other hand, these "RAID" controllers are usually barely more than a regular UDMA or SATA controller, equipped with a special firmware that hooks up with the BIOS routines (so the drives behind this controller can be accessed via the standard BIOS interfaces) and provides routines to read and write data from a RAID - but since all this is done via the BIOS hooks, the code required to distribute data across hard drives, calculate checksums, rebuild a faulty array etc. runs on the CPU. And since Linux has a reliable software RAID layer (that can use any hard drive or partition, no matter to which controller it is attached - in theory, you could take a SCSI, a SATA and an UDMA drive and put a RAID 5 on them) built into the kernel, there's no real need to support vendor-specific solutions.