Now Australia’s largest abandoned mental institution, when Ararat Lunatic Asylum, or Aradale Mental Hospital as it later became known, was closed in 1997, it had seen 13,000 deaths in its 130 year history.
Opened in 1867, that averaged out to be 100 deaths a year. Patients, prisoners and staff included.
Located about 205 kilometres away from Melbourne, once upon a time Ararat was used to relieve the prison system of those thought to be the most criminally insane and irreparably evil, however, it also became a place for individuals suffering from mental illness, post-natal depression and conditions such as epilepsy, autism or Down Syndrome.
At any one time the old Victorian structure was home to roughly 1000 patients and 500 staff.
Today the building is used for ghost tours, where reports of visitors unexpectedly fainting, feelings of nausea and pains while walking through certain rooms, wards with ominous smells and “methodical banging sounds” like patients hitting their head against walls, are commonly noted.
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However, out of the asylum’s 60 buildings, the ‘J Ward’ was known for housing Ararat’s most infamous patients, with one of its most prominent being Bill Wallace.
While never tried or convicted, Wallace was a suspected murderer who allegedly shot a friend over an argument about a cigarette and was then declared “insane” by two separate doctors in 1925.
He was sent to Aradale for 64 years to be “held at the Governor’s pleasure,” and died there aged 107 in 1989.
Other supernatural sensations have arisen from tours as well.
According to Real Paranormal Experiences visitors have reported feelings of being “shoved and bitten,” as well as sounds of shrieking voices, ticking clocks and electric interference with cameras and other electrical equipment.
Another popular story is that of disturbed patient Gary Webb who was said to have “mutilated his body over 70 times” and is known for shouting at people to “get out” of his room.
There’s another particularly infamous room that leaves visitors with feelings of “nausea, terror and trance like states,” which are said to last until they’ve left the building.
The ward is also said to be haunted by three prisoners that were hung and buried in the exercise area of the ward back in 1859 when the J Ward was originally used as the county jail. Because they were convicted for murder, they weren’t given a Christian burial and now the only evidence of their former existence are three small marks scratched into the prison wall.
Prisoners and ex-patients aside, there have also been reports of asylum staff members who still frequent the building.
The Superintendent’s office is also known for being haunted with visitors experiencing a bitter taste while walking by his office. The explanation being that a former Superintendent died by suicide after swallowing Prussic Acid or Hydrogen Cyanide.
While we don’t know for sure who this is, according to reports this could have been Dr. William L. Mullen who died in 1912.
According to several reviews on the Aradale Ghost Tours Facebook page, many accounts also speak about the presence of Nurse Kerry, who frequents the Women's Ward and watches over the tour guides.
Many people claim that they felt "nausea and dizziness" when visiting the ward.
"I also felt overwhelmed with nausea and dizziness in one of the tiny cells in the women’s ward and felt it again in the men’s surgery room," wrote one user.
"My son saw a figure in the women's area," added another.
"I took many photos, a few potentially showing some shadows/faces," reported one visitor with another saying that her "son fainted in one of the rooms."
"Didn't see a ghost but did get a tingling sensation on one half of my head in one of the rooms, which I was later told was the shock therapy ward..." wrote another.
Sitting on top of what was coined as Madman's Hill, the grounds of Ararat were said to be beautiful.
White, stately and tree-lined, the Victorian, 'Italiante' architecture is also a reminder of a time when archaic attitudes to mental health ruled, and treatments like lobotomies, straitjackets and the then underdeveloped, and at times dangerous, use of electro-convulsive shock therapy were the norm.
Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, one thing is certain - that even without its suspected ghosts and supernatural occurrences, the history of Ararat Mental Asylum is most definitely haunted.
Have you ever done a ghost tour at Ararat Mental Asylum? Tell us your best ghost stories.