Why Fremantle Lunatic Asylum is the most haunted place in Western Australia.


Content Warning – This article discusses mental health facilities including the experiences of previous patients and may be triggering to some readers. Should you wish to talk, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. 

In 1864, Western Australia’s Fremantle Lunatic Asylum opened its doors for the very first time.

The asylum, which was built by convicts, was created in the hopes of treating and caring for the mentally ill.

But before long, the asylum became home to more than just its mentally ill patients.

Although Fremantle Lunatic Asylum was originally built to accommodate 50 people, it soon became the home for just about any “social problem” – including the elderly, alcoholism, and prostitution.

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During the gold rush in the 1890s, the asylum was also used to house miners suffering from the effects of opium smoking and even sunstroke.

Upon entering the asylum, patients, who ranged from just nine years old to the elderly, were essentially treated as prisoners. Incoming patients had their heads shaved and were given secondhand prison uniforms to wear as they were locked into the psychiatric hospital’s guarded grounds.


With no active therapy, patients would often live in the compound for decades on end without their condition improving.

By the turn of the century in 1900, over 200 people were residing in the asylum with up to 20 people occupying each room.

That same year, the death of Catherine Clifford sparked the end of Fremantle Lunatic Asylum.

In August 1900, after briefly going missing from her home, Clifford was admitted into the asylum.

The next month, Clifford’s husband visited her in the compound. When he found her, she was unconscious with a black eye and scratches to her face. She had been attacked by a violent inmate.

Just three days later, Clifford passed away. It’s unclear whether she died from the beating or whether she had fallen down the stairs.

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Following Clifford’s death and the suspicious death of another patient, the asylum was investigated and subsequently shut down. Over the course of the next eight years, the asylum’s patients were relocated.

After the Fremantle Lunatic Asylum was closed, the convict-built building was used for a number of purposes. Over the last few decades, it has served as a women’s home, a midwifery school and the headquarters for the American armed services based in Western Australia during World War II.


Finally, in 1973, the building was reopened as the Fremantle Arts Centre, which now offers a number of exhibitions, events and outdoor concerts.

Today, the Fremantle Arts Centre is widely known as one of the most haunted places in Australia.

Over the years, the building has been the source of many eerie encounters.

During World War II, American soldiers would often hear whispering, banging and strange noises at night.

Other visitors have also reported the feeling of being kissed on the cheek by phantom lips.

Unexplained cold spots, doors opening and closing on their own and the sounds of crying and yelling have also repeatedly been reported while the apparition of an elderly woman has been seen roaming around the building.


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Several years ago, Australian medium Anthony Grzelka stayed overnight at the arts centre.

During his stay, Anthony claims that he came across the “very tough and hardened spirit of a man”.

When he saw the man down the corridor, the temperature reportedly dropped from 22 degrees to 16 degrees in just three metres.

“With this type of energy, I can’t begin to fathom the types of things he did to those poor souls who were patients in that place many years ago. This very unpleasant man had been here a long time – perhaps 100 years or so from the look of his demeanour and dress,” he said.

He also discovered an area which was overpowered by the “stench of flesh burning”.

“The thing I noticed almost immediately when I entered this area was a strong smell of burning, the overpowering acrid stench of flesh burning,” he said. 

The next day, he learned the room he was in was once used for the electric shock treatment of patients.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner or in Australia, contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

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