1,200 patients buried in a mass grave: Inside Sydney's haunted Gladesville Mental Hospital.


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 1838, Sydney’s first ever psychiatric hospital opened its doors for the first time.

The asylum, which was built on the shores of the Parramatta River, was created in the hopes of treating and rehabilitating the mentally ill.

But very soon, the Gladesville Mental Hospital, also known as the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum, soon became something much more sinister.

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From the very beginning, Gladesville was plagued by overcrowding.

Although the institution was built to house up to 60 patients, there were almost 150 patients housed there by 1844.

There were also reports of patients being abused and restrained for hours on end within the facility.

In one case, in 1843, it was discovered that two male convict keepers had been routinely sexually abusing a number of female patients.

Even after the institution changed its name from Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum to Gladesville Mental Hospital, the abuse still continued.


According to a newspaper article published in 1954, a patient’s head was left burnt after she was given constant electric shock treatments.

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“While perfectly sane, only suffering from depression and too many sleeping tablets, she was subjected to so much violent shock treatment which frightens her so badly, like others, she tries to resist,” the article read, according to the Daily Telegraph.

“On one occasion three male patients were brought in and nearly strangled her, tearing her clothes badly,” the article continued.

“She was later thrown in the refractory block and is there at present forced to sleep in a straitjacket at night, like others in that part, many times strapped to a seat in the daytime.”

Even employees were subject to abuse. In 1884, a senior attendant died after being kicked in the stomach by a patient. Just five years later, another attendant was killed when his skull was fractured by a patient with a broom.

But perhaps most concerning of all is what happened to the patients that died at Gladesville.


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At the time, mental health was so stigmatised that the families of those who died in the institution often refused to collect their deceased relative.

As a result, over 1,200 patients were buried in mass graves underneath the asylum.

Although the names and dates of death of 923 of these patients have since been identified via Health Department records, the remaining 300 patients remain anonymous.

Since 1997, all inpatient services at Gladesville have been moved to the Macquarie Hospital in North Ryde.

The former mental hospital, now abandoned, is derelict, covered in graffiti and regarded as one of the most haunted places in New South Wales.

In 2011, photographer Yvette Worboys released a series of photographs taken at the site of the former hospital.

In one particular image, a number of mediums identified a presence standing next to a doorway.

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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