Aradale Lunatic Asylum

On Friday night, three friends and I went for a three hour night time investigation of the Aradale Lunatic Asylum. Each of us is what you might call open minded, and for my part at least, I have had several paranormal encounters with different entities throughout my life. There is a distinctly male presence in the house I grew up in, and I have written about my experiences before. However our investigation on Friday was the first opportunity I have had to play with some tools and gadgets designed for the purposes of detecting spirit activity, and it was an absolutely insane experience…pun not intended.

Our first look at the asylum. Photo by me.

We started the night with a little bit of background history into the asylum. As we drove up, the front was lit up just enough gauge the sheer size of the building, and despite the mild weather, there was a buzz of anticipation in the air. Construction of the asylum began in 1860 and was completed in 1865. The Aradale site, along with its two sister asylums at Kew and Beechworth, were built at the time of the Australian Gold Rush, to accommodate for the increasing number of people coming into the state at the time. Aradale continued to operate until 1998, and housed up to 900 patients a year at it’s peak. Of course, not all of those patients were necessarily legitimately mentally ill. As our lovely lead investigator/tour guide pointed out, a woman could be sent to the asylum in the early years if she dared to wear pants instead of traditional feminine dress. Those early doctors were experimental in their methods of treatment and certainly uneducated about what constitutes actual mental illness.

We started our investigation in the morgue, where the spookiest thing to occur was a disturbed baby bat flying around erratically when we entered, to avoid the light. Whilst the morgue was fascinating, it wasn’t until our next stop that our curiosity was rewarded. Our first contact happened in the men’s ward, at the back of the complex, where our guide informed us that the back of any ward was where the so called “worst of the worst” were housed. Immediately upon entering the ward (which we would continue to experience in each of the other buildings we visited) we noticed a discernible drop in temperature. When we reached the top floor, she asked for two volunteers, who each took an EMF detector and walked down the hallway in darkness, while the rest of us waited and our guide played gentle music on a wind up music box. 

Previously silent, as soon as our guide began to play, there was a distinct commotion down the end of the hall, into the next room. The noises came from within the ward, and we determined it was not a result of any wind. Only a moment later, the EMF detector lit up for the first time. We operated on a simple “flash once for yes, twice for no” question system, and had a conversation with what we believed was a former doctor of the ward. This would continue to happen throughout the night, as we managed to connect with spirits in other places throughout our investigation. 

The morgue fridges. Photo by Jess. 

Our next stop was the women’s ward. Here we were able to explore on our own a little. Our first stop was down one end of the ward, which is where Morgan, our tour guide, informed us was where doctors would give the patients shock baths. An early method of treatment was to submerge a patient in a bath filled with water, pull a tarp of sorts over them, and subject the body to drastic changed in temperature. The idea, of course, being that if you could shock the body, you could shock the mind and therefore cure mental illness. Just one example of early medical experimentation.

Shock bath. Photo by Jess

Anyway, we got there and all we saw were sinks. There was a door at the end of the room, closed. As I turned the doorknob and put weight against the door, we discovered it was locked. My friend Jess did the same thing, and the door wouldn’t budge. When Morgan asked us shortly after if we had seen anything, we told her that there was no bath. She went into the room, followed closely by our group, opened the very same door that had been locked – without a key – as if it had been open the whole time. There was no one else on the floor who could have unlocked that door in the building. We figured the spirits were trying to mess with us…and succeeding!

As we progressed through our tour, we were down the other end of the ward trying to communicate with the “other side” if you will. In the next room, Morgan had unlocked a few doors, and without warning we heard the sound of a door slamming shut. When we looked, all the doors were still open, and the rest firmly locked. The sound of a slamming door occurred twice more in the space of ten minutes, each time without warning or explanation. And each time, none of the doors in the room the sounds came from, had been disturbed.

Row of cells. Photo by Jess

We managed to get some responses in the women’s ward as well, but for me the most irrefutable encounter occurred in our final stop, at the building that housed the employees of the asylum. As we wandered off again in our own groups, I took possession of a device that enhances sound. It had a name but I can’t recall, and in any case I kept calling it “the sound thingy” anyway! So, as we were walking along the corridor, pretty much all of our equipment started firing up. Me, with the sound thingy, didn’t see or hear anything…at first.

After perhaps a minute or two of standing in the same spot, hearing nothing but static and the voices of my friends, I heard something else. It was very distinctly the word “no”. It was vaguely raspy, the way your voice sounds when you’re unwell, and strangely it sounded like someone was shouting the word from a distance, but paradoxically right in my ear. It’s hard to explain exactly what it sounded like, but I’m not going to lie; it gave me the wiggins. In the best way! I believe I actually heard the voice of someone speak through the veil, if you will. It was a hair raising, spine tingling, bizarre, incredibly cool experience.

Some of the equipment we used (sans sound thingy). Photo by Jess.

By the time our tour finished, each of us that went was buzzed. It was such an educational, interesting experience and I think we each took something from it, at the very least a desire to do further exploration. I know there are sceptics, and you are entitled to your disbelief. But for me, I find it impossible to dent the existence of a life beyond our own. Of lingering spirits and energies in places where the corporeal bodies once walked. Honestly, it was incredible, and I can’t wait to visit again.

3 thoughts on “Aradale Lunatic Asylum

    1. Their methods were so experimental, it’s frightening to think what the poor patients were subjected to under the guise of “curing” their supposed illnesses.

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