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.

I Miss My Ghost

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I believe in the paranormal. It’s somewhat hard not to, when I spent pretty much my entire life living in a house inhabited by an entity of some description. Even after I moved out of home, I found myself living with something that knocked on the walls and would lightly tough my hand from time to time. Now the skeptics among you will find excuses for that, but having experienced these things myself, I can assure you that I know the difference between something spiritual and something corporeal, and what I had was most definitely a ghost.

The thing about being aware of a presence in your home, is that when it is no longer there, you feel the absence as acutely as you would feel the absence of a living house member. Since moving from my home town to the city, I have been decidedly ghostless. And it genuinely makes me a little sad. See, there was always something kind of reassuring about the presence of the ghost at dad’s. I heard the footsteps through the hall, and felt the breath on my cheek, and heard the muffled sound of a male voice when no one else was home so often, that it just became a part of my life. Like eating breakfast, or breathing. And when I was alone in my former little home, where I was never quite happy and always just a little lonely, there was something rather comforting about those light touches of the hand. It was like my ghost was there, and telling me “Hey buddy, it’s ok. I’m here.”

I have no ghost in this new house. I thought I might have at first…and then I realised that those noises were entirely too loud and frequent to be a ghost. No, instead of a comforting paranormal entity, what I am stuck with in this new house is an irritating, very alive possum. It lives in the walls, and most often sets up camp in the corner of my bedroom on the side of the bed I sleep on. So every morning, early in the morning, I get awakened by the shuffling, scratching, screeching beast. And it doesn’t. Shut. Up. Let me tell you, I would much prefer to be living with a ghost. I think perhaps that is part of why this house just doesn’t feel like home. I mean, my last house didn’t particularly feel like home either but I feel unsettled in this new place in a way I haven’t ever been before. Maybe this week I can win the lottery and buy my own house. And hell, maybe I can buy a companion ghost on the black market or something. A girl can dream, right?

 

Living With the Non-Living

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My house is not quiet. The front yard is big, the street far away, but the cars driving past are so loud, it is as if I were sitting in the middle of a busy highway. The heater makes gentle whooshing noises that remind me of ocean waves reaching shore. The refrigerator hums quietly beneath the other sounds. And there is something else. Something that knocks on the walls and darts about, barely perceptible in my peripheral vision. I believe I am sharing this house with something else. And I’m not yet sure what kind of something it might be.

I lived with a ghost for nearly twenty one years. I know some of you may be sceptical, and if that’s the case, feel free not to continue. But I don’t just believe in the paranormal, I have encountered it. The presence in my house always felt male to me. I have had experiences with it since I was a little girl. My collection of porcelain dolls (creepy in hindsight, and eventually disposed of or given away) were placed high atop the cupboard so they couldn’t be reached. On more than one occasion, I noticed a slight change in head position on one of the dolls, or a lock of hair out of place, or a hat a little askew. Just subtle changes, but changes nonetheless.

I have been home alone and felt a breath on my neck. Heard footsteps through the hall. On a few occasions, heard a male voice speak, too faint to understand but distinguishable as a voice. And once, earlier this year, I saw a non corporeal but distinguishable humanoid shape pass behind me in the mirror and enter the back bedroom. I checked for possible light sources, reflections and lights to be sure, and when I found nothing, concluded that I had seen the ghost I had been aware of since I was a kid.

Even my dad, something of a sceptic himself, has felt and heard similar things, enough that he asked me if I had ever encountered any strange happenings in the house. I got a little too excited, because his experiences as he told me, served as validation for my own beliefs that we were sharing the house with an entity. I live in a very old mining town, built atop very old mines. I am not the only person to have experiences with spirit activity. A man in my street opened the mine shift he built his house on, and may have let out something infinitely older than the harmless spirit living in my dad’s house.

In my case, the ghost has reacted a lot to change. There was an increase in activity when my brother moved out two years ago, and when I moved into his old bedroom a few months ago. When my sister visited in March for a wedding, my eldest niece refused to set foot in my bedroom and started to cry, telling me ‘I can’t go in there, he’s in there and he’s staring at me’. She is three…or four (ok, I’m a bad aunty, but that’s the not the point) and has never known anything about the ghost or the house. For her to react so clearly, and especially given her reference to a male, further suggests the presence of an entity in my long term home.

Before I moved out on the weekend, the spirit again played havoc in the home. One of my pop vinyl figures ‘fell’ off the cupboard. There were taps on the ceiling of my bedroom and flickering lights in my lamp. The ghost has never been malicious and never caused any harm to my knowledge, but I believe that it gets restless and is affected by any major change.

I believe there is something in my new house and I have a feeling it may not be quite as benign as the ghost at my dad’s. I can’t quite explain why, but despite giving the house a thorough cleansing with sage, there is the vaguest sense of unease playing at the back of my mind. I am here for at least the next twelve months and I can only hope that whatever I may be sharing a house with will get used to me soon enough. I moved out so I could live on my own. The last thing I need is to have my plans ruined by an angry spirit.