Ararat Asylum

The last Saturday of January 2022, and today will complete our world tour of paranormal locations. We visited Antarctica, Barbados, China, South Africa, and today we go Down Under to Ararat, Victoria, Australia.

About 2.5 hours southwest of Melbourne Australia, you will find the small town of Ararat. In the 1800’s the gold rush brought hundreds of people to the area, but when the gold was no longer being found, the crowds left. The asylum began to be built in 1864, along with the sister asylums of Kew and Beechworth. All three were established to help house and treat the growing number of “lunatics” that were in the colony of Victoria.

The Asylum has gone by numerous names, Ararat Lunatic Asylum, Ararat Mental Hospital, Aradale Mental Hospital, the Lunacy Department used the building for temporary housing for the Criminally Insane in the mid 1880’s. The County Gaol then became J Ward. This is where the most depraved and dangerous men in Victoria were housed. The conditions were horrific as they usually are in these asylums, and the security was the highest.

Conditions inside the walls were less than desirable for the patients as well as the staff. It was crowded, uncomfortable, and the treatments were barbaric and included both electroshock therapy and lobotomies. It is estimated that at least 13,000 deaths occurred throughout the asylum’s 60 buildings during its 130 years of operation.

Eventually the asylum would be closed and officially the patients were moved to other locations by 1991. J Ward is now a museum complex and volunteers provide tours, history, and ghost stories of the building, grounds, and those individuals that called the walls home.

Some of the stories that I was able to find were rather interesting, especially the one about Gary Webb. Gary was a well-known criminal and one day he went into a pizza shop to rob it but was seen by an off-duty police officer. The officer attempted to intervene and was shot for doing so, he would recover but the woman who owned the shop who was also shot, remains confined to a wheelchair. For this Gary was sentenced to fourteen years. If he behaved, he could be out in eight and a half years.

Gary began to write to the media and informed them about what he would do when he was released. This caused the politicians to panic and passed a special law to keep him locked up for the rest of his life. While in J Ward, Gary became a self-mutilator and there are upwards of 70 recorded instances of him cutting off bits and pieces of himself. He even cut off his own penis, three times, the last time the appendage was too damaged to reattach.

Now the stories of the ghosts and paranormal are rampant in this location. In fact, there are tours available; 2 hours in duration for $39, or an overnight tour, 11 hours, for $189. Be sure to check their website for covid requirements. You will be able to explore the governor’s bathroom, hangman’s gallows, original kitchen, shower block, grave sites, West Wing, J Ward Block, exercise yards and grounds in search of the souls that still linger.

Some of the ghosts and experiences you may encounter include

  • George Fiddimont, the last Governor of the gaol
    • George was showing a group around the gaol in 1886 and as he was descending the stairs near the basement kitchen, he suffered a massive heart attack and died near the foot of the stairs.
    • Present day, tour guides and visitors will hear a person walking up and down the stairs, sounding like they are wearing old-time hobnailed boots.
  • George Leondieu was sent to J Ward in 1950, for allegedly killing a man who made homosexual advances to him. George was a very dangerous man, and he was extremely delusional as well. He believed that everyone, even the nurses, were out to get him. For his protection and that of the other patients, he was isolated most of the time.
  • One of the nicer ghosts is that of Nurse Kerry. She is usually found in the women’s wards, continuing to check on her patients and handle her nursing duties. You can often hear the click of a women’s shoes through the empty ward and the soft sounds of a woman’s voice.
  • In the former men’s wings, many people have encountered dark shadows, or have been physically affected by unseen forces. People have claimed that they have been bitten, scratched, and pushed. Throughout the asylum and its many buildings, you can hear voices where no one is around, be overcome with dizziness, nausea, headaches, phantom smells, strange noises, and apparitions.

Next time you are in Australia and have a free day, consider going to Ararat, and visiting the infamous Ararat Asylum. The white, stately, Victorian architecture on tree lined grounds masks the history and stigma of mental health. Perhaps you can experience the unexplained.

Stay Curious my Friends!

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