This article will be covering what many people refer to as ‘the most haunted building in Western Australia’ – the Fremantle Arts Centre.
Originally used as a overcrowded and underfunded psychiatric hospital, this location seems to be a hot spot for paranormal activity…
Convict Establishment Lunatic Asylum and Invalid Depot
Quite a mouthful, isn’t it?
Yet this was the original title given to the Fremantle Arts Centreback in 1864. It was set up out of necessity, as the original asylum was completely outdated and overflowing with unfortunate patients.
It has been reported that some of these patients, ended up in the local prison system, as this was the only way the local authorities could give them a bed!
It was originally set up to house no more than 50 patients, but it was soon expanded to accommodate many more inmates.
It is thought that the building had to expand during the gold rush of the 1890’s – eventually taking in prostitutes, the elderly, and minefield workers who were suffering from extreme sunstroke.
The Death of Catherine Clifford
The building hit the headlines in Australia for all the wrong reasons, in the year 1900.
A woman named Catherine Clifford ended up in one of it’s rooms after she had gone missing for days, and seemed to be a little confused when found.
On September the 25th, Mrs Clifford’s husband visited her and found her in a terrible state. She had been beaten severely by the patient who shared a room with her.
Three days later Mr Clifford recieved the following telegram:
“Your wife died this afternoon reply re burial” J.W. Hope, acting superintending medical officer.
There was total confusion over her death – some people believed that she had died when falling down the main stairs in the building…whilst many others believed she died as a result of her injuries from the beating.
The authorities finally got involved and found out that the patients in the asylum were living a miserable life – it was completely overcrowded and in some cases, over 17 people were stuffed into one room!
They also uncovered information on another suspicious death that had taken place there, and decided to close the facility.
It took several years to relocate all of the unfortunate inmates.
The building was set to be demolished, but instead ended up being turned into a woman’s home in 1909.
In 1955 it was refurbished and given a new purpose – the The Fremantle Arts Centre.
The large amount of paranormal activity that takes place in the centre is attributed to the suicides and suspicious deaths that took place when it was an asylum.
Cold spots are commonly felt, sounds of crying, laughter and yelling have been heard on occasion.
There have been several reports from visitors who claim that they have been tenderly kissed on the cheek whilst walking through the first floor (the main floor that seems to attract the most reports of paranormal activity).
The most famous apparition at the centre is that of a woman who lived there after her daughter was kidnapped.
She became heavily depressed when the authorities failed to locate her child and committed suicide by throwing herself through the first floor window.
Numerous reports claim to have seen this ghostly woman walking through the halls of the building, searching in vain for her missing daughter.
If you have any thoughts or opinions on the paranormal activity linked to the Fremantle Arts Centre, please leave them in the comment section below.
Climb the tree lined hill that leads to the beautiful Ararat Lunatic Asylum and you would be forgiven for thinking that you were approaching an elegant Italian villa.
Renamed Aradale in the last century, the sweeping drive invites you into the imposingly elegant main building. Stunning in its design it could be mistaken for a luxury hotel or a Hollywood mansion.
Sadly, it is all a façade. Consider that the hill you have just climbed has been nicknamed ‘Madman’s Hill’, the town of Ararat behind you is now a ghost town and the history of the asylum is stained by horrendous acts of cruelty and violence.
Few with any sense would care to spend any length of time in this abandoned building.
Desolate and isolated, its only occupants now are the restless souls of former inmates, phantoms of a past era doomed forever to haunt the empty wards and corridors of the Ararat Lunatic Asylum.
A Brief History
Built in 1864, Ararat was built to house the lunatics, imbeciles and idiots of Victoria, Australia. Built high on a hill overlooking the small settlement after which it was named, it comprised over 63 separate buildings.
Isolated and self- supporting, with its own farm and vegetable plots, it successfully separated its occupants from the outside world.
Those that entered Ararat could easily be forgotten. In December 1886, the jail at Ararat was renamed J Ward and became part of the asylum, housing the criminally insane.
Left to its own devices terrible acts of cruelty were perpetrated. In reality patients were committed on the flimsiest of reasons and rarely left once they entered.
It was common practice to perform lobotomies without anaesthetic as well as electric shock and other experimental treatments.
With a bewildering mortality rate, it was clear that death was the only release its patients could look forward to. Later renamed the Aradale Mental hospital, it eventually closed in 1998.
The Main Asylum
Enter the main building today and you begin to get a sense of what the future held for those that entered the Ararat Lunatic Asylum.
The impressive frontage behind you, a maze of long dark corridors, locked rooms and shadowy corners, lies ahead. Scream in this massive building and your cries would likely go unheard.
In its heyday just two signatures could commit you to a lifetime in Ararat for irritating your husband or reading novels, it took eight to get you out.
Small wonder then that many of the sane who entered were soon driven mad. Routinely lobotomized and cruelly operated upon, many were driven to suicide.
Once notorious for its inhumanity towards its patients, the Ararat or Aradale Lunatic Asylum is now infamous for being one of the most haunted buildings in Australia.
Visitors to Ararat have reported many paranormal experiences…
Walk through the Women’s Wing were young mothers were routinely committed for suffering from post- natal depression and other female illnesses and you may feel someone or something stroke your hand or touch your face.
If you sense that you are being watched, you could be right.
The ghost of a particularly harsh and wicked nurse, Nurse Kerry, is said to fix her icy stare on visitors until they are compelled to leave. She clearly doesn’t want anyone to see what happens on her ward.
Cross the covered bridge to the Men’s Ward and icy hands reach out to clasp unsuspecting visitors in a steely grip. Known as the suicide walk, it offered a way out for those desperate enough take it.
Do these poor souls now regret their acts and reach out desperately for human contact or are they trying to take others with them?
Enter the abandoned ward and doors slam, disembodied voices whisper and shadow people dart from corner to corner.
Shockingly, even the staff were not immune from the misery of this ghastly building. Pass by the Superintendent’s office and you may experience a bitter taste.
Standing on the spot where a former Superintendent killed himself by ingesting Prussic Acid, many have reported a foul taste in their mouth and an overwhelming sense of nausea.
The saddest ghost in this eerie building though, must be Old Margaret. A patient for most of her life, she eventually escaped Ararat when the building closed in the nineties.
Institutionalized and knowing no other home, her ghost returned after her death to haunt the place where she felt safest.
One of the many buildings in this sprawling complex, J Ward was originally built in 1859 as the county jail for Victoria.
Designed to accommodate the burgeoning criminal population attracted to the gold mines in the area, it closed 30 years later when the gold ran out.
Renamed J Ward, it became a secure unit housing the criminally insane. Until it closed a hundred years later some of the most depraved and notorious criminals in Australia lived and died here.
J Ward now operates as a museum offering visitors a taste of history with an added twist; many of the inmates refuse to leave and linger on to terrify those who dare to enter their territory.
Sadly, J Ward holds a number of dubious records. Incarcerated within its walls were both the youngest and oldest criminals in Australian history.
Boys as young as twelve were sent to endure the horrific conditions J Ward had to offer while the unfortunate Bill Wallace lived to the ripe age of 108, serving a true life sentence for his crimes.
During its years as the county jail, three prisoners were hung at J Ward. Their bodies were buried without ceremony in the exercise area.
As convicted murderers they were not entitled to a Christian burial. Instead three small marks scratched into the prison wall provide the only indication that their bodies were ever interred.
Rumored to be buried vertically like many murderers, their souls can never rest but haunt the prison where they spent their final days.
Enter the former jail today and like many visitors you may feel yourself being shoved and bitten by unseen entities.
Disembodied voices shriek in terror, clocks tick where there are no clocks and electricity charges the air interfering with cameras and other equipment.
Those that dare to enter the cell of one prisoner, Gary Webb, have been told to ‘get out’. Webb a very disturbed individual, mutilated his own body over seventy times whilst in his cell and clearly doesn’t appreciate visitors invading his privacy.
Another cell is said to have a strange influence on those who enter. These effects range from feelings of nausea, terror and trance like states, which don’t fade until the sufferer has left the building.
Make your way downstairs to visit the underground kitchen and you may encounter the spirit of a young boy called Stuart.
Said to haunt the kitchen area along with a former cook, it is not known whether the young boy is a former inmate or former employee of the asylum.
The most notorious area of J Ward is the Governor’s bathroom. Many staff and visitors refuse to enter, sensing the palpable evil that is present within.
Said to be possessed by a demonic force, at least one prisoner is rumored to have been murdered and dismembered in the bath. Enter at your peril.
The phrase ‘beauty is only skin deep’ certainly applies to the horror that was Ararat. What at first appears to be the epitome of style and elegance is merely a façade that masks a miserable and terrifying past.
Boasting that it housed ‘the worst lunatics of the British Empire’, in reality many who entered the asylum were suffering from minor mental illnesses, disabilities or were an inconvenience to their families.
Behind closed doors terrible treatments were inflicted upon patients, often without anaesthetic. Many who entered sane were driven mad.
Today its doors are thankfully closed to the mentally ill. Despite this, the shrieks and sobs of distressed patients still reverberate around its walls and ghostly hands reach out imploring visitors to help them.
Bound forever to this dreadful place and destined to endure its tortures forever, even death failed to release some poor souls from the hellish misery of the Ararat Lunatic Asylum.
In these days of enlightenment it is difficult to imagine that until just a few short years ago, public institutions practicing torture, sinister experiments and cruelty existed in our society.
Founded with the best of intentions these places soon became overcrowded and hellish for the people who lived in them.
Many who walked through their doors never left. Secreted away and segregated from society they remained voiceless until death released them from their misery.
Who were these people?
Sadly they were often those who today would be diagnosed with conditions such as autism, epilepsy, and depression.
Born in a period where the science of the mind was in its infancy they were often guinea pigs for harsh and inhuman treatments. Thankfully, society has moved on.
One by one these institutions have closed their doors and their occupants returned to society. For many though salvation came too late. Left behind and forgotten in death, these ghosts of a shameful past cling to the haunted and abandoned insane asylums where they were once incarcerated.
The Ridges Lunatic Asylum, Ohio, USA
Built at the end of the nineteenth century, the first residents in this sprawling institution were veterans of the American Civil War. Although they did not know it, these early occupants were the lucky ones.
By the 1950’s the asylum was terribly overcrowded and no longer concerned with therapeutic approaches to mental illness.
Patients were routinely lobotomized and subjected to electric shock treatments in a bid to cure them. Worse still, the elderly, the rebellious and the unwanted were now accepted into its care for the feeblest of reasons.
Conditions in the asylum were barbaric and hopeless. Visit today and you can still see the legend ‘I was never crazy’ carved into a wall by a desperate inmate.
Now haunted by the ghosts of its past, the Ridges attracts those interested in the paranormal.
One of the most interesting features of the derelict building concerns a patient called Margaret Schilling. In 1978, Margaret somehow locked herself in an abandoned ward.
Removing her clothes and folding them neatly, she lay down upon the freezing floor at the coldest time of the year. Why she didn’t call for help or try and unlock the door, nobody knows.
A month later her body was discovered. If the staff who lost the unfortunate Margaret believed they could now wipe her shameful death from the history of the asylum, they were mistaken.
As she lay on the cold hard floor, Margaret’s body left an indelible stain which no amount of scrubbing will ever wipe clean. The perfect impression of her frail body marks her death for as long as the building stands.
Today though, it is not the building but the nearby cemetery which attracts most attention from ghost hunters. Said to be haunted by soldiers from the civil war, ghostly apparitions can be seen roaming among the gravestones.
Bizarrely, some of these gravestones have been arranged in a perfect circle for no apparent reason. Cross a little wooden bridge to a small island and you find a further cluster of isolated graves.
Rumored to be those of the criminally insane they can’t be buried on consecrated ground. Not surprising then that this cemetery with its unmarked graves, strange arrangements and spectral inhabitants now attracts those interested in witchcraft, demonology and the dark arts.
The Metropolitan State Mental Hospital, Massachussets, USA
Opened in 1930 the Metropolitan State Mental Hospital hides a grisly past. As well as the usual suffering of patients that took place as a matter of course, the hospital is the scene of a notorious murder.
A murder so shocking that it earned the institution the nickname ‘the hospital of the seven teeth’. Free to roam around the extensive grounds, one of the patients Anne Marie Davee decided to go for a walk in 1978.
It was a walk from which she would never return. Sometime later seven teeth were found in the possession of another patient, Melvin Wilson.
Despite suspecting that Wilson had a hand in Ann Marie’s disappearance no action was taken until an investigation by the Massachussets State Senator.
Eventually, Wilson led police to the three sites where he had buried the murdered and dismembered body of Ann Marie.
Walk the beautiful grounds today and you too may get the eerie feeling that someone or something is watching you.
Numerous reports of paranormal activity have been reported by workers in the now derelict building that was once the main asylum.
Shadowy figures are seen to dart and flit about the empty rooms. Locked doors open and then slam shut again. Screams and flashes can be seen from the wards where electro therapy took place.
In a bid to placate the restless souls who wander through the building and surrounding grounds, efforts have been made to identify the 350 former residents buried in unmarked graves.
Sadly there is no evidence that it has worked yet.
Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, Victoria, Australia
Originally named the Mayday Lunatic Asylum, this hospital in Victoria Australia was built in 1867 to house 1,200 patients. Closed in 1995 it has become the focus of paranormal investigators and amateur ghost hunters.
One of the most ubiquitous ghosts that haunts the asylum is Matron Sharpe. Reputed to have been a kind and caring nurse in life, she appears in different rooms and is seen walking down the long granite staircase.
A benign spirit she doesn’t make those who see her uneasy or frightened. Perhaps reluctant to abandon their workplace other former employees still hang around the asylum.
These include Tommy Kennedy a former resident and kitchen hand. Enter his kitchen uninvited and you may feel him poking you and pulling at your clothes.
Another employee, a gardener, still tends the grounds dressed in his old green jacket . He materializes pottering among the flowers and vegetables before disappearing into thin air.
Sadly, the ghost of a child is often seen in the former chapel and is said to approach female visitors. Unable to speak, the poor girl tries desperately to attract the attention of women who appear sympathetic.
One can only imagine this heart breaking child was once abandoned and is still waiting for her mother to return.
Perhaps the most sinister haunting though, is that of a female patient thrown from an upper window by another inmate.
Her ghost is still seen standing on the spot where she fell and giant orbs have been photographed hovering outside the window where she was pushed to her untimely death.
The Rolling Hills Asylum, New York, USA
Built in 1827 to house paupers, drunkards, lunatics, handicapped, orphans, widows, vagrants and murderers’ the Genessee County Poor Farm as it was known, welcomed one and all.
Closed at the end of the twentieth century the former asylum was converted to shops and an antique mall. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before customers and shopkeepers began to report strange unexplained events.
A nurse wearing an old fashioned uniform was often seen striding purposefully along the corridors. Before she could be approached she would disappear, her footsteps still echoing through the air.
On another occasion a stunned employee of the mall opened a door to see an old man being bathed in a tin bath by the same nurse. Hastily closing the door, she waited a moment or two before peeking again. The room was empty.
As the incidents of disembodied voices, apparitions and shadow people became more frequent, the management of the building decided to call in experts with paranormal experience to perform an investigation.
What followed was a chilling and terrifying encounter with the supernatural.
Recounted by a manager of the current Rolling Hills complex, it took place in the basement of the building in a room once known as the Christmas Room.
Lit only by a pink glow stick, the investigators formed a circle. A small rocking horse and a ball were placed in the middle. During the evening, the glow stick and rocking horse began to move around of their own volition.
Stunned by what they were witnessing the group was further astonished when a hand and arm materialised in thin air and snatched the ball away.
Denbigh Insane Asylum, Wales, United Kingdom
This beautiful Gothic building was built in the 1840’s in North Wales, United Kingdom. Built to accommodate Welsh speakers who did not fare well in English asylums it now lies empty and vandalised in the Denbighshire countryside.
Another building constructed with altruistic intentions, it soon housed not only the mentally ill but pregnant women who had brought shame upon their families, the elderly and embarrassing relatives who needed to be hidden away from acceptable society.
Local superstition suggests that the ground on which the asylum was built was cursed by three witches who lived in the area. The most famous of these witches was Bella Fawr.
Those fascinated by witchcraft still break into the grounds of the asylum to try and invoke the spirits of the three ladies who once weaved their wicked spells and incantations.
Demons and witches have been seen screaming in the old isolation wards and a tunnel leading from the hospital is said to end under the cottage of one of the witches.
With a history that emulates that of most Victorian asylums, it is fair to say that the building has seen its share of suffering and misery.
Today, various ghosts are rumored to roam the area. These include a doctor and lab assistant who are seen in the morgue, two young students who were murdered in the grounds of the asylum and an old lady seen wandering around.
The same old lady has been seen in the little chapel built in the grounds. Witnessed walking through the church by a group performing a seance, her apparition terrified the group so much they never returned.
Pennhurst Asylum, Pennsylvania, USA
The cruel and quite terrifying practices that existed in this asylum went a long way in changing the public’s perception of the insane and their treatment.
Shockingly exposed in the 1960’s it painted a picture of neglect and inhumanity. Entitled ‘Suffer Little Children’ a television expose revealed unacceptable overcrowding and under-staffing.
Patients were tied to beds, high functioning adults were left uneducated and under stimulated and the chemical cosh was used to subdue and control those with behavior problems.
Since its closure a variety of paranormal events have been recorded. Distressed and angry voices have been heard on numerous occasions.
The terrified voices ask visitors why they have come and beg to be left alone in peace. Shadow people including that of a small child move about the empty buildings.
Chairs rock backwards and forward and doors are slammed by unseen hands. Some visitors claim to have been scratched and shoved and objects have been thrown across rooms.
One of the most compelling testimonials comes from a group of three men who witnessed a nurse appear before them. A firefighter, a police officer and a U.S. marine they were hardly the most suggestible of witnesses.
Built with the best of intentions, they became the shame of modern society. Institutions where the mentally ill were treated in the most cruel and inhumane fashion.
Experimented upon, deprived of their rights, neglected and often mistreated, those who entered insane asylums often lived a hopeless and hellish life.
If it is true that hauntings spring from anguish, despair and pain then mental institutions provide a rich breeding ground. Woven into their very fabric is the misery and hopelessness of those who once lived within their walls.
Some were lucky and escaped their atrocious existence, others sadly ended their lives in misery.
Forgotten by society their tortured souls still remain hidden and voiceless, destined to be tied forever to the haunted and abandoned insane asylums where they spent their final days.