ARARAT LUNATIC ASYLUM

McLelland Street and Heath Street, Ararat

+03 5352 3357

Status: Former Insane Asylum; Historical and Paranormal Attraction (J Ward); Polytechnic Institute

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Gate and white hospital building

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 J Ward ^


History

Construction for this institution was begun in 1865 – the first patients were admitted in 1865 – and completed in 1866. Along with its sister asylums – Kew and Beechworth – Aradale was built to house the ever-increasing number of lunatics in Victoria as the population of the Territory began to grow.

The asylum was built to function as its own village and contained its own farm, gardens, orchard and power plant. The institution continued to grow as the decades went by – 63 buildings when it was decommissioned – right up to 1991 when the criminally insane modern building was constructed.

As with all of the massive psychiatric institutions worldwide, patient population began to drop in the 1980’s with the invention of anti-psychotic medications and the policies moving the mentally ill and disabled to group homes and community living.

In 1998 the asylum finally closed its doors – although the female ward continued to house patients until 2001 – and the massive campus was left mostly empty. Unlike many of its contemporaries the campus was never really left abandoned to the elements and time.

In 2001 the government of Victoria gave $7.4 million to the Melbourne Polytechnic to convert the campus to a school. They created a state-of-the-art wine and hospitality training school complete with its own winery and vineyards; the even bottle their own wine brand for sale.

J Ward was originally built when the asylum was first constructed and functioned as the goal. Later it was converted into housing for the criminally insane until the new facility was built in 1991. It opened again as a museum in 1998 and is still accessible to the public for historical and paranormal tours.

Three men were executed in J Ward in the 19th Century. All three for committing murder – in one case that of a 10 year old girl who he had sexually assaulted.

 

Paranormal Activity

The horror stories in over 130 years of operation are well beyond the scope of this article to cover. Victorian treatments for the mentally ill ran from distasteful to obscene to the utterly criminal and immoral.

It can reliably be said that every possible level of paranormal activity has been recorded and/or witnessed within these walls including: apparitions of both former patients and staff including those that interact with the living; shadow figures; movement in the corner of your eye; objects moving on their own; lights turning on and off on their own; doors and windows opening and closing on their own; disembodied voices, whispers, screams, crying, laughter etc; touches, pushes and pulls from unseen entities; light anomalies; electrical disturbances; unexplained breezes and winds; mysterious mists and smoke; hot and cold spots; time and dimensional shifts; empathic feelings of fear from utter terror to unease; physical attacks on the living including scratches and bruising; physical symptoms including nausea, vomiting, headaches and blurred vision; objects disappearing or appearing out of nowhere; feelings of not being alone, being watched, not being wanted and being trapped and list goes on. . .