J Ward ^
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.
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. . .
By John T Collins - National Library of Australia, Public Domain, Link
This asylum was first opened in 1867 making it the second oldest one in Australia. When the asylum opened it was a half a kilometre (one third of a mile) long making it not only one of the oldest but also one of the largest.
The hospital was surrounded by 260 acres (106 hectares) of land surrounded the hospital. This area contained a full farm with animals and crops as well as multiple recreational facilities.
The asylum was designed with a ditch on inside side of the fence successfully entrapping the patients while not looking so imposing from the outside. This way they made the hospital look not threatening until you were inside the walls. This was called ha-ha walls.
At it’s maximum, the institution could hold 1,200 patients with 500 staff members.
Getting admitted to the facility was incredibly simple as it only took 2 medical signatures to get in – a vast difference from the 8 medical signatures needed to get out – as well any prisoner of the Crown could be transferred from jail to an asylum with only one government signature. After 1915 you could also voluntarily commit yourself but it still required the 8 signatures to get back out.
Mayday Hills Asylum – as it was called then – closed after 128 years in 1995.
Now the hospital is a tourist attraction offering both historical daytime tours and paranormal after dark tours. The former mortuary has been converted into a chapel where people can get married. The 19th century gardens covering 27 acres (11 hectares) are open dawn to dusk every day to the public.
Over 3,000 patients met their end at this facility but they aren’t the only ghosts of the former asylum.
The hall where patients would watch movies – it was also used a chapel on Sundays – is haunted by a young girl who is known for approaching women who enter the room seemingly terrified and looking for help. The ghost of elderly man is also seen here looking out of a window in what used to be a bell tower.
Matron Sharpe is the most famous of the staff ghosts. Unlike the majority of staff through the decades she was known for being kind to the patients and attempting to help them. Her apparition is seen throughout the building but most often in the former dormitory area and walking down the granite staircase.
In what was once known as the Grevillia Wing - which was closed many years before the rest of the facility - where outdated treatments such as electro-shock therapy and restraint by chains and straitjackets were used there are numerous reports of paranormal activity. These include the aforementioned Matron Sharpe who was seen sitting with the patients scheduled for electro-shock long after her death, the apparition of an unknown male doctor and many ghosts of former patients some in obvious pain and states of suffering.
Another known patient who haunts the asylum is that of Tommy Kennedy. Tommy was the perfect patient and well liked by staff. He was given a position in the kitchen which unfortunately led to his death there. People now report a sensation of being poked in the ribs or having their clothes pulled at in the area that was once the kitchen.
One female patient was thrown out of a window by another woman who wanted her cigarettes. This resulted in the first patient’s death but because she was Jewish her body could not be moved unless there was a rabbi present. This resulted in the woman’s body being left in a dried blood pool for 2 days. Her apparition has been seen multiple times since then on the spot where she died. A photo was also taken of the window she was thrown out of capturing an obvious unexplained light anomaly.
Children have seen and spoken to the ghosts of other children that adults are unable to see. Workman have also reported the phantom sounds of kids playing, talking and laughing but upon searching no children were found in the area.
There are even more famous and known ghosts on the asylum grounds.
A male patient went missing for several weeks until the campus dog was found chewing on the man’s leg. A more in depth search was then begun finding the man’s body in a tree so badly decomposed that his leg had fallen off. The apparition of this man is often seen at the entrance to the asylum; most often he is seen in the early morning hours.
The ghost of the former gardener Arthur – who is identified by a green jacket he always wore in life – is seen in the garden.
Other Reported Activity: apparitions of former staff and patients; shadow figures; touches, tugs and pulls by unseen presences; disembodied voices and whispers; unexplained noises from loud bangs to sobs and laughter; time slips; dimensional slips; electrical disturbances; unexplained mists; cold and warm spots; sudden movement in your peripheral vision; empathic feelings of unease, fear, anger, violence and sorrow; windows and doors open and closing on their own; objects moving on their own; light anomalies and feelings of not being alone, being watched and not being wanted.