This article was written and photographed by Matt Bartolo for Lonely Worlds, the premier Urbex team in Australia.
Grandesque. (Well, as far as urbex goes)
Welcome to one of the most haunted, abandoned locations in the Southern Hemisphere.
A place with a rich history and an extremely dark past. A place of healing for some.
A place of torment for others.
A place that has a reputation as one of the most ghastly places on the continent.
I've kind of been avoiding this place, not intentionally, (and avoiding is such a harsh word in this context), but avoiding it none the less for that exact reason alone.
Matt just doesn't do haunted. There, I said it.
Big, fat, old, scaredy-cat Matt hates 'things that go bump in the night' (or says "not today" when asked if the spirits of the afterlife are trying to contact the living... more on that later).
But this phobia that has been part of me for the past 38 laps around the sun has in fact, been a little untrue. The fear that I have is more about the unknown, not the undead. The fear of not knowing. As someone who is so damn fucking meticulous on everything he researches prior to any urbex explore, it's that 'supernatural' factor that you just can't research down to an actual fact that leaves me nervy when I explore.
So did we experience anything on our adventures today you ask?
You bet your fucking ass we did.
A long drive from Sydney to our location on a slightly damp and overcast morning with two absolutely amazing people went by in a flash. All of us already high on adrenaline for the days explore even though we had a whole 7 hours of sleep collectively from the night before. After driving around looking for an inconspicuous car park (which proved easier said than done in a small town such as this one) we finally settled on a spot that was a short walk to our destination.
Scouting the border on this massive 435 acre property for an entry point was almost as difficult as finding a car park as all local eyes as well as the multiple CCTV cameras that are scattered absolutely everywhere were watching our every move. We would have to thread an imaginary needle to make our way into this place, and thread that needle we did. The first building we entered was the Industrial and Occupational Therapy rooms. And judging by the state of it, this must have been the go-to place for the youth of the area looking for a place to run amok. Books with pages ripped out of them littered the floor and giant centre table. Large pages of sheet music sat atop. When reading some of the lyrics to the first sheet I saw, a cold shiver ran down my spine;
'Life is fading fast away......'.
Why the fuck would you be singing this as a patient in of of this countries most notorious insane asylums? Was this a sick in joke from the hospital staff? Surely not. Maybe just a coincidence? I hope so.
An old pool table covered in what looked like empty pill bottles and a thick layer of dust took up the majority of the end room. Scattered among the ruins of what remained was a slide projector, old TV monitors, a dart board, books galore, upturned chairs and an electric typewriter. This would have been a recreational centre for patients from all the evidence. Patient paintings and artworks were still hanging on the walls. A showreel of projector slides were sitting on a shelf with 'Staff Dev' boldly written in red marker on the label. This could very well have been a staff training unit too. A short corridor lead to a scattering of other smaller, completely empty rooms. Peering out one of the broken window panels on the eastern wall we found our next destination, and our path to get there without being detected by the CCTV cameras.
We venture out onto a baron concrete wasteland of what could have been a car park back in it's day on route to our next building, always sticking close to the exterior walls of each building as to not alert the security. Spotting an open door on our next target, we scurry across the vacant asphalt and in to our next explore.
And we've hit a minor jackpot.
The old dentist suites, complete with reclining dentist chair and the overhead lighting system which was primitive but would have been top of the line when in operation. '1979' a patient card was dated that was laying on the ground in close proximity to the dental chair. Price lists containing medical supplies were aging under a broken window. A lone bottle of Fasteeth graced the workbench on the far side of the room that was also littered with medical paraphernalia. A small suitcase looking unit had been opened, and placed on top of the mouth rinsing station. Inside this case was what looked like a dentures template that would be inserted into a patients mouth to size up their gums, almost like an unmoulded sports mouthguard. This didn't look like a comfortable practice at all with the template being made from hard plastic.
This room alone would have taken hours to go through and really delve in to what secrets this place had to tell but we are not those kind of explorers. The old urbex motto of 'take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints' is a core value of what the team here at Lonely Worlds believe in, and as a general rule, we do not touch anything that does not need to be touched.
Moving on to the next building, we were confronted with the only complex of the day that we could not enter. This small block was locked up pretty tight, and with small windows that were placed quite high, there was no way that we could get up there to see if one was open. There was, however, a broken pane of glass that I was able to place my camera lens through at full stretch. I pushed the trigger and waited. That spit second that it takes for the image to write to the memory card and to be displayed on the back of my camera felt like an eternity. Once the image was revealed however, that cold shiver that shot down my spine from earlier had returned, and with interest. My whole body went cold, and aptly so I suppose.
We had found the Morgue.
What was on that image?
An empty room, concrete floor and tiled walls on one side, what looked to be Victorian era wall paneling and shelving on the other. Sitting smack bang in the centre of the room however was the spine tingling culprit. A large, stone topped table with a hollowed out groove about an inch wide running right down the centre from end to end, with five symmetrical hollowed out grooves on each side running at 45 degree angles meeting up with the centre line at precise points, and all lines leading to a hole at the end of the main channel. This was the blood-draining table that would have been used to drain the blood and bodily fluids from the deceased during the autopsy process. No wonder this building was locked up like Fort Knox. I was happy in a way though, as I have seen time and time again what vandals do to places like this, and to this day, it remains as it was left all those years ago.
Ward 5 - The Violent Ward, Male Division
Going from the Morgue to the Violent Ward probably wasn't the best of ideas. Walking through the open front double doors I was a bit apprehensive as to what we might find but the first room we enter was a sun drenched room.(maybe a mess hall?) There was a kitchen at the back end and a large cafeteria type area in front. Every roof panel had been taken down, only leaving the exposed skeleton of the metal rondo stud and track ceiling system as well as all the wiring from the overhead lighting in place. A view to the lush, overgrown garden in the courtyard could be seen through an entire wall of waste-high, barred up windows. The ivy had claimed the fire escape's lower level to give it an apocalyptic feel. Wouldn't be too long and the entire courtyard would be filled, I'd imagine. A longish, dark, bricked corridor lead to two giant rooms that I could not even guess to what purpose they would have served. Common rooms perhaps? Maybe a lounge type area? Being a violent ward though one would think that interactions with other patients, staff, family members, etc would be limited and probably not in large gatherings as rooms such as this would have been used for. In the middle of both rooms stood giant, Romanesque pillars that looked out of place but obviously served a purpose as we later found out that his ward, like many of the wards we would explore today, was a two storey building.
Heading into the second of the large rooms, we discovered that the entire end (and subsequent corridor that ran parallel to the end wall) was a series of individual holding cells with massively thick doors approximately 60mm thick and layered clear glass panels no wider than an inch or so. These were possibly used as a time out room during group interactions? The holding cells down the corridor on the other hand had a much more sinister vibe. No glass panels on these doors, just a large peephole that was covered by a brass plate and latch that was used to keep an eye on whomever was occupying the room at the time. These rooms were quite dark, too, so the lack of glass panels on the doors made it feel like being in a hole, to some degree. Moving up the stairs we were confronted by a disturbing sign on the wall, (which came more frequently as we climbed further). The sign read "Children MUST be supervised at all times by an adult whilst upstairs". Why on earth children would be left unsupervised in a violent ward in the first place is a baffling thought, but it must have been a common practice if there was a need to make signs. Once upstairs, the room we entered was one long corridor with a series of wooden beams mirroring one another on each side of the room that followed the sloping roof line. This was the bunkhouse, by all accounts. We took some time out to photograph this room, all of us being photographers, the leading lines and symmetry in this room was something we couldn't pass up.
Then the noises started. Loud banging from the room directly below us. We'd stop in our tracks, not moving a muscle, hoping that it wasn't security or the caretaker coming to throw us to the local police. A minute goes by and we hear nothing but silence. We can breathe again. We start to move around on the creaking floorboards of the second level and the banging starts again. This time Rae decides to head downstairs to check out what was making all the noise. She comes back up minutes later telling us that there is absolutely nobody down there......however, as she was walking past the solitary confinement rooms, a curtain that was over one of the windows was blowing in the wind when it abruptly stopped. Upon inspection, this was a completely sealed room with a locked window and no broken panels so the curtain couldn't be moving due to a breeze. She came back up to meet us and was composed given what she had just witnessed. If it were me, it would look like that episode of The Simpsons where Marge boarded the plane when she was scared of flying and then proceeded to run up and down the isles shouting "Let me off, Let me off, Let me off!!". We decided that we shouldn't stick around just in case Mr Invisible Curtain Guy was rounding up his mates and was coming back to give us a show so we found the closest exit and made our way to Ward 4.
Ward 4 - Mystery Ward, Male Division "Upstairs to Sewing Room" was the first thing we saw when entering Ward 4. A strange thing to be written on the wall of a male ward but could have very well been repurposed over the years. Or possibly used as a rehab method.
The ground floor had obviously been refitted sometime in the 70's judging by the decor. Old wood grain laminated plywood panels were the facade of choice for the many satellite offices that were constructed throughout the level. Making our way through forest of fake, wood grain sheeting, through a room where vandals had destroyed half the roofing panels, we had found a second staircase to the Sewing Room. Faded red lino was the flooring of choice for the Sewing Room. So faded that its reflection from the window-lined walls onto the roof made the entire room pink. A strange sight indeed. There was nothing left in this room at all but before heading back downstairs and off to the next ward, Rae was looking around and noticed that there were small windows in the walls that looked through into what appeared to be another ward, but with no doors to get through to said wards, it left us a little perplexed. That's until Mike discovered that the Fire Exit on the opposite wall, was actually an alternative entry to this secluded ward. Walking through this door, the first thing I notice is the cold. Much colder than the well-lit Sewing Room. Probably because it's secluded I thought to myself. I glanced down to my left to find a chair covered in a fine layer of dust, with a raggedy, old child's doll sitting on top. That cold feeling just got a tad colder. What on earth would a doll be doing up here? Was it made by a patient in the Sewing Room? It looked to be a hundred years old, all tattered and torn.
Turning into the left hand corridor, all of the rooms on each side had their door wide open, almost all at a 90 degree angle. It was a haunting sight. Would have been a fitting promotional image for the next season of American Horror Story (Hey FX, what's up!) Now this is where the Matt's big scaredy-cat phobia was put to its biggest test.
Walking past these rooms seemed harmless enough. The first room on the right had some form of waterproof wheelchair that was perched in one corner. The other rooms were all completely empty. All rooms were tiled from floor to ceiling. All rooms had a tap low to the ground that had a connection type that I had not seen before. It all came flooding back to me when I saw the taps.
These were the notorious 'wet rooms'.
A place where patients would be forcibly hosed down daily as part of their 'treatment'. There were scratch marks on the back of some of the doors. There were large indentations on others, as if they'd been punched or kicked. This is where we felt least alone. The energy of what happened in these rooms for so many years still lingers to this day. As I walked back down the corridor towards our exit point, I got to a certain room and had an overwhelming sense of anxiety and nausea. All of a sudden, my chest felt tight, as if I was being restricted by a giant bear hug. As I moved to the other end of the corridor, the feeling subsided somewhat. Mike had found a spot on the wall where the lead paint was peeling off in the silhouette of a man's face and a finger pointing up right at the end of the hall that he wanted me to check out. The only thing on my mind was to get out of there, but I was curious to see what he had found. And sure as it was day, there it was in front of me:, a silhouette of a man's face with his finger pointing up. And the feeling was gone, just like that.
That was until I walked back past those rooms.
The bear hug feeling came straight back as I swiftly headed past the rooms and back out to the Sewing Room, but by the time Mike and Rae joined me, everything felt normal again. I still can't explain what happened in there, but I'm 100% certain that we were not alone. Reaching the end of our time in Ward 4, Mike started to 'talk to the spirits' that may have been with us. A question was posed: "Are there any spirits in this room that are trying to contact the living?" From across the other side of the room came a swift reply of "Not today" in a child-like voice. At that moment, Rae officially had the shit scared out of her. Screams of 'Oh my fucking God...what the fuck was that?' would have been heard all over New South Wales. Mike and I could not contain our laughter as the "Not today" culprit was actually, yours truly.
After exploring Wards 2 and 3, there was really not much to report other than what we had already found in the other buildings. Oh, apart from the coupons I found on the second storey of Ward 3. It read; "THE COFFEE SHOP" Present this voucher when you purchase a cup of tea or coffee and receive your free serving of scones or fruit cake. Offer available 12th & 13th October 1991". Fuck. We just missed out on the free scones. We looked at the hand drawn map that we had acquired and headed towards what was the chapel. Upon getting there, we found it to be completely boarded up, with no obvious way in. Until Mike's devilish grin appeared from around the back of the chapel that is. A quick jump through an open window and Rae was in, but after seeing what was inside we all decided that a stark and empty room wasn't worth documenting. Heading towards the clock tower that looms large over the massive complex, we get side-tracked by yet another interesting building.
The old workshops.
But it was what was under the workshops that had us all wanting to instantly move in.
Welcome to the dungeons baby. Dirty, decrepit, dingy, derelict, delicious...all the words I would use to describe this place. We all instantly fell in love with this space. A vast caged area to the left would lend itself perfectly to our other creative extracurricular activities and photography concepts. A large trapdoor from the room above was tucked away in one corner, as was a secluded crawl space. Exposed steel beams and rusty, weathered posts, and a floor covered by a thick layer of compacted dirt, could this place be any more perfect? It would not look out of place in the Saw franchise, or the next season of American Horror Story (Hey FX, what's up?).
I could have ended our adventures right there and been content with what we had explored but we still had plenty of daylight hours left so we headed to the clock tower. What do you know, the door to the tower was open. Both Mike and Rae headed up the hundreds of ladder rungs to the top so they could ring the bell, whilst I stayed down the bottom to mind the bags. Kind of like a parent waiting for their children to finish a ride at Dreamworld. From all accounts, the tower climb was a definite highlight of the day for them both. Next time I'll certainly be making the climb. Whilst waiting at the base of the tower I did a bit of scouting around and found what I thought was an entry point to our next building, the massive Chapel that must have replaced the original one we just looked at. Once the other two came down I hurried them over to the best vantage point and we decided to rush over and see if we could get in.
After voting for the inconspicuous route to the Chapel, we all headed towards the old administration building, which was almost completely overgrown with ivy. It was such a beautiful site when we made our way to the exterior of this beautiful structure to see that one of the entry doors had been taken back by nature to such an extent that I didn't even see the staircase leading up to the door until it was pointed out. It looked like something out of Narnia. After seeing no visible entry points, we made a beeline for the Chapel. Again, seeing no way in, we were a little disappointed. But where there's a 5ft 4 bundle of flexibility, there is always a way in. A quick boost through a broken window, and Rae was inside. Two minutes later a door opens on the far side of the Chapel with a young lady standing in the doorway wondering what took these two old boys so long to get there. We walk in and are all amazed. A mixture of performance hall and church, with dual stages graced us in all of its glory. We all just stood there for a minute, soaking it all in. This place was magnificent. And just what one 5ft 4 bundle of flexibility had been searching for for years. So much so, an on the spot impromptu photo shoot was demanded and Mike and I happily obliged. I have never seen someone as exited to find an abandoned space, the way I saw Rae in this moment. It was such a joy to see the look on her face discovering this Chapel. It was like watching a kid at Christmas time who was handed the keys to Santa's workshop and free reign to its contents. And with that, it was literally the best moment to call time on this adventure.
We will most definitely be back to this hauntingly beautiful place. It will more than likely be the stage for our 'proof of concept' show reel for our soon to be (fingers crossed) docu-series that will one day be headed to your favourite streaming service.
All we need now is a backer (Hey FX, what's up!)
All images taken by and © Matt Bartolo exclusively for Lonely Worlds and are strictly not to be used without permission.