A landmark in Ararat, has played a strong role in the history of this city and is particularly important architecturally. Although similarly planned and detailed to the contemporary Beechworth and later Kew asylum, the use of the linking bridges with an arcade on an arched gateway is unique and particularly important. The towers and the detailing of the central block are distinctive. The asylum is an important example of Italianate conservative classical design.
The old Asylum was built between the years of 1864 and 1867. Like most old buildings built in this time frame throughout Australia, it was modeled on the European mainly English style of Asylum. This can clearly be seen from the outside of the building that faces onto the Western Highway.
Patients were recorded as first being admitted to Aradale on 28th October, 1867 and the doors closed on the asylum in 1993 after most patients had been removed or relocated and staff re-employed mostly into Fairfield Hospital.
Aradale is now, sadly, abandoned. The buildings are beautiful and well worth a visit to see how splendid this site must have been in its hey day. It is now unfortunately slowly sinking into disrepair, being almost completely uncared for.
The visitors to Aradale nowdays are many, all wanting the same thing, to be spooked by the old hospital. These visitors include a wide variety of social clubs, researchers seeking further information on its past residents and history, and lots and lots of people interested in the Paranormal field. In fact, it is now drawing the attention of paranormal investigators from around the country and will probably gain further popularity as the years go on.
Aradale is now a place that contains a wealth of interesting ghost stories, and there are enough secrets held within its abandoned walls to give any researcher endless amounts of material to keep anyone occupied for quite some time. The history of the asylum alone can consume a person for a long, long time. Case files are still available through the Public Records of Victoria and as it turns out, many many Victorians have found out that a past relative was a resident of Aradale at one stage.
Aradale was built for and housed the "insane", being a term loosely used for anyone who suffered any form of malaise, depression, uncertainty of life and also very sadly, the mentally disabled or as was once known "retarded".
Back in the 1800's we must remember that there was no diagnosis for depression and also the now known illnesses of bi-polar, schizophrenia, borderline personality and so on. There were also no drugs to treat any type of mental illness and often the doctors and nurses would resort to very strange treatments which are now considered (and rightly so) barbaric.
Judging by the now public reports, dating back to the beginning of the asylum in 1867, there was a large amount of deaths and a very small amount of cured patients at Aradale with a high number of escapees.
Patients were also often transferred to the no longer existing Yarra Bend asylum or to another of the old asylums within Victoria, depending on their needs and condition.
I have heard stories of immoral and tortuous medical experimentation within Aradale. Common treatments applied were the use of the now out-dated Lobotomy operation and also ECT (electro convulsive therapy). No doubt in the later years insulin induced coma therapy would have also been applied as has been reported in many psychicatric institutions within Victoria. These treatments are well reported to be nothing less than destructive.
Apparently a great deal of patients who were residents (patients) of Aradale were not legally "insane" and should never have been admitted, let alone kept there. However many patients had lost everything due to a bout with alcoholism or a brief stint of some form of illness and had nowhere to go, they simply stayed within the confines of Aradale for all their lives.
There are many stories of the residents and characters that were patients within Aaradale, however the asylum soon took a turn for the worse and housed the criminally insane in the newly built $25million Psychiatric Forensics Hospital. The term "Forensic" is used to described the criminally insane.
Opened at the end of Aradale's life in 1991 it was soon closed in 1997 after many staff resigned and it could no longer be staffed or kept open. The 12 patients and staff were relocated within a very short space of time. The Forensics Hospital remains intact with an overpowering smell of some chemical (unable to place what sort) and when viewing the inside of this strange, modern building you certainly feel as though the patients are still there and the doctors would appear at any moment.
Throughout the whole of Aradale you find yourself completely disorientated due to the labyrinth of cells and walls and closed in, locked up nurses stations, with the curtains still pulled shut. The place resembles a site that has been wildly abandoned with haste due to some apocalyptic event.
GHOSTS OF ARADALE
*Unusual feelings that most people encounter in certain parts of the building.
*Crying, moaning, footsteps.
*Some people have reported seeing black/dark figures.
*Reports of nurses being seen in white uniforms, wandering around.
*Reported strange room that overwhelms almost everyone who enters it.