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Beechworth Asylum

Ghosts, light humour and serious beliefs, item 20

Beechworth Lunatic Asylum in Victoria, Australia, was open from 1867 through 1995. In its heyday the asylum housed 1,200 patients at any one time. Over the 128 years of the asylum’s operation, approximately 9,000 patients died within its walls. (That is the equivalent of 1 person dying every 5 days for 128 years.)

Covering 106 hectares of land, the hospital was largely self-sufficient growing most of its own food and providing entertainment facilities for patients and carers all – a few of who enjoyed the stay so much, they have decided to never leave. Among those who have decided to stay on indefinitely is Matron Sharpe (Or Mrs. Elizabeth Sharp, according to a report from the Inspector of Lunatic Asylums dated 31 December 1880). One of tour operators at Beechworth related his experience: “A few weeks after I started working on the tour, I saw Matron Sharp. She walked through the doorway in front of me and walked away through a bricked up window.”

His is not the only experience with Matron Sharp. La Trobe University currently uses the former dormitory as their computer rooms, where students have witnessed the Matron descending the granite staircase and wandering through the classrooms. Other visitors to the asylum have seen the Matron in the Grevillia wing, where the electro-shock treatments were carried out. Former nurses who worked Beechworth, have reported they would see the Matron sitting with patients who were due to receive treatment. Also seen in this wing of the asylum is a doctor who wanders the corridors at night. To date, no one has identified the doctor….or what he might be doing on those late night walks.

In the last ten years, the shade of the woman thrown from an upper story window by another patient has been seen standing at the spot where her body fell and lay in front of the hospital for two days before being removed. The victim had been arguing with another patient over a few cigarettes.

The ghost of a male patient who died during a possible escape has been seen wandering the grounds at the entrance to the asylum. Though efforts were made by the staff to locate the patient after he disappeared from his ward, no trace of him was found and the search was abandoned. A few months later the asylum’s dog, Max, was found at the gate house chewing on a human leg. Another search of the grounds near the gate house was commenced and the patient’s body was found wedged in the branches of a tree. The leg had fallen from where the patient was perched as the body had decomposed.

Children were also housed at Beechworth and continue to play and laugh as they did during their time at the asylum. Adults have reported hearing their small voices and giggles as they walk through the corridors of the building. A mum on the tour noticed her ten year old son, who was standing alone away from the group, appeared to be having a very animated conversation. When she asked him who he was talking to, he turned to her and said, “A boy called James. He lives here.”

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