ARADALE Psychiatric Hospital is infamous.
It lures thousands of tourists each year with the promise of ghastly tales and ghostly sightings.
The building sits on the edge of Ararat, and paranormal tours are conducted every weekend.
Aradale was a psychiatric hospital that functioned from 1865 until 1998.
It was known for its poor conditions and Victorian approach to mental health.
Electro-convulsive therapy and trans-orbital lobotomies were common practice, from which not even children were excluded.
It’s no wonder paranormal enthusiasts are drawn to the vast labyrinthine buildings.
The place has been the subject of multiple investigations, including one televised incident where investigators claim to have seen a face in one of the cells.
Drifter Paranormal are another investigative team who have visited Aradale.
Husband and wife John and Deb Christopher travel around the country investigating reportedly haunted spots.
They do it for the sheer pleasure of it, and said they aim to debunk as many reports as they can.
They visited Aradale in mid-2017 and called it one of the worst places they have been to.
“When we were in that place we didn’t feel frightened. We just wanted to get the hell out of there,” Mr Christopher said.
“It’s like when you go into a nightclub or somewhere and things are going to kick off.
“You walk in there and you immediately feel the atmosphere in the place and you think ‘I’m out of here, this place is going to get nasty.’
“We just had that feeling the whole time we were in there. It was bad. It was the baddest place we’ve ever investigated.”
Both investigators said that they were not particularly sensitive and made no claim to being psychic or otherwise gifted.
Instead they rely on their equipment to pick up evidence of otherworldly goings-on.
But sensitive or not, Aradale had plenty to offer them.
“We go purely with scientific – as close as paranormal gets to scientific – instruments,” Mr Christopher said.
“We so rarely pick things up at the time.
“Quite often we’ll have a night where we don’t have a damn thing, we don’t see a damn thing all night, we’re just sitting there in the dark getting filthy and not getting any kind of sugar whatsoever.
“But the thing about Ararat is we got plenty of personal experiences as we went along.”
Some of the equipment they used was audio recording devices and a K2 EMF Metre.
EMF stands for electromagnetic field and Mr Christopher said that planning an investigation with the equipment was a rigorous process.
“The problem with those instruments is they pick up phone signals, they pick it up if there’s anyone on a two-way radio or anything like that,” he said.
“So you’ve to baseline the whole area to make sure you’re not picking up on natural phenomena, so you know when the thing does kick off there’s a likelihood of something less normal.”
The pair had several experiences while locked away in Aradale with their equipment.
Not all of them were scary.
“We went into the little hexagonal area where they used to look after the Down syndrome kids, back when Down syndrome kids were institutionalized,” Mr Christopher said.
“The feeling in there was lovely. We got a lot of hits in there and we saw a lot of shadows. The interesting thing is we very rarely see shadows.
“We got chaser lights, where the K2s went off but they went off in sequence as if somebody was running past us.”
Mrs Christopher said it was a pleasant encounter.
“It was like they were hiding behind doors and stuff like that. You got that child-like playing feeling and it wasn’t malicious at all – it was fun,” she said.
From there it was off to the nurses quarters, which the team had been told was quite active.
“For us it wasn’t that active but that said, we had bangs in there and we heard this kind of wheezing noise like somebody was breathing with a bit of asthma,” Mr Christopher said.
“It was like a whistle.”
Mrs Christopher said there was a really loud bang that they thought was the guide, but they later learned he wasn’t even in the building at that time.
They both said they had isolated draughty areas from consideration but were still unable to explain the bang.
“Then we got to the ECT ward and the male maniacal area and everything changed,” Mr Christopher said.
“We physically saw cell doors moving. Now, it was a windy night but it was right in the middle of the building where there were no windows and so on.
“It was a reasonably well sealed place and we didn’t feel any draughts or anything, even when we were standing near the windows.”
Mrs Christopher said the movement of the cell doors stood apart from other experiences that night.
“A lot of the bangs we heard we could debunk because they were obviously the wind hitting the fly screen or something, but these doors, no way,” she said.
There were other sounds that were also difficult to debunk.
“We had furniture moving when there’s no bloody furniture there,” Mr Christopher said.
“You know the noise wooden furniture makes when it scrapes along lino? You get that kind of ‘brrr’ noise.”
The pair haven’t made it back to Aradale but they intend to do so at some point, drawn like many others to the mystery and horror of the place.
For anyone heading there to do some ghost hunting of their own, the Christophers had some advice.
“You want to make yourself as vulnerable as you can,” Mr Christopher said.
“We’ll bugger off out of earshot or from each other and be completely on our own and sit there in the pitch black to just try and lay ourselves bare, and paint a paranormal target on our back.”
They also had a theory as to why people claim to have more encounters at night.
“One of the reasons that we do that (at night), that’s when the upper layers of the brain switch off,” Mr Christopher said.
“The lower levels, the cerebellum … what they call the reptilian brain kicks in. That’s the survival bit.
“It turns all of your basic senses into overdrive. You hear better, you see better, you’ve got more rods and cones in the peripheral parts of your eyeballs.”
“We just think you’re much more tuned in to picking up stuff,” he said.
Paranormal tours run most weekends at Aradale.
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