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The Haunted History & Ghostly Music Box of an Australian Asylum

31 Days of Halloween: On Atlas Obscura this month, we’re celebrating Halloween each day with woeful, wondrous, and wickedly macabre tales all linked to a real locale that you can visit, if you dare.

article-imageLarundel Mental Asylum (all photographs by the author unless indicated)

While the supernatural – by definition – defies conventional logic, most paranormal researchers will agree on one thing: that hauntings are the by-product of lost or confused souls, with neither the direction, nor perhaps the motivation, to move on. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that asylums have long held the fascination of “ghost hunters.” These repositories for the mentally ill are liable, by this reasoning, to act like fly paper towards those souls which were as lost in life as they are in death.

Our story takes us to Australia, and the abandoned Larundel Mental Asylum.

article-imagephotograph by Fernando de Sousa

The asylum at Bundoora, a northern suburb of Melbourne, was constructed in 1938. The project was interrupted by WWII however, when the buildings would be put to use as military hospitals, WAAF training grounds, and temporary emergency housing. 

It wasn’t until 1953 that Larundel Asylum finally opened its doors as a mental hospital, its numerous wards and outbuildings serving a capacity of 750 patients. The asylum catered to those suffering with psychiatric disorders, the psychotic, and the schizophrenic.  

One of the asylum’s more notable residents was one Peter Dupas, who was treated here in the late 1960s. At the age of 15 he attacked the woman next door with a vegetable-peeling knife and was sent to Larundel for 18 months. He was then released and treated as an outpatient. In the 1980s and 1990s, he would go on to commit between three and six murders, viciously removing the breasts of his female victims.

Larundel Asylum was closed down in the 1990s, when pharmaceutical treatments began to replace the need for round-the-clock, institutionalized care. The plan was to transform the large plot into a housing complex, but while 550 new dwellings have been built since the asylum’s closure, still a handful of the original Art Deco buildings remain.

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Over the last two decades the corridors, wards, and cells of Larundel have become a popular haunt for local kids and graffiti artists. A lifelike pair of eyes watch passers-by on the ground floor, while upstairs, an old bathroom has been transformed into a hellish canvas; demons and straightjackets illustrate the very real horror of mental breakdown. 

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It should perhaps come as no surprise that the asylum at Bundoora is reportedly home to numerous restless spirits. The corridors near the former main entrance are particularly chilling to explore — poorly lit and badly damaged in the wake of a severe fire. Deep holes in the singed carpet open onto a large, ominous basement beneath; meanwhile, fittings such as switches and door handles have been melted and distorted into strange and unnatural shapes that hang disjointed in the darkness.

Visitors have reported loud crashes and bangs echoing down the corridors of the asylum, along with strong, unpleasant smells and even — occasionally — the sounds of laughter, or of children crying. 

article-imagephotograph by Fernando de Sousa

Perhaps the most reported presence however, is that of a young girl who perished in one of the third floor wards. This young teen had been increasingly attached to her music box towards the end, its melody often filling the halls of the asylum. Supposedly it still plays to this day. Since the site’s closure, many claim to have heard the delicate music drifting through Larundel by night, while others have described encounters with the girl herself, who usually appears in a nightdress, clutching the box in one hand. 

One intrepid ghost hunter even managed to capture the sound of faint music on film, as you can hear in this Youtube video.  

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Some have discredited the haunted asylum theory, on the grounds that this old building is naturally prone to creaks and groans — sounds which have oft been mistaken for (in)human utterances. Meanwhile, others report that students at the nearby campus of La Trobe University have been known to recreate the sounds of a music box using loud speakers, in an attempt to deter looters and vex ghost hunters. 

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No matter whether or not you believe in the reports of supernatural activity at Larundel Asylum, one thing is clear; these blackened corridors, stripped wards, and cobwebbed basements — not to mention the asylum’s grim and sorrowful past — make Larundel a truly unsettling destination for those brave enough to visit. 

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See more photographs from Larundel Mental Asylum on Darmon Richter’s The Bohemian Blog.

GHOSTLY MUSIC, HAUNTED HISTORY: LARUNDEL MENTAL ASYLUM, Bundoora, Australia


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