Lying in a morgue fridge is oddly comfortable.
Last weekend started right, on a hunt for ghosts in one of regional Victoria’s many haunted haunts.
Tours have cropped up from Newcastle to Port Arthur, leading the curious through decommissioned jails to historic mansions where restless apparitions might fright.
When the offer was made to lie on a cold, steel tray I was up for it.
I was armed with a device that would flash when the atmosphere had changed from a spirit’s presence.
Stretched out as the group’s paranormal investigator asked yes/no questions to summon a ghost, all I thought was how relaxed I was in the confined space.
My device flashed, and I froze.
The investigator asked if it was one of the 13,000 who had died there, at the closed Aradale Asylum in the western Victorian town of Ararat.
My ghost-busting tool stopped flashing. It was a shy spirit.
From there the ghosts became chirpy. Behind barred windows and through abandoned wards we addressed men, women and children unfortunate to find themselves certified.
My wife and I “spoke” to a staff member who had an affair with a doctor.
“Did you die here?” I asked. “One flash for yes, two for no.” One flash. Heads nodded throughout the group.
Our friend who organised the tour asked: “Am I awesome?”
One flash. Whether it was real is not up for question here (for me, the CSIRO would had to have been on to it by now).
But the asylum’s history – how it diagnosed lunatics for being disabled to bearing a cleft palate – fascinates, and marks how far mental health treatment has come.
Except for those asking the ghosts if they’re awesome.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.