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Larundel Hospital: An Abandoned Mental Asylum in Melbourne

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On the outskirts of Melbourne, the former Larundel Mental Asylum casts a sombre shadow over the surrounding housing developments. Only a few buildings remain out of a complex which once housed hundreds of high-security patients; and with a whole repertoire of supernatural reports attached to the site, these last, gloomy wards are a popular destination for both urban explorers and paranormal investigators alike.

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Larundel Mental Asylum

The last remains of the Larundel Mental Asylum currently await demolition, amidst plans for a new plot of residential developments. It was once a thriving facility however, and at its peak was able to accommodate as many as 750 patients.

The initial foundations for the Larundel Hospital were laid in 1938, but the outbreak of WWII placed all plans on hold. Over the next five years the half-finished site would be put to a number of different uses; it served as a hospital for the RAAF and US military, as well as providing a training depot for WAAF operations. During the post-war years of 1946-48, the buildings were used as temporary emergency housing.

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Larundel Asylum-Melbourne-Australia-16It wasn’t until 15 years after construction began, that Larundel Asylum began admitting its first psychiatric patients in 1953.

This particular site was closely tied with other contemporary facilities in the city of Melbourne; namely the Mont Park Asylum, and the Plenty Valley Repatriation Psychiatric Hospital. I investigated both of these sites, but sadly they are no more; the remains of the Mont Park Asylum have been turned into student housing for La Trobe University, while the Plenty Valley Repatriation Psychiatric Hospital is now an art gallery.

During its heyday, Larundel dealt with patients suffering from acute psychiatric, psychotic and schizophrenic disorders. As pharmaceutical treatments began to replace traditional, institutional care for psychiatric patients in the late 1990s, the Larundel Mental Asylum was one of the many Victoria mental hospitals to be closed down.

In the 15 years since closure, 550 new dwellings have sprung up in the former grounds of the asylum. A cluster of the old wards still remain, however – clinging onto memories as their final demise draws inevitably closer.


Into the Asylum

I visited this site along with a fellow travelling photographer, who I had met online. Getting inside the Larundel Asylum was easy enough – the site lies just off a main road, tucked into the corner of a residential estate. We made our way first towards the main building. From a distance, every ground floor door and window appeared to have been sealed with metal plating. Soon enough however, we spotted a bent corner on the barrier over a side door to the asylum. Waiting for a passing car to disappear out of sight, we made a dash for it, scrambling through the gap and into the stale space beyond.

The small chamber was bare, other than a flight of stairs leading up to a higher level. The first thing to strike me was the amount of traffic this site apparently received; there were beer bottles and plastic bags strewn across the floor, while every concievable surface had been tagged in graffiti scrawls. The effect was like the aftermath of an explosion in a paint factory.

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Reaching the first floor we passed through a series of dilapidated rooms, before finding ourselves in a long corridor that seemed to connect the length of the building. The asylum had seriously deteriorated over its years of disuse, and parts of the ceiling hung low enough to brush against the soiled carpets.

Watching my step carefully, I took a turn-off to investigate a long balcony that extended across the back of the building.

From here it was possible to gaze out across the other buildings which constituted the site of the former hospital, and the parkland beyond them. Here are there, I was able to spot gangs of youths and the occasional dog walker – I didn’t linger here though, in case they in turn had seen me.

Back in the maze of first floor corridors, I came across a wooden cabinet laying in the middle of the passage, and trailing a long electrical cable; beneath it hid the petrified body of a large bat.

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The main building of the Larundel Mental Asylum was constructed around a central courtyard, with a raised walkway running from one side to the other. The courtyard itself was heavily overgrown, its undergrowth rustling occasionally with the movement of birds, mammals or perhaps even marsupials.

I met with my fellow explorer again on the far side of the building – we had taken different routes as we scouted around the corridors which flanked the central courtyard. Here on the corner several passages fed into one large hall. An entire section of graffitied wall had fallen away, allowing a cascade of bright sunshine into the room. The juxtaposition of green treetops against these dim, musty corridors made for a striking contrast.

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For the most part, the Larundel Asylum had been entirely stripped of its furnishings: nothing remained to even hint at its former use as a psychiatric facility. A few room contained upturned bookcases or wardrobes, whilst another held the rusted remains of a boiler.

Then we found the bathroom.

Most of the graffiti around the site did little to benefit the atmosphere – the asylum serving rather as a blank canvas for would-be artists to let off steam. Here though, the painted images and words created a startling effect. High above the earth-filled bathtub, the words “Help me” were daubed in red paint; to one side, what appeared to be a figure in a straightjacket was wrapped in the embrace of some kind of demon. Even the mess of tags and scribbles that filled the other walls seemed to add to the general malaise of chaos and insanity.

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Larundel Asylum-Melbourne-Australia-13“Jump in me,” invited a laundry chute on the next corridor. I declined, after peering inside the vent and shining a torch towards the basement level two floors beneath.

We headed down to the ground floor next by way of a large double stair. This opened onto a concrete path, cutting from one side of the courtyard to the other. Careful to avoid the dense undergrowth and its mystery inhabitants, we made back towards our initial point of entry; this time to make the same circuit at ground level.

In the corner of the building we found a large foyer area, where a capsized vending machine had been beaten apart to expose its cargo of decade-old soft drinks. One door led off to a side chamber, open to the sky, an entrancing mural of two lifelike eyes painted onto its far wall.

From here a corridor led off to the right, following the circumference of the building in a counter-clockwise manner. Various cells in this section featured just a narrow observation window at the top of the door; with a slot at the bottom large enough to pass through a tray of food.

The decay here was the worst we had yet seen. A fire had left walls and ceilings blackened, while molten light fittings hung from the ceilings like the dirty fruit of some dark, blasphemous tree. In some parts of the corridor, the fire had burnt through the carpet and the wooden floorboards beneath; exposing blackened beams and basements. I took a look through one of the larger holes. Tempted as I was to climb down and investigate, there seemed to be no easy way back out.

By the time we made it back out of the main asylum building, it was already dark. We crossed the road by streetlight, and headed towards the next.

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Exploring the Compound

In the increasing darkness, it was almost hard to tell which buildings were part of the asylum – and which constituted the surrounding residences. It’s strange to see a sprawling abandoned site in such harmony with its surroundings. Joggers and dog walkers follow the paths formerly reserved for inmates, while the buildings themselves have become play areas for daredevil youths from the estate.

Larundel Asylum-Melbourne-Australia-30Our second building stood next to a smart suburban bungalow, and so we had to be discrete as we slipped in through the open door at the side.

Something stirred as we passed under the lintel. A lithe, furry creature leapt from a first floor windowsill, disappearing inside the building. Its eyes caught the light as it moved, and in any other place I would have said it was a small cat. Here though, it could just as easily have been a possum.

We soon discovered that this second, smaller building was not as exciting as the first.

The vandalism was more severe here, and the first floor hall we soon found ourselves in was almost completely obscured beneath broken fragments of its own ceiling. A large stairwell descended on the opposite side, where a floor-to-ceiling art deco window opened onto the purple sky beyond. While the top of the window remained intact, every pane of glass within reach of the stairs had been smashed; their remains jutted out from the frame like broken teeth in a square mouth.

The third building proved more interesting. We had to pass a wilted perimeter fence to reach this long, one-storey structure – although the asylum was so easily accessible, that by now it was hard to tell whether we were entering or leaving the restricted area.

Here we split up, and took different routes through the building. The entrance to the main foyer was covered with a thick wire mesh; scouting along the veranda though, I soon found access through the broken wooden panels of a back door.

Larundel Asylum-Melbourne-Australia-4This building seemed to have served as an administrative centre for Larundel Mental Asylum. A series of office-sized rooms were clustered around the first hallway, in one of which I discovered a rusted old safe. After this came a large hall divided into wooden booths. These had originally been screened with a row of curtains, but now the pole itself lay trailing cloth on the dusty carpet.

It was here that I found my first venomous spider, building its web across the gap between two wooden pillars.

The Australian black house spider isn’t considered particularly dangerous… but it’s a giant compared to the majority of spiders back home in England. Supposedly its bite is liable to be “excruciatingly painful and cause local swelling,” while possible symptoms include “nausea, vomiting, sweating and giddiness”. I decided to give it a wide berth.

I ran into my accomplice in the room next door, where a lone chair stood sentry over the junction between two corridors. We returned around the other side of the building, past a boiler room and out into the night. Stepping over the trailing security fence we headed back to the main road, and waited for a tram to the city.


The Ghosts of Larundel Asylum

At the time of my visit to the Larundel Mental Asylum, I was naïve to many of the stories attached to it. It was only when I later researched the history of the site, that I began stumbling across mentions of the asylum at Bundoora, scattered across a range of websites dedicated to ghosts and paranormal investigation.

Larundel Asylum-Melbourne-Australia-1In the fifteen years or so since the asylum closed its doors, it seems that many visitors have reported strange phenomena inside this increasingly dilapidated building. The most common accounts refer to loud crashes and banging sounds coming through the walls, as well as strange smells and even the sound of children or babies crying.

The Larundel Asylum certainly is a noisy place. Situated on the edge of a park, the buildings are often hit by strong gusts of wind. The metal sheets riveted over every ground floor window and door have a habit of rattling and groaning – often with unsettling results.

There were numerous moments during my exploration of the asylum, that I almost became convinced we were not alone in the building. The voices and occasional laughter from passing pedestrians have a habit of getting caught inside the walls, their echoes bouncing down the still corridors.

My concerns, however, were primarily related to getting caught inside; the possibility of a supernatural presence didn’t even cross my mind.

Much of the graffiti around the asylum seems to be aimed at perpetuating this sense of paranormal unease. Phrases like, “save yourselves” or “I can hear them through the walls” appear everywhere, usually painted in neat, joined-up handwriting.

The most prevailing myth linked to Melbourne’s Larundel Asylum however, tells the story of a young girl who died on the third floor. This girl used to play with a music box, so the story goes, and apparently now you can sometimes hear it playing in the asylum at night. I even found a Youtube video which seems to have captured the thin strains of distant music within the Larundel Mental Asylum.

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I always appreciate a good story, and would be the first in line for an up-close experience of the supernatural kind… but I feel my own sentiments can be summed up with a quote from the pioneering urban explorer, Ninjalicious:

I’m not suggesting that you actively refuse to believe in anything supernatural, merely that you take an agnostic approach and don’t believe it ’til you see it. There’s no real down side to doing this, since ghosts, unlike gods, aren’t known for punishing people for their lack of faith.

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Post a comment

  1. I also saw a ghost laying in bed one night she walked down the Dom it freckled me out

  2. RI was in larundel in the early 70′s I was 15 years of age. I wasn’t crazy either the place was a dump in the old buildings we didn’t have hot showers the boilers were that old they didn’t heat up properly . the front of the hospital had two wards a ward was the lockup and b ward was the observation ward on the 2ndllevel was the drug and alcohol wing openn end in 73was the first rehab too open in b ward were domataries and at the back was a lockup cells larundel wasn’t bad as mt park that is were the very sick went I was also transfered too s 2:the wards were very basic weren’t scary but I did hear stories of how Mr park was bad and haunted. We weren’t locked in either.

    • It’s really interesting to hear this, Virginia – thank you for sharing your story. Given the advanced state of ruin it’s perhaps easy to forget how recently these things were happening. Reading your account makes it all feel much more real though – and I’m really grateful that you took the time to share it here.

    • this is so interesting virginia is there any chance of hearing more ? or that you are willing to share ?

  3. also, the eyes are painted in the “dispensary” room, i was in there a few years ago and there were still stickers on the shelves saying names of drugs.

    • Hi Paige, thanks for sharing this!

      People are often asking me about the current status of Larundel, so it’s really helpful to have some up-to-date info here from someone on the ground. Glad you found the information here interesting, too! Thanks for commenting.

  4. man, im 20 years old now but i used to sneak out of the house at night when i was 14 to come explore larundel. i have heard in the A-ward (single story building) banging sounds from down the hall way that could have only been caused by something inside, the A-ward is where they kept the most violent patients (ive been told this by a lawyer who used to represent clients from there) But the worse one i have encountered was entering one of the large buildings and heard the music box sound. i know for a fact it wasnt just my mind playing tricks on me because my mate who i was with at the time heard it aswell. But thats what i loved about this place, it would scare the crap out of ya, especially considering we were 14. would love to go back but i dont think itd be the same especially after all the construction on it. ah well anyway i thought id share my story !

    • Brilliant comment, thanks for sharing this Joe! I can only imagine how terrifying I would have found this place when I was 14… but I think if I lived nearby, I probably would have spent most nights there.

      So you heard the music box, then? Interesting stuff. One of the theories online is that it’s students at the nearby university campus (not sure where that is, exactly) playing a prank. Does that sounds believable to you? I heard nothing during my visit, other than the usual creaking and groaning that you’d expect from a building of this age. It’s an incredible atmosphere in there though, isn’t it?

  5. Damnit. I wish I could visit, but they’ve been renovated! :( Any places similar in Melbourne?

    • Yes, I heard something about a renovation project going down at Larundel. If you want to see something similar, you might want to go and check out Aradale. It’s just a short train ride from Melbourne, and they’ve got one of Australia’s largest and best preserved mental asylums there. It’s a museum now, but large parts are still completely abandoned, so I don’t think it’ll feel too commercialised.

      I really wanted to go, but ran out of time in the end. It’s top of my list for next time I’m in Aus.

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  7. Hi Darmon, I am potentially making a documentary about Larundel and was wondering if I could possibly use your pictures as a part of it, as many of the great shots you have are not accessible anymore. Thanks, Tessa Rigby

    • Hi Tess. Thanks for getting in touch, and I’m sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you.

      Sounds like an interesting project – could you possibly send me an email about this? Just use the “contact” button at the top of this page.

  8. why havent they demolished the place yet? people say .. if someone demolishes it they will get mental… and also heard that the government tried burning it down but it didnt burn down… do you know anything??

    • Hi Jessica,

      I believe they’ve already made a start on the demolition – a lot of the buildings have already gone, and what I explored really were the last few pieces left standing.

      I haven’t heard the stories you mention. There were some signs of serious fire damage on the ground floor of the main building, but the place has obviously survived it – so who knows?

    • Oh ok. Do you know if we can still enter the asylum and thanks

    • Hi Charbel,

      As far as I know, it’s still pretty easy to get inside. They may have demolished more of the buildings since my visit last year, however.

    • I went in today! There is still access to most of the buildings, you just need to find a loose piece of metal :)

    • Sounds like you took the same route as me! Glad you managed to get in, hope you enjoyed the place.

    • i believe the administration building being burnt may have caused these rumours, the building in questing being quite away from the main buildings.

  9. I live very close to the asylum, i have heard this music there before and got very intrigued. I studied the area for months, most people believe its the La trobe bells that people hear and say its ghosts afterwards, ive heard the bells there at midnight and its nothing like this but this music is in fact the tune of a local ice cream truck, this is what everyone has been hearing (including me) over the years for people to believe there is the ghost of a young girl haunting the place, and yes, this ice cream truck can even be heard very late at night.

    • An ice cream truck?? Ha! That’s amazing.

      I guess it would make perfect sense, if there’s a truck doing the rounds in that area. Brilliant, thank you so much for posting this…

    • Virginia again reading or comments about award and music ghosts not at mt park larundel yes their was a music room at the back of award it but wasn’t adjoined we use to have relaxation in the room . award i did something wrong and got put in there yes it was a lockup assessment ward they would dose u up on medication it made u azombi a lot of the patients seemed scary at the side of the ward they would give patients ect

  10. It wasn’t an asylum for girls. The eyes were painted by Rone, by the way.

    • I’ve checked up on this, and you’re right – the site served as a girls’ school during WWII, but later, when the original asylum plan was realised, it was mixed sexes. Correction noted, thanks!

      Also, cheers for the tip re. Rone. I checked out some more artwork, and it’s awesome…

  11. Another cracker, loving the bat shot, you don’t half get about.

    • I certainly do my best! Problem is, I spend so much time travelling that I hardly have time to write the reports anymore…

  12. Those eyes are AWESOME! I must have been there just days before they were painted :_D

    • They’re pretty special, aren’t they? Sounds like you’ll have to make a return visit! They’re in one of the ground floor rooms near the boarded-up main entrance.

  13. Love the graffiti eyes. And “dirty fruit from some dark, blasphemous tree” is possibly your best ever line.

    • Best ever line? That sounds like a challenge. Those eyes were amazing, though.

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