Paranormal Bandwagon & Sunbury Lunatic Asylum

A photograph taken at a notorious lunatic asylum in Victoria has caused quite a ruckus today…


Eerie photo appears to be ghost of doomed patient on roof of Melbourne hospital

That article came through on my FB feed this morning.  A friend had shared it.  I’m interested in this type of stuff, so I thought, well, I’ll go check it out.  Based on the pictures, people were divided on whether or not it was truly an apparition or a chimney.  A lot things created confusion, like the height of the roof in the dark, the location of the chimney in comparison to the location of the apparition, and if there really was an apparition in the first place.  It was divided.  But the majority of people believed that it was a chimney.  Now just because I am a believer, I am not the first to hop on the bandwagon and immediately say “YES”.  I gotta look at something.  I gotta zoom in and look around at the picture first and really scrutinize and see something before saying that there is something there.  This is what I came up with.  I will let you decide for yourself.  The night shot was taken Sunbury Historical Tour’s participant Ebony Toth-Littlewood during one of the night tours of the Old Mental Hospital.  She captured what appears to be a female patient on the roof of the Old Nurse’s Quarters.

Original Shot…


My Conclusion…


A little history…


Sunbury Lunatic Asylum first opened in October 1879. Its proclamation as an asylum was published in the Government Gazette on 31 October 1879.


Prior to being opened as an asylum, Sunbury was controlled by the Department of Industrial and Reformatory Schools (VA 1466). When Sunbury was acquired by the Hospitals for the Insane Branch (VA 2863) patients were transferred from the Ballarat Asylum (VA 2844) and the Ballarat Asylum was handed over to the Department of Industrial and Reformatory Schools. Patients were also transferred from Yarra Bend Asylum (VA 2839).

Since its establishment the title of the institution at Sunbury has been altered several times to reflect both the community’s changing attitude towards mental illness an2886679d the Victorian Government’s approach to the treatment of mentally disturbed persons. Despite the changes in designation the function and structure of the agency has not altered significantly, therefore the institution has been registered as one continuous agency. From its establishment until 1905 the institution at Sunbury was known as an Asylum. This title emphasised its function as a place of detention rather than a hospital which provided treatment for mentally ill people who could be cured. The Lunacy Act 1903 (No.1873) of changed the title of all “asylums” to “hospitals for the insane”. This Act came into operation in March 1905. The Mental Hygiene Act 1933 (No.4157) altered the title to “mental hospitals”.

An asylum/hospital for the insane etc. was any public building proclaimed by the Governor-in-Council and published in the Government Gazette as a place for the reception of mentally ill persons. An asylum could also provide wards for the temporary reception of patients as well as long term patients. Up until the Mental Health Act 1959 became operative in 1962 these “short-term” wards were known as “receiving houses” or “receiving wards”. The Mental Health Act 1959 (No.6605) designated hospitals providing short-term diagnosis and accommodation as “psychiatric hospitals”. However throughout its life Sunbury has been used almost exclusively for long-term patients.


Patients could not be retained in an Asylum without a warrant requesting their admission. Prior to 1867 the warrant was signed by the Governor. After this date the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) was responsible for this function. From 1934 the Director of Mental Hygiene (VA 2866) and from 1952 the Chief Medical Officer of the Mental Hygiene Branch (VA 2866) were successively responsible for admission of patients. The Lunacy Act 1914 (No.2539) made provision for the admission of patients on a voluntary basis, i.e. on a patient’s own request for a specified period of time.

In 1962 under the provisions of the Mental Health Act 1959 (No.6605) Sunbury was proclaimed in the Government Gazette as a Mental Hospital and a Training Centre as it was responsible for mentally disturbed and mentally retarded patients. In 1985 responsibility for Sunbury was passed from the Mental Health Division (VA 6961) of the Department of Health II (VA 2695) to the Office of Intellectual Disability Services (VA 2909), a division of the Department of Community Services (VA 2633). It was used for a period thereafter as a training centre to accommodate intellectually handicapped persons.

Victoria University accepted the Urban Land Authorities’ offer in 1992 to take over the Caloola site and operated it as a university campus for several years; it closed the campus in 2011 but is still home to a primary and specialist school, 3NRG radio, and the Boilerhouse Theatre Company.

In 2013, a group known as the Sunbury Asylum Alliance was established with the aim to reclaim the site for a community, training and tourism hub.

Sunbury Historical Tours


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