Historical Lantern Tour at an old hospital

Friday the 13th it ain’t, but it could well have been this evening.

Good Mrs and I had booked ourselves into an Historical Lantern Tour. Held at the Royal Park Campus of the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

The Royal Park Campus is the original hospital and lesser known today of the many buildings that today form part of Royal Melbourne Hospital. It dates back to the gold rush era of the early 1850s.

So what is the Historical Lantern Tour?

It’s a guided two hour walking tour of Royal Park Campus’ historical buildings. Explanations of purposes and functions. Ghost stories and other peculiarities thrown in for good measures. The tour commences at dusk for greatest effect.

The Historical Lantern Tour runs between May and October on Friday nights only. It is popular.

I was on its waiting list from back in June when there were two cancellations 3 months into the future. Today was our time.

Meeting place was at the hospital’s reception. Make no mistake, the Royal Park Campus is still a working hospital today. Of course, our walking tour didn’t take us anywhere near the hospital’s new facilities.

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Just to set the scene while we were waiting for the tour to commence…

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These two gentlemen below were our guides, Jeff to the left and Michael to the right. Dressed in period clothes, from 1856 and 1956 respectively.

Jeff and Michael were a hoot, both knowledgeable and funny, giving each other a hard time as they spoke. Jeff had worked at the hospital from 1975 until retirement some time ago when he started these tours. And of course, both had quite a few “ghost” stories and many unexplained things to tell us visitors.

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First stop was the old mortuary, complete with dummies for effect.

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This is the back of the rehabilitation unit. The story here was that the rooms to the left were quickly built and appended to the original building.

Why? Because a certain Robert Menzies was an inmate (not a patient in those days). He suffered a stroke and he refused to share facilities with the great unwashed…

(For those unfamiliar with Australian history, Menzies is still Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister. 18 consecutive years between 1949 and 1966).

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The rehabilitation unit was refered to as RUF on one side and RUM on the other.

Why? One female and one male wing of course.

Behind the tarpaulin is a hut that once formed a resting place for cab drivers doing long shifts in the olden days.

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This chapel built in 1955 catered for both Church of England and catholic worshippers.

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How? Although you can’t see it here, the chapel has pew seatings.

This means that those who were Church of England could worship in one direction. And the Catholic congregation in the other direction. Neat!

Jeff is playing the house organ against the back wall.

photo-20140920064819-2This original building started life as an industrial school housing neglected or destitute children. It is from the mid-1870.

The building has had many uses since then and is today offices and research facilities.

Right in front is an empty Art Deco building, the only one of its sort in the whole of Victoria.

Yes, this old school site provided Jeff with ample ammunition for ghost stories. A gate did suddenly shut without reason. Children according to legend were crying from the top floor and of course, we could see a child etc.

photo-20140920064820Inside the school building, we witnessed a “murder”.

Well, in sort of Alfred Hitchcock style behind a curtain where you could see a knife moving up and down. Then somebody ran out of there.

“Blood” on the sheets of course and on the floor.

Then some stories from the “Matron” pictured below with Good Mrs to the left.

photo-20140920064820-2Yes, I should have used the camera flash above, but it would had taken away the “ambience”.

Below is an old conference room that we were able to check out too. It is still used today, but it had this olden golden days atmosphere to it.

photo-20140920064820-3Just after 2 hours, the tour finished back where we started from. An hilarious and informative evening and we would recommend it to anybody.

The whole thing is much tongue in cheek with an emphasis on entertainment. Yet, you do learn a thing or two about Melbourne’s institutional past as well.

The tour is “free” but a paper donation “is encouraged”. For a good cause, maintenance and upkeep of all these old buildings. So we were happy to oblige.

And to prove that you “survived” the spooky tour, you receive a certificate…

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