J Ward, Ararat
The Australian state of Victoria saw rapid population growth after its goldfields prospered. To keep order amongst this growing community a prison was necessary and 1861 saw the Ararat Country Gaol open. The gaol would function until the 1880s when it would eventually close as the goldfields saw their own demise.
Later, in 1887, the facility would be repurposed, becoming a part of the Aradale Lunatic Asylum. The gaol was renamed to J Ward and used to house those deemed ‘criminally insane’ and too dangerous to be mixed with those kept at Aradale. J Ward would become home to many of the most dangerous men in Victoria and held them for many years in a maximum-security setting.
J Ward remained in operation until the early 1990s when it was officially closed. Today, the buildings remain open to the public as a volunteer-run museum and a truly dark tribute to its past and those who were housed within it. The buildings are even said to be some of the most haunted in Australia.
Ghosts of J Ward
There are numerous areas of J Ward that are said to be haunted, with many visitors and staff members reporting to have paranormal experiences all throughout the complex. One area where many people have claimed to have these types of experiences is the original cellblock.
The long two-story hallway of the cellblock is lined with many rooms, some of which held notorious characters. In this area, a number of people have claimed to sight apparitions or shadow figures, particularly on the upper walkways. EVPs have also been captured within certain cells and at least one report of a woman being attacked by an apparition while sleeping in a cell exists.
Another section of J Ward, known as West Wing, is also said to be particularly haunted. This part of the ward is also lined with cells and is a place where many have claimed to sight apparitions. Both a Matron and an unidentified man have been sighted making their way through this winding hallway.
Some to visit the former prison have claimed to sight a little girl, who has been named Lily. Though she has been sighted in the yard and in numerous other buildings, she is thought to possibly have originated from the Married Warden’s Quarters. This was a place where a warden would have lived with his family, which oftentimes included young children.
No other area of J Ward is said to be as haunted as its underground sections. It seems strange that a former kitchen and bathroom, which exist in the old jail’s depths, would be haunted, but the stories circulating down there are intense. The Kitchen is said to be haunted by a former chef, who is known to dislike men touching her kitchen utensils. She is joined by two young boys who frequent the kitchen, typically looking for their mother.
The stairs leading down towards the bathroom are a place where a tragic death occurred. On the 14th of September 1886, George Fiddimont, the last governor of the prison, fell down the stairs after having a heart attack and died. Some say his spirit lingers to this day, though there is another who also occupies the bathroom. Supposedly, many people have encountered a negative entity in the bathroom, which some have nicknamed the Butcher. This name is derived from a tale stating that numerous murders were carried out in the bathroom, though I’m not sure this is historically documented.
Many people claim to feel fear, anxiety and general uneasiness when entering this small, dark room. Others have claimed to sight the Butcher, or even to be attacked by an invisible force within the bathroom. This includes being pushed, scratched and even bitten.
Visiting the Haunted J Ward
J Ward is open to the public, functioning as a volunteer-run museum. Tours are run throughout the prison and some special events or paranormal focussed tours occasionally run through the venue at night. If visiting, it is definitely worth also checking out Aradale Asylum.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also like to read about the haunted Old Geelong Gaol.
Thanks for reading!