Callan Park Mental Asylum, Sydney

Site Name: Callan Park Mental Asylum, Sydney
Site Establishment: 1885
Site Size: 104.5 acres

The abandoned Callan Park Mental Asylum was one the most challenging sites I’ve ever explored alone. It was extremely hard to gain access and when I managed to get into two buildings, the spooky silence and eeriness nearly had me running for the hills.

There were at least 15 derelict buildings in total, scattered throughout the park. These included wards, chaplain houses, the asylum library, a special care unit (renamed to “special scare unit” by a graffiti artist) and a drug and alcohol rehab facility. Some of the buildings were huge, some were tiny and every window and door was boarded up/surrounded by fences, barbed wire and trespassing signs.

However, where there is a will, there is way! After circling the buildings numerous times, I found two entrances.

To get into the 1st building, I had to climb over a wire fence, then through a hole in an outdoor bathroom wall and through a hole in another wall. It was a windy day so I kept hearing leaves rustling that sounded like footsteps, which was unnerving when I was inside. There were tiny rooms with thin, long windows with multiple forms of barricades and disturbing graffiti. I stood in a few of these rooms trying to imagine who or what was going on in them back in the day, but all I got a sense for was emptiness and loneliness.

The second building was dark and unpleasant. It was a desperate attempt to get into one more building before I gave up hope for photographs that really showed how an abandoned asylum looked like after time. I wasn’t particularly satisfied with my photos from the first building and I knew I wasn’t getting into the main building where all the rooms and beds were still intact. Would this formidable looking place have rooms stuck in time that I could photograph?

Nope, just pitch black rooms, massive holes in the floor and a lack of graffiti – which struck me as very weird. It felt like no one had stepped foot inside for years.

The weight of the darkness descended on me as I manoeuvred my way in and it was impossible to shake off. I had stupidly read an article whilst walking through the park of a film director who refused an offer to shoot a movie in the asylum buildings because apparently, it’s the most haunted mental asylum in Sydney. So, with this enlightening article stuck in my mind combined with the spookiness of the inside, I was shitting a brick at this point and my clothes were soaked in sweat and dust. I went upstairs to check for rooms still intact but as soon as stepped into one, the floor sank a little bit under my foot. It was time to retreat. It was hard to walk back through the house and stay calm, but I did it and once I got out I swore to myself I’d never again go into a mental asylum without a buddy with me!

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