“There are rapists and murderers walking around here, you better leave”, said the policeman as I removed my head from under the wire fence that surrounds Australia’s oldest mental asylum, the abandoned Wolston Park Hospital.
On the same day that I photographed the abandoned Broadway Hotel in Brisbane, I nearly managed to find a way into Wolston Park Hospital, in Wacol, Brisbane. I had my head underneath the wired fence when a policeman drove up to the building and told me that not only was I trespassing, but rapists and murderers were wandering around and might kill me. I removed myself from the fence and thanked the officer for his words of caution and apologised for trespassing.
Site Name: Wacol Lunatic Mental Asylum (otherwise known as Wolston Park Hospital, Woogaroo Lunatic Asylum, Brisbane Mental Hospital or Goodna Mental Health Hospital.
Size: 450 hectares
Date in use: 1865–2001
Amount of patients: Over 50,000
I couldn’t accept defeat so quickly. After all, it is the oldest mental asylum in Australia and possibly the most historic abandoned building I could add to my photographic collection. I walked the perimeter of the site again looking for any other way in that didn’t involve me breaking through the fence surrounding the ruins. I knew there was a basement section, so I tried snooping around for a tunnel or underground entrance, but the policeman was back in flash, this time driving onto the grass right up to me.
I was defeated. If I got a third warning I knew I wouldn’t be let off so easily, so I backed away. The policeman’s eyes followed me until I was outside the front gate. Although I left the grounds of the asylum, I wanted to keep trying to find a way in.
I drove back onto the road and around the perimeter of the 450-hectare site of woods encircling the asylum looking for a back entrance. Strangely, the fence enclosing the woods is covered in No Trespassing signs, but I later realised it’s because there’s still thousands of bodies buried in the grounds.
In fact, the history of this asylum is dark and twisted. Many people who spent time in the asylum have recounted memories of abuse, torture, rape and death. Read a Wolston Park Hospital survivor’s story here, which was published in the Queensland Times last year.
After I left the asylum and finally accepted that I wouldn’t find a way in that day, I drove to the next abandoned building on my list and luckily got into the Broadway Hotel.
Not everytime is successful and some days you have to accept defeat or face the risk of getting arrested or fined. But it’s all part of the fun! Here are more reasons why I love exploring and taking photos of abandoned buildings.