York hospital was built around 1894 by architect George Temple-Poole. It was originally built to accomadate prospectors and others working in the Goldfields around the area at that time.
It ceased to operate as a hospital in 1963.
Acquired by the National Trust in 1976 it has had various uses including since then including a youth hostel. It has been privately owned in recent years and was supposedly being redeveloped into a B & B.
Originally published in Artlook Magazine, April 1980, page 46
Thank you to "Cathy" for the above information :o)
Joan Harrison is not a crank. She is neither neurotic nor given to fantasising. But if ever she had just cause to doubt her own sanity it was solely because of a certain holiday she organised for the benefit of a group of young people during the school holiday period in January 1980.
Having spent many hours in Joan's company whilst putting her story together I can only reiterate that she is a perfectly normal human being. A very happily married woman, the mother of three and to all appearances an average suburban home-maker.
She is an attractive brunette, a little on the plump side which adds to a jolly motherly out-going personality. She adores kids and that is one of the reasons she has for the past several years been very actively engaged in the running of the local Little Athletics Club in her district of Rockingham, West Australia.
Her elder son, twenty year old Paul, is the coach of the club and her only daughter and youngest member of the family, twelve year old Darleen is one of the champions of the club, holding club and State records in the shot-put, javelin and discus throwing events.
Joan had decided at the close of the present season that she would withdraw from the club. There were other interests that she had set aside and she just wanted a break. But not before she had given the boys and girls a last treat as it were to sum up her association with them.
Having discussed the possibilities with the committee and other parents it was decided that a camping holiday would be a fitting climax and so it was arranged. Some twenty eight boys and girls together with Paul the coach, and four mothers of members to assist Joan.
Looking back now Joan says she should have realised from the start that they were all headed for a disaster.
They had booked into a youth hostel in the country town of York about 97km east of Perth, a distance of approximately 144km in total which should have been covered in not more than a couple of hours. The very fact that it took six and a half hours in the hired bus will perhaps give some idea of the frustrating journey with breakdowns and holdups which, added to the above century heat, finally landed an exhausted group at their destination. If they had thought for one moment that their troubles were only just starting they would certainly have turned around and gone straight home.
In the first place, in spite of ordering their food requirements some three weeks earlier, there was absolutely nothing there for them, not even a drink of cold water. However, Joan and the other adults set to work and soon got the children comfortable. This was quite a responsibility, small children away from home, in most instances for the first time, but eventually things settled down - at least until the 'other residents' took over!!
It would perhaps be as well here to give some idea to the reader of the layout of the building.
The building itself was originally the old York hospital, a two-storey stone structure with an annexe added later as a maternity ward. It was this part of the building that housed the sleeping quarters for the group. There was a large dormitory on the second floor of the main building that was supposedly out of bounds.
The kitchen, dining room and a small sitting room for adults were attached to the main building. The only access into the main building at ground level was through the back door off a verandah. Inside, a small passage led into a kitchen, which also contained a walk-in pantry at the far end. The only other rooms accessible were the dining room and sitting room.
The kitchen window was above the sink and looked out across a yard to a small building used at one time as a morgue. Because of the lower outside ground level it was not possible to look into the kitchen through the window, it being about eight feet from the ground.
A wooden staircase outside the back door led up to the second floor, onto a verandah. Double doors led into the building, the main ward having four of the old sash type windows facing on to the verandah. To the left of the ward was a small locked room and later it was seen that the window of this room was boarded over. There was also another small room inside the main ward, possibly previously used as an office. This was also kept locked.
It is important to note that every room in this part of the building had only the one entry/exit and there was no way that anyone could have been concealed in any of those rooms, no large cupboards or other hiding place.
The caretaker's cottage was some twenty or more meters from the annexe. The strange aspect according to Joan was the fact that although the building was surrounded by many trees and shrubs there was a marked absence of birds. The only birds actually seen were a dead one hanging in the window of the ablutions block in the boys' dormitory in the annexe and another dead bird lying on the grass outside the museum which is located next door to the hospital.
Two ridgeback dogs belonging to the caretaker also gave some cause for alarm and at times did behave in a strange manner as will be told in the following sequence of events.
Because of the very frightening experiences which occurred over the five day period of the camp two of the mothers assisting were so badly affected that they asked for their names to be excluded from any written report. They will be referred to as Vinny and her young nine year old daughter Kirsty, who features prominently in the story, and Wilma. Mrs. Cramer and Mrs. Otto completed the group of helpers.
Most of the first day, Monday, was taken with settling the children and arranging duty rosters. Very little was seen of the caretaker but Joan did have occasion to go to his cottage in the afternoon to clarify some small details. She was invited into the cottage where the two large Ridgeback dogs were sprawled on the floor. They were not disturbed by her presence and she was able to step over them without fear. She was actually surprised that they were so docile but changed her mind completely about them later that evening, when with the other helpers they sought a welcome respite from the oppressive heat and all lay on the verandah outside the kitchen. The children had all been settled for the night.
Suddenly, without any warning, the dogs appeared out of the shadows and made what could only be described as a ferocious attack on the group of adults. In the confusion which followed the caretaker's wife appeared and called the dogs off. The group were very shaken but by this time most of the children had been awakened and further sleep seemed impossible. The heat inside the dormitory was stifling. Someone suggested that maybe it would have been much cooler if they had taken the dormitory on the first floor of the main building. At least they thought they might get a better flow of air up there with the windows open. None of the adults were over-anxious to remain on the ground because of the dogs.
Maureen Cramer, accompanied by Paul, went off to investigate the upstairs quarters. They found the bolted and padlocked door on the left as they entered from the verandah but were able to get into the main room. The small inner room here was also locked but they were both very well aware of a very obnoxious smell and a weird feeling that there was something else there besides themselves. So much so that they beat a hasty retreat down the stairs and suggested to the others that they try and settle where they were for the night. They had a cup of tea and were aware that the dogs had returned but to everyone's relief they soon disappeared without incident.
Then it happened for the first time, the horrific moaning and the groaning. Starting almost with a whimper and building into the most terrifying screaming.
They all sat and looked at each other petrified. Then with one bound they were out of the room and across to the children. All appeared to be sleeping peacefully. They all checked around the place as much as possible. The caretaker's cottage was in darkness. Finally they all decided to retire to bed, each leaving all doors open in their building so that the children were well supervised.
They all reported having a very restless night.
However the next day had barely begun when Joan and Maureen both witnessed the mind-boggling jug act!
Both women had arrived at the kitchen door intent on preparing breakfast for everyone. There was a large china jug standing on the bench running along the wall opposite the window.*
As the women stepped into the kitchen to their amazement the jug slowly lifted into the air, a foot or so above the bench, travelled through the air toward the window and then suddenly dropped to the floor smashing into many pieces. Both women stood there, rooted to the spot - for a time speechless.
Then both moved toward the broken pieces on the floor. They examined each piece but could find nothing attached that could in any way have assisted to jug to lift from the bench. They checked the inner pantry but there was nothing to explain the strange behavior of the jug.
Soon after breakfast Vinny's young daughter Kirsty was with another little girl in the passage outside the dining room. There is a glass panelled door at the end of this passage. The glass in it at the time was seen to be of a very unusual thickness.
Suddenly Kirsty started to call out, "Hold me - hold me. can't sit down, stop them - stop them!"
The other little girl grabbed Kirsty by her clothing but there seems to have been a great tussle going on between the two girls and some unseen force which, according to the girls afterwards, seemed to be trying to lift Kirsty and drive her head first into the door. However, the whle impact appeared to have been broken with Kirsty's hand, rather than her head, smashing through the glass panel. Joan said later that it was the most uncanny and frightening thing. The child's wrist was a terrible mess. All the flesh was peeled back almost to the bone fo several inches. Yet there was no blood spilled.
The glass of the door was completely shattered, leaving large jagged pieces of glass dangerously protruding.
Meantime the caretaker had been called to the scene and took Kirsty and her mother to the local doctor's surgery. Joan asked Paul to remove the rest of the broken glass from the door in case of further accident. Now Paul is no weakling but try as he could it was beyond his strength to move it. Later when the caretaker returned from the surgery he had to use to force of a very solid plank of wood to remove the glass.
How then was it possible that the tiny wrist of a child had smashed through it, and had to have seven stitches inserted into the wound?
No one could find the answer.
Later in the morning when the youngsters had been organised Joan set off to see the caretaker. He had a lot of explaining to do. She may just as well have saved herself the trouble. He laughed off the incident with the dogs and as for the jug, well he as good as called her a lunatic. As for the screaming and hysteria which they had all heard the night before, he said jokingly that they "had heard Matron". Rumor had it that a previous Matron had been raped and that one could sometimes hear her running around trying to find her assailant.
But he reckoned she always had a smile on her face! By the smile on his face Joan was sure he was making it up.
Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery Joan demanded that he appear that evening at nine o'clock, after the children were asleep, bringing one of his dogs so he could then escort the adults, including Joan, to the upstairs part of the building.
He arrived at the appointed time complete with one dog. There were two short flights of stairs, the first finishing at a small landing and the second turning right and continuing to the ward at the top. Paul and three women went straight up to the top and entered the ward. Joan and Mrs. Otto got as far as the first landing and could not move. Joan could only describe the feeling as one of acute pins and needles but she was powerless to put one foot in front of the other. Likewise the other woman. Surprisingly the dog would go no further. It stood with hackles raised and whimpered. The owner had to drag the frightened creature by the chain around its neck. Eventually, with some effort they all got up to the ward and entered. They asked the caretaker to unlock the small room and he did. Paul and Maureen entered the room with him. The dog stayed outside with Joan. They were all aware of a terrible stench which they felt got worse as they stood there. Paul said afterwards that he had to hold his breath or be violently ill. The women were very affected by the smell and went downstairs. Paul reported to them that the room was bare, the window nailed up and, except for a panel of asbestos missing from the wall leaving some electric wiring exposed, there was nothing to report.
Later investigations seem to suggest that the room had once been used as a dying room for terminal patients and it is possible that in the early days of the hospital it had even been the morgue.
By now though, everyone's nerves seemed to be on edge. The smallest incidents were possibly magnified out of proportion, like the small boy who got his leg wedged in the bannisters (luckily it was rescued by the application of butter!) - Joan being kneed in the back by some invisible force, strong enough to almost push her right out of a chair - Maureen crying out that a needle had been stuck into her head! - and Paul getting a lump on his head from a door that suddenly slammed in his face and just as suddenly re-opened. There was no breeze at that time either inside or outside the building.
What was the putrid stench that often pervaded the building yet could not be smelled outside?,
And why did the door knob on the dining room door keep spinning around? This was an unused door that also led into the passage but was always kept locked. This strange phenomenon was seen from both sides of the door simultaneously and it was inexplicable.
Tuesday night was similar to Monday night. The children showered and went to bed, the adults posted close by the dormitory. A check later that evening found a very frightened eleven year old boy sitting in his bed, his face as white as the sheet he clutched around him, absolutely petrified and completely unable to cry out so that for some time no-one could find out what had so terrified him. Later he described part of a figure he had seen beside the door. The side of a face, shoulder and the hand on the door handle. The rest of the figure seemed to have dissolved into nothingness.
Paul stayed with him until he slept. The others, too, tried to settle down for the night and again the awful wailing and moaning.
And the caretaker's cottage shrouded in darkness.
Wednesday appears to have commenced without incident. The weather was still unbearably hot, in fact it was a record heat wave for the district.
Breakfast over, and the camp chores completed, all had gone swimming with the exception of Joan, her daughter Darleen and two other girls.
They were all sitting in the lounge room and the moaning started.
At first no-one commented. Joan was determined that she was not going to let the young ones see that she was frightened so she did her best to ignore the noise and to talk over it. This became quite impossible. The moans grew into a terrible wailing noise. Then into heart-breaking sobbing and then an uncontrollable hysteria. Finally they could stand it no longer so at Joan's suggestion they all went into the kitchen and started to prepare lunch. Darleen was so white-faced that Joan sent the girls into the garden and got on with the lunch preparations on her own. She admits to being absolutely ill with fear but reasoned that there must be some explanation, although she was past trying to think up an answer.
Her greatest determination was that the youngsters should not be frightened.
Eventually the noise stopped. Everyone returned to camp and the remainder of the day seemed to have passed without further trauma. However, once the children were settled for the night it was obvious there was to be no peace for the adults.
They were all sitting in the room together when once again the moaning started. They all decided to go out to the annexe with the children. Mattresses were hastily pulled onto the floor so that the adults were all close to one or other of the doors and they were all determined to stay awake all night. Joan and Darleen stayed together just inside the main door, across which they had crossed brooms and mops to form a barrier against any intruder. It would have been impossible to have closed the doors in the stifling heat.
The door of the dormitory faced the caretaker's cottage. most of them slept fitfully but it was a weary group that stirred to face another day. When Joan Harrison rose to face the final day she did so with a strong determination that come what may she would try to put the past happenings to the back of her mind and do all in her power to make it a happy day for all of them.
Only twenty four hours, she told herself and they would all be safely on the bus on their way home. And to her, home never sounded so good.
After breakfast Joan did see the caretaker and again mentioned the moaning and crying but he only laughed at her. He did suggest that Joan should make a point of seeing her doctor when she got back to Perth but as Joan pointed out, every member of the party in charge had witnessed most of the strange happenings and certainly some of the children had not only been involved but had been physically affected. But he only laughed and went on his way.
Now it so happened that there were some old friends of the Harrisons living in York. They had been there for about three years. Joan had lost touch with them but one of the young girls in the camp had an aunt living in York and so the news of Joan's arrival at the youth centre reached these friends.
It was a very pleasant surprise for Joan when her friend Sylvia and six of her seven children called at the camp in the afternoon.
Syliva was asked if she knew anything at all about the old building and she did recall having been told that in its early days a nurse had met with an unnatural death and was supposed to be heard crying to get out! Joan understood that possibly it referred to getting out of the small locked room at the top of the stairs, previously known as the dying room.
Sylvia was most concerned for Joan and everyone else and arranged to return that evening with her husband. This she did, little realising just what they were letting themselves in for. It was a night that Don, her husband, will never forget.
At about ten o'clock Don and Paul, both armed with torches, went out to do a thorough search of the grounds and the women made a routine check of the children's dormitory. All appeared to be sleeping peacefully and the two men returned and also reported that very thing seemed to be quiet, including the cottage which was in complete darkness. Then Don and Sylvia accompanied Paul and Maureen Cramer on a tour of the upstairs section of the old building. They each had a torch and unanimously decided to to turn on any lights. They just wanted to have, as they said, a quiet look around.
Arriving at the top of the stairs they checked the door of the dying room. It was bolted and padlocked. They entered the dormitory and checked the door of the small inner room. It too was locked.
They crossed to the fireplace and immediately all four torches went out. In fright they all started for the door but as soon as they moved the torches flashed on. They were all dumbfounded to say the least so they all stepped back to the fireplace and again each torch cut out. Three times they repeated the movement and each time the same thing happened. They could find nothing at all to explain what happened and went toward the bathroom at the bottom end of the dormitory.
To their amazement they heard running water and flashing their torches at the wash basin observed steaming hot water disappearing down the plug hole. Both taps were firmly turned off! they felt the hot tap and it was piping hot. Now there was absolutely no way that anyone could possibly have been in that bathroom or left it without being seen.
No-one could have passed the group as they filled the doorway.
They were all pretty scared by this time but they were determined to check every inch of that area. Every wardrobe was opened and every bed looked into and under. Satisfied that there was no visible intruder they all returned to the kitchen and joined the rest of the group for a cup of tea. Meantime the other women had made regular checks of the children but Joan admits to being fearful and says she wanted nothing more than to gather up the children and get out of the place.
However the others persuaded her to settle down. It was, they said, only a few hours to daylight.
They took their cups of tea into the small sitting room. All four torches were left on the kitchen bench. They heard the kitchen door close. There was no wind or draught of any kind. No way anyone could have got into the place without being seen. Worse still the door was not only closed but also locked and the torches were inside and only the caretaker had a key.
They all sat there for a few minutes debating what to do when suddenly a tremendous noise or explosive sound shook the building. Joan's first thought was that the hot-water system had exploded. Then everyone raced out of the building across to the annexe. The children appeared to be sleeping quite peacefully and nothing seemed to have been disturbed. Looking outside they realised that they had left the lights on in the old building but not one of the adults would brave going back there. Without the torches they were not game to risk going anywhere.
Whatever the noise it was obvious that it had not disturbed anyone else and the caretaker's cottage was still in darkness. Fortunately Don's car was right outside and although reluctant to go, Sylvia woke her young family and, leaving Don to stay on guard with the others, went home.
Joan and Paul went through to the room Joan shared with the other women. They found Maureen sitting on her bed looking unbelievably strange and in what they could only describe as 'being in a trance'. Even as they looked at her they could not comprehend the terrible change that was taking place. They had both known Maureen for many years but now her face was becoming so distorted, so unbelievably unreal, that neither Joan nor Paul could recognize her. Then Vinny who was sitting up in her bed suddenly called out that there was something at the window next to Joan's bed. Whatever it was it was gone by the time Joan and Paul got there, but Vinny, near hysteria, swore that she had seen a cloudy ghostly figure and promptly lay down, pulling the covers over her head.
By this time Maureen appeared to have recovered from whatever it was that had affected her. She appeared none the worse for it and Joan and Paul thought it best not to say anything to her.
Eventually Don, Paul, Wilma and Mrs. Otto armed themselves with a variety of weapons, cricket bats, stumps and a can of fly spray.
Don and Paul settled themselves on a mattress in the doorway of the dormitory. Joan lay on her bed with Darleen beside her.
All seemed fairly quiet when Maureen cried out that there was a thing near the door, no-one else saw anything but Maureen took another of the strange turns. It was really something quite terrible to see, this complete change from an attractive, happy well-known friend into an unrecognizable, almost grotesque creature.
Even as they watched, Vinny started screaming and appeared to be fighting with herself. Suddenly she was shouting to them. "Why didn't you help me?" They looked at her in astonishment. "Well, you must have heard me - I was screaming." She held her throat. "Didn't you see her? She had me by the throat. She tried to kill me."
Joan said it must have been a nightmare. Vinny hotly denied this. How could it be when she was wide awake. And she proved it too by repeating everything the others had said. And when they looked at her throat they saw a bruise where Vinny said she felt something ripping her.
Maureen too was recovering again, and wearily Joan returned to her bed.
All seemed quiet for a little while but none of them slept. Then the music began.
Now Paul had taken a record player to the camp with him. Earlier that evening he had put on a record in the sitting room where he had set it up. But with all the happenings, only the one record had been played and he had switched the machine off.
Now they could distinctly hear that record playing again.
No-one was prepared to go over to the building. They all agreed to wait till daylight.
Joan remembers sitting quietly on her bed beside the window. The curtain was closed. She remembers feeling drained of all feeling and she does not have the slightest idea as to why she suddenly pulled the curtain aside to look out. She registered no emotion of any kind when she found herself face-to-face with the apparition. For that is the only way she can describe what she saw.
It was just there outside the window. A cloudy, almost a vaporiform, the side of an adult. She dropped the curtain back and sat as she said like a Zombie. After a few seconds she lifted the curtain again. It was still there. Again she let the curtains drop. She sat there and waited, looking ever now and again to see if it had gone away. She figured it would go and eventually it did.
She wondered why she felt so numb, so unfeeling. The more she thought about the whole chain of events the more detached she became. It was, she explained, a strange feeling of not being anything at all.
She lay on her bed till daylight and though some dozed fitfully most had had little sleep and were thankful that the long night was over. The lights were still burning in the old building but the kitchen door was unlocked. The record player in the sitting room was just as it had been left switched off from the previous night and the record that they had heard in the night still sat on the machine.
Nobody said very much at all. Maureen Cramer was counting the hours for the moment when her husband would arrive with the bus from Perth. They had all had breakfast and organised the children's activities for the morning and then set about packing up and cleaning.
It had previously been decided that as Mr. Cramer would have driven up directly off night duty he should have some sleep before making the return journey, but having arrived and heard some of the story and also having had a good look around the place, he too sensed something very unhealthy, so it was arranged that the entire camp would go to Don's house and Mr. Cramer would have a sleep there.
Meantime the caretaker had reappeared on the scene.
Joan felts she was wasting her time mentioning anything to him and to his question "Did you have a nice night?" she replied that even he must have heard the loud noise. He denied hearing anything at all. However Joan was insistent that he accompany them upstairs. He went with them and Joan says he did seem as surprised as them to find the bolted and padlocked door of the dying room standing wide open. Upon entering the dormitory the previously locked inner room was also wide open.
No explanation was offered.
The relief of everyone concerned was obvious as they piled into the bus and pulled away from that place. Taking a last look at the building they all felt that they were leaving an evil place. In fact they all were grateful to have got away with only minor injuries but, says Joan, the mental scars would take a long time to heal.
Several other people who have visited this place say they too have been very aware of some strange presence in the building. An eighty year old woman who was once the Matron there, who left in the early 1920's, recalled that there was something very frightening about the upstairs and that no-one liked working up there at night. All rounds were carried out by two people. No-one would go it alone.
However there are many other folk who absolutely refute any suggestion that the place is haunted.
Joan had finished her story and knowing I was anxious to meet some of the other helpers involved, arranged for me to meet Maureen Cramer. I had previously spoken with Maureen by telephone and meeting her in person confirmed my impression that she was a very forthright and no-nonsense type of character. A very happy out-going personality and easy to talk with.
Maureen had gone along to the camp with her young son and daughter and had undertaken to do the camp cooking. She had had more than enough to occupy her first few hours on arrival. Organising the collecting of stores and preparing the first meal.
Later that evening she had discussed the oppressive heat with the other mothers and wondering if perhaps they would have all been much more comfortable had they settled for the upstairs dormitory in the old building, she took herself up to this part of the building to have a look around. Paul decided to accompany her.
When they reached the centre of the dormitory they were amazed to hear and feel a howling wind coming down the chimney. The night was absolutely still, not so much as a gentle breeze outside and not even a alight draught inside.
Standing there both admitted to having a very strange feeling they were not along. Again when they got to the end of the dormitory they were certain there was some unseen presence in the room with them.
Returning to join the other helpers on the verandah of the building both had heard the eerie moaning and crying and had been some of the first to race over to the Annexe to check the children. They were all safely asleep in their beds.
On the Tuesday Maureen had been in the kitchen with Joan Harrison. She had filled the kettle while JOan had fetched a white china jug from the pantry and had placed it on the bench opposite the sink. As they stood together waiting for the kettle to boil they had witnessed the weird sight of the jug rising into the air and travelling several feet before dropping down and smashing onto the floor.*
Later there had been several strange and inexplicable instances with the electric stove. Hot plates suddenly going cold without being turned off. Obviously with a power cut or fuse the whole stove would have been rendered out of action and it was only occasionally that there seemed to be this incredibly strange behavior. Other times the stove appeared to be in very good order.
Maureen was also a witness to the odd behavior of the door knob. As previously explained by Joan, this door was unused. Maureen says that normally the knob would have only turned half over to the left if one wanted to open the door. They had all been transfixed when of its own violition it had spun around and around. Even some of the children had been puzzled as to what was happening.
Maureen had been one of the helpers to accompany the children to the swimming pool. (Joan had remained with her daughter Darleen and two other girls and had experienced the day-time crying and moaning). After Maureen arrived back from the pool, another of the girls went to her. The girl was very distressed and said there was blood under the stairway. There was too. Several watched this totally unexplained phenomenon. The blood appeared to ooze through the surface of the underneath section of the stairway. It was not daubed or smeared on. There was no visible sign of any human action involved. One girl actually was brave enough to taste the liquid. She was positive it was blood. Maureen was also quite sure that it was blood that she wiped away and all had thoroughly examined the top of the stairs and there was absolutely nothing to indicate where the blood was seeping from. Once it had been cleaned it did not reappear. It certainly had not been there a few minutes earlier because the stairs had been used during a search for a trap door or some other hidden place where secret entry may have been possible.
Later that evening Maureen recalls how she had gone upstairs with several of the others in the company of the caretaker. This had been arranged earlier so that they could have the door of the small attic unlocked. One of the dogs was also there. When they arrived at the first landing the dog has hesitated and shown fear. It had to be forcibly dragged u to the room. The door was then unlocked and opened. The dog would not enter and Maureen said she was powerless to move into the room. Something seemed to hold her back. She could scarce refrain from vomiting as the stench from within the room was indescribably putrid. She says she never smelled anything as obnoxious. The room was again bolted and padlocked.
Later when they all retired to the Annexe for the night they all heard the moaning and crying. The children were all checked at least three times and each time all were fast asleep.
Several odd things occurred on the following day. Maureen experienced a peculiar pin-prick in her head whilst sitting in a chair in the lounge room. This was at the time that Joan was kneed in the back. There was no-one else around at the time but at each occurrence this terrible smell would waft around just for a moment and then disappear. Visitors arrived unexpectedly in the afternoon. They were old friends of one of the helpers. Upon hearing of the strange happenings they decided to call again later that evening and this they did.
Later Maureen had gone upstairs with Paul and the visitors, Don and his wife Sylvia. They decided to use torches as they wanted to have a good look around without drawing attention to themselves and considered it advisable not to flood the building with light.
However, there had been a most peculiar happening with the torches when they had stood near the fireplace in the main ward.
All had gone out simultaneously. When they stepped several paces away the torches had lighted again. they were all pretty scared by this but sticking together they had repeated the movement to and from the area several times and each time the torches had gone out and relit again in this most incredible manner.
They checked right through the dormitory, on, in and under every bed. These were double bunks in rows along each side of the room. The same putrid smell also remained, but never in the one place.
On the way back they had looked into the side dormitory and noticed a strange oblong shape in the middle of the floor. Thinking it may have been a shadow they switched on the light but it was not a shadow, rather it appeared as a small cloud of dark vapour which slowly dissolved as they watched.
They all returned to the rest of the group downstairs and had supper. During this time they had a serious discussion, trying to find a logical explanation for the things they had heard and felt. They decided to again visit the upstairs dormitory. this they did, checking every conceivable nook and cranny, every bed, cupboard etc. They were absolutely certain that no-one was concealed in the building and there was no possibility that any one could have entered or left the building without being seen.
And yet when they all arrived at the door of the bathroom at the end of the dormitory to their utter amazement they saw water disappearing down the sink and no tap turned on. The tap was very hot as if it had just been used. Now if anyone had been in that bathroom they would have had to pass the group to get out and there was certainly no place where anyone could possibly have hidden.
Maureen recalled that by this time Don was also becoming quite scared, for up to that time he had been prepared to dismiss many of the incidents as imaginary or at least some kind of practical joke. Then to their amazement, on leaving the dormitory they noticed some sort of light at the bottom of the door leading into the attic. They had previously double-checked that the door was bolted and padlocked. The light disappeared and upon further examination the door was found to be open but the room was completely empty. Only the putrid smell remained.
The men shut, bolted and padlocked door was wide open. By now they could hear some of the children in the annexe so they all went over there. One boy was sitting up in his bed, his face as white as a sheet. he was visibly terrified and it was some time before they could get a word out of him. Eventually he said the place was 'spooked'. He had seen a white shape at the window.
This was also seen by Joan and several others later that night. Maureen was also present when some unseen force attacked Vinny. She is positive that Vinny was wide awake at the time and that there was no way that the bruises on Vinny's throat could have been self-inflicted. Vinny had been very affected by the incident and weeks later could not speak about it.
Later that night Maureen said they had heard strange tapping noises but each time they went to investigate the tapping ceased.
About four o'clock that morning they had heard music coming from the main building but no-one by this time was game enough to return to investigate. They had barricaded the doorways in the Annexe with brooms and mops etc. and had armed themselves with cricket bats, stumps and one had a large can of fly spray. The men put a mattress on the floor in the main doorway but all of them stayed awake till daylight. Later that morning, after breakfast, they had all gone upstairs with the caretaker and all the locked doors were open and they noticed a coat hanger in the attic room. It definitely had not been there earlier. They all noticed that the putrid smell had disappeared.
Maureen admits that the caretaker appeared startled to find the doors open. He had not heard the 'explosion' during the night. When told of the other strange happenings he did say that members of a previous church camp had sighted strange white shapes on the verandahs.
Maureen had never had any previous experience with anything supernatural. She is adamant that there are strange forces at work in that building. She knows what she saw.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
How does a healthy athletic young man react to a close encounter with the supernatural?
This was the question I posed to Paul Harrison, son of Mrs. Joan Harrison and coach of the Rochkingham Branch of the Little Athletic Club and one of the group involved with the very strange happenings at the old York hospital.
When I first met Paul shortly after the holiday he was still recovering from the initial shock from all that had happened.
Bewilderment had given way to incredibility, but as he said, 'he had to believe what he saw', and the fact that there were several other reliable witnesses only confirmed his belief that there was some very strange force at work in that building.
He recalled that on arrival they had been told that the upstairs section of the old building was strictly out of bounds. However, because of the above century heat there was some discussion between the adults that it may have been more comfortable for the children to have slept up there with possibly a better flow of air through windows opening on both sides of the dormitory.
He had accompanied Mrs. Maureen Cramer on a tour of inspection. The first thing that amazed him was the icy coldness of that dormitory and the fact that although it was oppressively still outside there was a howling wind blowing down the chimney. He was very aware of an unseen presence in the room with them. He recalls a foul smell, like nothing he had ever smelled before and later in the evening he heard the strange moaning and crying which appeared to come from a locked room.
On the second day Paul had been in the vicinity of the passage when Kirsty had the terrifying experience of a strange force trying to throw her through the glass door.
He had been one of the first on the scene and witnessed the near hysteria of both girls.
Later he had attempted to remove the jagged remains of the glass from the door but it had required the full force of a heavy block of wood, wielded by the caretaker, to dislodge the pieces. Not long after this the sitting room door had slammed in his face actually hitting him on the forehead thereby raising quite a lump. Then the door had re-opened almost immediately as thought by some unseen hand. Yet there was no-one there and no breeze or draught to account for what had happened.
On the third day it was Paul who had been the first on the scene when the young girls saw the blood appearing under the staircase. he reiterates that the blood was fresh and appeared to have oozed from the surface. It definitely had not been smeared on and no-one could have got to the staircase without being observed by him and others of the group.
Again that night he had heard the moaning and screaming. Paul confirmed that he had been on of the four adults who had attempted to find some logical explanation for all that happened. He had accompanied Don and Sylvia and Maureen Cramer on a tour of the upstairs section of the old building. He had held one of the torches that had behaved so strangely by switching on and off at the fireplace.
He it was who first saw the water mysteriously disappearing down the plug hole. There was, he said, no way that anyone could possibly have hidden in that building without being seen. There was no other way out and it would have been absolutely impossible for anyone to have got out of that bathroom without passing the four adults.
Later he had been downstairs in the sitting room when the explosion occurred and also witnessed that the door upstairs which he had personally checked earlier and found to be bolted and padlocked was then wide open as though some extra strong force had been used. Later that night he had observed the children's bedroom door slowly open. There was no-one there but it seemed to confirm the frightening experience of one of the boys who had been found in a state of shock after seeing a ghostly figure at the door that had vanished into thin air.
After talking with Paul and having listened to his account of the extraordinary occurrences I can only say that I am quite certain that he was a most sincere and honest witness. Equally mystified as to the reasons for all that had happened.
Could six perfectly normal people have imagined everything that took place? A seventh outsider voluntarily becoming involved would on his own admission never set foot in the place again. Yet Joan was prepared to set all her fears to one side to return to try to solve the mystery or to at least find the answer to some of her questions.
Many of the children have also told their parents of strange happenings and perhaps they too will one day know the answer and the reason behind it all.
It will be noted that the two women provided accounts of the incident concerning the jog which vary slightly. Maureen state that Joan had placed the jug on the cupboard whereas Joan recalls that it was already there. Variation of such minute detail is not important when measured against the overall similarity of their recollections.