1997 Ghost Stories

HOLIDAY NIGHTMARE - YORK HOSTEL

York Hospital - Western Australia

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.


HOLIDAY NIGHTMARE

Author:
Miriam Howard-Wright
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.

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