Once upon a time, Tasmanians who believed in ghosts wanted those allegedly residing in Australia’s oldest mental facility left in peace.
Times have changed, and now even those who used to object to ghost hunters poking around the former Royal Derwent Hospital – popularly known as Willow Court – are backing them.
As part of National Ghost Hunting Day on Sunday, a group held a global seance with more than 80 participants around the world connected online via Facebook Live.
Leading the effort was Tasmania’s Most Haunted, a group made up of ghost hunters Emma Percey, Stan Herd and Sharmaine Mansfield.
Each said they had either seen or felt the presence of paranormal activity, and hoped to change the minds of sceptics through their investigations.
Ms Percey said Willow Court in New Norfolk was home to several spirits connected to various objects and areas at the site.
“The abortion chair we believe has a spirit attached to it named Sarah, verified by three psychic mediums,” she said, as she ushered a group of curious onlookers through the morgue.
“It’s taken me two years to connect to her.
“It’s a lot of time and a lot of patience, as spirits don’t just appear – it doesn’t work like that.”
The group believes the morgue is also home to the spirit of an unnamed doctor.
Mr Herd said he had experienced negative encounters with the doctor, claiming to feel extremely angry and uncomfortable in the spirit’s presence.
“The doctor up in the morgue is a nasty individual, and I haven’t had any experiences that have been good,” he said.
“When you’re lying down on the slab in there, you can feel him touching you on the leg or behind the neck.”
The group said building a relationship with spirits was important, and they used recording devices to establish communication.
“We can’t force them to answer our questions, we’ve just got to try our best to create a relationship with them that works,” Mr Herd said.
The Facebook-connected seance on Sunday asked three questions of the believed spirits residing in the female cottage.
“We wanted to know: What do we look like to you, how do you experience time, and how can we improve contact?” Ms Mansfield said.
There was no immediate response, but Tasmania’s Most Haunted members believed the input of energy from around the world would foster responses from ghosts in the future.
Changing minds with changing times
In 2011, stories about apparitions, strange sudden smells and unearthly happenings had become so common, Derwent Valley councillors voted in favour of a paranormal investigation in at least two of the wards still standing.
Derwent Valley Councillor Barry Lathey said he had opposed investigations at the time, but had since changed his tune.
“When they were suggested, I was not in favour of it because I thought it was too soon for people who had family members who were in there, or for people who worked there,” he said.
“But now that time has gone by, we’ve had supernatural tours and people like doing it, so I’ve changed my mind.”