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South Australian Morgues and Mortuaries

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by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. adelaideunearthed.blogspot.com.au/
Published May 19th 2015
Are you dying to go inside?
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Glenside Hospital Morgue


I like to write about the many fun things to do in Adelaide. There are so many attractions in South Australia that my work will never be finished, but it's enjoyable telling the stories.

Something that I have learned about the things that interest people is that everyone is different. One of the more popular topics that interest people is South Australian ghost stories and paranormal investigation of them.

I recently wrote about the fascinating Dark History Tours in Adelaide, but Adelaide's Haunted Horizons ghost tours are just as popular. I was astonished by the number of people visiting Z Ward Glenside Hospital who were keen to undertake a paranormal investigation there.

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Burra Hotel Formerly Stored Bodies for Inquests


Hide the Body
Of course there wouldn't be ghost tours without a dead body, and most people seem to prefer those long dead. So I started to research how many South Australian morgues and mortuaries were scattered about SA and was surprised by the numbers. Just to clarify: a morgue is a place where a post mortem is conducted to find the cause of death, while a mortuary (or deadhouse) is a place where bodies are stored before burial.

In the early days of colonial South Australia there weren't many morgues and mortuaries. If a sudden death occurred from drowning or trauma, inn-keepers were required to keep any corpses on their premises until an inquest was completed. Fortunately most hotels had a cool room where a body could be stored without upsetting patrons too much.

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The City Morgue and Deadhouse Stood Next to the Destitute Asylum


City Morgue in Adelaide
Rather ironically an early morgue and deadhouse was located at the Destitute Asylum on Kintore Avenue. However its close proximity to the "lying in department" where new born babies were delivered upset people's sensibilities and a new location was sought.

In 1886 a new morgue was built in West Terrace Cemetery. The South Australian register reported that "The building is of stone and brick with corrugated iron roof, and is unpretentious but solid in appearance". Its three tables were "of slate, with grooved edges and ends, and a slope which carries off the water" during autopsies.

By 1918 the morgue at West Terrace Cemetery was considered highly unsatisfactory, "being neither dust proof, wind proof or fly proof". In a lengthy newspaper report the city morgue was compared very unfavourably to the morgue at the Adelaide Hospital.

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City Morgue is Now in the Forensic Science SA Building


You can learn much more about the history of West terrace Cemetery (and hear some ghost stories) on one of the guided tours that are available.

Nowadays the city morgue is located in the Forensic Science SA building on Divett Place in Adelaide, although there are complaints that some corpses are too heavy to be autopsied there satisfactorily.

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Former Port Adelaide Casualty Hospital


Port Adelaide Morgue
The first morgue in Port Adelaide was located adjacent to the Port Adelaide Casualty Hospital on Nile Street in 1866. It was built after a magistrate discovered a decomposing corpse stored next to a sick patient in the casualty hospital.

In 1890 the Port Adelaide Morgue was "in close proximity to the Casualty Hospital, Government Medical Officer's residence, Police Station, and Local Court". Adelaide's hot summers caused major problems to passers by who complained of the smell, and Port Adelaide Morgue was relocated to the Powder Magazine Reserve on the north side of the Port Dock.

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Port Adelaide Police Station 1870 (Image: State Library SA B-1874)


After the powder magazine was demolished the City Coroner instructed in 1923 that the police cells be used as a mortuary. Following local outrage the Attorney General overruled the Coroner.

Port Adelaide Ghost Tours include some fascinating tales of crime and punishment in Port Adelaide, and take you within metres of the former Port Adelaide Morgue. If you're looking for a paranormal investigation or ghost tours in the Port check out their Facebook page.

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Adelaide Lunatic Asylum Morgue and Deadhouse, Botanic Gardens


Morgues in Lunatic Asylums
The Adelaide Lunatic Asylum was located on North Terrace adjacent to the Botanic Gardens in Adelaide. With a large number of destitute and ill people staying at the Lunatic Asylum, deaths were common. The Adelaide Lunatic Asylum had its own morgue and deadhouse. It still stands in the Botanic Gardens, although the Asylum closed in 1902 and was later demolished.

Parkside Lunatic Asylum - later renamed Glenside hospital also had its own morgue. The morgue still stands today and can be viewed but is not open to the public. As the morgue is state heritage listed it should not be affected by the Glenside Hospital redevelopment. Perhaps the government plans to offer it for sale as part of their high density accommodation.

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Hillcrest Hospital Mortuary at Oakden


The former Hillcrest Hospital for the mentally ill also had its own state heritage listed mortuary. Like many other South Australian morgues and mortuaries, the Hillcrest Hospital mortuary is now disused. It sits boarded up on an empty block, awaiting its next passing spirit.

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The Morgue Autopsy Table at Torrens Island Quarantine Station


Other Morgues for the Sick
The Torrens Island Quarantine Station was for many years the first port of call for sick travellers. Fortunately most people survived to tell the tale. Those who did not were autopsied in the Quarantine Station morgue and buried on the Island.

The Repatriation General Hospital at Daw Park was successful in treating thousands of serving many and women over the decades, and even now continues to look after veterans and nearby residents. The Repat Museum tells much about the medical and social history of the Repatriation General Hospital - perhaps we should not be surprised that the Repat Museum is located in the same building as the morgue.

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A Paranormal Investigation at Z Ward Glenside Hospital


Ghost Stories and the Paranormal
While many of us don't believe in ghosts, there's always an element of doubt. Ghost tours and paranormal investigations of ghost stories are fun things to do, even for non believers. But we also need to be respectful to the dead - whether recently departed or a hundred years ago. After all, we will all be there one day!
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Why? South Australian morgues and mortuaries attract macabre interest in Adelaide's paranormal investigation community
Where: Adelaide, SA
Your Comment
What happened on night shift stays on night shift . Lol . We used to have to walk past it to change wards , if I was on my own I used to run lol .
by sylvi (score: 2|287) 679 days ago
I remember the one at Hillcrest from when I worked there , it was always a source of stories on night shift
by sylvi (score: 2|287) 679 days ago
Isn't there a morgue in the grounds of Hempstead centre ?
by sylvi (score: 2|287) 679 days ago
Really interesting article, Dave!
by Sara Ikmal (score: 2|451) 678 days ago
The Repatriation hospital was originally at the Keswick Barracks. A morgue was situated there in what is currently the sergeants mess kitchen. I am hoping to find out more about the Keswick barracks on a tour - they run on Sunday afternoons. Thanks for all the info, pictures and stories of the dead.
by Jenny Esots (score: 2|934) 675 days ago
Fascinating article - as always!
by Rota (score: 2|662) 124 days ago
I rent a house that has a morgue :)
by witch (score: 0|5) 679 days ago
Of course all the major hospitals have a mortuary. Great article.
by slug (score: 0|5) 477 days ago
how do i find out where a loved who has just passed away where they have been taken to
by mjnor (score: 0|5) 294 days ago
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