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See Inside Margaret Graham Building on Dark History Tours At The Old Hospital
There can be few experiences more unsettling than wandering the empty echoing corridors of an abandoned hospital. The haunting feeling of isolation. Stale smells of antiseptic soap. Abandoned equipment and furniture. Not even the soothing whisper of air conditioning to mask the silence.
It's a sharp contrast with the bustling and busy, normal noisy nightmare of sadness and pain. Waiting rooms filled with stoic sufferers. Purposeful, preoccupied doctors and nurses striding through corridors. The daily business of life and death.
There's a short window of opportunity to experience an abandoned hospital in Adelaide city. While the future of the former Royal Adelaide Hospital is being decided, it is being kept artificially alive on a life support system. A team of public servants at Renewal SA has been charged with keeping the corpse in cryogenic storage. At intervals parts of it are reactivated, to bring life to the East End of the city.
The award winning tour company Adelaide's Haunted Horizons has embraced an opportunity to activate the old RAH. They have been given carte blanche to explore the areas previously off limits to the public with new Dark History Tours At The Old Hospital.
Inside the Operating Theatre of Royal Adelaide Hospital 1895 (Image: State Library South Australia B-23506-3)
Even after being an inpatient, few people would have seen inside an operating theatre, much less the high tech Intensive Care Unit. You certainly would not remember a visit to the hospital morgue. For a short time, you have the opportunity see all of these and much more.
While the former Royal Adelaide Hospital was still functioning, entry to the grand heritage buildings was never possible. The century old Margaret Graham building ground floor was once used for unruly patients, and for patients who needed to be kept under restraint. There must be many stories to tell of times when Matron was away. Perhaps the one about the porter found in a tree outside the nurses' home at night?
Art Deco Influenced Eleanor Harrald Building is Not Heritage Listed
Likewise the Art Deco influenced Eleanor Harrald building - built in 1951 to expand the nurses' accommodation may still hold some secrets. Does the photo of former Fort Largs army officer Harry Medlin still hang in the corridor, a reminder of when he was a Professor and Dean of Medicine at Adelaide University? Will you hear the story about the former nursing sister who fraudulently obtained morphine from the hospital?
There are a total of six State heritage buildings at the abandoned hospital, while others that were unlisted are being demolished. The octagonal Sheridan building (formerly a kiosk in 1925) is one of my favourites, although I do love the intricately ornate facade of the Bice building too, with its hidden arched opening on the upper floors. Once used as wards for patients, many of these were later used for administration.
Bice Building at the Abandoned Hospital 1926 (Image: State Library B4087)
On Dark History Tours At The Old Hospital you will discover how the former RAH came to be, the culmination of work of two very different men for two very different reasons.
Wind your way through the eerily vacant and deafeningly quiet Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit, theatres, former nurses quarters and lastly into the morgue. Hear fascinating stories of former employees, none famous, although one should have been classed as infamous. You may also learn about some strange patients, including the boy who had two kidneys removed - but still went home with one.
You will also get a brief glimpse of past surgical methods, and learn about some of the unusual and often dangerous medications of the 19th and 20th century. Thankfully none of these are used today. After touring the buildings and labyrinth of corridors at the former Royal Adelaide Hospital, you will see the old hospital in a new light, filled with amazing history, awaiting discovery.
Thanks for the info on the hospital behind the scenes tours. Hopefully there will be more on the horizon? As the hospital tours are all booked out :( I can manage tours in daylight hours - but am not game for an overnight tour on Z Ward.
I wonder if the windows in the North Wing still have cutlery in them to stop them rattling all the time. I hope the water pipes don't finally "give out" while tours are in progress and they won't have to "bandaid" the electrical system either.
I had my life saved by the old RAH back in 1976. Its staff were brilliant their respect dedication concern professionalism gave me back a desire to help others. I started training there as a Nurse when I had got better and lived in the Nurses Home training and working in the ward. Thanks to this Hospital I had a career and it's where I met my wife to be who also was a Nurse trained there. Our family grew to three children and now two grand daughters. I still can not believe The old RAH history is effectively wiped away by our state goverment. But it is this denial of the valuable place history plays in our lives that shows how the goverment weighs money against dedicated service. M Tindale