It was eerily quiet. The building had been abandoned some 6 years earlier. Entire wards, which once would have once been a busy epicentre, full of patients and medical professionals, now lay completely empty. The only sound that could be heard was the second hand ticking on the clock hanging high on the wall. And then all of a sudden the second stopped, and never moved again…

Rumours that the building was haunted were well known. As we arrived to start work we we’re first briefed by the long time security guard, some 8 years. His instructions were simple: Do not, under any circumstances wonder off outside of the designated work area. Always work together in pairs. Do not be alone at any time.

It may have been the fact, that it’s easy to get disorientated and lose your way in the place. Or maybe the fact that they’re not sure if any or how many squatters are living in the building. But I can’t help feeling its something far more sinister.

The place resembled something out of a horror movie. There were holes in the walls, several ceiling tiles missing and various bits of rubbish and equipment scattered around the rooms. Some of the lights worked, others did not. We had to rely on touch light to get around. There was even the odd hospital bed and baby bassinet proving a chilling scene in the darkness. The air was cold and stale from the lack of any ventilation. You could get a real sense of the former life of the building, which would of been occupied by a couple of thousand people in it hay day.

Our job at the Former Royal Women’s Hospital building was to salvage any plumbing fixtures or tapware worth reclaiming for reuse, before a proposed redevelopment of a section of the building. The designated work area covered 3 levels of the South West corner, including 2 levels of basement void of natural light.

Rumours of a ghost occupying the former oncology ward on level 5 are well known. She’s known as “the grey nurse”, wears a long grey dress and haunts lonely night shift staff. But she’s evidently a friendly ghost, credited with good deeds such as “clipping off a patient’s intravenous drip to prevent fatal air bubbles when the drip has run out” according to an article published in The Age dated October 21, 2010.

Whilst on a visit to Melbourne in July 2009, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are reported to have requested their own private tour of the former hospital in a series of rare behind-the-scenes walking tours.

The abandoned building has also been used for several film and TV productions including Jason Stantham’s action thriller ‘Killer Elite’ and Australian film ‘Matching Jack’. The production notes for Matching Jack recall filming in the old hospital: “There was one issue – there was apparently, a ghost on the floor above us – crew who ventured upstairs were aware of ‘a presence’ and no one particularly wanted to investigate certainly after nightfall”.

Both the Victorian Police and Metropolitan Fire Brigade have used the abandoned site for various training exercises. We found evidence of spent blank bullet cartridges and police ‘do not cross’ tape throughout the site.

As commercial plumbers we get to experience a vast range of work place environments. From radioactive laboratories to heritage-listed buildings, quarantine animal facilities to kindergartens. I guess now we can add Haunted Hospitals to the list.