When I first began my research on Melbourne, I found a few blog posts about the Old Melbourne Gaol.
Pronounced ‘jail’, this is where the infamous bush ranger Ned Kelly was held, and is the oldest gaol in Melbourne.
I had never imagined myself wandering around an old creepy gaol for fun, but alas, wandering around this old creepy gaol was fun. If not sad, creepy and made me tear up a few times.
Walking in, you enter through a small gift shop and then walk into the entrance of the actual gaol.
Molly and I were the only ones there, so it was very quiet, and every little sound echoed.
I apologize for the blurry photos. The lighting inside was weird and my camera kept going out of focus.
The cells were incredibly tiny, only enough room to fit one person, barely enough room to lay down.
It was interesting how some cells had information about previous convicts who stayed in those rooms. Other tidbits given were reasons for arrest. Some reasons people were arrested were for ‘being idle’, ‘insulting someone’, and ‘being homeless’.
One cell had the story of how one man was arrested for the rape and murder of a young girl. He kept claiming how he was innocent. He was hanged, and the only evidence against him was the word of two other men. The rope used to hang him was a new kind being tested, and the rope ended up keeping him alive, but fracturing his spinal cord. He hung there for about 20 minutes, trying to swing his legs so he could die quicker. Various eye witness accounts differ on how long it took him to die, some stating 20 minutes, others stating up to an hour.
Later, the case was re-opened, and he was proven innocent.
It was such a heartbreaking story.
Some cells held the death masks of those who spent the end of their lives in the cells, others held carvings on the walls.
Here is Ned Kelly’s death mask. Some feel Ned Kelly was a hero, other’s felt he was scum. Here is a link to the Wikipedia page (I know Wikipedia is not known as reliable, but this page does have all the info I learned in the gaol). A death mask is a mask made after a person is deceased. Some use them to study the head and brain for scientific reasons after death (as was done with Ned Kelly) other cultures use death masks as a sign of respect and remembrance.
Here is Ned Kelly’s armor he used before getting arrested.
In the gaol, if convicts were out of their cells, they were forced to wear these masks so that they could not recoginze each other and develop friendships.
Executions happened right in the gaol, near the cells. Convicts were hanged, and the hangman was a fellow convict who would do the job as a way to earn good points from his gaolers.
Near the execution stand, there was a lower level that convicts who were bad were forced into. Down there they were in the dark, and could not hear anything.
For convicts who were thought to be a danger to themselves, they were locked in a padded cell.
When convicts were to be whipped, they were tied to this chair face down, so that their back was completely exposed, and they were unable to move or fight.
When they were occasionally allowed outside their cells, they were allowed to walk around this small space that had light coming through at the ceilings.
This is how dark the cells were with the lights out.
As sad as walking around the old Melbourne Gaol is to wander around, and heartbreaking the stories can be to read, it was so interesting to go through each of the cells that were opened to the public.