A Night in the Watch House at the Old Melbourne Gaol

This will be a brief post as I really want to recommend this experience without ruining it for any potential visitors.

If, like me, you enjoy being creeped out, this is the thing to do when you find yourself in Melbourne.

Outside the Old Melbourne Gaol Night Watch House Tour
Black eyes… like a doll’s eyes

A quick look at the website gives you barely enough information to get you hooked. This is on purpose.

I assumed, based on the other available evening tours, that this would be your run of the mill ghost tour with the added bonus of being in a prison. The disclaimer that the experience is for those strictly aged 16 or older had me thinking they’d throw in a few risqué tales from former inmates.

You get so much more than a ghost tour with A Night at the Watch House. I can’t say how much more because I am still a little terrified of the Charge Sergeant on duty that night who told us she’d hunt us down if she saw any details on the internet. Enough to dissuade me.

Old Melbourne Gaol Night Watch House Tour

Here’s what I can tell you.

It is a super cool way to learn about the history of the Melbourne Gaol and especially the people who passed through the watch house next door.

For all you Americans reading this, a gaol is a prison. The word is, in fact, pronounced like the word jail. Gaol is simply an older spelling of the word, mostly used today in names of prisons, like the Old Melbourne Gaol or Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.

Old Melbourne Gaol Night Watch House Tour

The City Watch House, built in 1909 and in operation until 1994, was essentially like a modern U.S. jail. It was the building where felons were held prior to their court appearance at the courthouse on the remaining side – remember one side neighbors the prison. Confused?

Old Melbourne Gaol Night Watch House Tour
The padded cell…

On this trip, we didn’t actually visit the Old Melbourne Gaol. After the main event of the evening we were allowed to wander freely around the watch house, which is when all these photos were taken.

All the graffiti and wall markings are original, left behind from decades of those awaiting trial.

Old Melbourne Gaol Night Watch House Tour

Old Melbourne Gaol Night Watch House Tour

Even all that crap on the ceiling is original. That is 50-year old toilet paper. No joke. When cameras were installed in the cells in the 70s, inmates would wet wads of toilet paper and throw them at the cameras, trying to get them to stick and block the view to the video feed. Obviously, it worked, since some of it is still stuck up there, even after the cameras have been removed.

And all those brown marks on the walls? Its not feces, which is what I thought. They’re burn marks. Again, toilet paper is the culprit. Inmates would roll it between their hands to make long, thin ropes. Hanging them from the walls, they would light them, and subsequently use it to light their cigarettes. The toilet paper would act like a fuse, burning slowly and leaving those marks.

Old Melbourne Gaol Night Watch House Tour
Not feces

Final thoughts.

I wish we’d had more time. In total we were there just over an hour, and I would have loved to wander around a bit more at the end. We will definitely be returning the next time we’re in Melbourne, to visit the Old Melbourne Gaol and possibly do anther night time tour. It was that good.



If anyone can name the movie I’m quoting in the caption of the first photo (obviously without Googling it) you get a super awesome virtual high-five from me! Guesses in the comments!