Don't let looks deceive you, this is easily one of the most interesting and worthwile of all Melbourne's historical sights.
This was the first extensive jail complex built in Victoria and it housed some of the area's most notorious outlaws, including the famous bushrangers. These men could be compared to the outlaws of the american west, in that they became legends and were often adored by the public. Ned Kelly being the most famous of them all. And you can see his death mask, assorted armour, and the beam from which he hung on display at the Gaol. Not to mention an amusing poster for a hollywood production of his story starring Mick Jagger as Ned Kelly.
Between 1842-1929 there were 135 hangings here, including Kelly's. And this makes up a significan part of the self guided tour. What you will see when you enter the jail is a narrow corridore with tiny cells on either side, three stories high. It has a gruesome effect, but is strangely intriguing.
The majority of the cells are lined with posters and display cases where you can learn about the exploits of various inmates, the hanging process, unsolved crimes, life in the prison, and much more. On the top floor there are displays about when the gaol was used as a military prison during WWII.
You'll certainly notice the gruesome "death masks" demonstraing the 19th century obsession with "phrenology". A branch of science which equated the size and shape of one's skull to character traits. Later discounted as having no merit.
You can read about the infamous "baby farmer" and the man once believed to be "Jack the Ripper", to name a few. It is also quite interesting even just to walk around the bluestone prison, both inside and out.
If you're up to it there is a night tour with theatrical perfomances to recreate what life in the gaol must have been like, using the grim atmosphere to ghoulish effect. Enquire at 03/9663 7228, cost is $18.70.
All in all the place is very fascinating, and certainly a unique attraction. Be it a little depressing.
Visit this site for pictures, information, and a some of the gaol's history.
Results 1-2of 2 Reviews
March 18, 2004
Many tours are available for this attraction; I especially like the Haunted tour organised by the Haunted Bookshop. (More information on the tour at http://www.haunted.com.au/ghosttour.html)
From journal Melbourne and its secrets
by Tim G
August 31, 2002
From journal Week in Melbourne