St John’s Orphanage was opened in 1905 by the Sisters of Mercy and the Catholic Church, and operated for 71 years until its closure in 1976.
For the first 7 years of operation St John’s housed both boys and girls (which it was one of the first to do so) and in 1912 St Joesph’s House of Prayer was opened and became the girls orphanage, and St John’s became an all boys orphanage.
At its peak St John’s housed 200 boys which was far above the suitable capacity of the building.
According to many records the orphanage wasn’t the happiest of places and the boys were often subjected to slave like conditions and barbaric punishment, the kind of treatment young boys should never face.
There’s an account from a boy who stayed at the orphanage where he claimed that when you first entered the orphanage you were stripped of all your clothes and then given just one set of clothes (not even any underwear) and this one outfit that you lived in day and night was only allowed to be washed once a week.
Having a pair shoes that fit or that even had laces only happened when you left the orphanage, they normally were given shoes too small or far too big. Beatings and other punishments were a common practice in the orphanage.
Such punishments as being locked in rooms, canings, beatings and floggings were given out freely and regularly. Cold showers (and if you know Goulburn that place is freezing in winter) and neglect of proper medical care even when injured or sick were just a couple of the health risks these boys faced in their time there.
Meals were sparse and not often appealing. Education was limited and based on religion and Latin. Only the more academically gifted boys were provided education past the 5th grade and these were done off premise.
So as you can see, St John’s wasn’t the happiest of places and it’s no surprise that its apparently now haunted, with all those tortured souls of the little boys its no wonder it has that stigma around it. Scribbled over many of the walls are phrases, quotes or sometimes just plain creepy things written on the wall referring to the grim past of the orphanage, some even sound like they are written from someone who spent time or had a loved one spend time here.
There was a local company running ghost tours here but I am not sure if these are still running or not, maybe knowing that this place is apparently haunted adds to its overall creepy factor.
After the orphanage shut its doors in 1976, it got a second life until the late 1990’s as Youth With A Mission Base Goulburn where people young and old came from all over the world to do discipleship training courses and to serve on staff in this Christian Interdenominational Organisation. Once this was over it started to fall into disrepair and was never used again and started down the slide of decay.