A Night at the Asylum: La Trobe at Beechworth and Beechworth Ghost Tours
‘Red rum, red rum,’ I say to my travelling buddy Jamie as we pass a dimly lit conference centre. We are lurking around the grounds of La Trobe at Beechworth looking for McCarthy Cottage. Bare branches claw the leaden sky and elderly fir trees hunch together in the mist. It’s cold and dark and we are on the site of an abandoned lunatic asylum. Cue spinal shiver.
We find our accommodation and the horror movie opening scene comes to an abrupt halt. McCarthy Cottage is cosy and warm. This immaculately renovated cottage has polished floorboards, two large, well appointed bedrooms, two bathrooms; one with an unusual upright spa bath and one with a huge resort-style shower, an expansive outdoor deck complete with BBQ and timber setting and it even has a decent selection of teas and real plunger coffee. Good times.
We unpack quickly and then nip down the street for dinner at The Green Shed, a new Middle Eastern/Asian restaurant run by almost-husband-and-wife team, Chefs Nathan and Meg. We tuck into crispy falafel, an earthy vegetarian tagine and lots of other yummy bits and glug down some Moroccan Syrocco Syrah. I don’t want to move. There is a fire. There is wine. And yet we have tickets to the famous Beechworth Ghost Tour so we reluctantly uproot ourselves and head back to the mad house.
We meet Adam, our tour guide, in the Bijou Theatre. He is dressed in a Victorian style capey-coat, goth boots and has a bushranger beard. He is a living, breathing character in a BBC Jack the Ripper remake. Melikes it. He takes us around the grounds, regaling us with gruesome tales of untimely death, gross mistreatment and lost bodies. My favourite yarn involves the superintendent’s dog gnawing on a dismembered leg. To summarise, a male patient went missing, something smelt pretty funky for a month, a leg showed up and they found a body in a tree. But which tree? No one really knows.
Beechworth is a charming little town with a dark past. It’s like Twin Peaks with an alpaca shop and a micro-brewery.