I was cycling through Royal Park today on the way home from a coffee at Le Miel (review by James coming soon, I’m told) and thought to stop and take a few photos of the old Royal Children’s Hospital, which is currently in the process of being demolished (don’t worry, they’ve built a new one for all the sick kiddies, what with some giant modern art statue or something). I’m categorising this post as “Adventure” since the whole area is a bit other-worldly and fun to explore, not that I actually jumped the fence and went into the demolition site itself (the adventure would be less fun if some falling rubble collapsed my ribcage).
Actually, the whole part of Royal Park near the back of the hospital is a bit surreal. Royal Park is really quite big, much bigger than you’d expect inner city parkland to be. It’s actually a bit surreal going into it, knowing that you’re surrounded by city and all the inner suburbs and whatnot, but feeling absolutely cut off from all that. Unlike other big parks and gardens, such as the Botanical Gardens or the Fitzroy Gardens, Royal Park has quite large expanses of native trees and grasses that are less “manicured”, have fewer paths and generally feel a bit less touched by human habitation. In some places, it’s almost like you’ve been transported to the country.
What makes this area more bizarre is the somewhat desolate area behind the old hospital (where my bicycle route is), fenced off some the demolition site. The path along which I cycle enters from the backstreets of Parkville in all of their quaint and old-timey terrace-housed glory and into said area of desolation (not helped by a giant mound of earth that was excavated at some point, surrounded by a solid blue wall and which has now been turned into a giant and lumpy artificial hill by the grass that has now grown over it).
In fact, as this part of the park has fewer trees than most of the rest and is really just an open grassy area, it can somewhat disorient your sense of space. Deciding to take some photos, I rode off the path for a few meters and set down the bike and my backpack on the ground and started towards the hospital, taking photographs as I went. After a while, though I felt I had not moved forward much, I looked back to see the bike quite some distance away. A bit creepy. Like those dreams you have where time and space are constantly jumping around and confusing the hell out of you. Because everybody has those dreams. Don’t they?
The hospital itself is a bit creepy now in its half-demolished state, like something out of a horror movie or those eerie photos of the abandoned town near the Chernobyl reactor. I suppose it doesn’t help that it was a children’s hospital. If there’s anything horror movies have taught me, it’s that hospitals are haunted by the ghosts of those who died there and that the ghosts of children are the creepiest of all. In fact, I half expected, while zooming in to take the above photo, to see a flash of a pale face watching me from one of the windows (only to disappear a moment later).
The photo below is even worse. The partially demolished building looks totally post-apocalyptic and the words “CLEAN” scrawled in red on the walls evokes some sort of zombie/plague horror trope. Looks cool, though, undeniably (even if I’m still kind of creeped out and expecting some ghoulish figure to emerge from the darkness in the photographs).
Once the old hospital is demolished, the land will be reclaimed into the parklands, which is cool, even though they’ll probably be haunted now.
– Alexander Sheko