In light of my recent blog about my work-in-progress, A Butterfly On His Shoulder, the timing of a media report from Tasmania (October 22) is truly bizarre. It seems the morgue, part of the historic Willow Court complex at the New Norfolk asylum where Arthur spent most of his life, is to be turned into a themed motel! Here is an extract from SBS World news;
‘An Australian businessman is hoping to turn a disused morgue which once served unfortunate psychiatric patients into a unique motel.’
The news received international coverage, including a piece in the French national daily Le Figaro; AUSTRALIE: UNE MORGUE DEVIENT UN HÔTEL [A morgue to become a hotel.]
The businessman involved is antiques dealer Hayden Pearce. Apparently he bought seven acres of the old hospital site a few years ago. He has already converted the 19th century ‘idiots ward’ into an antiques store, and the nurses’ accommodation into various specialty shops. Well, none of that worries me. In fact I tend to agree with David Llewellyn, head of a committee trying to protect the historic buildings, who commented that Pearce’s redevelopment is protecting the site against vandalism. Certainly there have been several instances of arson since the asylum closed. However, the morgue only ceased operation twelve years ago! And the patients who were laid out and/or dissected in the building had already suffered so much indignity as mental patients. Am I being overly sensitive because Arthur Singleton has been so much on my mind? Presumably Arthur was placed in the morgue after his death, prior to being returned to our home town for burial
A ‘Unique Experience’ for Goths and Vulnerable Emos?
What seems particularly disrespectful is that Mr Pearce wants to extract as much shock value as possible by leaving the morgue virtually intact. Guests will sleep on the marble slabs and on bunks in the old pull-out storage refrigerator. Some of the original autopsy tools will even be left lying about to increase authenticity. Pearce told reporters; ‘I suppose we’ll be getting Goths and we’ll be getting Emos and we’ll be probably getting some pretty funky mums and dads .’ Now I had never heard of Emos, but have since discovered that they are a subculture of Goths; that they glamorize death and have a worrying propensity for self-harm!
Mr Pearce hopes to open the four room motel in January next year but has yet to obtain council approval. He told reporters; ‘I guess they can come up with a moral problem. Can they stop people with moral problems? I don’t know.’
I don’t know either Hayden, but part of me hopes they can.
What do you think? Please leave a comment below.