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


Interior of the Willow Court Morgue


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.



  1. When I heard about this a few months ago I was pretty troubled too. I understand about protecting it from vandalism, but some of the attitude towards using the site for shock value (etc) seems pretty gross to me. The site has such a sad history and I don’t know what the ghosts will think about all this…

    • Pauline

      I agree Holly. Aside from my own sensitivities, Pearce’s attitude in relation to his targetted clientele of young Goths and Emos seems really irresponsible. My poor old uncle’s disturbed spirit is probably among the reported ghosts! What has the general reaction been down there? Surely other relatives of inmates must feel uncomfortable about this latest venture.

  2. I haven’t heard much from relatives directly, though I can’t imagine they’d be too pleased. I’ve mostly heard a lot about it from Disability Rights groups down here who are pretty appalled, and concerned about the level of respect this new venture will give to the memory of the poor inmates, particularly with regards to mental health issues, and how this affects contemporary views of mental health. That said, I think people are pretty divided on the issue, considering the state of the place these days.

    • Pauline

      Thanks for that Holly. Yes, I know the place had been allowed fall into a dreadful state of disrepair but surely that doesn’t justify ANY kind of redevelopment. And how interesting about the response from Disability Rights groups. I can understand their concern about how it might affect the contemporary view of mental health. Some of Pearce’s remarks (which I didn’t post) were in really bad taste. Hmmm, I might have to write a piece for the Mercury!

  3. A Morgue Motel? I can’t think of anything more macabre. I know nothing about Emos, and some Goths are left over from the 80s. They’re ex-punks who are into the music and the fashion. But true followers of the Goth subculture, which is steeped in dark elements of horror and sex, go as far as Vampirism and Satanism. I shudder at the thought of what could happen if Hayden Pearce gets his way.

    Keeping it safe from vandals, my …!

    • Pauline

      I wonder whether Mr Pearce would be quite so flippant if some young person seriously self-harmed in his morgue motel?

  4. Ewwwwww….I’m not liking THAT! 🙁

    I hope he doesn’t get his approval.


    • Pauline

      The odd and rather sad thing is that in all the news reports, and I see they have reached the UK now, not a word has been written questioning the sensitivity of the plan.

  5. I think it is disgraceful and just another symptom of the worldwide greed that has become a festering sore in the overall diseased morality of western culture.

    • Pauline

      Well, here’s a more positive bit of news Nancy. The Tasmanian goverment is considering making a formal apology for the terrible conditions endured by patients at the hospital in years gone by.

  6. OMG Pauline, the thought gives me the creeps. I think they should keep it as a historical site. It would be like bringing the Titanic up or putting another building right where the World Trade Center stood. The suffering, and humiliation is heartbreaking. I for one would not want to spend a night there, I would feel like an intruder. I hope your book comes out before it’s approved. It might make people think twice, it is like disturbing a final resting place.

    • Pauline

      Well said Patricia. I don’t mind that the rest of the complex has been revitalised and is now making a positive contribution to the local economy but the morgue plan is something very different. Either it should remain in its proper historical context as you suggest, or it should be used for something entirely different.

  7. This is certainly the most bizarre idea I have ever heard. And if these Emos enjoy harming themselves, isn’t leaving autopsy tools lying around rather an invitation to do so? It sounds to me that this Mr. Pearce is a little demented himself maybe. Sounds like an “anything to attract people and make money” kind of scheme with no scruples as to how he goes about it.

    • Pauline

      That’s exactly it Diane, money rules. Pearson commented that an earlier owner had wanted to turn the morgue into an icecream parlour… as if that was a far worse plan. Well, if the place was stripped out I would be happy to think something pleasant had taken the place of something so tragic.

  8. Can anyone put me In touch with Hayden or someone who has access I’m a local with a lot of interest

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