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a close up of a brick building

Callan Park has a storied past. Its sandstone buildings and expansive grounds were originally a mental health facility. The myth that echoed through these halls is that there was an underground tunnel system that transported unsightly patients from ship ports to the Callan Park facility. It’s rumoured that an intricate water tunnel system stretched from as far as Sydney Harbour to the Rozelle-based hospital was used to move the patients underground to avoid infecting citizens (it was the 1800s, so not the best era for psychiatric knowledge) and keep them out of view. There is an underground part of the facility, but no record of these apparent water-transport channels. It’s not impossible though; patients weren’t treated so well back in 1878 when Callan Park first opened, and common practice at the time involved chaining up the “insane”. However, the Callan Park complex was set up according to the theories of doctor William Kirkbride, who promoted natural surroundings, sunlight and air as part of treatment. None of which can be commonly found underground.

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