Melbourne may have a reputation for being arty and sophisticated, but she has a dark and sinister side, too. We shared 10 of Melbourne’s Best Urban Legends earlier this year, and revealed hidden doorways leading to a secret morgue at Crown Casino and monstrous cats stalking human prey in the Grampians Ranges. We thought we’d covered the city’s creepiest and most enduring urban legends. We thought we were done.
But like a watched pot that refuses to boil when you’re looking straight at it, as soon as we turned our backs, even more urban legends bubbled to the surface. Here are 10 More of Melbourne’s Best Urban Legends. Whether they’re true or false is up to you to decide.
#1 The Music Box At Larundel
On the outskirts of Melbourne, the last remains of the Larundel Mental Asylum await demolition. Conceived in 1938 to replace the outdated Kew mental hospital, Larundel was then hastily converted into emergency housing during WWII before officially being declared a hospital for the mentally ill in 1953. During its heydey, it housed hundreds of patients suffering from acute psychiatric, psychotic and schizophrenic disorders. It was closed for good in 1999 and the empty wards became the favourite haunt of squatters, vandals and paranormal activity watchers. Now developers have swooped in with a $500 million plan to repurpose it into heritage apartments… but would you really want to live there? Rumours abound of loud crashes and bangs bouncing down the still corridors along with strange smells and other unsettling phenomena.
According to urban legend, a ten-year-old girl in a white nightdress died on the third floor. This little girl loved music and entered the ward with a music box as her only possession. She died clutching it when a vindictive nurse strangled her for being up at midnight, and no one heard the sounds of her struggling because it was playing its beautiful melody. Apparently, if you visit Larundel at exactly 12am, you’ll hear its faint strains and feel cool fingers squeeze around your neck.
#2 The Franco Cozzo Dealership
You know that famous Brunswick furniture store, the one with rococo-style beds that look like elaborate cakes? Yeah, well then you’ve probably heard the urban legend that ‘ol Franco is dealing in more than sofas and bedding. Apparently, those big baroque curls on the bedroom sets are in fact hollow and contain drugs, and the whole place is just a front for a mafia-run drugs syndicate. Of course, there has never been any proof of any wrongdoing, but rumour has it that every time a Franco Cozzo ad airs on television, it’s a signal to the drug cartels that a new shipment has arrived and is ready for distribution.
This rumour was unfortunately reinforced when Franco’s son went to court for drug trafficking and the ads stopped appearing on TV—but hey, most businesses do tend to advertise on social media these days. And the idea that the more overstuffed the armchair, the high volume of drugs for sale is, frankly, a little far-fetched. But then again… maybe drugs ARE being trafficked inside the legs of impressively ornate furniture. Both the Brunswick and Footscray stores are listed as being open 24 hours a day on Google.
#3 The Pineapple Smoothie, No Ice
The story goes like this: if you go to the Moroccan Soup Bar and order a pineapple smoothie, no ice, you will be escorted to a back room where someone will look you up and down then take down your number. Three hours later, you will receive a text inviting you to an orgy.
We are almost 100% this one is not true, and no, we do not recommend trying it. But it’s so oddly specific (the pineapple smoothie has to be ordered with no ice, or the secret code just won’t work properly) that we had to include it. Especially given that the Moroccan Soup Bar doesn’t even sell pineapple smoothies.
#4 The Cat Man Of Altona Homestead
This urban legend is a little bit fishy. Apparently, this particular area is haunted by the ghost of Edward Goodson, a homeless man who was found murdered in the toilets outside the homestead in 1909. But what has that got to do with cats, you ask? Well, apparently Edward had a highly developed fondness for fish. After catching them and killing them, he liked to ‘keep them on his person’, which meant he was always surrounded by cats… and smelt absolutely terrible. Maybe that’s why somebody killed him?
Anyway, the point is that he made friends with the cats who followed him around, and when he was killed, they set out to avenge his death. They say that when you sit down to use the toilets, you feel like a cat is clawing your leg and hear a faint mewling (hey, no one ever said cats would be effective righters of wrongs).
#5 The Westall UFO Cover-up
Surely 100 witnesses can’t be wrong: in April 1966, Australia’s largest mass UFO sighting took place in Westall, Melbourne. Students and teachers from two separate schools claim to have seen a low-flying silvery-grey spaceship manoeuvre silently through the sky then land briefly in a paddock before quickly lifting off again. Most agree they saw military aircraft, up to five, trailing the UFO. But that’s not the sketchiest part. Witnesses reported that police, air force and military personnel appeared out of nowhere to instruct them to ‘talk to no-one’ about the incident and tell them to ‘keep quiet’ about seeing the military’s planes.
To this day, many claim that it was a government cover-up for a secret radiation program or that aliens actually DID land and that the men in suits were secret government agents. Kind of like these guys. They also say that the aliens chose to land in Westall because it’s close to Moorabbin Airport and therefore the students would be more useful to abduct because they were familiar with light aircraft. Okay, we’re willing to admit that this one crosses a little more into conspiracy theory than urban legend territory, but we want to believe, dammit.
#6 The Nuclear Bunker At La Trobe University
There’s more to La Trobe University than meets the eye – beneath the Bundoora campus lies a tangle of tunnels and passages which were built to provide shelter in case of nuclear war. But only to tutors and academics, not students. That’s why every student who has ever gone there has heard of them, but never found them. That’s not the only reason for the underground tunnels, either. The legend goes that La Trobe’s campus was purpose-built to thwart student activism and that the clandestine tunnels allow easy campus access for authorities but not for students. In fact, in 2012 a vice-chancellor was able to escape a student protest ambush by using the underground tunnel network.
It’s also said that certain features of the campus force students to congregate where they can be easily corralled and observed, and that the reason why the student union was built apart from the other buildings was to make it harder for students to storm the admin building. La Trobe’s campus is indeed riddled with tunnels and it’s true that the student union is situated annoyingly far away from the admin building, though perhaps not for sinister reasons.
#7 The Rambo Granny Of Melbourne
There are numerous variations of this legend, but the basic premise is that an 81-year old granny called Ava Estelle took the law into her own hands after her 18-year-old granddaughter Debbie was raped by two men and the courts failed to serve justice. She supposedly tracked the two low-life offenders down to a rundown hotel where she taught them a lesson by shooting their testicles off before turning herself in to the police. The cops purportedly didn’t know whether to throw the wrinkled avenger in jail or nominate her for sainthood.
As much as we like this story, it was debunked a few years ago by a dude who works for the Melbourne Office of Public Prosecutions, who said there was no record of a gun-toting granny in their records, and that furthermore a criminal in their 80’s would still be prosecuted. He claims the urban legend was created in 2000 when the story was published in an American tabloid called the Weekly World News, which is renowned for publishing highly-clickable but factually-challenged content.
#8 The Great Flinders Street Train-Swap
Nothing screams ‘Melbourne’ like Flinders Street Station, but the urban legend goes that back in the early 1900s, the plans for Mumbai (previously Bombay) railway station and Flinders Street railway station were accidentally swapped in the architect’s office in London. As a result, the Mumbai railway station was built in Melbourne and the Flinders Street railway station was built in Mumbai. Supposedly, that’s why Flinders Street has a vaguely East-Indian influenced design and the Mumbai Central is rather looming and gothic.
If this story does have any truth to it, it’s one hell of a mix-up; the sort that is only charming in a romantic comedy when involves people, not buildings.
#9 The Hitman-Haunted Prison
Many say that the 150-year-old Pentridge Prison in Coburg—which is now being transformed into a residential and retail hub called Coburg Quarter—houses the ghost of Melbourne’s most infamous hitman, Mark ‘Chopper’ Read. And he doesn’t like visitors. There are numerous accounts of a nameless voice that sounded just like Chopper bellowing ‘get the F**CK out’ when tour groups went near his old cell, back when the prison was still open to visitors.
Now that it is being redeveloped for hipsters, one suspects that Chopper may still delight in scaring the crap out of them from beyond the grave. Or he might turn up at Collingwood’s Leinster Arms, his favourite pub, to smoke a cigarette and sink a beer.
#10 The Sydney/Melbourne Rivalry
Ha ha, we’re joking. There’s no competition – Melbourne wins hands-down.
In the mood for more of Melbourne's urban legends? Here's the first round in case you missed it.
Image Credit: Visit Melbourne