Visitation at Pentridge Prison
I worked in the Victorian Prison Service, Australia for 16 years. I began my career at HM Pentridge Prison, Coburg Victoria. The site, now partially torn down, was home to 1,200 male and female prisoners at any one time. This encounter took place in "D" Division, originally constructed for female prisoners in 1880 but was currently the remand facility for 320 maximum security male prisoners.
One night, a young male prisoner had slashed his wrists and arms in a suicide attempt. He had lost a life threatening amount of blood and six of us were desperately trying to stem the flow while waiting for the mobile intesive care ambulance to arrive. At one point, the Senior Prison Officer requested that I run out of the infirmary, up a shot landing to call 000 ( your eqivalent of 911) to get an ETA on the ambulance.
As I ran up the stairs I hit what felt like an ice wall and was momentarily stopped in my tracks. The air around me became instantly chilled, and although this was in the middle of summer, I was cold and could see my breath. I was then able to get up the last six steps, but when I turned around, I saw an opalescent fog crystalise into the form of a woman. She wore long skirts, a cap on her head, and when she turned her face towards me, I got the impression of a woman old before her time, with uncountable horrors and sorrows written in the depth of her staling blue eyes. She then vanished and the air around me returned to its warm and humid state.
I have never forgotten her face, and that 5-10 second interlude meant that I hadn't called and annoyed the Ambulance service, as the sound of the siren was heard as the image vanished.
I went in search of files and possible photographs to try and find this restless soul. I now have it narrowed down to three possible women, all transported from England, all of Irish extraction, all for 7 to 14 years hard labour for crimes such as stealing 1 shilling's worth of bread.
She saved me from annoying an already busy emergency service, and made me accutely aware of how much of us we leave behind for other people to learn from.