By David Schout
Those misbehaving on the streets of Melbourne on a Friday night could, up until 1994, be thrown in the City Watch House.
A facility that housed not just the overindulging types after knockoff, but also those etched in criminal folklore such as Chopper Read and Squizzy Taylor, its interior remains in its original state from the early 1900s.
And for those wanting a taste of what it was like to be thrown in the clink, A Night in the Watch House can give you exactly that.
“Get in line!” Sergeant Croft tells tour-goers waiting to be locked up on a Friday night, as CBD News went to check out exactly what goes on.
Most of the 30-strong crowd laugh, albeit slightly nervously.
“Read this. Carefully,” the sergeant explains, handing everyone a charge sheet for a real-life criminal who, at one stage, was a Watch House inmate.
For the night, you are that criminal, and you’ll be treated as such. Well, sort of.
The tour’s journey then takes you through to all the interesting and eerie parts of the 109-year-old Watch House building.
Oh, and it is done mostly in the dark.
Creator Mishel Lee, who assumes the role of Sgt Croft on the tour, says the drama created by actors on the tour maintains a faux-serious, fun atmosphere.
“Seeing people enjoy history and watching the tour sell out every week is a real satisfaction,” she says.
The tour is almost five years old, and Ms Lee says it was created as a twist on the traditional walk-through tour.
“I was asked to create an immersive experience that delivers factual information in a fun and informative way that leaves people with a thirst for history.”
Ms Lee says its journey has been a rewarding one.
The hour-long tour has used a number of actors and comedians along the way, who succeed in getting the audience involved.
“It has absolutely evolved over the years. Every actor that has stepped into the role gives it a little more depth, and as a team we are constantly working together to deliver the best experience possible.”
And how does she want “inmates” to remember the outing?
“That it was the most fun they’ve ever experienced while learning about some of Melbourne’s most notorious felons and true crime stories.”
For more information about A Night in the Watch House, visit oldmelbournegaol.com.au.