Clunes: Suspected ‘mushroom’ drink poisoning at Soul Barn health retreat as woman dies and two others are rushed to hospital

A woman is dead and two others are in hospital after allegedly consuming a mushroom drink at a health retreat in the regional town of Clunes, near Ballarat, on the weekend. 

Victoria Police detectives have confirmed they are investigating the incident, which left a 53-year old woman dead on Sunday morning. 

The Ringwood North woman, in Melbourne’s east, became ill and died shortly after 12am.

Two other people were taken to hospital for observation. 

Soul Barn owner Michelle Mullins

An ambulance was reportedly called out shortly in response to a call that someone was in cardiac arrest and not breathing. 

Investigators are probing whether a mushroom-based drink was consumed, but have not ruled out other potentially toxic substances. 

There is no suggestion that the poisoning was intentional.  

The death happened at Soul Barn, which is advertised as an ‘Alternative & Holistic Health Service’ on its Facebook page. 

In an example of the services the barn provides, a skin expert who uses ‘wild foraged plants’ was scheduled to attend Soul Barn on Saturday. 

‘(The specialist) weaves ancient skincare rituals and combines them with modern techniques to create nurturing yet active facials,’ it was advertised.

‘Using infused herbal oils sourced from local farms & wild foraged plants, plus handcrafted skincare from around the world especially chosen for its potency and purity … This is a facial like non other, one you will never forget!’ 

On Sunday, a post stated the business would be closed, with people who had booked for its ‘sound healing’ sessions to be refunded. 

Clunes made national news last week on the back of another tragic death. 

Clunes has been the location of two tragedies over the past month

Clunes has been the location of two tragedies over the past month

Positioned 33km north of Ballarat, west of Melbourne, Hannah McGuire, 23, had called Clunes her home before she was allegedly murdered by her ex-partner. 

Lachlan Young, 21, has been charged with her murder. 

Soul Barn owner Michelle Mullins was approached for comment on Tuesday.

Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting Ms Mullins or anyone associated with her business has intentionally poisoned people.  

A Victoria Police spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia that detectives from its Moorabool Crime Investigation Unit detectives were investigating the death. 

‘It is believed a woman was at a retreat on Fraser Street when she became ill after ingesting a drink about 12pm,’ she said in a statement. 

‘Investigations remain ongoing and police will prepare a report for the Coroner.’

Soul Barn is an 'alternative and holistic health service' business

Soul Barn is an ‘alternative and holistic health service’ business

Soul Barn’s creator and founder spoke of her dream business in an Instagram post earlier this year. 

‘My dream for Soul Barn is for it to be a space where people can connect on many levels. Hosting inspiring workshops & retreats that will link you to your own passions, allow you to explore new skills and encourage you to express yourself authentically. Bringing like minded people together and creating community in the small town of Clunes,’ she wrote. 

‘As many of you will know, Sound Healing is my passion. With over 15 years’ experience, I have run retreats, workshops and facilitator trainings both in Australia & internationally with a focus on vibrational healing. 

‘I love creating layered soundscapes using percussion to replicate nature sounds. Combining Tibetan Bowls with chimes and the drum to create a unique and healing space that allows people to drop into deep meditation.’

Ms Mullins described herself as a ‘creative entrepreneur, a change maker with a big vision and a rebellious streak’.

‘I love to challenge conventions and am driven to live my soul purpose – and help others to live theirs,’ she wrote.

‘I care deeply about the success of others, and love helping individuals achieve their goals and dreams. We can’t succeed in life and our careers in isolation and competitiveness, it is in the connection, support, nurturing and mentoring that I can connect with my gifts, and help others to connect with their own.’

Erin Patterson has been charged with murder over another alleged mushroom poisoning

Clunes as it appeared in the 1979 film Mad Max

Clunes as it appeared in the 1979 film Mad Max

Clunes as it appears today

Clunes as it appears today 

It is the second reported death allegedly via mushroom poisoning to rock Victoria in recent times. 

Erin Patterson was arrested at her home in Leongatha, eastern Victoria, and charged with three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder in November. 

The death comes less than two weeks after authorities warned Victorians that poisonous mushrooms were growing across the state.

An alert issued by the health department on April 5 said these deadly mushrooms included the notorious death cap and another fungi, yellow-staining mushrooms, that is virtually indistinguishable from safe, store-bought mushrooms.

Acting chief health officer Dr Evelyn Wong warned just one death cap mushroom was enough to kill a grown adult, and said it was impossible to make poisonous mushrooms safe to eat.

Until now, Clunes had been better known as the town used as a backdrop to the Australian classic Mad Max – a landmark sci-fi film depicting ruthless bikies going up against a young Mel Gibson.

Its main street has hosted numerous television and movie productions, with its old bank building appearing in Ned Kelly with Heath Ledger. 

Police have asked anyone with information on the latest incident to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report online at