Australians have a long history with ghosts. Our second national anthem, “Waltzing Matilda” includes a ghost who returns afterwards to the water hole where he had been shot by English soldiers. While defeated in a referendum, this was almost the Australian National Anthem! I think we may be the only country who nearly stood, tall and proud to sing about a ghost! Now that’s the ‘ol never say die attitude!
In Sydney, “The Rocks” area is very popular with Ghost Hunts as many of the original buildings from 1800 still stand and some lanes still even have original cobble stones from 200 years ago! 200 years ago it was a poor area and mostly contained a ghetto of the poorer folk, though now it is a gentrified part of the Sydney CBD and one of the most expensive parts of Sydney! I think that would have some of the poorer folk turning in their graves!
On one Rocks tour in the 90′s, we went to the ruins of what would have been one of the ghetto homes that stood behind some trendy shops. The stone and brick walls were still evident and indicated the layout, as was the fireplace. These rooms were tiny and we were amazed to be told as many as ten people would have lived in the tiny house! (eight being children!)
One lady on the tour claimed to glimpse a child in a grubby white pinafore hanging towards the back of the tour group and at first thought it was a bit irresponsible of someone to bring along such a scruffy looking young child so late at night. Later, she saw the same blonde child standing off to our right, in what had been one of the rooms and again gave thought to the irresponsible parent who was allowing their child to climb and scramble all over what is a historical and preserved site! We heard the woman give an audible “oh” and we all turned, where upon she pointed and told us the story.
As she had glanced at the child, feeling annoyed, the blonde, dirty faced little girl turned around and considered her quizzically and vanished before the woman’s eyes. The woman had exclaimed “oh” pointing to where the child had been moments before in shock. There was nothing there.
There are also many old sandstone buildings in The Rocks that are currently in use as office space, shops or pubs. As we walked down the original cobbled street of one the older laneways, we were surrounded on both sides by taller sandstone buildings with small, turn of the century wooden sash windows. As it was late at night, the offices and businesses that used these buildings were closed, so the rooms were in darkness.
My son Aaron turned to me and pulled me apart from the group. “Look up there,” he pointed to a second floor window, “there’s a lady with a hat on there.” I asked him to describe her but he said, “She looked like a photo,” and was not in colour and just seemed to be white. I didn’t see anything. “She’s gone now,” he said shrugging his shoulders casually and ran off to join the rest of the group. He said she just turned from the window and walked away.
If you do come to Sydney, one of the most interesting places is the old Quarantine Station. I have to admit I never had the opportunity to do the ghost tour there, but one of the women I worked with did. The Quarantine Station is on Sydney Harbour and was used 200 years ago to isolate newly arrived ship’s crews and passengers until it could be certain they were not carrying any contagious diseases into the new colony of Sydney and later for any outbreaks of disease within the colony the patients were isolated here.
Unfortunately, sometimes people were indeed carrying some contagion and it usually meant they died at the Quarantine Station and it would appear… still some haven’t left. My friend dutifully went through the tour, the hospital blocks, showers and buildings. She was very impressed by the period dressed actors, languishing in some of the hospital beds. She thought their make up was done so very well, they really looked deathly sick! When she mentioned the well placed actors to her companion, she was shocked to be told the beds were all empty! When she looked back into the room behind her, indeed there was no-one in the beds!
Later, she would say to me the worst thing was their eyes, they could see her, they focused on her and followed her and even inclined their heads to watch her after she had passed. She was so impressed by how ill they looked, she couldn’t help but stare back until the last moment, finding out moments later, no-one was there.
Written by Jennifer Mills-Young, Copyright 2010