ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 45

Creepy, eerie Down Under

By Chamari Senanayake

If you are planning to travel to Australia, Melbourne is a place not to be missed. One of the most popular travel destinations in the world, Melbourne is visited daily by an estimated 31,000 international visitors.

The City of Melbourne was founded in 1837 and was designed by Robert Hoodle during the time of King William IV of England while John Batman negotiated with the Aboriginal ‘Kulin’ tribe (Australia’s natives) for the land rights. Since then, Melbourne has flourished and become a popular and developed city. However, the city’s history is also shrouded in many scandals, violence, murder and hangings.

The ‘Mitre Tavern’ where the mistress of the nineteenth century owner still makes an appearance

If you are interested in ghosts, the ‘Melbourne Ghost Tour’ that is run in Melbourne after dark may be the answer. Established in 1997, the Melbourne Ghost Tour is conducted by a bookshop owner, author and researcher called Drew Sinton.

The tour starts from McKillop Street in the city after 8 p.m. with Sinton walking, followed by the tour members through creepy alleys, abandoned buildings in the middle of the city and even across busy nightspots. Our first stop was ‘Mitre Tavern’, an isolated old pub surrounded by skyscrapers. It is lit with beautiful lamps, although the story behind it is shadowed by a black image. A mistress of a 19th century business owner lived here and many say they have seen a sad looking lady dressed in Victorian style clothing looking out of the window.

On the spook trail is the ‘Francis Hotel’, built in 1854, which looks like a colourful night spot in the city, but when you step up to the nightclub on the third floor you may feel a cloudy presence. It was mentioned that 30 years ago, a chef there got himself into burning hot water and it is believed his ghost still wanders around.

Mr. Sinton talks of the Melbourne’s first burial grounds, now known as Flagstaff Gardens, and says the bodies are still there, possibly, more than a thousand, some from botched public hangings and more in the red light district of Little Collins Street.

For historical value alone, this tour unearths more than just visions of women in white, creeping through corridors. It tells the truth of a dark past – executions, epidemics, and murders. Let alone ghosts, the history of Melbourne also has legends and mysteries.

In a pitch-black abandoned building, Sinton tells about the axe murder here in the '50s. The building has never been used although many passed it on to new owners again and again.

There was also mention of a ghost at the Windsor and at the Princess Theatre and as many as twenty odd spirits at the State Library, which was built in 1854, some floating close to the ceiling like mist.

One of the most fascinating places we visited was where our guide Mr. Sinton said that there have been many claiming to hear motorcycle noises. There is nothing but one old red building and, many other new buildings around it, but when researched, it was discovered that about a hundred years ago there was a street at the exact spot where the building’s corridor now stands, and those vehicle noises seemed to come from there.

There were two kinds of people in our tour group, sceptics and believers, and Sinton says, sometimes it’s better to have sceptics than blind believers.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.