30 Sep 2021
Updated October 2022.
Easily scared? Nothing beats a good ghost story at Halloween!
Gathering around the campfire to exchange close encounters of the supernatural is a tradition shared around the world. Sending shivers down your spine, goosebumps across your body, and that eerie sensation that you’re not alone, ghost stories are alive and well in Australia - especially at this time of year!
Whether you’re a fan of the paranormal or not, stories of haunted houses add fascination to any trip. Enjoy this ghoulish shortlist of some of Australia’s most famously haunted tourist attractions!
Fremantle Prison, WA
In stark contrast to today’s image of Fremantles' hip arts and music scene, Fremantle Prison is a haunted house from a bygone era. Otherwise known as ‘The Establishment,’ it was first erected as a convict barracks in 1859. The scene of various tortures including public hangings, floggings, prison breaks and riots, it remained in use as a state-funded gaol until 1991.
One of the more popular stories from this heinous era is the case of Martha Rendell, the last woman to be hanged in Western Australia, in 1909. Convicted of murdering three of her de facto husband’s children, Arthur (14) Annie (7) and Olive (5), she is said to have swabbed their throats with hydrochloric acid, causing them to swell, become unable to eat and starve to death - an agonising way to go.
Down the years there have been multiple sightings of her face in the prison chapel’s windows and today tours by torchlight are run where visitors can listen for the voices of the three small children, as well as hundreds of long gone prisoners.
Monte Cristo Mansion, NSW
Built in 1884 by farm owner Christopher Crawly, The Monte Cristo Mansion is said to be one of Australia’s most haunted estates. Following Crawly’s death in 1910 from a combination of heart failure and blood poisoning, the Victorian-style homestead was passed on to his grieving widow.
Unable to cope with her husband’s death, Mrs Crawley would spend the rest of her life as a recluse inside its stately walls, reportedly leaving the house only twice until her death from a ruptured appendix in 1933, at age 92.
After being abandoned for more than a decade when the last member of the Crawly family died in 1948, it was refurbished by Reginald and Olive Ryan in 1963 and turned into a museum for tours (including a creepy looking selection of vintage dolls).
Said to be haunted by at least 10 different ghosts, Mrs Crawley continues to inhabit the home, roaming from room to room and judging anyone who dares to enter. Visitors to Monte Cristo regularly report strange goings on, ice-cold sensations and inexplicable headaches. A chain of tragic events occured at the house and are reported to be triggers for all manner of paranormal activity. These include a maid plummeting to her death from an upstairs balcony, a stable boy burning to death in his straw bed because he was too ill to move, and the tragic tale of the disabled son of another maid who ended up in an asylum after being chained to his mother’s bed! Oof.
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Port Arthur, Tasmania
As a World Heritage-listed site on Tasmania’s wild east coast, the Port Arthur Historic Site is one of Australia’s best-preserved penal settlements.
Beginning life as a small timber station in 1830 to capitalise on convict labour, it was known to contain some the most hardened British criminals and had some of the strictest security measures in place.
During its 47-year run as a penal settlement, it is said to have borne witness to over 1000 deaths, the souls of whom have never moved on.
Ghost sightings and stories of the paranormal have been commonplace ever since, with reports of unexplained events and baffling incidents since the late 19th Century. For the brave, the site holds lantern-lit ghost tours where visitors can explore the grounds under the cover of darkness and get a rare peek inside Port Arthur’s dark, strange but fascinating history.
Adelaide Arcade, South Australia
Built in 1885, Adelaide Arcade is Australia’s oldest indoor shopping mall and the first established in South Australia.
Needlesss to say, the Arcade has had its fair share of tragedies over that time, including the one surrounding Francis Cluney, the Arcade’s caretaker who met with a horrific accident in 1887.
Reported to have either slipped or been pushed into one of two flywheels of an old gas engine, he became entangled and unable to escape, leading to a ghastly death.
According to local historians, his ghost still walks the arcade today and it was claimed to have been captured in security footage as recently as 2008. A small boy is also on record as having died by a suspicious gas inhalation in 1902, and a young lady was shot in the back by her husband in 1904, leading to his hanging at Adelaide Gaol. Unusual incidents, shadowy figures, sounds of children playing and reports of footsteps in the adjacent Gays Arcade have been common ever since.
A popular ghost tour still runs to this day and includes a visit to the dimly lit old tea room beneath the Arcade floors.
Aradale Lunatic Asylum, VIC
Before our awareness of mental health improved, mental asylums were hellish places for patients where a variety of disorders were “cured”.
The Aradale Lunatic Asylum in rural Victoria was built in 1865 and initially served as the Ararat County Jail before converting to a home for the criminally insane.
A 655-acre site consisting of 65 heritage-listed buildings, at its peak Aradale provided a secure treatment facility for over 1000 patients. Operated until its closure in 1993, during that time staff inside this building administered terrifying procedures on its patients, resulting in over 13,000 deaths!
Paranormal activity here includes regular sightings of a mentally ill German cook, a young boy who wanders endlessly, and a nurse who appears hopelessly lost in the halls. Visitors to its twice-weekly tours regularly claim to be scratched, pinched and pushed by a number of apparitions.