While Halloween has always been more of a North American and European tradition than one observed in Australia, the holiday that isn’t really a holiday is becoming quite popular and widely-celebrated Down Under, and even for those of us who don’t partake in trick-or-treating or fancy dress, the last week of October has become a time where an interest in all things spooky and supernatural is piqued in many.
By coincidence, Brisbane is actually a pretty spooky place to live. Maybe it is its harsh convict beginnings or (initial) isolation from the majority of Australia’s population in the southeastern corner, but whatever the reason, our city is home to a raft of haunted places… if you believe in those things and the accounts of those who have claim to have seen paranormal activities.
Do you believe in the supernatural? Whether you do or don’t, there’s plenty of places to explore further for the curious… and not-faint of heart…
Just down the road from South Bank adjacent to one of the city’s latest urban renewal hotspots, the site of Brisbane’s only surviving colonial prison is one of the city’s most well-known spooky spots. Opened in 1883, the jail soon became notorious for housing some of Australia’s worst criminals, with a special wing for inmates serving life sentences. It was also one of a handful of Australian prisons to carry out executions prior to abolishment of capital punishment (including the only execution of a woman in Queensland). Noted for its poor and unsanitary conditions (most notably the lack of toilets and the subsequence use by inmates of buckets), prisoner protests and strikes became common towards the end of its tenure as a facility and in 1989 it was finally closed and prisoners relocated to more modern (and distant) centres. With such a dark past – even for a prison – it is no wonder that reports of ghosts on the grounds of the now heritage-listed site have been common as the years have gone by.
St Helena Island
With Boggo Road a hub of urban legends, it should be no surprise then that its predecessor is also noteworthy for being allegedly haunted. Sitting in the middle of Moreton Bay five kilometres from the mainland, this tiny island gained infamy quickly after its 1867 opening for being among the toughest of the tough colonial jails, with many inmates being sent there from the main prison in what is now the Petrie Terrace area for particularly serious crimes like murder and highway robbery (those committing the latter being better known in Oz as “bushrangers”). In keeping with the macabre feeling the site still exudes to this day, many of the prisoners were forced after a day’s hard labour (usually farming or stonecutting) to sleep in the hulk of the very transportation ships that had taken them there, and the sharks that to this day still swim the nearby waters made escape difficult and dangerous. Inmates and wardens alike were in agreement that it was impossible to escape from the island. Needless to say, the ghosts of a number of prisoners are said to lurk in amongst the ruins where the stone cells once stood, still trapped by the mangroves, sharks, and/or the long swim to freedom. Like its big brother on Boggo Road, you can take a ghost tour – this one at night! – with narration about the souls who are still said to be here on this small isle, serving their sentences for all time.
Most cemeteries have a reputation for being spooky places to be, and Brisbane’s oldest one is no exception. More than 120,000 people have been laid to rest at Frederick Street site since its beginnings in 1866, including Prime Minister Frank Forde, eleven Premiers of Queensland (including Henry Forgan Smith who later became the Chancellor of the University of Queensland), prolific colonial explorer Augustus Gregory, iconic author Steele Rudd, and nearly 400 military personnel killed in action. Its close proximity to the city and its sweeping hillside views make it a popular location for photography and filming, but at night it is believed by many that the souls of those buried on the grounds make themselves known. Among the most widely-told stories is that of “Spook Hill”, where the ghosts of two girls who died in a car accident will pull and push on any cars that are left idling in their corner of the cemetery, while many others persist.
A haunted house in leafy, quiet Newstead? Yes, and one of the neighbourhood’s oldest houses, according to legend. Notable pastoralist William Leslie built the house in 1846, but its most famous resident was Navy Captain John Wickham (whom Wickham Terrace is named after), who bought the house a year after it was built and through his family’s standing and social influence quickly turned it into a meeting place of the high society of the Moreton Bay Colony as well as a place visited by many local and international public officials. But as years passed, the mansion has become more noted in modern times as a site of a high level of paranormal activity. Curtains are said to have blown about on still nights, furniture and other items moved to other places, and lights flickering out and back on again without warning. It is thought that much of these strange happenings are the doing of a ghost named The Pink Lady, who may have been a maid or home help at some time during its colonial years. Luckily, many paranormalcy buffs believe The Pink Lady is a benevolent spirit that wishes no harm on any living beings – which is probably why the house is still used regularly for public events and functions despite these unsettling happenings!
But the former residence of Captain Wickham is not the only stately manor with a spooky reputation. Out by the bay at Wellington Point is another supposedly haunted address, this one built in 1889 and first home to colonial sugar magnate Gilbert Burnett and his family. Over time it also housed local politicians before becoming a hospital for many years, but the original inhabitants are believed to have never left. At various times in history, the ghost of Gilbert Burnett was claimed to have haunted the premises, while other stories circulating claim that ghost sightings are actually that of his wife or one his children, or even someone who once worked there (either during its days as a mansion or hospital). Regardless of who the ghost is – or ghosts! – the tales of spirits still residing in their old house persist to this day. To find out more about the history and haunting of this Redlands landmark (and which stories are more common or accepted as possible than others), this article here is a fascinating read.
Source; "Brisbanite" (http://brisbanite.com.au/a-brisbanite/our-spooky-city-the-haunted-haunts-of-brisbane/)