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Heard of the Ben Chifley Ghost? – A look at Canberra Folklore

By 15 July 2014 24

tunnel-ghost

If you’ve lived in Canberra for any amount of time, you would have a ghost story or two up your sleeve. It seems that Canberra may well be the most haunted city in Australia.

Since taking up residence in the Capital, I’ve heard several rumours about supposed secret tunnels. I’ve heard just about everything: Old Parliament House to The Lodge, Parliament House to the Lodge, Parliament House to DFAT, Parliament House to PM&C, and the list goes on. A credible source did tell me that there are tunnels from APH to the Lodge and DFAT, as well as quite a fancy bomb shelter underneath APH. I’ve tried sweet-talking some security guards and AFP officers up at the House but they’ve remained tight lipped.

Recently I visited the Royal Australian Mint and was told that there are two resident ghosts. One appears more often than the other. Reportedly, if you go down to the basement after hours you can often hear someone whistling as they work. Staff at the Mint believe that this is a former employee that worked at the Mint for over 40 years. I’ve also heard that there are a few ghosts at the National Film and Sound Archives (it used to be a morgue!) and that they tend to party and cause a bit of ruckus at night time.

There are many claims that the ghost of former PM Ben Chifley still hangs out at Hotel Kurrajong. The PM suffered a massive heart attack there one evening (he chose to live at the Hotel, rather than at The Lodge) and passed away. Since then, visitors have reported seeing an older man in a grey suit pointing towards Old Parliament House. If indeed these reports are true, what could poor old Ben Chifley be trying to tell us?

New contributor Alexandra Craig is a twenty-something who has a not-so-secret obsession with cats. She works as a political adviser, collects vintage teacups, and wishes she was Stevie Nicks.

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24 Responses to Heard of the Ben Chifley Ghost? – A look at Canberra Folklore
#1
watto239:33 am, 15 Jul 14

I’ve lived here 38 years and never ever heard of any ghost story in Canberra, maybe its a new thing we tell the newbies who come here to live……

#2
Alexandra Craig10:05 am, 15 Jul 14

watto23 said :

I’ve lived here 38 years and never ever heard of any ghost story in Canberra, maybe its a new thing we tell the newbies who come here to live……

Really?! Not even anything about Old Parliament House? Apparently security guards refuse to do certain shifts there because the ghosts give them a hard time.

#3
ExarKun10:23 am, 15 Jul 14

I’ve been through every room in Old Parliament House, including sub floor and on the roof and I never caught site of or heard any ghosts. Security didn’t mention them to me either. Maybe the ghosts only come out to play after hours though.

#4
justin heywood10:27 am, 15 Jul 14

…..visitors have reported seeing an older man in a grey suit pointing towards Old Parliament House. If indeed these reports are true, what could poor old Ben Chifley be trying to tell us?

Maybe old Chif is pointing to where the light on the hill used to be…

Or maybe he is saying that if he was still a train driver, our new light rail would go in that direction.

#5
Alexandra Craig10:29 am, 15 Jul 14

ExarKun said :

I’ve been through every room in Old Parliament House, including sub floor and on the roof and I never caught site of or heard any ghosts. Security didn’t mention them to me either. Maybe the ghosts only come out to play after hours though.

Yeah, from what I’ve heard it’s the security guards on nightshift that get hassled. I’ve heard that they’ve been poked and pushed around, even had their radio walkie talkie things thrown across the room!

#6
Maya12310:44 am, 15 Jul 14

Ghosts only ‘appear’ to people who believe in them. Funny that!

#7
Alexandra Craig10:48 am, 15 Jul 14

justin heywood said :

…..visitors have reported seeing an older man in a grey suit pointing towards Old Parliament House. If indeed these reports are true, what could poor old Ben Chifley be trying to tell us?

Maybe old Chif is pointing to where the light on the hill used to be…

Or maybe he is saying that if he was still a train driver, our new light rail would go in that direction.

Hahaha, I like the light rail theory! Maybe he’ll start hanging around the Legislative Assembly to offer Simon Corbell a helping hand.

#8
John Moulis11:09 am, 15 Jul 14

Alexandra Craig said :

watto23 said :

I’ve lived here 38 years and never ever heard of any ghost story in Canberra, maybe its a new thing we tell the newbies who come here to live……

Really?! Not even anything about Old Parliament House? Apparently security guards refuse to do certain shifts there because the ghosts give them a hard time.

There was a thread on RA in 2008 where we thoroughly canvassed this issue of secret tunnels, ghosts, etc. It was one of the most popular stories on the site and extended for around six pages.

#9
John Moulis11:11 am, 15 Jul 14
#10
RadioVK1:54 pm, 15 Jul 14
#11
Alexandra Craig1:58 pm, 15 Jul 14

John Moulis said :

http://the-riotact.com/top-secret-military-bases-in-canberra/6622

Found it!

Thanks for sharing! I had a quick scroll through, there’s definitely a lot of interesting stories/theories out there. Will have a more indepth read later on. Can’t wait! :)

#12
dungfungus2:08 pm, 15 Jul 14

Alexandra Craig said :

ExarKun said :

I’ve been through every room in Old Parliament House, including sub floor and on the roof and I never caught site of or heard any ghosts. Security didn’t mention them to me either. Maybe the ghosts only come out to play after hours though.

Yeah, from what I’ve heard it’s the security guards on nightshift that get hassled. I’ve heard that they’ve been poked and pushed around, even had their radio walkie talkie things thrown across the room!

Jim Beam does that to you sometimes.

#13
robcrisp2:13 pm, 15 Jul 14

I’ve heard that there are tunnels under the John Gorton Building to somewhere.

#14
Pistachios2:49 pm, 15 Jul 14

We were going to do a Riotact ghost hunt years ago but it was shut down by the former owners.

It would be fun to do one now if the new owners approve.

#15
TheBusDriver3:24 pm, 15 Jul 14

Everybody loves a good story about secret tunnels. Canberra is a place of many dark and mysterious dealings, so it is no surprise that there might be a few bits of underground architecture we don’t know about. Over a long week end I was told a tale or two that I take with a grain of salt, but would find intriguing if they were true.
It began in a pub, as many tall tales usually do. I was tasked of course with being a designated driver. So I was sober while my drinking mates and most of the crowd were not. Somehow we got talking with a guy who piped up when my little rent a crowd mentioned we were from Canberra. We were down the coast at the time. Anyway this fellow did the usual “I hate politicians” and “All Canberrans are public servants” chats that all of us are sick of hearing about. Then we got on to the subject of Old Parliament House and ghosts and so on. He mentioned he had heard from a friend who knew of a secret tunnel that ran from OPH under the lake to Russel.
It would seem that my drunken acquaintance had talked with this fellow who was an urban explorer, a sort of chap that sticks their nose into places they should not be then photographs the crap out of it and leaves no trace of ever having been there. This urban explorer and a bunch of others had explored tunnels under New Parliament House which were basically storm water drains with some manholes leading up to the surface and were not that exciting. I figured he was telling the truth about that because most drunkards would excaurate if it was a Furphy. Then he told how one night the urban explorers snuck into the tunnel under the lake. They found an entrance near the national gallery.
Apparently the tunnel goes from under OPH from the basement beneath the prime minster’s office right by the northeast corner, (here https://www.google.com.au/maps/@-35.3024028,149.1306411,30m/data=!3m1!1e3) north then east to the old DFAT / John Gorton building, where there was a foyer under the front staircase. Then it ran under the road north between the high court and the national gallery, under the lake, right beneath the Carillion and on up to Russel. It is said to be a circular 8-9foot round concrete pipe, with cable ducts down one side, a small automated document delivery tube down the other and a flat floor. It was built before the lake was filled apparently. After the lake filled there was a pump system to keep it dry, but when OPH stopped being used, the tunnel was only used as a cable duct and a big concrete plug was put in place to stop the water from the lake flooding the tunnel.
Apparently two of these urban explorers were chatting with some guys who were retrofitting out an old communications bunker under the old DFAT building who confirmed the story. Later on the two snuck down into the bunker because the exit door in the car park had been left unlocked. One of them later went on to get into the tunnel system on the south side of the lake.
So, interesting story. Any truth to it? I started to Google and found an old RA thread that confirmed nothing other than there was a bunker under the old DFAT building. I found links to an old ABC story on the bunker confirming it once existed. There is mention of it in the ghost tours that used to run in Canberra by Tim The Yowie Man. Not much else.
This guy was pretty convincing. It was one of those “friend of a friend” stories, but it was intriguing never the less. It certainly made for a good long week end yarn. Far more fun than driving bus.

#16
Alexandra Craig4:36 pm, 15 Jul 14

That’s awesome and so interesting! I wonder if the tunnels ever get used for official purposes anymore…

#17
Maya1236:29 pm, 15 Jul 14

For those interested in tunnels, this might be of interest. The tube line. This went from Parliament House to the Government Printing Office in Kingston.
http://www.naa.gov.au/about-us/media/media-releases/2008/34.aspx

#18
Maya1236:34 pm, 15 Jul 14

More information on these ‘Lamson tubes’.
http://moadoph.gov.au/blog/who-was-lamson-of-the-tubes/

#19
astrojax6:35 pm, 15 Jul 14

If indeed these reports are true, what could poor old Ben Chifley be trying to tell us?

that way madness lies..?

#20
Maya1237:02 pm, 15 Jul 14

More information on Lamson tubes.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPDc5ohiEdY

Apparently they can still be bought.
http://airtubes.com/airtubesystems.html

#21
Peter Holland8:31 pm, 15 Jul 14

Alexandra, a worthy place to start to gain some fairly interesting insights about canberra’s ghosts is a locally published book called ” A Case for Ghosts” published by Ginninderra Press. (RA did a review on it a couple of years ago – http://the-riotact.com/book-review-a-case-for-ghosts-by-j-g-montgomery/82053)

#22
justin heywood8:56 pm, 15 Jul 14

Peter Holland said :

Alexandra, a worthy place to start to gain some fairly interesting insights about canberra’s ghosts is a locally published book called ” A Case for Ghosts” published by Ginninderra Press. (RA did a review on it a couple of years ago – http://the-riotact.com/book-review-a-case-for-ghosts-by-j-g-montgomery/82053)

Yes indeed, written I think by much-missed former RA regular Thumper

#23
Alexandra Craig8:18 am, 16 Jul 14

Peter Holland said :

Alexandra, a worthy place to start to gain some fairly interesting insights about canberra’s ghosts is a locally published book called ” A Case for Ghosts” published by Ginninderra Press. (RA did a review on it a couple of years ago – http://the-riotact.com/book-review-a-case-for-ghosts-by-j-g-montgomery/82053)

Thanks! I will have to check it out :)

Maya123 said :

More information on these ‘Lamson tubes’.
http://moadoph.gov.au/blog/who-was-lamson-of-the-tubes/

This is awesome. Thank you for sharing!

#24
Alexandra Craig12:00 pm, 16 Jul 14

Something I didn’t get to mention in my article (damn word limits!) was that a friend had told me that poor Katie Bender still wanders around. Not sure if she supposedly wanders around Lennox Gardens area or on the other side of the lake where the hospital was. Has anyone heard anything similar?

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