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Bodies in Lake Burley Griffin

Alexandra Craig 19 April 2016 23

lake burley griffin

Lake Burley Griffin has had its fair share of bodies, acting as a watery grave for several unfortunate souls in the last century. Some met foul play, one woman’s body was found 14 years later and ruled as a suicide. She was still strapped into her car, basically a skeleton, but her clothes were still mostly intact and even some flesh remained.

However, legend has it that there are still some bodies down there. The people that once occupied these bodies did not meet foul play, nor was Lake Burley Griffin their first resting place.

The 1976 floods in Queanbeyan hit the Riverside Cemetery pretty badly, pulling coffins out of the ground and washing them away. It’s said that these coffins went all the way upstream and now reside in the depths of Lake Burley Griffin.

I’m not aware of any official record confirming their existence, however, I presume that if in fact they are down there they are probably decomposed and not ‘coffins’ anymore.

I’m not 100 per cent sure how many coffins were washed from the cemetery, or how many made it to the lake. I’ve heard varied numbers, some people told me they thought it was between 10 and 20, others are confident it was over 50.

I’d be curious to know if any of these coffins were spotted after they made their way to the lake, or perhaps spotted on their way to the lake, and whether any photos of exist.

As I said, I suspect they are no longer intact so even if someone went on a diving mission I think it would be highly unlikely that anything would be found – perhaps some bones could be salvaged from the mud.

Adding to the grisly history of the lake, I’ve heard stories about human waste from the morgue in Kingston being released into the water in the mid-1980s due to a plumbing mix up.

All in all, and paired with the blue-green algae and abundance of carp, the lake is looking less and less appealing… and some people swim in there!


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23 Responses to Bodies in Lake Burley Griffin
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Smithers Smithers 11:15 am 20 Jul 15

Alexandra Craig said :

oh_ said :

Ive hear people say, rumors, that at least one body or bodies have been found bagged and/or with concrete attached to feet, which implies either activity of organised crime or perhaps the spy community? I have no evidence though so it may be urban legend.

The body of Kathryn Grosvenor was found in the lake weighed down by a concrete bollard which was traced back to Gungahlin. There are a few witnesses that claim they saw men loading the bollard into a ute but unfortunately this crime still remains unsolved. http://www.police.act.gov.au/crime-and-safety/unsolved/kathryn-grosvenor

Yes, apparently. Although since then, there have been a few witnesses, many witnesses, , an assortment of cars in various colours, men knocking on doors, various rumours, more rumours, and over a decade since what I suspect was a botched old school-factioned style investigation that only had one theory. And when no evidence turned up to support it, we were left a family divided by suspicion, and silence ever since. There is so much I would love to ask of this investigation, though given how it ended for eastman, I think I’ll wait for someone else in my family to get fed up first. Blessings.

MysteriousQbn MysteriousQbn 4:41 pm 02 Jul 15

There are many, many stories surrounding the flooding of Queanbeyan Riverside Cemetery – some true, some urban legends. What’s certain is that there have been a number of them of the years; the first recorded in 1852 and the other significant flood event that ‘washed away tombstones’ in 1925 (see below).
Along with the local records, there are mentions in the various books written on Queanbeyan’s past and I’ve also interviewed people who were present and/or involved during some of these natural disasters.
The floods of 1974 and 1976 are often confused because the Cemetery was inundated in both, but it was the flood of ’74 in which graves were washed away. While some information suggests as many as 200 graves were affected (rather than coffins – people were not always buried in coffins in early times), there was most certainly more than 50 and Cemetery records/research determined it was a minimum of 71 and perhaps as many as 100 (see link below for article written the following year).
The primary reasons for the discrepancy are that (a) there are untold numbers of unmarked and unidentified graves still within that Cemetery and so it was impossible to determine precisely how many had been so rudely disturbed by Mother Nature, and (b) many were never recovered.
In terms of bodies making their way into Lake Burley Griffin, I have accounts from people as highly regarded as former Federal Member for Eden-Monaro Bob Whan, of this too occurring.
A memorial erected by Council does stand in the Cemetery in honour of those who’s final resting place was known to have been so affected.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/110660054?searchTerm=%27queanbeyan%20flood%20cemetery%27&searchLimits=

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/192604897?searchTerm=%27queanbeyan%20flood%20cemetery%27&searchLimits=

Alexandra Craig Alexandra Craig 8:34 am 01 Jun 15

oh_ said :

Ive hear people say, rumors, that at least one body or bodies have been found bagged and/or with concrete attached to feet, which implies either activity of organised crime or perhaps the spy community? I have no evidence though so it may be urban legend.

The body of Kathryn Grosvenor was found in the lake weighed down by a concrete bollard which was traced back to Gungahlin. There are a few witnesses that claim they saw men loading the bollard into a ute but unfortunately this crime still remains unsolved. http://www.police.act.gov.au/crime-and-safety/unsolved/kathryn-grosvenor

oh_ oh_ 9:27 pm 29 May 15

Ive hear people say, rumors, that at least one body or bodies have been found bagged and/or with concrete attached to feet, which implies either activity of organised crime or perhaps the spy community? I have no evidence though so it may be urban legend.

creative_canberran creative_canberran 5:16 am 29 May 15

“The 1976 floods in Queanbeyan hit the Riverside Cemetery pretty badly, pulling coffins out of the ground and washing them away.”

There was a flood in 1976, but it only submerged the cemetery. The floods that washed graves away occurred in 1974 and earlier in 1923.

The 1974 flood didn’t pull coffins out of the ground, but caused subsidence where the land just washed away leaving huge gouges in the land.

“It’s said that these coffins went all the way upstream and now reside in the depths of Lake Burley Griffin.”

Downstream, unless they put Scrivener Dam at the wrong end.

“I’ve heard varied numbers, some people told me they thought it was between 10 and 20, others are confident it was over 50.”

It’s on the public record that in 1974, it was 50, many thought to be over a century old at the time and therefore what was washed away was at a very advance stage of decomposition. There was nothing to retrieve in those cases.

One woman lost the graves of 7 relatives.

Over 120 graves were lost in the 1923 flood.

“I presume that if in fact they are down there they are probably decomposed and not ‘coffins’ anymore.”

Common assumption, but being underwater acts as a preservation method for many types of wood.

Alexandra Craig said :

From what I read, they recovered around 63 bodies for reburial.

The link says “63 bodies and body parts were reburied” not bodies.

There’s no myths, there’s just historical facts, easily found in primary resources.

wottaway wottaway 7:07 pm 28 May 15

I remember when the Queanbeyan Leagues Club burnt down and it was flooded in a lower level virtually the day it reopened.I thought that that particular flood also caused damage to graves in the cemetery.This was pre Aug.’73.

Conan of Cooma Conan of Cooma 11:59 am 28 May 15

bryansworld said :

I remember it being a Ford Cortina, and the lady concerned was a hairdresser. Not sure how she got so far into the lake in a car! It was near the Yacht Club.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/cold-case-womans-body-lay-in-lake-burley-griffin-for-14-years-20141018-10rhrn.html

bryansworld bryansworld 11:23 am 28 May 15

Hacketthead said :

I can remember when the skeleton was found in the car. It was so long ago, maybe 1994? I didn’t realise it was a suicide. The story I remember hearing was it was somebody who had too much to drink at a Christmas party in the 1970s and vanished without a trace, until the car was found.

I remember it being a Ford Cortina, and the lady concerned was a hairdresser. Not sure how she got so far into the lake in a car! It was near the Yacht Club.

Alexandra Craig Alexandra Craig 8:35 am 28 May 15

dungfungus said :

Alexandra Craig said :

curlylocks said :

Like Tulip, my Grandmother’s Grave also was washed away with the floods. And my mother too still has a very hard time over it. No where to go to say hello no where to go to just stop and reflect what could of been, no place for me to go to say hello to my Grandmother I never knew.

That’s very sad 🙁 In one of the articles linked in the comments it says an estimated 200 graves washed away – that is a very large number, and a lot of sadness for 200+ families.

If you don’t mind my asking, do you know if there was any support provided by the local government to the affected families?

The lake should have been drained after the flood and the remains recovered, with dignity. It is probable that a lot went over the spillway into the Murrimbidgee and beyond.

From what I read, they recovered around 63 bodies for reburial. But, – and this isn’t meant to be insensitive, so I hope no-one takes offence – is it possible that the majority of the 200 were so decomposed by the time they got to the water in the first place that it was pretty much impossible to recover them? I couldn’t find any information on specifically which graves were lost and how long they had been buried for, so it’s hard to tell.

dungfungus dungfungus 5:57 pm 27 May 15

Alexandra Craig said :

curlylocks said :

Like Tulip, my Grandmother’s Grave also was washed away with the floods. And my mother too still has a very hard time over it. No where to go to say hello no where to go to just stop and reflect what could of been, no place for me to go to say hello to my Grandmother I never knew.

That’s very sad 🙁 In one of the articles linked in the comments it says an estimated 200 graves washed away – that is a very large number, and a lot of sadness for 200+ families.

If you don’t mind my asking, do you know if there was any support provided by the local government to the affected families?

The lake should have been drained after the flood and the remains recovered, with dignity. It is probable that a lot went over the spillway into the Murrimbidgee and beyond.

Conan of Cooma Conan of Cooma 11:02 am 27 May 15

Don’t forget the remains of the local Aboriginal population, there are extensive cave networks that were flooded by the lake and by all accounts the area was high in spiritual significance.

Alexandra Craig Alexandra Craig 9:09 am 27 May 15

curlylocks said :

Like Tulip, my Grandmother’s Grave also was washed away with the floods. And my mother too still has a very hard time over it. No where to go to say hello no where to go to just stop and reflect what could of been, no place for me to go to say hello to my Grandmother I never knew.

That’s very sad 🙁 In one of the articles linked in the comments it says an estimated 200 graves washed away – that is a very large number, and a lot of sadness for 200+ families.

If you don’t mind my asking, do you know if there was any support provided by the local government to the affected families?

curlylocks curlylocks 10:13 pm 26 May 15

Like Tulip, my Grandmother’s Grave also was washed away with the floods. And my mother too still has a very hard time over it. No where to go to say hello no where to go to just stop and reflect what could of been, no place for me to go to say hello to my Grandmother I never knew.

Alexandra Craig Alexandra Craig 9:39 pm 26 May 15

Dame Canberra said :

Tulip said :

The coffins/bodies/skeletons (however you would like to word it) of my grandparents were lost in the 1976 floods and were not recovered. It affected my Mum greatly at the time and still does. As stated by another rioter I am also unsure of the purpose of the article. I think that you will find that it has the opposite response to what you are expecting – a bit of fun? a laugh? Certainly not.

Sorry to hear that happened to your grandparents, Tulip. How awful.

I didn’t read Alexandra’s article as trying to poke fun or have a laugh about a sensitive topic. I think she’s simply exploring a side of the lake’s history (including the urban legends) that many Canberrans, even those who’ve lived here for many years, aren’t aware of.

Dame Canberra is correct – article was intended to explore the history of the lake and the urban legends, with the hope that some commenters might be able to share some knowledge or memories of past events. Because most of what I mentioned happened long before the internet was widely used, it’s difficult to find out more information on past events so a forum such as this can be really helpful. The article wasn’t at all intended to poke fun or be humorous so I apologise if it was read in that context.

carnardly carnardly 8:36 pm 26 May 15

and between Friday night and Monday 2 bunches of flowers appeared at the centre of the southbound lane of the bridge.

coincidence? Another jumper? person with depression? someone knows. we probably won’t. remember, bodies are people with families and loved ones.

Hacketthead Hacketthead 7:26 pm 26 May 15

I can remember when the skeleton was found in the car. It was so long ago, maybe 1994? I didn’t realise it was a suicide. The story I remember hearing was it was somebody who had too much to drink at a Christmas party in the 1970s and vanished without a trace, until the car was found.

Dame Canberra Dame Canberra 4:20 pm 26 May 15

Tulip said :

The coffins/bodies/skeletons (however you would like to word it) of my grandparents were lost in the 1976 floods and were not recovered. It affected my Mum greatly at the time and still does. As stated by another rioter I am also unsure of the purpose of the article. I think that you will find that it has the opposite response to what you are expecting – a bit of fun? a laugh? Certainly not.

Sorry to hear that happened to your grandparents, Tulip. How awful.

I didn’t read Alexandra’s article as trying to poke fun or have a laugh about a sensitive topic. I think she’s simply exploring a side of the lake’s history (including the urban legends) that many Canberrans, even those who’ve lived here for many years, aren’t aware of.

Tulip Tulip 4:04 pm 26 May 15

The coffins/bodies/skeletons (however you would like to word it) of my grandparents were lost in the 1976 floods and were not recovered. It affected my Mum greatly at the time and still does. As stated by another rioter I am also unsure of the purpose of the article. I think that you will find that it has the opposite response to what you are expecting – a bit of fun? a laugh? Certainly not.

dungfungus dungfungus 3:11 pm 26 May 15

I think you mean the coffins went downstream.

MERC600 MERC600 2:05 pm 26 May 15

The dear old Queanbeyan cemetery, has over the years, lost a number of its clients due to floods.
The ACT needed someone to be vigilant ‘ Turn back the coffins ‘ could have been the catchcry

http://www.interment.net/data/aus/nsw/southerntablelands/quean_river/

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