3 July 2017

Canberra's ghosts, ghoulies, yowies and then some

| Suzanne Kiraly
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Growing up in Canberra, as teenagers we often had sleepover parties where it was customary to tell ghost stories and urban legends that scared the bejesus out of us all and ensured that no-one got any sleep.

The memories are fond ones, and in the ensuing years the legends, ghost stories, and myths popped up again on various occasions.

There was the trip to Sydney where you drove by Lake George and often heard the story about the mysterious disappearance of the lake. Apparently, it was connected with another mysterious lake in South America; the legend has it that when our lake empties, the other lake fills and vice versa.

Along with this, there was the mysterious Good Samaritan story that has been written about before in a past issue on The-RiotACT in 2005 where many people have told their stories of this ghostly presence. Here is one of them:
“My brother tells me of this time he was driving past Lake George … and saw this random guy, emotionless … standing by the road, but apparently when my brother turned his head to see the guy again he wasn’t there. He rang the car behind him [they were travelling together] and they said they saw him too. He was explaining this to our mother and she reiterated this story of a friend of hers. Apparently, this bloke driving around the same corner as my brother saw another bloke standing beside the road waving to slow him down. He slowed down and saw the results of a nasty crash … which he could have plunged straight into had he not slowed down. Anyway, the bloke picked up a paper the next day and got the shock of his life when he saw a photo of that same person who was waving to slow him down listed as killed instantly in that car crash.”


Then there are the ghosts who are reported to exist in our national buildings, like the National Film and Sound Archive, by staff who worked there. Given that it used to be the site which had formerly housed the Australian Institute of Anatomy, it’s easy to see where the legends might have emanated from. In any case, Tim the Yowie Man conducts tours there regularly and they are very popular indeed. In fact, his next few tours are all sold out already.

“Join Tim the Yowie Man for a rare look behind the spooky history of the NFSA headquarters. Discover the strange, the ghostly and the disturbing stories lurking in the basement and under the stairs … if you dare! A rare treat for lovers of the mysterious and macabre.” (From the NFSA website.)

Jeff Brownrigg, who has written a soon-to-be-published account of the haunting of the National Film and Sound Archive, writes, from first-hand experience:
“The decade of the 1990s was extraordinarily ‘disturbed’ at the Film and Sound Archive. Many people encountered things they couldn’t explain and sometimes a group of people was subjected to a visit from … could it be … spirits, that flung material about and were generally mischievous? I wondered at the time what the various Health and Safety legislation had to say about haunted workplaces. Not much, I discovered.”

I was recently reminded of these ghost stories, urban myths, and legends around the Canberra region again, when I took a Torchlight Tour of St John’s cemetery as part of the Heritage Festival last month. The tour was really special and ghosts were indeed mentioned in passing, though that was not the main thrust of the tour.

But there are many other buildings in Canberra that are also said to be haunted, such as the basement at Parliament House, certain private houses where horrible murders have taken place, and parts of ADFA. Added to this are sightings of the Yowie. (Tim the Yowie man can certainly vouch for that one!)

A friend of mine owned the Collector pub for a short period of time, and she said that there was a ghost – a woman who walks through their kitchen dressed in long, white robes and that many kitchen staff had seen her. I stayed overnight at the pub, and being the skeptic that I am I didn’t expect to see any apparitions, and I didn’t. But what I did experience were footsteps in the night and when I rushed to the door and flung it open – no one was there. Yep – scared the bejesus out of me.

Have you had any haunting experiences you want to share?

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Suzanne Kiraly12:45 am 05 Jul 17

Hey La_Tour_Maubourg, that would have been eerie! Strange time to be cycling though:-) Thanks for sharing.

La_Tour_Maubourg10:02 pm 04 Jul 17

Years ago, in the early hours of the morning (about 1-2 am) whilst cycling along Coppins Crossing Road, a sudden feeling of “being watched” and dread overcame myself and a mate when ascending from the crossing (Belconnen bound.) Both of us felt the same sensation at the same time and just had to get up and out of there. Nowhere else on the ride was this sensation experienced. Haunting? Not sure.

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