19 August 2014

Duntroon– Extract from ‘A Case for Ghosts’ (Part 4)

| JGMontgomery
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History has shown us that ghosts and the supernatural seem to be commonplace and that a large percentage of people in the western world, indeed from all races and religions, not only believe in ghosts but have also experienced something that they believe is of a supernatural origin. Indeed, many people have reported the same supernatural occurrence happening at a specific place over a number of years thus legitimising their experiences, even though they have had no contact with others who may have seen, or heard, or experienced the same thing.

Can all these people be wrong? Are they deluded or deranged? Have they simply misinterpreted what they have experienced? In many cases, yes. And yet, there are still cases that defy explanation.


Duntroon is now the heart of Australia’s military heritage. Built in 1833 as a residence for the Campbell family it was established in 1911 as the Royal Military College and is situated on picturesque grounds at the foot of Mount Pleasant near Lake Burley-Griffen. The grounds themselves have numerous historically significant buildings with an example being the officer’s mess, known as Duntroon House, which is an imposing stone building built by the Campbell family as their house before the land was purchased by the Crown. Like Blundell’s Cottage, it is also reputed to be haunted.

Sophia Susanna Campbell was the daughter of George and Marianne Campbell. Born in 1857 she later died a mysterious death at the age of 27 after a fall from the upper window of Duntroon House. Suffering massive injuries and apoplexy, it took her a day to die and she was later buried in a grave marked by a marble cross in the family plot. Her ghost is reputed to haunt the room from where she fell, or was thrown, to her death, as well as the rose gardens that grow on the well manicured gardens next to the house.

Witnesses over time have reported a young woman dressed a long light blue dress walking the gardens looking sad and forlorn while others have reported seeing her walking along the top floor of the officer’s mess, again, a sad and forlorn figure. Indeed there are reports of the bed in her room appearing to be slept in when no-one has stayed in the room. Other eerie happenings according to Tim the Yowie Man are windows that bang, doors that shut of their own accord, and massive temperature drops in the room. As well a young officer cadet once reported that he had encountered a young woman in an older style blue dress in the hedge maze at Duntroon and that she had literally vanished before his eyes.

And yet, as interesting as these stories are, they pale in comparison to another story Tim later relayed.

Tim used to use a large black hearse for his ghost and mystery tours and on one of these the tour the group found themselves passing Duntroon house after midnight. At the time he was explaining to the tour group that it was common belief that Sophia had committed suicide by jumping from the room. This particular night however, he suffered a spontaneous nose bleed which spilt all over the interior of the converted hearse. According to him this was only the second time in his life that he had ever suffered a nose bleed with other time being when he first entered the room where Sophia died.

This coincidence disturbed him so he contacted a spirit medium who was able to remotely describe what she believed had happened in the past. Surprisingly as she described the place she became more and more depressed, especially when she moved away from the area of Sophia’s death. Finally she came to the opinion that Sophia did not commit suicide and was in fact pushed from the top floor by persons unknown. Tim’s nosebleeds were a sign from Sophia’s spirit to tell him that he was telling the wrong story of her death.

As we have seen, Sophia died of apoplexy or bleeding of the brain, a condition that often sees sufferers bleed from the nose or ears. Is it possible that Sophia was in fact trying to get her side of the story across? Was she, as Tim believes today, murdered? And did the medium stumble across a nasty little secret from Canberra’s rural past?

Interestingly, there is a story attached to the Sophia Campbell story and concerns the existence of a diary that is supposedly hidden somewhere in Duntroon House. This diary is reputed to details all the facts surrounding her death and that one day it will be found and the truth revealed. Annoyingly, but really not surprisingly, the spirit medium failed to pick up the whereabouts of the diary. But then again, it is probably just a story.

Just as interesting is the rumour that Sophia was pregnant to the gardener and had been later rejected by him, leading to her throwing herself out of the window to her death. This rumour is fuelled by the fact that there is the grave of a baby next to hers. However, there is no evidence to support this theory. As well, it has also been suggested that she was murdered by her very own family for seeing a man whom her father objected to. However, once again, this is false as her father died four years previous to her own death.

And so, whatever the case, Sophia Susanna Campbell sadly died and her ghost is now common knowledge in Canberra folklore circles.

Extract taken from A Case for Ghosts by JG Montgomery (Ginninderra Press 2012). His latest book, WYRD- A Personal Journey Into the Beliefs and Philosophies of the Known and Unknown (CFZ Press Devon England) is now available. A new book Meditations in Orange is now available through Pendragon Publishing & Design.


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