Haunted Ballarat

17 Apr

Following a disappointing experience at Sovereign Hill, we checked into our bed and breakfast accommodations where our hostess recommended to us a nice Italian restaurant for dinner (Table 48- excellent food) and gave us a bunch of brochures of attractions around Ballarat.

Among the brochures were several for ghost tours around the city. For only $25 per person, Eerie Tours offered an hour and a half’s worth of spooky entertainment, so we figured, why not? Neither of us had ever been on a ghost tour before and it was going to be a pleasant evening, so a walking tour seemed like a nice idea.

We met our guide, Benjamin, at 8pm at the train station, along with a group of about fifteen others, and headed off.

ballaratalley

A spooky alley by night. Apparently this alley used to run with blood, as it was used as a place for animal slaughter.

Our first stop was Reid’s Guest House. As we arrived, Benjamin was loudly telling a tale of hauntings as a few hotel guests were unloading their bags from their car. I wonder what they must have thought of hearing their overnight accommodations were haunted!

In this part of Ballarat, they raised the street level and so there are many buildings which are now underground and have other buildings built over the top of them. Reid’s Guest House sits on top of the original New York Bakery (which has been recreated in Sovereign Hill). Benjamin led us through a very narrow alleyway and down some stairs into a completely dark room.

He told us how people have reported seeing a woman wearing an apron covered in flour or how they can smell the aroma of baked goods when they enter the room. When he put on his flashlight, we could see we were standing right next to the original ovens, which haven’t been used in a very long time. I looked for a ghost, but I didn’t see one.

newyorkbakery

The ovens of the original New York Bakery

Our next destination took us down another alleyway, outside Cuthberts Solicitors. There is reportedly a “cold spot” inside where a young woman once died after her long petticoats caught fire and she burned to death and supposedly paranormal experts have taken measurements of the air temperature to confirm this cold spot. Additionally, some have reported seeing the ghosts of prostitutes waiting along the wall in the alley.

From there we made our way to the Phoenix Brewery. While H and I had been at dinner, he mentioned to our waitress that we had plans to go on the ghost tour and the waitress asked if we’d be going to the Phoenix Brewery, as “everyone knows it’s haunted”. Well, we did! According to our guide, it has a poltergeist. The establishment next door, the Haida, has also reported strange goings-on.

The Phoenix Brewery. Is it really haunted?

Benjamin told the story of a woman who worked there as a waitress when it was still Jack’s Restaurant. One night, as she went to close up and go home, she switched off the light and it immediately came back on. So she switched it off again and again it came back on. After switching it off several times to no avail. she gave up and decided to explain it to the manager in the morning. The manager was convinced her mind had just been playing tricks on her and went downstairs with her, where they found that the lightbulb had been carefully removed from it’s fixture and placed gently on the floor.

The incidents only ever seemed to occur when this particular woman was working. In another instance, she had just finished wiping down the bar and when she turned around, saw a lone glass had been placed on it, although there was no one else there.

Eventually, the poor girl decided the only thing to do was quit. On the day she quit, the manager reported hearing the bell on the door ding, as if someone had just come in or out, even though they were not yet open. When he turned to look, there was no one there. Perhaps the ghost followed the woman to her next job?

As Benjamin loudly told his story (he was quite the animated storyteller), the queue across the street for the Haida (some sort of disco club by the look of it) began listening with interest and as we moved on to our next stop, we could hear them exchanging stories of their own paranormal encounters there.

unionbankghost

The window where the ghost of Annie is reported to be seen.

The Union Bank was next on our tour. Here, Benjamin reported, many people had witnessed or photographed orbs of light or reported seeing a woman in the window. He told us the story of Annie, who had been in love with a banker’s son. When she found out he was to marry another woman, she became desolate and slit her wrists in the bathtub. Bank employees have said they can hear the sound of running water or a woman crying. Once again, I didn’t see a ghost or even a glowing orb.

Following that was Craig’s Royal Hotel, about which Benjamin had two stories. The first was about the founder, Walter Craig himself, who had a dream or a vision that his horse Nimblefoot had won the 1870 Melbourne Cup. When he went to congratulate the jockey, he saw the jockey was wearing a black armband. When Craig asked what it was for, the jockey explained to him that it was in memory of the horse’s owner, Walter Craig, who had died three months previously. As it turned out, Nimblefoot did win the race, the jockey wore a black armband, and Walter Craig did indeed die three months beforehand.

waltercraigballarat

The portrait of Walter Craig that used to hang in room 203. (Sorry for the flash- the photo was too blurry without it.)

The second story was about a businessman who stayed in room 203 and claimed that a portrait of Walter Craig had moving eyes and was trying to speak to him. He insisted the portrait be removed from his room and it now hangs in the lobby where it has not troubled anyone ever again. Perhaps the man just had a few too many drinks?

Our last stop on the tour was the Ballarat Gaol. What would a ghost tour be without a stop to an old gaol, anyway? We sat in a courtyard that had been used as the place of execution for many criminals (and probably a few innocents, as well). Benjamin told us how the people of Ballarat at one point objected to common criminals being buried in the same cemetery as honest citizens. Because of this, thirteen of the executed were buried in the courtyard, standing up and facing east so they could never see the sunset.

One of these was transferred to the cemetery and some time later, they attempted to exhume the other bodies and move them to the cemetery also. They were only able to find five of them, however, leaving seven convicted criminals unable to rest in peace below the brickwork of the courtyard. (Incidentally, Ballarat means “resting place” in Aboriginal.)

ballaratgaolhaunted

In the courtyard of the old Ballarat Gaol, Benjamin tells us gruesome stories of execution.

Despite not having any paranormal encounters (after watching the American show A Haunting so many times, I’m not sure I would want to), it was a very entertaining tour. I don’t know if any of these stories are true, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

Benjamin was an awesome tour guide. He was excited, passionate, and in character the entire time, never missing a beat. In my opinion, the quality of the tour guide is what makes or breaks the tour. In addition to all his great stories, he was always pointing out interesting things along the way, like the lack of a number 13 building on some streets or Masonic influences in architecture. And he was funny, making jokes and tipping his hat to strangers just to get a reaction. In some ways, he was the whole show. It was excellent!

We couldn’t have asked for better and we will probably do one of their other tours next time we are in the area. They have tours of the cemetery, as well as a carriage-drawn tour through the city. They also do a tour of the lunatic asylum in Ararat (our B&B hostess told us that one was exceptional) and a murder mystery tour in Daylesford. I’d like to do them all eventually! Highly recommended!

5 Responses to “Haunted Ballarat”

  1. astimegoesbuy April 18, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    Glad your time in Ballart got a little better!

  2. Janet May 2, 2013 at 1:09 am #

    The photo you have posted here (the photo of the window at the Union Bank) You said that you never seen an orb. Did you notice that there is an orb in your photo? 🙂

  3. Madi June 16, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    Hi
    I actually went on this tour last night with some of my friends and aunty.
    I think it was amazing!!
    At the end of the tour while we were in the courtyard at the Old Ballarat Gaol I took a photo of one of the corners of the courtyard but when I looked at this photo later on it seemed like there was a figure, not a human figure but the figure of a dog!

    All my friends saw this figure in the photo so I know it wasn’t my eyes playing tricks on me!

    I’m only 13 but I still really enjoyed it and think it was really interesting!! 🙂

    • housewifedownunder June 16, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

      I’m glad you had fun! I think ghost tours are a neat way to learn about the history of a place. That’s really cool about the photograph. Maybe there really is a dog spirit lurking about there!

      • madi June 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

        Yes maybe there is! I hope there is!!

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