While travelling grey nomads are known for seeking out everything from gold and gemstones to barramundi and birdlife, a growing number are also turning into ghost hunters.
And it seems there are no shortage of spooky spots to visit. The Outback is, of course littered with ghost towns and a look at Australian history quickly tells a story of violence, cruelty, and murder.
And that’s how ghost stories get started. Classic destinations with a haunted reputation include Hanging Rock in Victoria, WA’s Fremantle Prison, and Tassie’s Port Arthur, where more than 2,000 apparitions have supposedly been reported over the past two decades.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Even friendly-seeming destinations can send a shiver down a grey nomad spine.
Legend has it that there have been multiple sightings of a ghost who wanders the corridors and stairways of Queensland’s Cracow Hotel at night.
And then there is the iconic Marree Hotel in South Australia where many people have claimed to witness and feel strange, unexplainable phenomena. Staff have even said glasses have moved around by themselves and been thrown from the countertops in the bar area.
Legend has it that there have been a number of deaths in the hotel including a man who hanged himself in a room upstairs, and another man who was poisoned while spending the night. Yikes! This growing fascination with Australia’s haunted history has sparked a mini-industry for ghost tours. So, what’s behind the fascination?
A recent survey of Australians commissioned by the Centre for Public Christianity and undertaken by McCrindle, found nearly half of all respondents said they believed in ghosts. The authors concluded that the results suggested that Australians were surprisingly open to spiritual realities – in particular, the soul, meaning, and life after death.
Kylie Sturgess, who has a master’s degree in the measurement of paranormal beliefs, was more circumspect.
“Everybody has something about them which is not completely rational,” she said. “Cultures share stories and we see common messages and common themes no matter where we are … folklore and all kinds of things open up an understanding of the environment and people’s behaviour.”
Dr David Waldron, a lecturer in history and anthropology at Federation University, said ghost stories really told us a profound truth.
“They tell us about experiences and traumas people have had in their community, they tell us about the risks of certain types of behaviour, and about injustice,” he said. “Until we grapple with the past, these stories will continue to emerge and force people to come to terms with the traumas.”