I love spooky, spine-tingling stories; but I also try to keep a hold on my imagination, not let it get the best of me. I’m all for science and theorems, but there a more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in Horatio’s philosophy, as Hamlet said.
All this is to say that if my life depended on it and a choice had to be made between sides for the ‘Yes, ghosts (or energies) exist’ or ‘No, they don’t’ debate… well, I would be on the ‘Yes’ side. It’s not clear cut, by any means. Perhaps that’s why I find the subject interesting.
This is why I put a ghost tour on my living list and luckily, this past Saturday night in the city, I got to explore my curiosity along with seven of my girlfriends.
We chose quite the night for it – by 11.30pm, the time the tour ended, the temperature had dipped down to four degrees. Our toes had gone numb and we were breathing in to our cupped hands to keep warm. I even rang ahead to Adam to get my hot water bottle ready for me by the time I got home to defrost.
So, atmosphere? Check.
Before the tour started, my friends and I got into the spirit of the occasion by going out to dinner and telling each other about our close encounters (if any) with ghosts in our past – and surprisingly most of us could speak in the affirmative. My humble story was this one. To this day I really don’t know what to think about it.
By 8.30pm we’d wandered down to The Haunted Bookshop on McKillop St and were ready to walk.
We were expecting fifteen, maybe twenty people. Not the massive group that showed up, equally keen on such a frosty night to be entertained. I noticed once our tour guide, Drew, owner of the bookshop, got out his walkie talkie/ megaphone that many local apartment dwellers came over to their windows to draw the blinds, well versed in the tour that has been running for fifteen years now (or perhaps it was a coincidence..)
Our tour began down at Bank Place, and we walked up it to the Mitre Tavern (where I’ve had a bevvie or five in my past…) There have been reports of a ghost of a singing woman up on the first floor, I think in the room you can see there on the end, where the windows are dark.
We wound our way along the streets, past the Medina Apartments that were once the Australia Post offices, location of the Queen St Massacre. Past the RACV building, a newish building, but can already boast its own ghost. We went down Niagara Lane, one of the oldest existing laneways in Melbourne, complete with its original cobblestones.
We found our way down in Hardware St, where you might say my interest was well and truly piqued. Why? See this photo.
For people who are new readers to this blog, Adam and I lived in the city for a month at the end of 2000 when we first moved to Melbourne. Right here at the ground level of 114 Hardware St. We loved the location, but the weekend noise from Pugg’s was unendurable (for me, anyway). Little did I know that they also – allegedly – have their own ghost in the bar area… not very far from where I slept! Let alone when I drank, as we did go there a lot back at that time! Right around the corner from here is Little Lonsdale St, the red light district of Melbourne’s formative years, with windy, skinny lanes between it and La Trobe St that housed horses and carriages in the Cobb & Co years. Ghostly clip-clops have been reported down such places as Flanigan Lane.
Via Flagstaff Gardens (a former cemetery – do people know as they lounge upon the grass on summer days that underneath are bodies? I certainly didn’t), the tour ends at Queen Victoria Markets, another burial ground. They’re a fascinating place to visit at night, ghost tour or not, to see everything packed up and ready for the next day’s trade.
Was I scared? Not in the slightest. Did I wish I had been? Well… I don’t know about that. I certainly appreciated the historical details and information that I learned in the course of over two and a half hours (which, for $20, was value for money). Additionally, the exercise and a night out with friends made it all-round fun.