This job will have you shaking in your boots

Duck for cover during a horror movie? Shudder at the thought of spending a night in a haunted house? If you scare easy, then spare a thought for those that have to earn a crust by working in some of the country’s most haunted buildings.

From abandoned prisons to eerie old quarantine facilities, these real-life Aussies reveal their beyond-the-grave tales, some of which are guaranteed to leave you with the chills.


Bubonic plague, smallpox, typhoid and Spanish influenza; as a quarantine facility, Q Station has a dark place in Australia’s history. It was set up on Sydney’s North Head in the 1830s to isolate newly arrived migrants carrying contagious diseases. During its 150 years in operation, 600 or so unfortunates died here, and if you believe the stories, many of them still walk its eerie hospital wards, abandoned cottages and burial ground.

As a quarantine facility, Q Station has a dark place in Australia’s history.Source:News Corp Australia

Sara Wilkie has been a guide running the site’s regular ghost tours for the last nine years, and over that time she’s experienced brushes with the paranormal that would cause even the most hardened sceptic’s hair to stand on end.

“If you consider how many people died here and in such awful circumstances, the level of activity we have isn’t surprising,” she says. “On most tours either I or one of the guests experiences something. The most common incidents are hearing your name whispered, growling in the morgue, feeling someone (or something) standing behind you in the showers, something brushing your hair or feeling like someone is tugging on your clothes.

About 600 people died at Q Station.Source:istock

“You never know who in the group will have an experience and how it will effect them. Often they won’t mention it until the very end of the tour and quietly pull you aside — it’s almost as if they are embarrassed to admit what occurred!”

Now a hotel and heritage site, Q Station is renowned by many as Australia’s most haunted hotel. The original buildings that still stand are said to house an array of spirits, with the ghosts of several nurses and a top hat-wearing mortician regularly sighted.

“There have been many strange happenings in the gravedigger’s cottage especially,” continues Sara. “Many are related to ambience, but some are of a more physical nature. Invasion of personal space and foreboding atmosphere are the most common.”

Sara Wilkie has been a guide running the site’s regular ghost tours for the last nine years. Picture: Adam Yip / Manly DailySource:News Corp Australia

But Sara’s scariest encounter was during one of the regular “sleepover” tours in the Asiatics — the area of the station where migrants of Asian descent were housed.

“We were talking about their sad history,” she recalls. “When suddenly different members of the group reported seeing something crawling along the wall near the roof — then at the back of the room and then on the stairs. They were terrified! The atmosphere in the room felt so … threatening. That’s the only word to describe it. As quickly as it started it was over, but I will always remember the looks of absolute terror on those guests.

“One thing is for sure — our tours help people realise there’s more to life and death than meets the eye!”



Murderers, rapists, suicides and public executions; the heritage-listed Maitland jail in East Maitland, NSW, has a blood-soaked history. Once housing some of the country’s most dangerous criminals, this is where 16 men met their maker courtesy of the hangman’s noose. And now, perhaps understandably, the restless spirits of those incarcerated and executed here don’t rest easy, with visitors and staff reporting disembodied voices, strange noises, cold spots, apparitions and closing doors.

“A staff member that has worked here for over 15 years regularly hears footsteps in our office area,” says tour guide Zoe Whiting, who began working at the jail eight years ago. “She swears the steps become louder and louder, like someone is pacing back and forth.”

Maitland jail has a blood-soaked history.Source:Supplied

Opening to prisoners in 1848, the jail’s last execution was in 1897, though Maitland would continue to operate for another 101 years, during which time it played home to drug baron George Savvas, gangster John Hayes and notorious backpacker serial killer Ivan Milat. By the time of its closure in 1998, Maitland had become the longest continuously run prison in Australia — and the most haunted.

“Interestingly the newest area of the site, which was completed in 1993, is a location of many encounters for staff and visitors,” continues Zoe. “We now recognise that the building has its ‘angry’ days. The 80-kilogram doors will bang up and down the corridors, even on the stillest of days weatherwise, but interestingly not bang on wetter, stormier days.

“Also, we get a lot of local children from schools visiting, and many of the smaller kids report being greeted at the front gate by a young girl dressed in ‘old clothes’ with wild curly hair, a white dress and always wearing a bonnet.”

Backpacker murderer Ivan Milat’s former cell at Maitland jail.Source:News Corp Australia

Thrillseekers can tempt fate with a spooky encounter by joining one of the regular Torchlight Psychic Tours or Ghost Hunting 101 evenings held at Maitland. But while Zoe admits there’s something about the strange atmosphere of the place, she’s yet to be convinced it’s a result of restless spirits.

“I’m not sure the site has changed my thoughts about ghosts yet,” she muses. “But with 150 years of history and the characters this place would have seen, there’s no doubt there is some sort of energy left behind. It’d be a great help from a research perspective if a ghost did tap me on the shoulder one day — I could ask them some questions I’ve never been able to answer about the old jail.”


Tales of illness, insanity, punishment and execution from within the 3.5-metre-thick walls at the former Port Arthur maximum security prison still abound to this day.

Here, doors open and close by themselves, phantom footsteps and unearthly noises are heard, and misty figures are sighted regularly.

Given the moniker “hell on earth” by its convict prisoners — men, women and the insane — Port Arthur was known as one of the worst prisons in the British Empire.

During its 47 years as a penal settlement, more than 1000 people died — fatalities that have resulted in more than a few supernatural residents. In fact, more than 2000 separate incidents have been recorded in the past two decades alone — the same time that Suzanne Fowler has been working as a ghost tour guide at the site.

The now derelict prison for convict labour in Port Arthur, Tasmania was originally constructed as a flour mill. Picture: istockSource:istock

“A standout incident was on a tour a few years back,” recalls Suzanne. “It was going well until about halfway through when I heard a bit of a commotion toward the back of the group. A couple were deep in conversation and the husband appeared agitated and upset. He told me that as he and his wife were walking past a house he saw a little girl dressed in old-fashioned clothing. She was skipping towards him, and she went straight through his body and continued on!

“I had never experienced someone who was so visibly upset … he seemed to have actually aged. He then started to cry and hyperventilate and refused to stay.”

Ghostly children are among the otherworldly experiences regularly reported, as is crying in the solitary “separate prison” and disembodied faces appearing in the dissection room under the surgeon’s house. But one of the main focal points is the parsonage where the restless spectre of a former vicar is said to reside.

The former maximum security prison held both men, women and the insane. Picture: IstockSource:istock

“I remember locking up there one evening and seeing a black figure move across one of the doorways,” says Suzanne. “Thinking that someone had snuck into the house, I went to check and the room was empty!”

After 20 years of experiences like this, Suzanne finds it harder and harder to dismiss the paranormal activity as simply the product of an overactive imagination.

“Initially, I was fairly sceptical about spirits,” she admits. “But after hearing reports of encounters from visitors from all over the world and experiencing these things myself, my eyes are open to the possibilities.”


Situated in the beautiful rolling hills of Beechworth, Victoria, the dilapidated old Beechworth Asylum is at odds with its idyllic setting.

Once one of the largest asylums in Australia, Beechworth became the setting for more than a century of untold human suffering and death after its opening in 1867.

More than 9000 recorded deaths occurred during its working life (with many undoubtedly going unrecorded), and since closing in 1995, countless tales about things that go bump in the night have been documented — from phantom figures roaming halls to the sickening smells of rotting flesh.

“I’ve always had some level of belief in things we don’t yet understand,” said Geoff Brown, co-owner of the popular history and ghost tours business that operates out of the decommissioned asylum.

Situated in the beautiful rolling hills of Beechworth, Victoria, is the dilapidated old Beechworth Asylum.Source:News Corp Australia

And while Geoff admits to already having had a brush with the supernatural, nothing compares to his encounters since starting the business four years ago.

“I debunk everything if I can,” he says. “If it could be possums or the sound of an old building settling or water dripping in cavities in the wall, then that is what I put it down to. But some things … well, some things I just can’t explain away, and they can’t be put down to anything else but the supernatural. Shadows moving where there’s no light — and certainly no one to make the shadow in the first place, footsteps in hallways in locked buildings, voices out of empty rooms, and even my name called on one occasion.

One worker claims he’s seen shadows when there’s no light.Source:News Corp Australia

“One time I was out doing a live feed on our Facebook page. I placed an EMF meter (used by ghost hunters to register electrical activity) on a rough concrete floor and proceeded to ask questions when it lit up. That’s fine. I expect to get answers on the meters after four years of using this same equipment. What I don’t expect is for the EMF meter to slide backwards on the floor by itself! That’s not what I wanted to see, in the dark, alone, in one of the most haunted locations in Australia.”

These days the asylum offers ghost tours, paranormal investigations, horror-film screenings and spooky sleepovers for fright-loving visitors who want to risk their own sanity for an encounter with one of the many troubled spirits who call this foreboding structure home.

These days the asylum offers ghost tours, paranormal investigations and horror-film screenings.Source:News Corp Australia

“Some of these entities had known nothing but the asylum for their entire lives, so where else would they feel at home?” rationalises Geoff. “But one thing’s for sure, closing up here you definitely don’t want to be the last staff member here come night time!”

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