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Ghost town: There's something spooky about Melbourne reports Terry Brown

Saturday Herald Sun 16 January, 1999, pp 24
By Terry Brown with photography by Tim Carrafa

Drew SintonThey're as common as carparks in the CBD and come in bulk at the Queen Victoria Market.

Their haunts are varied, these chicken farmers, cleaners, nurses and pioneers. But they all have one thing in common, they've got no body.

City bookshop owner Drew Sinton turned an obsession into a profession when he became a 'ghostbuster'.

In a fat folder which will become a book, he is compiling dossiers on Victorian ghosts.

And Mr Sinton says he knows of about 50 spooks in the CBD, 100 in the suburbs and perhaps 70 more in rural Victoria.

Flicking through the folder, he reels off a catalogue of ghostly doings.

'(John) Batman's ghost has been seen on Batman's Hill, where they're building the Grollo tower,' he says.

'The Old Melbourne Gaol has goodness knows how many ghosts.

'The Vic Market has about five ghosts.

'The Flagstaff Gardens has the ghost of a nurse.

'In Royal Arcade, on the first floor, there's a woman on a spinning wheel.

'The National Gallery has a musical sort of ghost.

'Greater Union has the ghost of a cleaner.

'Tasma Terrace, where the National Trust offices are, has a buxom woman.'

There's no shortage of reports, and it's a deadend job he relishes.

You won't catch Mr Sinton speaking ill of the dead. 'You're dealing with a person . . . a person without a body,' he says.


'You're dealing with a person ... a person without a body'

From his base at the Haunted Bookshop where harpsichord music swirls amid fake cobwebs, rubber hands, ouija boards and dark dictionaries of black magic, Mr Sinton studies the supernatural.

He tries to keep dealings with the disembodied dead breezy.

You won't find him hurling holy water or screaming 'out, foul demon'. Mr Sinton has little time for 'strongarm' exorcists.

For starters, he believes not all ghosts want to move on.

And most problem spirits can be dealt with politely. 'Ask them nicely,' Mr Sinton suggests. 'People don't realise they can do that. Some people are taught to think you've got to throw holy water around.'

A Bulletin magazine poll in a frame at the shop shows 46 per cent of Australian women and 34 per cent of men believe in ghosts, and angels.

And Mr Sinton is not alone in his efforts either, with associates including a lawyer-turned-psychic.

Together they venture out, in the city and suburbs, investigating reports of hauntings.

The pair believe women, and children, are more sensitive to ghosts.

The clairvoyant picks up feelings to help establish why spirits are haunting and what they want.

About six new calls for help come in each month.

Some people want help to rid their home of ghosts, but many just want reassurance they are sane.

'These are ordinary people, not nutcase people,' the clairvoyant says.

'Hauntings are far more common than people realise.'

The clairvoyant grew up believing in ghosts. It was easy. She says her Essendon home was haunted.

'It was really weird. Outsiders thought they'd see a lady and think it was my mother.'

The ghost would sometimes watch over her twin sisters, or sit on the bed.

'It was an old Edwardian house,' the clairvoyant said. 'I believe the spirit was a woman who died there and never had children.'

Mr Sinton and his clairvoyant don't have the time to investigate every report so they choose the more interesting ones.

And they say ghosts can be as ordinary and confused as the living.

'We went to a place last week where the people were frightened - but the ghosts were having a lot of fun.' Mr Sinton said.

'They were dancing, which accounted for the banging.

'Another ghost followed a couple around, through three houses from Northcote to Werribee.

'In Footscray, there was a chicken farmer who was haunting his family. It turned out he was annoyed that they'd got rid of his chickens.'

That spirit vanished when his family got some new chooks, but Mr Sinton said not all hauntings were so easily fixed or clear cut.

'There are ghosts in houses who think they are the ones being haunted by the living,' he said.

The Haunted Bookshop runs ghost tours and acts as a magnet for people with bizarre beliefs.

Serious books claiming the existence of fairies angels, demons, magic and monsters fill the shelves, and some customers are as strange as the books.

Mr Sinton said he used to give talks on vampires, which drew young gothic girls wearing fangs custom-made by a Swanston St dentist.

He laughs and says they looked 'really cute', like 'dead pixies with little teeth in'.

'You get the tree-hugging witches, you get the vampire folk, the gothic community,' Mr Sinton says.

'This place attracts all kinds of certifiable characters.

'You get people from the bible belt who seem to come here to either save me or destroy me.

'And we get Satanists ... They're some of the nicest people you'd meet.'


City haunts

Block Arcade
Flagstaff Gardens
Francis Hotel, Lonsdale St
Greater Union theatres Russell St
Grollo Tower site, Batman's Hill
Hopetoun Tea Rooms Collins St
Melbourne Town Hall, Swanston St
Mitre Tavern Bank Pl
National Gallery of Victoria, St Kilda Rd
Old Cobb & Co building Lt Lonsdale St
Old Melbourne Gaol, Russell St
Old 3AW offices La Trobe St
Princess Theatre, Spring St
Queen Victoria Market(5 ghosts), Elizabeth St
Royal Arcade, first floor
Rydges Hotel, Rm 1002 Exhibition St
St Vincent's Hospital, Victoria Pde
State Library of Victoria Swanston St
Tasma Terrace National Trust offices
Windsor Hotel Spring St

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Gothic Grimoire
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"When you have bought your fill of paranormal books, tarot cards and occult jewellery, you can come back at 8.30 pm on a Saturday for one of Sinton's very popular ghost walk tours of Melbourne" - Narrelle Harris, author Witch Honour

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