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Our ghost pubs

Herald Sun, Travel Section, 23 June, 2000, pp 1, 6-7
By Lawrie Francis

Drew SintonYou'll find more than kegs lurking in the cellars of Victoria's country hotels. Lawrie Francis reports.

Don't believe in ghosts? Well, get ready to change your mind.

Old pubs on the Central Victorian goldfields throw up ghosts of all ages and temperaments. Here's a guide:

Coach and Horses Inn, Clarkefield

This magnificent 1857 bluestone building has reported sightings of several ghosts.

Ghost No. 1 is that of Irish seaman Patrick Reagan, who jumped ship in Melbourne and struck it rich around Castlemaine.

He once stopped at the Clarkefield Hotel (as it was then known) and was robbed and killed.

Reagan's ghost has often been seen around the hotel, running down the stairs as though fleeing assailants.

Ghost No. 2 is a Chinese miner found hanged after a fight.

But most sightings have been of ghost No. 3, a girl who, it is said, was thrown down the hotel well by her father.

Many claim to have seen her, sobbing and pleading.

Don and Judy Buzmer took over the hotel in the early 1980s.

Don had heard the stories but scoffed at them.

But not for long.

Footsteps in the dead of night, glasses smashing, paintings flying about ... the Buzmers put the pub back on the market.

Current licensee Ian McIntosh, a no-nonsense type, says he does not believe in ghosts, but ...

"I always check the kitchen before I go to bed, especially the gas jets.

"Four times now I've gone into the kitchen next morning to find two of the seven jets turned on. It's always the same two."

The Cosmopolitan, Trentham

The ghost of a girl aged about 12 is said to inhabit this 1866 pub/B&B/restaurant/garden.

"One woman recently saw her skipping across the bedroom," owner Kristin Davies says.

"Others have felt her presence, and some have seen her looking out a window."

Red Hill Hotel, Chewton

This year someone found a $350 gold nugget in the dirt behind the Red Hill.

When the original owner was digging the foundations for this 1854 hotel, he found enough gold to pay for the rest of the construction.

You can still inspect the cellar but, beware, it holds some dark secrets, having been used as a police holding cell and morgue.

"There have been times, late at night, when I'm cleaning the bar and I see someone out the corner of my eye dashing up the stairs," manager Ron Atkins says.

"Or I'm down the cellar and hear the stairs creak, even though I know there's no one else in the pub.

"Sometimes I'm in bed and feel someone in the room watching me. There's definitely some presence."

Atkins also has experienced cold fogs in an otherwise warm hotel.

Scofields Hotel, Castlemaine

The 126-year-old former Commercial Hotel has two treasures: retired gold miner Max Cole and a ghost who insists on unlocking doors.

You'll find Cole, 74, in the bar, where he will regale you with mining stories and hoary old jokes.

This pub's ghost is a somewhat annoying character who persists in unlocking deadlocked doors at night.

"People have heard the doors open and shut at night, yet when they get up to check there's nobody there and everything is as it should be, apart from the deadlocks."

No one has seen the ghost, but the previous licensee experienced "some kind of presence and a blue flash" when cleaning up, says Cole.

Royal Hotel, Daylesford

At the Royal, built in 1856, a ghost regards the kitchen as his or her domain, to be defended with vigour.

Licensee Andrew Clark and wife Michelle have been shaken by several incidents.

Michelle was alone in the kitchen one night when a loaf of bread hurtled across the room.

"It flew horizontally off a shelf straight into the opposite wall. It certainly shook me up," she says.

"Another time a can of cooking oil slid across a level shelf. It seemed to move of its own accord.''

Kitchen hand Peter Campbell saw a dinner plate rise from a drying tray, hurl itself on to the hard floor without breaking, skid across the kitchen and down two steps into a passageway before stopping at a bedroom door.

A few weeks later a carving knife elevated from the drying tray and began spinning across the room towards him.

Campbell managed to deflect it, "but not before it gave me one hell of a fright".


Traveller's checks

Spooky spots (with distances from Melbourne): Coach and Horses Inn (51km), Sunbury-Lancefield road. Dinner/bed/breakfast from $70 a person. Call 5428 5391. Cosmopolitan Hotel - (92km), Woodend-Daylesford road. B&B, $110/couple. Call 5424 1616. Red Hill Hotel, Chewton (114km). Turn off Calder Hwy at Elphinstone. No accommodation. Call 5472 2541. Scofields Hotel (118km), corner Hargraves St and Forest St, Castlemaine. No accommodation. Call 5472 5422. Royal Hotel (110km), main street, Daylesford. Quality accommodation from $110 a couple (midweek), or $170 weekend. Some rooms with spas, and verandah access. Call 5348 2205.


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