Victoria is awash with fascinating things that go bump in the night, as Derek Ballantine discovers
BORN in 1861 in the Elephant Bridge Hotel at Darlington, on the road from Mortlake to Warrnambool, Adeline Eliza Satchwell maintained a stern presence there until her death in 1943.
When a bunch of rowdy shearers tried to force their way into the pub after hours, Adeline met them at the door with a loaded and cocked pistol.
"What would you boys be wanting?" she demanded.
Adeline, twice married, had 10 children.
She inherited the Elephant Bridge from her father and was publican of the quaint, bluestone hotel for 54 years, near the end of which she was Australia's oldest licensee.
She never left in life. And she is still there in death.
According to the new publican, Leone de Ferranti, who came from Adelaide to revive the hotel, the ghost of Adeline, whose surnames were later McLeod and Gellie, sits at a front corner window.
"I was shutting up," Ms de Ferranti said.
"I went to that corner, her favourite spot, and suddenly I felt uncomfortable.
"I took two steps back and the strange feeling stopped at once.
"I believe Adeline was communicating with me.
"I said, 'Okay, you've got your own corner', and I don't go back over there anymore."
Adeline is accompanied by three other ghosts at the Elephant Bridge, named after nearby Mt Elephant, a basalt hump on a flat plain.
Customers claim to have seen a girl of about 20, a man in his 30s and a young child, said to be the ghost of a little girl who drowned in the well out the back.
Ms de Ferranti maintains an open mind.
"It would be arrogant to assume we know everything," she says.
"Just because we can't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist."
Hauntings of houses, public buildings and cemeteries attract the derision of sceptics, but the close attention of believers, some of whom go to great lengths to prove the existence of ghosts.
Many believers claim to have seen or heard a spirit or felt its presence.
Some have been transformed from sceptics to enthusiastic ghost hunters because of experiences they can not explain - such as recent multiple sightings by security guards of a nurse among buildings erected on the site of the former Queen Victoria Hospital in Melbourne.
The nurse, an old woman, points to where the children's ward stood, saying: "That's where the bastard children are."
David Mann, an executive at radio station 3A W, had his confrontation with a phantom in the late 1970s.
Host then of the midnight to dawn shift at the old studios in LaTrobe St, he was surprised to find his office on the second floor unlocked � and then saw a figure in the doorway.
It was as if smoke had formed the shape of a man.
"It was not a threatening sight. I didn't hesitate moving towards it. I put my hand into the smoke, and he disappeared," said Mr Mann.
Keeping the experience to himself for fear of ridicule, Mr Mann eventually told Bob Quinn, the operations manager, whom he described as a conservative gentleman who would not entertain wild ideas.
To his surprise, his story was backed up.
"I know exactly what you're talking about," said the operations manager, who identified the ghost as Jim Archer, who had died in the studios, then on the second floor, in the 1950s.
Archer had been an affable man - as was his ghost.
"I'm not as sceptical about these things as I used to be," Mr Mann said. The State Library, a product of Victoria's prosperity in the Gold Rush, is reputed to be haunted.
Staff tell of a piano that plays by itself, taps that turn themselves off and on, a spectre in a white dress, a woman in red and an apparition on level 6 of the great dome, a cold and eerie place that might have been custom built for ghosts.
Probably drunk, Mr Rutledge had a fatal fall on the stairs of his mansion, Cooinda, which stood nearby, on December 17, 1858, but that was only the start of his troubles.
The horses pulling the hearse bolted from Cooinda in a thunder storm, stranding the coffin, which was then carried through the mud to the cemetery, after which it was accidentally dropped head first into the grave as the rain played havoc with the service.
Mr Rutledge must have been unhappy. He could be seen at the head of the stairs in the old Cooinda each December 17, according to an account left by one old-timer, but now he lingers near his headstone in the cemetery, pondering his disastrous send-off.
When Claire Sturt Lydiard, 17, drowned in the Moyne River at Port Fairy in 1898, her body was laid out on the bed of the nearest stone cottage.
Several subsequent owners of the house reported the appearance of a young woman in the bedroom, sometimes smiling, sometimes sitting gloomily on the bed.
"For believers, no proof is necessary. For sceptics, no proof is possible," says Drew Sinton, owner of the Haunted Bookshop in Melbourne.
Is he a true believer?
"Inexplicable things happen," he says.
"Lots of weird things are experienced by perfectly rational people."
Mr Sinton has investigated ghost stories in the company of priests, without success.
He says; "There is a saying in this world. The priest goes in the front door, the ghost goes out the back."
The Mitre Tavern in Melbourne had a ghost, former resident Connie Waugh, who was seen near her portrait.
The portrait was removed the ghost has gone.
Craig's Hotel in Ballarat remains home to its 19th century owner, Walter Craig, according to some locals.
Mr Craig famously had a premonition of winning the 1870 Melbourne Cup with his horse Nimblefoot, telling friends there was a curious aspect to his dream.
In it, Nimblefoot's jockey was wearing a black armband.
Shortly afterwards, Mr Craig died.
Nimblefoot won the Cup and the jockey wore a black armband - in memory of the rich publican who had foreseen his death.
Ghost hunters use thermographs and instruments for measuring atmospheric pressure, vibration, humidity and magnetic and electrical fields, as well as sound scanners and infra red telescopes.
The evidence produced by their efforts is not strong - fuzzy photographic images at best.
Built by a gold magnate in 1855, Fortuna was bought in 1871 by George Lansell, known as the Quartz King for the money he made from deep mining after the earliest alluvial gold was exhausted.
He expanded the house and his family lived there until 1935.
Occupied by the Australian Army's survey regiment for more than 50 years, the magnificent Fortuna's ghosts have been recorded by many soldiers and civilians over that period.
There is Mr Lansell, who appears as a bearded figure, and the voice of a woman, supposed to be Bedillia, his second wife, who died in uncertain circumstances. Mysteriously, locked doors are found open.
Temperatures fluctuate wildly. And duty officers long ago refused to sleep there.
"I know they are there. I have seen them," says cartographer Richard Arman.
He was new to Fortuna in 1986 when he saw a dark shape, a head and torso without legs, passing through the banister of the main staircase.
He and his colleagues continue to experience strange events, from footsteps heard at night, the tapping of a cane and, in some rooms, cold spots that make the hair on their necks stand on end.
Mr Arman says Fortuna at night occasionally smells of roses, though there appears to be no source.
A girl in her teens appears as a spectre, asking visitors to leave.
And a boy in a sailor suit revealed himself to a female soldier, disappearing when she called out for help.
"No one here ridicules you if you say you have seen a ghost," says Mr Arman.
"There have been too many sightings to leave anyone in doubt."
* STATE LIBRARY, MELBOURNE - A woman in white who patrols the children's book section, a lady in a red dress and a piano that plays itself are some of the ghostly experiences here. There is also a mysterious apparition, reported by staff members over many decades, on level six of the great dome.
* CRAIG'S HOTEL, BALLARAT - The publican, Walter Craig, dreamed of winning the 1870 Melbourne Cup with his horse Nimblefoot, but told friends the jockey in his dream was wearing a black armband. Craig died before the big race. Nimblefoot won, with his jockey wearing a black armband in memory of the publican.
* VILLA FORTUNA, BENDIGO - Fortuna, bought by gold mining magnate George Lansell in 1871 and turned into one of Victoria's finest mansions, is now occupied by the Department of Defence. Staff have seen the ghost of a young woman, probably Lansell's daughter, and smelled roses.
* ELEPHANT BRIDGE HOTEL, DARLINGTON - Built in 1842, the hotel is haunted by the ghost of Adeline Satchwell, daughter of the original publican. Adeline was born there in 1861, had two husbands and 10 children, and died there in 1943.
* PORT FAIRY CEMETERY - It is the spookiest cemetery in Victoria, according to a ghost hunter. One of the spectres is Lloyd Rutledge, who fell down stairs and broke his neck in a nearby mansion in 1858. In a botched funeral, the horses bolted and his body fell into his grave. He rises every December 17, the anniversary of his burial, to visit his old house.