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The ghosts of Macedonia

The Weekly Times, 28 June, 2006, pp 29-31
By Monica Jackson

Drew SintonEva Thatcher is a pragmatic woman of the world.

Well-travelled, educated and with a nous that automatically sifts out superstitious nonsense from reality.

But Eva has no doubt her new place of work - The Macedonia in Lancefield - is haunted.

She knows each of the three ghosts that inhabit the 55-room, three-storey, mansion, and is on a first name basis with one of them, Eleanor.

"I say good morning to Eleanor every day and ask her to keep an eye on things. She is my favourite house ghost," Eva declares.

In the few short months since Eva traded her city life for the country, she has encountered more of the supernatural side of life/death than at any other time in her 40-something years.

But she says she is totally relaxed about it. "I feel like I've come home," she says.

Eva has moved to Lancefield to manage The Macedonia Antique Centre, the new wine bar and restaurant.

The Macedonia was built around 1887 by a local engineer as a luxury guest house catering for travellers.

Lancefield did not have the gold found in central Victoria, or the natural beauty of towns with rivers and lakes. It had no mineral springs and the major farming activity was growing potatoes. Nothing sexy here.

But the hope that the town would boom was strong in the late 19th century when The Macedonia and other landmark buildings were built.

In 1881 Lancefield was linked to Melbourne and Bendigo via the railway line. In 1892 the Lancefield to Kilmore line opened, linking the town to Sydney until the closure of this line in 1904.

The boom, however, did not eventuate.

Eva says in the 1920s the mansion became a home for a family with five daughters and many servants.

Later it became a hotel where there was illegal gambling and card games.

"One of the regular gamblers we don't know his name but know he had a beard and was wearing a blue checkered shirt -lost everything he owned one night,"_ she says.

"When he realised this he stood on the table and hanged himself from the light cord."

A few years ago an electrician, who was hired by The Macedonia's new owner, saw a man in a beard dressed in what he thought was period costume a blue checkered shirt leaning over the balcony.

The electrician and the man had a long conversation and he was more than surprised when he learnt he had been alone in the building.

The man with the beard is ghost number one.

Eva says many people refuse to enter the room where he hanged himself - even before they learn about the death.

In the 1950s and 1960s The Macedonia was used as a clothing factory and the first floor became derelict.

"The army at some point took it over and used it for training. They built a pool and parts of the building still reflect the modifications they made," Eva says.

Years later it became a family home again.

"One of the servant girls who worked in the kitchen and lived in the top apartment, Eleanor, had a beau from Melbourne and she would often stand at the third floor window and wait for the love of her life to arrive.

"One day she was so excited at seeing him arrive that she rushed down the stairs to meet him, slipped and died."

The locals say they sometimes see her ghostly reflection in the window of the third floor.

She is ghost number two.

Ghost number three is a little boy, the son of one of the servants who was violently abused by the master.

"The master would beat him in a particular spot near the original kitchen and the little boy would cower under a table each night. That is the spot my cat refuses to go near," Eva says.

She says there have been many stories over the years about people being frightened or sensing a supernatural presence at the mansion.

In one instance, distressed residents fled in the middle of the night and the furniture on the third floor was mysteriously thrown out into the street.

But she believes the ghosts have welcomed her and they are happy with the new lease of life the current owner has given the Macedonia; that of antiques, art, fine food and wine.

"I've never felt better or more at home in my life," she says.


Ghosts rule the regions

Ghosts are nothing new to Drew Sinton, owner of the Haunted Bookshop in Melbourne.

He has been checking out ghost stories for the past 20 years and is a former field researcher for the Australian Institute of Parapsychological Research and a member of the Society for Psychical Research.

Among his more curious titles is the Australian ambassador of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula.

But he is philosophical about the existence of ghosts.

"I am not evangelical enough to say I am a believer but I've had some inexplicable experiences and met some very credible people who experienced them also," he says.

Drew has an extensive data base of ghost sites and sightings throughout Victoria. His list includes:

Airey's Inlet: Split Lighthouse. Rumored by many to be haunted but probably earned its ghostly reputation after the television series Around the Twist was filmed there.

Ararat: J Ward at Ararat Prison. Last year, paranormal researchers filmed a ghostly figure ascending stairs after receiving reports of orbs of light at the former prison for the criminally insane.

Bacchus Marsh: Bacchus House. Dame Mabel Brookes says she witnessed the ghost of a little girl with lank hair and long sleeves at the manor built by Captain William Bacchus.

Ballarat: Bailey's Mansion. The ghost of gold tycoon William Bailey is believed to haunt the historic mansion on the corner of Drummond and Mair streets.

Beaufort House. The ghost of a little girl holding a camellia was witnessed at the house by Melbourne fashion couturier Lil Wightman.

Craig Hotel. Strange presences have been reported by guests staying in the old Lydiard Street hotel believed to be haunted by former Ballarat councillor and developer Walter Craig.

Her Majesty's Theatre. Haunted by the ghost of a 16-year-old girl dressed in a white evening dress believed to be the daughter of pianist Caroline Eliza Lewis.

Bellarine Peninsula Spray Farm. Doors slam, mysterious footsteps are heard and eerie presences felt at the old Gothic-style house believed to be haunted by the ghost of original owner Fanny Clee.

Bendigo: Villa Fortuna. Occupants have smelled roses and seen the ghost of a young woman, probably the daughter of gold mining magnate George Lansell, who bought the home in 1871.

Golden Dragon Museum. The ghost of a weeping woman dubbed "the lady in red" has been seen wandering the rooms, apparently in search of a child she lost.

Castlemaine: Murrumbidgee Mary. A solicitor's office is said to be haunted by the ghost of an aboriginal woman called Murrumbidgee Mary, who died in 1926.

Clarkefield: Coach and Horses Hotel. Several ghost sightings in the 1980s, including one of a young girl, earned this hotel the dubious honour of being one of Victoria's most haunted locations.

Drysdale: Coriyule House. The ghost of Anne Drysdale, who died in 1853 aged 61, is said to be responsible for the ghostly piano playing and other supernatural happenings.

Euroa: Polly McQuinn Weir. The ghost of a young woman called Polly McQuinn, who drowned at the crossing more than 100 years ago, is believed to call out for help to horrified witnesses passing by.

Kilmore: Old Kilmore jail. Visitors have encountered an eerie presence, sudden chills and heard strange noises at the old site restored by new owner Glenda Deschamps.

Mornington: Mornington Cliffs. The spectral image of a skipping girl who fell from the cliffs aged five more than 100 years ago has been seen re-enacting her death.

Mt Elephant: Elephant Bridge Hotel. Haunted by three ghosts, including 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 a well nearby.

Port Fairy: Cemetery. The ghost of Lloyd Rutledge, who broke his neck in 1858, is believed to rise every December 17, the anniversary of his burial, to visit his old house nearby.

Cooinda House. Several owners have seen the ghost of a young woman smiling or sitting gloomily on a bed. It is believed to be Claire Lydiard, who drowned in 1898, aged 17.

Portland: Burswood House. For many years the ghostly image of the property's original owner, Anna Maria Henty, was seen in the rooms and corridors of this historic homestead.

Portsea: Peppers Delgany. Strange draughts, music turning on and off and the ghost of original owner, Harold Armytage, are among several supernatural occurrences at this seaside retreat.

Quarantine Army Base. Cadets report seeing a sailor called George, who died while working as a cook in the 19th century, strolling the old buildings of the old quarantine station.

Queenscliff: Wesleyan Church. Pictures turning upside down, objects being relocated and a spectral figure dressed in white are among the supernatural happenings.

Walhalla: The old gold town is believed to have Victoria's highest living-to-undead ratio, with at least five ghost sightings in a town of just 24 residents.

Winchelsea: Barwon Hotel. Staff and guests have encountered strange mists and the ghost of a moustached man in a stock hat at the bluestone property dating back to 1842.

Barwon Park. A strange moving light has been seen moving about the bedroom in which original owner Elizabeth Austin died in 1901.


Other Haunted Bookshop offerings you might enjoy ...

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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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