With Australia's dark past there's no shortage of haunted houses - dare to take a tour this Halloween?
'When I walk through this park during the day, I see people lying on the grass, and I want to ask them 'Do you know who you're lying on, six feet under?''
We're standing in the middle of Flagstaff Gardens ' one of the oldest parts of Melbourne and one of the earliest cemeteries ' as Haunted Melbourne Ghost Tour guide Drew Sinton makes this disturbing remark.
Dressed in a black robe and hat, Sinton cuts a startling figure seemingly from a bygone age. He's standing on the steps of a Gothic monument to colonial pioneers in the chilly darkness, as some bats pass theatrically above his head.
'The State Library is the most haunted building in Melbourne,' pronounces Sinton as we continue the walk, even though no deaths have ever been reported at that grand building on Swanston Street.
His theory is that ghosts from the now-demolished Queen Victoria Hospital crossed the road to more comfortable lodgings.
But it's not the only place with added spirits: starting from Sinton's own Haunted Bookshop, we also visit the Mitre Tavern, the cobblestoned Niagara Lane, dimly-lit Flanigan Lane (haunted by a horse!) and Cobb & Co's old coach house.
In Sydney, Colleen Harrison guides The Rocks Ghost Tours, and is similarly spoiled for choice with spooky locales. 'We talk through stories of murder, suicide, hangings, hauntings and ghosts, in the birthplace of Australia,' she says.
Tours start from the humble Cadmans Cottage and take in historic structures like the Harbour Bridge, the Observatory and heritage pubs, including the Hero of Waterloo, with its rumoured smugglers' tunnel.
Another place the tour passes is Dead House, Sydney's first morgue. 'A clairvoyant in The Rocks has seen the ghost of a man in a bloody apron there,' adds Harrison. 'She calls him The Butcher.'
Lisa Senescall has had her own eerie experiences while leading the Haunted Brisbane Ghost Tour. 'I tell a story about a young newspaper boy who was killed in a tram accident. Then, when I went through the locked gate to the site one night, there was an old newspaper there ' with a date of 1921.'
The tour moves through Brisbane's business district, passing such notable haunted buildings as City Hall and the Treasury Hotel, and crosses over the Brisbane River to South Bank.
It also takes in the Treasury Casino, where a decanter of expensive whisky has a habit of being mysteriously moved.
'They believe it's the ghost of an old man who was once a regular,' says Senescall. 'A security guard once walked in just as the whisky had been poured, and saw the bottle return to the bar without a hand holding it.'
Tasmania's Glenn Shipp leads the Launceston City Ghost Tour, which commences at the historic 1851 Royal Oak Hotel and traces a route through the city's laneways and alleyways, taking in the Coffin Room, where convict-era corpses were laid out. The pub at the starting point is haunted by Cyril, who was once its handyman.
'He had a nasty accident one night. He went out to meet his loved one, but his horses were spooked and the cart fell on top of him, and he was decapitated,' says Shipp. 'Now his ghost appears in the basement of the hotel.'
In South Australia, PrismTeam Haunted Tours takes an investigative approach to spectral sightings in its Haunted Tour of Adelaide, which takes the ghost hunter to such haunted places as the Tiki Cafe and Hindmarsh Cemetery. Another spooky location is the old Hindmarsh Rectory.
'We started investigating the rectory in 1999, after a call from a gentleman who used to rent the place,' says Laurie Pearce. Upon research, he discovered that a small girl had died in the front room when a candle got too close to a curtain.
When they got inside, a curious piece of evidence showed up. 'In a fireplace we found a photo of a girl fitting the description: white dress, blonde hair.' Participants are advised to bring a torch, camera, video camera with night vision and an air thermometer so you too can enter the world of the paranormal investigator.
The Old Adelaide Gaol has plenty of ghostly activity. 'We once heard footsteps there, walking down the stairs beside us; you could feel the steps shaking, but see nothing.'
Old prisons are focal points for restless spirits. Sharyn McCaskey leads the Torchlight Tour of Fremantle Prison in Western Australia, and shares numerous ghost stories touring the convict-built facility. The tour members visit the main cell block, the solitary confinement area, and the original whipping post and gallows.
'He's a big burly man,' she says of a prisoner who returned as a surprisingly solid spectre. 'He walks up to ex-prison officer guides and says 'Excuse me boss, can you tell me where everybody is?''
And it's not only prisoners who are drawn back from the other side. 'There's a former prison officer who still does rounds,' says McCaskey. 'He'll flash his light at you, and even pulls back the eyeholes in cell doors.'
McCaskey believes it's the oppressive nature of the old prison that led to so many ghosts appearing within its walls. 'When you're living under that level of heightened sensitivity, you can't help but leave some of that energy behind.'
Do you believe? Happy Halloween.
Haunted Melbourne Ghost Tour
Tel: +61 (3) 9670 2585
Adults AU$20, concession AU$18 for a two-hour tour.
The Rocks Ghost Tours
Tel: +61 (2) 9247 7910
Adults AU$34, teens AU$27 for a two-hour tour.
Haunted Brisbane Ghost Tour
Tel: +61 (7) 3344 7265
AU$25 for a 90-minute tour.
Launceston City Ghost Tours
Tel: +61 (421) 819 373
Adults AU$25, teens AU$15, children AU$5 for a 90-minute tour.
Haunted Tour of Adelaide
Tel: +61 (8) 8356 2538
Adults AU$85, concession AU$80 for a three-hour tour (by bus with dinner and a drink).
Torchlight Tour of Fremantle Prison
Tel: +61 (8) 9336 9200
Adults AU$23, children AU$13 for a 90-minute tour.