Ghosts. Fact or fiction? Imagination or sometimes grim reality?
Every city has its share of unexplained mysteries and manifestations, and North Carlton ghost hunter Drew Sinton is finding that Melbourne's northern suburbs are up there with the best of them.
His investigations take him to Victorian terraces and Edwardian houses, the occasional grand mansion, a single-fronted timber cottage, even a park.
Behind the most matter-of-fact facade can lie the unexplainable.
Many of the stories which come his way are tragic, some bizarre. He keeps an open mind, gathering material for a new book on local ghosts.
Hunt for ghostly goings on
Crumbling castles, mouldering manor houses, dungeons that have resounded to the sounds of clanking chains might be rather thin on the ground in Melbourne.
But here, in the northern suburbs, are places apparently favoured by visitors from the Great Beyond, seeking to recapture the atmosphere of a well-loved home, to re-live some traumatic incident, or maybe to find the answer to puzzles which still mystify them.
They range from a grand mansion to a single-fronted cottage and include a street.
And 'ghost hunter' Drew Sinton is getting to know them all.
From his North Carlton home (no, that's not haunted) he follows up reports of sightings and other strange manifestations. He doesn't use the term 'supernatural' preferring to regard them as natural events for which we haven't yet found an explanation.
There's certainly nothing eerie or foreboding about Drew, a young writer who gained most of his experience in the commercial field, and now is preparing a book about local ghosts.
A member of the long-established Institute of Parapsychology, Drew takes a scientific but open-minded approach to his investigations. In four years he has sifted through some sixty reports.
Some have tragic overtones like one of Melbourne's most famous ghost stories concerning two-storey house in Barker's Rd, Kew. There, on several occasions since the early '20s, shocked passers-by have seen a boy falling from an upstairs window.
Investigations have revealed that a child, locked in his bedroom as a punishment, decided to escape through the window down a rope of sheets, but accidentally hanged himself.
Since the 1860s, the ghost of John Batman has been reported in Smith St, Collingwood, not far from the house once owned by John Pascoe Fawkner, his rival for the title of Melbourne's founder.
Also on Drew's list is a house in Church St, Richmond, once occupied by Eureka hero Peter Lalor.
And there's the place in Moreland Rd, Brunswick, once the address of 'baby farmer' Frances Knorr, who would accept foster infants, take the money allowed, murder them and then apply for more. She was also known as the 'Shoebox Murderess' because the bodies of many of her tiny victims were placed in boxes and thrown into the Yarra. Others were interred in the back garden to be discovered later by horrified new tenants.
Over in Queen's Park, Moonee Ponds, the curator's cottage was said to be haunted by the ghost of a young girl who died in the influenza epidemic in 1919, when it was used as a temporary hospital.
Some of the reports strike a humorous note.
There's a poltergeist nicknamed Mrs Beeton who occasionally throws about pots and pans; another of a ghost apparently attracted by the aroma of potato pie.
The most bizarre report would have to be the case of the moaning mattress. Bought at a local market it terrified the children who slept on it, and was found to have come from the deathbed of its previous owner.
Drew stresses that he is a 'ghost-hunter not a ghost buster'. He regards every report as worth investigating, wants to hear them all, and can be contacted on 9670 2585.