Ghosts really do exist, at least according to some ... and they're haunting a suburb near you.
The day is warm and Drew Sinton is chilling. The "ghost hunter" is standing in the new city store he manages, a dimly-lit den called The Haunted Bookshop, telling bone-tingling tales of the supernatural.
"As you walk down the street, who's to say that every person you encounter is real?" Mr Sinton matter of-factly asks, looking a little other worldly himself with his pale skin and long, bobbed hair.
"You could be walking past spirits and not even know it."
There are those who believe in ghosts, those who don't and those who are not sure. Mr Sinton is a believer.
For years he has investigated reports of ghosts haunting everything from high-rise flats and spanking new houses to picture theatres, pubs and plots of land.
A few months ago, Mr Sinton, a one-time journalist and copywriter, gave a talk at Burwood Community Centre on hauntings when a man confided in him.
The man told him a room in his house was haunted; the dog and cat would not go in it, the children refused to sleep there, objects would move and the room was freezing cold.
The man was determined to get to the bottom of it so he sat down in the room and meditated. He saw an image of an Aboriginal man pinned to the ground by a spear.
The Aborigine told the man he couldn't get up. The man said: "Of course you can move, you're a spirit".
The Aborigine got up and left and the haunting ended.
Mr Sinton says this is a classic example of a ghost which does not realise it is dead - although the condition is most common in cultures such as white Australia where death is a taboo topic.
Mr Sinton says there are various ways of banishing ghosts. Sometimes it can be as simple as angrily swearing at it to leave or reciting a prayer he has developed with a clairvoyant.
Sometimes, though, nothing seems to work.
In a Toorak house in Canterbury Rd the ghost drove out the family, not the other way around. Mr Sinton says the woman living in the house said she was haunted by a poltergeist (noisy ghost) nicknamed Mrs Beeton, after the famous cook.
"A sceptical friend challenged Mrs Beeton during a dinner party and instantly a candle was seen to flip on to the man's lap causing him to leap from the table in pain," Mr Sinton recalls.
The visitors reported an unnatural coldness and the feeling of hands stroking their faces or pressing their feet when they slept.
It was soon after experiencing these stroking sensations herself that the owner decided to pack up and leave.
Then there is the story of the Glen Iris house where a woman kept hearing a baby crying in the lounge. Eventually the woman saw the image of a man throwing a baby against a wall.
"This picture kept repeating itself on a regular basis, like a bizarre psychic movie, until it dawned on the woman that she was witnessing a murder which had taken place around a century ago," Mr Sinton says. "She later verified this with some hard research at her local library."
Eventually, when the image appeared to the woman again she saw to her horror a look of recognition in the murderer's eyes.
"The man, or ghost, it seemed knew the woman was a witness to his crime," Mr Sinton says.
"At this point the man seemed to have stepped out of the 'psychic movie' end started terrorising, or haunting, the woman in real life to the point where she had to move out of the house."
Mr Sinton says some people attract spirits like moths to a flame.
He says some people are clairvoyant (they see apparitions), clairaudient (hear them) or clairsentient (feel them). Mr Sinton, who describes himself as clairsentient, believes the abilities are natural-born.
"That's why sceptics get frustrated. They may want to see but they don't have the gift," he says.
Mr Sinton says sometimes when he attends haunted places he finds the family squabbling over the existence of a ghost which some members have seen, some have heard, some have felt, while others have experienced no encounter at all.
About four years ago, he would go to locations four or five times a day to interview people to record their experiences. But he increasingly found people wanted him to get rid of the thing.
These days he doesn't go out nearly as often, instead closely questioning people over the phone. When he does go out, he takes along a medium to detect and remove the trouble.
"Ghosts range from blurry, white shapes through to very clearly-defined, full-color images," he says.
The most common figure, though, is a "shadowy black form".
Classic signs of a ghost include mysteriously hearing your name called, inexplicable temperature changes and unexplained footsteps.
In her Malvern house, clairvoyant psychic Elizabeth Messenger regularly sees ghosts including a small, old ex-jockey with a walking stick which has taken up permanent residence in a chair in front of the gas heater.
"He's here all the time," Miss Messenger says.
The ghost once startled a pregnant visitor walking past the lounge in the early hours.
"She walked by and said, "Hello", thinking I had a visitor ... all of a sudden he disappeared."
The woman screamed and fell over and Miss Messenger came to the rescue.
A Victorian Catholic priest, who practises exorcism, says he can tell whether a house is haunted by a tingling sensation up and down his body. To get rid of the trouble, he walks around the room ordering out the spirit and saying prayers.
The priest, who prefers not to be named, also rids evil spirits from people's bodies using the old rite of exorcism.
"It's hard work," he says. A session might take about two hours with the person then sent off for a couple of months to attend mass and communion.
A Melbourne Anglican priest, who also wishes to remain anonymous, says: "Spirits do exist".
Like the Catholic priest, he gets rid of spirits possessing a body.
"Sometimes a person will come to you very troubled and sometimes you identify the spirit is involved with it," the priest says. "It's not done lightly"
Favourite haunts around town
Melbourne businessman David Marriner says he talks regularly to Federici, the city's most famous ghost which haunts the Princess Theatre.
Mr Marriner, who owns the theatre, says he considers the ghost part of the family.
"He's been here for many yea~s and is a very friendly ghost," Mr Marriner said.
"It's a privilege to have Federici here and he shouldn't be disturbed."
The ghost belongs to actor Frederick Baker, better known by his stage name Federici, who died while playing Mephistopheles in the opera Faust.
During the performance, Baker descended through a stage door and collapsed with a heart attack in 1888.
Mr Marriner ruled out a suggestion by white witch Kerry Kulkens to put Federici to rest by restaging Faust without anyone in the role of Mephistopheles so the ghost could play the role and take his final bow.
He said Federici was "very happy here in his restored garret".
A buxom ghost has been spotted in the National Trust's headquarters in an old terrace in East Melbourne.
National Trust public relations and events manager Jacki Mitchell said the first appearance was a couple of years ago. A visitor was in the records office when she saw a ghost standing behind a staff member
The well-endowed ghost put in another appearance last month.
A Myer worker, who was with Ms Mitchell in the boardroom, suddenly asked: "Are there any ghosts?" and then went on to explain she had just seen a big-breasted woman.
Ms Mitchell said one theory was the ghost was once the madam of a brothel, which the building might have once housed.
"I don't ever stay at work when it gets dark," Ms Mitchell, a believer in ghosts, says.
The trust has an abundance of haunted properties including South Yarra's Como House, where 77 year-old Caroline Armytage died in 1909 of a suspected heart attack in her upstairs bedroom.
Security guards have reported seeing a white ghost in front of the house in the wee hours.
The last sighting was a couple of months ago, Ms Mitchell said.
The property's manager, Joy Welch, said a staff member was left terrified one night after seeing the ghost through the window of Mrs Armytage's bedroom.
* Burn sandalwood incense. This is asking the heavens for a favour to help cleanse out negative energy;
* Place a pentagram (a mythical symbol) in the corners of the room;
* Repeat this verse: "Spirits of light, love and wisdom clear this spot. All ye who have no business here, depart".
Having a ghost could earn you big bucks - but to secure the cash you will be up against the biggest non-believers in town: the Australian Skeptics Association.
Members claim to be the voice of reason, the sane amid the sometimes not-so-sane world of the paranormal.
Have you got a ghost, seen a UFO or can read minds?
If you can prove it, the association is willing to put up and shut up.
When the Australian branch was set up in the mid-1970s, it decided to put a cash booty aside in the vague possibility someone could prove members wrong.
More than 30 years have passed and about $30,000 is still waiting to be claimed. Association secretary Stephen Colebrook said the association would need proof before handing over the cash.
He said the association investigated claims of the paranormal and received about two phone calls a day and 12 letters a week.
The association is largely made up of scientists but Mr Colebrook joined the group after a disillusioned childhood.
He said he used to watch psychic Uri Geller and would sit in front of a spoon and try to bend it.
"I used to get frustrated, although I did believe it," he said. "Then I started to go to magic shows and they would reveal they were only tricks. I was distraught and I looked up the number of the Skeptics in the phone book and joined.
"Now I, too, have learned to bend spoons."