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Great haunts of Melbourne

Yarra Leader 19 January, 1998 insert pp 1-2
By Joanne Trzcinski with photography by Simon Schluter

Drew SintonIt might seem a bit like chasing shadows, but Joanne Trzcinski discovers there is a desperate demand for our city's ghostbusters.

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.


Ghostbusters try to leave a city's great haunts dispirited

Sometimes, though, nothing seems to work. "Sometimes logic doesn't work. Prayers don't work. You start to wonder, 'Is it karma?'" "Mr Sinton says he was once called to investigate the case of a ghost which had followed two women for three years from a house in Northcote to a new home in Werribee and on to Burwood.

The women reported seeing the black shadowy shape of a man in a long coat.

Accompanying the ghost were "foul smells, cold spots, pots being pulled from cupboards and a burglar alarm which triggered inexplicably by itself".

A medium working with Mr Sinton said the ghost was not that of a man but a woman called Bev who had died of a blood clot in her heart.

The medium said Bev had followed the two women seeking forgiveness over a personal incident and had become annoyed when the women kept referring to her as a him.

"It seems that once Bev had received the acknowledgment she sought then her ghost was appeased and was gone in an instant," Mr Sinton says.

Not all cases are that easy.

Mr Sinton remembers the case of a figure dubbed "The Crocodile Man" which had the body of a man and the head of a crocodile that was spooking a Bundoora house.

The family members, including the father who had a physics degree from Melbourne University, told Mr Sinton that appearances of the crocodile man were followed by flickering lights above the heads of family members.

The young son also told Mr Sinton a man in white would take the figure by the hand before they disappeared. A medium tracked down the spirit in the laundry.

The crocodile man moved into the backyard and Mr Sinton urged the boy to yell at it and chase it on his trike.

The spirit disappeared over the fence, never to be seen in the house again.

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.

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.

"I got up and said, 'I forgot to mention him'."

There was a time when Miss Messenger visited houses to get rid of ghosts but not any more. She says it is "too dangerous" and can leave her open to "aura infestation" and illness.

"And people don't pay," she says. "They believe you should do it for nothing."

A Victorian Catholic priest, considered the church's leading exorcist, 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 being sent off for a couple of months to attend mass and communion - "that can fix things up".

A Melbourne Anglican priest, who also wishes to remain anonymous, says: "Spirits do exist".

Like the Catholic priest, he also rids people of the spirits possessing them.

"Sometimes a person will come to you very troubled and sometimes you identify the spirit is involved with it," the priest says.

"The reality is you're dealing with an evil power that is quite powerful I've seen people who are quite frail but when the spirit manifests itself, they have enormous strength."


Ghosts put their trust in history

The National Trust seems to be a favourite haunt of ghosts. Joanne Trzcinski reports.

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 came a couple of years ago.

A visitor was in the records office when she saw a ghost standing behind a staff member.

The visitor said to the staff member: "I don't mean to alarm you but there's a very large-breasted woman standing behind you".

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 out of the corner of her eye.

Ms Mitchell said one theory was the ghost was once the madam of a brothel, which the building might once have housed.

"I don't ever stay at work when it gets dark," Ms Mitchell, a believer in ghosts, said.

The trust has an abundance of haunted properties including South Yarra's Como Historic House and Gardens, where 77-year-old Caroline Armytage died in 1909 of a suspected heart attack in her upstairs bedroom.

Security guards have regularly reported seeing in the wee hours of the morning a white ghost walking in front of the house, a swirl of wind accompanying the figure.

"The last sighting was a couple of months ago," Ms Mitchell said.

"We have security guards very nervous to do the graveyard shift."

The property's manager, Joy Welch, said a staff member was left terrified one night after feeling a compulsion to go into Mrs Armytage's bedroom and peer from the window.

Through the panes she saw the ghostly figure below.

Meanwhile, at the city's Old Melbourne Gaol, a visitor has taken a photo from the upper levels looking towards the gallows.

When the film was developed, what appeared to be an apparition was revealed in the picture.

The photo is on display in the foyer.

Ms Mitchell said the trust had no idea who the form might be. "There's been so many people hanged in the Gaol, it could be anyone," she said.

Members of the Women's Circus staying in a neighboring building to the Gaol heard moans and coughing late at night.

"They sensed lots and lots and lots of things going on around them," Ms Mitchell said.

The occupants of a Fitzroy terrace believe their rented house is haunted.

Different people have had experiences there including photographer Mat Valdman, who says he has woken up a few times and felt a presence.

"I had this overwhelming feeling of something being in here. It wasn't friendly," he recalls.

"I said, 'No, this is my room now. I live here.' And it left."


Other Haunted Bookshop offerings you might enjoy ...

"Dark and fascinating bookshop"
- Citysearch

"Melbourne's hidden treasure"
- Herald Sun

"A gothic Black Books"
- Chelsea Kwok, Adelaide


Drew Sinton
Witches Bible
Goetia
Vampires
Satanic Bible
Gothic Grimoire
Haunted
Real MIB
Ancient
Psychic's Handbook
Rider Waite
Angels
Jewellery
Nosferatu
Haunted DVD

"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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