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Ghostly but not ghastly

Whittlesea Post 20 January, 1999 pp 1, 8 & 9
By Sara Bannister & Adrian Blades with photography by Julie Best

Drew SintonA slamming door, footsteps, moving objects and strange noises in this Humevale house have led previous and current residents to believe it is haunted.

Built late last century, the house is now home to a young family who suspect the ghostly presence is female.

Its previous owners felt a male ghost was watching over the property as they worked to restore it.

Yet while the families cannot explain the strange happenings they do believe their ghost is friendly.

Dropping in on their old haunts

The sound of footsteps in an empty house, or a door slamming on a still day, is enough to make the hairs stand on the back of your neck.

Usually there Is an explanation for the strange noises people hear in the night. Weird sounds in a Humevale house, a South Morang council office and the old Kilmore jail have frightened their residents.

But rather than flee in terror, the residents have taken their seemingly haunted buildings in their stride.

Whittlesea Post reporters Sara Bannister and Adrian Blades went hunting for the ghosts lurking in the Whittlesea area.


Former and present residents of a Humevale house have seen and heard enough strange incidents to convince them a ghost inhabits the house.

Former Glenlinton owner Robyn Banbury did not believe in ghosts until she lived in the house for about 15 years.

She said it had a "nice feeling" to it, not a frightening one, even though a number of events led her to believe it was haunted by the ghost of Robert Dawson.

Robyn said Dawson was the original owner of the house, built in 1894.

Robyn had a solid marble bust of Beethoven on top of an organ in a hallway running through the middle of the house. The bust was frequently found sitting on the organ in a different position as though somebody had turned it around.

Neither Robyn nor husband Stan were touching it, but the bust always seemed to have been moved.

One night Robyn was sleeping alone when she had a "screaming nightmare" in which she saw a man beside her wearing a moustache, cape and big hat.

She found a picture of Robert Dawson which matched the description of the mysterious man.

She later found out that her sister-in-law had a similar nightmare a few months earlier when staying at Glenlinton.

From then on, Robyn was sure Dawson's ghost meant no harm and was just watching over the property.

"I believe he visits to make sure the house is being looked after properly," she said.

Despite her experiences, Robyn said the house meant a lot to her. The couple decided to leave because there was too much work left to do to restore the house.

"When I was there I didn't feel frightened. I would love to live there," she said.

Jenny Metcalf believes some sort of spook inhabits Glenlinton, where she now lives with husband Peter and their two young daughters.

The family has nicknamed the ghost "Mrs Dawson" after a woman who had an historical link to the Humevale house.

A series of strange noises and happenings has confronted the family since it moved into the house last year.

A door at the end of the house was heard to have slammed even though it is bolted to the floor and locked with a key.

Jenny's husband Peter was outside one night mixing horsefeed when the radio he was listening to suddenly changed stations.

A deer's head sitting on a chair in one of the rooms fell to the floor in the early hours of the morning. The family moved it to a lounge room where it has not been disturbed since.

On another night Peter and Jenny were in the kitchen when they heard "a hell of a crash" somewhere in the house. While Peter checked around for the source of the noise, he could not find anything to explain it.

Jenny said she was not sure if a ghost was responsible for the strange noises, but she said her husband thought there was a good presence in the house.

Further north, Glenda Deschamps has heard strange noises in her house at the restored Old Kilmore Jail.

She said the house was "definitely creepy sometimes.

"It's hard to explain but if you are here by yourself even in the daytime it's like a really isolated lonely, indescribable feeling," she said.

Some visitors to the jail have told Glenda they felt a presence and a sudden chill coming through the place.

Glenda did not like to think about whether the jail was haunted because she lived there.

Old Kilmore Jail has been restored with the help of two business partners, Mark Bryant and Henry Deschamps, and operates as a tourist venue, with a restaurant, antique shop and monthly market.

Glenda said a door in her house opened and closed without explanation and she recalled a terrifying night when she sat alone in the house during a power failure.

Thankfully, she had a candle pack close as she waited for the power to return an hour later.


How to spot a ghost ...

Melbourne-based ghost researcher Drew Sinton says he is no guru or ghostbuster.

But he can help advise people grappling with a haunting.

Mr Sinton deemed a ghost as someone who had lived, loved and died.

In between running The Haunted Bookshop and ghost tours in Melbourne, Mr Sinton interviews and meets people experiencing the supernatural.

Unlike the popular image of a ghostbuster, Mr Sinton said he did not jump when the phone rang or run around "booting" spirits out of houses.

His first-hand experience of ghosts includes seeing a black shadow in a Burwood house in 1992.

Two women living there had a problem with a ghost following them from house to house.

The shadow appeared in the lounge room, then moved to the kitchen where he was sitting with a clairvoyant.

"As it came into the kitchen where I was sitting it disappeared," Mr Sinton said.

"I thought it was just an aberration but it actually was moving across."

During the visit the the two women acknowledged the ghostly form was a woman they once knew and then it disappeared forever.

So how do householders know they are experiencing a haunting?

Mr Sinton said a haunting usually unfolded in stages, with the first stage involving the feeling that there was a "presence" in the house.

People might hear ghostly footsteps or their names being called during the second stage.

The third stage, clairvoyance, was seeing ghosts.


Arthur can't be spooked

Arthur Ailferis does not worry about the strange noises he often hears while cleaning the Whittlesea civic centre.

He believes the sounds belong to a friendly ghost inhabiting the centre in South Morang.

Mr Aliferis, who works both night and day shifts, hears footsteps through the night when he is doing his rounds.

"You can hear the footsteps come down every night ... you can feel it at night when you go there," he said.

While he has not seen the ghost, Mr Aliferis often hears the public door of the centre open by itself.

"You just hear things, the door opens all the time," he said.

The security system also sometimes goes off for no particular reason.

"Security goes off sometimes and we don't know why and the next time we go there is nothing there," Mr Aliferis said.

The civic centre is built on farmland and the theory is that the ghost could be a farmer who was killed by his own tractor.

While Mr Aliferis is not concerned by the noises, they did scare a security guard who worked in the centre before the alarm system was installed.

"The guard was scared to go upstairs. He did not want to do the night shift from 11pm until 7am. He only wanted to work during the day," Mr Aliferis said.

But Mr Aliferis will continue to work at the centre - ghost or not.


Confessions of a diehard skeptic

Steve Colebrook is a staunch nonbeliever and says he stands to make a fortune should the earth end after 2000.

Mr Colebrook is confident he will collect the bets made with those who believe the world will end in the next 12 months.

And the Victorian president of the Australian Skeptics Association says the existence of ghosts is yet to be proved.

Mr Colebrook says the Skeptics are prepared to offer $100,000 to anyone who can prove a ghost exists.

And there is no shortage of people trying to prove the Skeptics wrong.

While he tries to keep an open mind and is prepared to visit "haunted" sites Mr Colebrook believes that sightings can be logically explained.

"No matter how hard I try to be objective, I will go in with an idea that there isn't a ghost," he said.

While a lack of evidence points to a belief against ghosts, Mr Colebrook believes most claims of ghost sightings are genuine.

"You don't necessarily say that the people making the claim are in anyway dishonest," he said.

Mr Colebrook says that many people who believe they have seen a ghost are trying to maintain the spirit of their loved ones.

He also believes people who think they have seen a ghost do not understand what they have experienced.

The Skeptics see their role as opposing extreme views like ghostly experiences that convince people to sell their homes or, worse, commit suicide.


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