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Eerie legends of Mornington Peninsula

Mornington Peninsula Leader 2 October, 2001, pp 10-11
By Jeannette Langan & Julieanne Strachan

Drew SintonMysterious footsteps, apparitions and hauntings have long been the subject of urban legends. Intriguing tales of spirits lingering after death have typically clung to long-established areas, fascinating the curious for generations. But is there any substance to the stories? Jeannette Langan and Julieanne Strachan look at some of the Mornington Peninsula's eerie legends ...

Dead castle creator still knocking about

Few people would be surprised to learn that the imposing limestone battlements of Portsea's Peppers at Delgany castle are a local ghost hotspot.

According to staff at the seaside retreat, the ghost of Delgany's original owner, Harold Armytage, is a regular visitor within the castle walls.

The history of the mansion is one tinged with sorrow. It was Armytage's dream to create a fairytale castle. and he spared no expense carting limestone from Mt Gambier to cloak the thick reinforced brick walls.

The project took several years and by the time it reached completion in 1927 had cost about 30 thousand pounds.

Tragically, Armytage's dream was not to be. He died only days before he was scheduled to move into his newly completed castle.

Peppers at Delgany spokeswoman Kerry Hutchison said many staff and guests believed Armytage's ghost had reached beyond the grave to return to Delgany.

"Several people reported seeing curtains move, feeling strange draughts, and having music turned on and off in both the rooms and the restaurant," she said.

"One of the night audit stall even reported seeing the gentleman, and he has become something of a fixture at Delgany."

Perhaps Armytage has found a way to fulfil his dream and dwell I forever in his beloved Delgany.

Strange sighting at water plant

Among the tales that have become part of the peninsula's ghostly history is one from two security guards spooked at the old South East Water treatment plant in Mt Martha.

Mornington Historical Society received reports several years ago from a former superintendent that guards patrolling the site off Craigie Rd had at separate times gone to investigate what they thought were intruders.

Both claimed to have seen a woman and child dressed in early 20th century clothing.

The guards gave chase with torches, but the figures vanished.

One of the guards. who had left his car engine running. reported seeing a figure near his car, which also seemed to vanish as he approached.

The society suggests the figures may be those of a woman and child who disappeared from a picnic held in the area early last century.

Bizarre mystery of skipping girl

A small girl has often been seen skipping along the Mornington cliffs. Her tiny frame has elicited sympathy from many who have stopped to talk to her.

At almost the moment they have moved toward the elusive figure, she has toppled, plunging over the cliff face.

But when they have looked for her body there has been nothing.

It is a tragic and mysterious scene that visitors have reportedly witnessed for more than a century.

Drew Sinton, of the Haunted Bookshop, in Melbourne, said reports of the macabre incident were well documented.

"People often find her wandering along - only to recoil as she disappears over the edge," he said.

One theory was that she was the ghost of the daughter of a police-constable who worked in Mornington in the 1890s, Mr Sinton said.

"People believe it is the ghost of a senior-constable's daughter. She was five-years-old when she broke away from her parents while they were walking there.

"History has it that she fell to her death in the 1890s on that day," he said.

Cooking up a sailor spectre

Being the last living occupant of Portsea's historic quarantine station is enough to make even the most sceptical unbeliever feel a little jumpy, but Bob Johnson never got the willies.

"I never believed in ghosts myself and I don't think I ever saw one, but there were a lot of stories among the military cadets down there," says the former quarantine officer.

"Often some of the female cadets would come to me and ask if it was true the ghost of 'old George' roamed the camp at night. Some of them were quite concerned.

"It turned out the young male recruits had been telling them ghost stories about a ghost called George to scare them."

Whether "old George" was a genuine spook or a creation of young mens' imagination remains a mystery.

What is certain is the often-told story of a sailor called George who was a cook on a ship quarantined at the station in the 19th Century.

Legend has it he died aboard ship and has since wandered the camp.

Nevertheless, the now-abandoned stretch of windswept rock jutting into Bass Strait remains a forbidding sight.

The buildings were used as a quarantine station for human cargo as early as 1850, and later as a military training ground, and Mr Johnson agrees the place has an ominous air.

"People were often disturbed by the sight of the shower block with its big exhaust vents and nearby chimney," he says.

"War victims were very afraid of this because it looked like a concentration camp."

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