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Stonnington ghostly tales

Stonnington Leader 21 January, 2002 pp 8-9
By Glenn Morley with photography by Tony Gough

Drew SintonAs Stonnington residents go about their daily business, so too do some of the city's more soulful residents. Glenn Morley explores life on the other side.

Ghost-tour operator packs in spooky tales

Melbourne ghost researcher Drew Sinton says there is no shortage of spooks in Stonnington.

"Oh yeah," he says. "Places like Malvern, Toorak and South Yarra - there's lots of old houses and lots of stories."

Mr Sinton, who became interested in the supernatural as a young boy and now runs the Haunted Melbourne Ghost Tour, said icons such as Como House and Stonington Mansion were renowned for their ghostly experiences.

But he said no matter what the evidence, east was east and west was west when it came to believers versus sceptics.

"I really just think people shouldn't be too rigid and should keep an open mind he said.

"Most people I've interviewed have everything to lose by talking about their experiences. They set themselves up to sounding like wackos. But they still have to tell their story."

He readily admits to being a believer, but he doesn't pretend to understand.

"It's all a bit of a mystery," he said. "I try to work it out, but in the end I scratch my head and just say, things happen."

Ghostly sightings in Stonnington include:

* a friendly ghost that haunts Stonington Mansion.

The ghost is believed by some to be that of Christopher Rous, the nine-year-old son of the Earl and Countess of Stradbroke who died of leukaemia in 1925 and is buried in the grounds;

* Alice Emmerton, wife of renowned lawyer Harold Emmerton, whose apparition was seen wandering through her former home, Raveloe House in South Yarra.

Daughter Dame Mabel Brookes said her mother's ghost was seen one night by two guards shortly after the house was taken over by the Royal Australian Air Force. The ghost reappeared in the ballroom and billiard room days later, before vanishing forever.

* a ghost who liked to rattle the pots and pans in a Toorak kitchen.

Tenants at the Canterbury Rd house recalled waking to find all the saucepans Iying on the kitchen floor. The uninvited guest then progressed to flipping candles, sometimes in the presence of disbelieving dinner guests. The mother and daughter decided to leave the house after the ghost started to pay uncharacteristic visits to the upstairs bedrooms, rubbing its cold hand over the tenants' feet while they were sleeping.


Trapped between two worlds

Ghosts are energy particles trapped between the physical and spiritual worlds.

So says Malvern clairvoyant Elizabeth Messenger, who has worked in the psychic world for more than 20 years.

Ms Messenger said physical life on earth was a transient stepping stone in the soul's evolution. Problems only arose when the soul's journey was unexpectedly cut short and they were unprepared for the next part of the journey.

"They have lost sight that their journey has finished," she said.

"It's been completed, but they still try to hang around either the home they were living in or the people or souls they were connected with before.

"They are basically what we call lost souls - they're ghosts."

Ms Messenger said all souls must go through a series of earthly experiences before they could move on. Ghostly images belonged to non-evolved souls that did not realise their time on earth was at an end.

"If they (the human bodies) have died suddenly, or there has been a murder, or life expectancy has been taken away, the souls will often hang around because they are immature, and the human experience takes over," she said.

"They forget we're the soul having the human experience, not the human having the soul experience."

It was more difficult to believe than it was to be sceptical, she said. "It's OK for people to be sceptical ... because they are programmed from an early age that if you can't see it or feel it, it isn't there," she said.

"But take love for example. Love is a state of mind, so is anger, or happiness ... People don't believe you can change your state of mind to tune into things that may not be physically present.

"If only people would leave their minds open. Fear is the biggest inhibitor for people to explore things that the naked eye can't see."


Como House casts a long shadow into its past

Nestled among the trees overlooking the Yarra River, historic Como House casts an imposing figure.

Built in 1847, the South Yarra mansion was occupied by the Armytage family for 95 years. They were a rich pastoralist family and the house was a focal point for social gatherings in the late 19th century.

It passed out of their hands in 1959, when the National Trust became its caretaker.

But there is some speculation whether the Armytages have left at all.

Other-worldly experiences include sightings of matriarch Caroline Armytage, who passed away in her bedroom in 1909, flitting among the swirling leaves near the front lawn fountain, lights inexplicably turning themselves on, and a blind-cord swinging in the room where Caroline's daughter Ethyl died at the age of seven.

Property manager Cam Mochrie said many people had reported strange sensations in a particular area of the house.

"Caroline Armytage was always the hostess and used to greet people at the ballroom doorway," he said. "We've had people comment about strange feelings and sensations in this area. Maybe she is still welcoming people."

Mr Mochrie said the regularity of such reports had forced him to consider all possibilities.

"I can't sit here as a sceptic and say it's horse crap, " he said. "Different people say they get the same reaction in the same place and they don't know anything about the house - same reaction, same place. So, I just think, well, I don't know everything."


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