With Halloween on 31 October, RACHEL PINDER and LEE TAYLOR put in their vampire fangs and went out in search of Australia's scariest ghost tours.
New South Wales
Stepping into a hearse is a surreal experience. I mean, it's supposed to be the last ride of your life. But that's exactly what I did when I agreed to see the seedy side of Sydney during a night-time trip in 'Morticia' - a grey 1962 Cadillac combination hearse/ambulance.
There was definitely a strange atmosphere in the car which I noticed as soon as I climbed in at the front alongside our driver, Caroline Batwitch, and we glided off into the night.
We checked out some interesting Sydney sites including the resident ghosts who live at the impressive Victoria Barracks - the private who hanged himself in the barracks prison while awaiting court martial for murdering his sergeant.
One of the spookiest moments was when we stopped on the site of the Sydney Institute of Technology, formerly Darlinghurst Gaol, where thousands of people watched the public hangings of infamous criminals and murderers. The atmosphere in the car intensified and I felt my mouth dry up.
But the moment Morticia's wheels started rolling again, the atmosphere returned to normal.
Caroline continued to tell us tales of Sydney's darker side as we drove past the hotel where INXS frontman Michael Hutchence killed himself. We also heard eerie tales of ghosts who live in many of the buildings around the city.
We had a quick stop outside the gothic-style Mortuary Station, an 1869 purpose-built train station where they used to load the caskets of the recently departed.
Next stop... a bondage parlour. We left Morticia parked under a tree and entered a pretty normal-looking terrace house. We were welcomed by the mistress, who was wearing a very tasteful leather ensemble... as you do.
The house had different themed rooms, including the medical room, a cross-dressing room with massive high heels, dresses and even adult-sized baby outfits... right!
After visiting several other ghoul-spots, the tour finished off by exploring the back alleys, strip clubs and sex shops of Kings Cross. Caroline cranked up the volume on the stereo and we did the last lap to the pumping theme tune from Ghostbusters.
When and where: The tour runs nightly from Kings Cross at 8pm and lasts two-and-a half hours.
The damage: $72 per person.
If you want more spirits than George Best's liver, check out The Rocks Ghost Tours. The Rocks is Sydney's oldest colonial district and has a dark history of disease, disaster, violence and murders. The Rocks Ghost Tours consist of two tours - The Dark North Side and The Dark South Side. During the first tour the ghost host told us an horrific tale of a mutilated body, and another about two sisters, two houses and two hangings.
The Dark South Side tour leads you through the narrow cobblestone lanes and alleys to the inner part of The Rocks with lanterns in hand. You'll also find out why Mrs Greenfield was chased by her knife-wielding husband and learn the bizarre, gruesome facts that lurk beneath the surface of Sydney's historic port area.
When and where: 6.45pm until the end of October and 7.45pm until March 2007. George St North (Corner Argyle St).
The damage: $32 per person.
If you're looking to scare yourself shitless, spend Halloween night walking around North Head's haunted Manly Quarantine Station. Wander through a maze of historic buildings and hear how the Quarantine Station, active from 1832 to 1984, protected Sydney from diseases such as smallpox, bubonic plague, cholera and Spanish influenza.
There are old burial grounds, haunted shower blocks, disinfecting rooms and ghostly hospital wards. Billy tea and damper are served (though you'd be better off with a Proton Pack from Ghostbusters).
When and where: Public Tours on Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun, 1.10pm-3.40pm. (Number 135 bus from Manly Wharf); Adults' Ghost Tours: Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun 7.30pm-10.30pm.
The damage: $27.50 per person ($22 on Wednesdays).
I've read some scary books in my time. I mean, I couldn't eat for days after reading Learning To Fly - Victoria Beckham's autobiography (neither could she by the look of her).
The famous Haunted Bookshop in Melbourne's McKillop Street specialises in books on the occult and paranormal, enabling you to come face to face with Melbourne's haunted past. Owner Drew Sinton also conducts a spine-tingling two-hour historical walking tour across the creaking floorboards of the occult library to explore ghosts, death, witchcraft, angels and the supernatural.
Clairvoyants often offer tarot readings within the store, so you're guaranteed to get a shock of some sort. The imported texts hail from countries such as America, Germany and Belgium - and some are expensive due to their specialist nature.
When and where: The tours start at 8.30pm on Saturdays at The Haunted Bookshop, 15 McKillop St, Melbourne.
The damage: $20 per person or $18 concession.
The second-largest cemetery in Queensland, Dutton Park hides many terrible tales in its quiet groves. The South Brisbane Cemetery Ghost Tour takes you around the darkened glen where you'll find the remains of 41 of those executed on the infamous Gallows of the Boggo Road Jail - including the only woman to be hanged in Queensland.
These vicious criminals were responsible for some of the most infamous crimes in the 19th and early 20th centuries, yet nothing marks their graves. Here's where you'll find out why.
When and where: Saturday evenings from 7.30pm-9.00pm. Departs from outside cemetery gates, South Brisbane cemetery, Annerley Road, Dutton Park, Brisbane. Be there at 7.15pm.
The damage: $30, $27.50 concession.
You won't find any mean-looking dudes with tatts wanting to make you their bitch in Fremantle Prison. Just the ghostly empty cells in which people lived out there sentences. Fremantle Prison Tours transport you back in time to experience both the good and bad of local history.
See the stunning art painted straight on the walls and the inspiring convict-made architecture, which the tour guide brings to life.
When and where: 7pm Wednesdays and Fridays, but bookings are essential. Fremantle Prison, The Terrace.
The damage: $19.50 or $15 concession.
The Ghost Tour of Hobart lets you walk in the ghostly footsteps of convicts, bushrangers, whalers, sailors, barmaids and prostitutes. It sounds like a Paris Hilton film, just more convincing. During the two-hour walk, you'll hear tall tales from Hobart's legendary past including the spirits of Pearce the cannibal, Sperm Whale Sally, the original Fagin and many more.
Make sure you bring warm clothes, comfortable shoes and nerves of steel.
When and where: Every night except Sunday evenings, meeting at the Drifters Cafe, Shop 9/33, Salamanca Place.
The damage: $25 or $20 concession.
Launceston has seen its fair share of violent and torturous deaths over the years. That's where Launceston City Ghost Tours comes in. Again, this is a walking tour where local guides present stories of murder and intrigue spanning the history of Launceston.
The tour takes about 90 minutes, sometimes longer depending on how many dead bodies are found. All stories are based on fact and sightings, and cameras are encouraged as there have been a number of ghost sightings over the years.
When and where: Daily, departing at dusk from the front of the Royal Oak Hotel, corner of Tamar and Brisbane Streets.
The damage: $20, $17 concession.