Some things just can’t be explained. Delve in to the supernatural and discover the most eerie places in Oz
CASE FILE 1 – GAT TON CEMETERY
IN THE country town of Gatton, some 100km or so to the west of Brisbane, is a lonely windswept cemetery.
This is the sort of cemetery where many of the names and other descriptions scribed into the gravestones have worn away from neglect and erosion, and where many a ghost is said to whisper secrets of the past.
But there is one ghostly resident of this cemetery whose identity has remained a mystery for more than 70 years. Two years following the death of local girl Joyce Elizabeth Andrews (aged 17), on 26 April 1945, her parents erected a headstone on her grave in the Gatton cemetery.
The headstone also commemorates Joyce’s brother Sergeant Cecil Andrews of the RAAF, who was killed when his aircraft crashed at sea in 1942.
Soon after the headstone was erected, Joyce’s mother, Mary Elizabeth Andrews, wandered down to the cemetery with her trusty box brownie camera and snapped a photograph of the grave and the new headstone to send to relatives.
A few days later, when the roll of film was complete, Mary took the negatives into her local Gatton chemist to be developed.
When she picked up the photographs Mary was shaken to find that the photograph of the headstone had a ghostly addition – the obvious translucent image of a toddler sitting on the side of the grave.
A teenager at the time, Mary’s other son, 87-year-old Lester, recalls the astonishing moment his mother discovered the ghostly image of the child: ‘She was shocked; just couldn’t understand why there was a ghost of a child on her son’s grave.’
Lester says that his mother swore she hadn’t taken any pictures of children on that roll (so it couldn’t have been an accidental double exposure) and that she didn’t recognise the child, nor did anyone else for that matter.
A possible non-paranormal explanation is that the chemist tampered with the photo as a practical joke. Although this is possible, it is most unlikely.
Adding fuel to the speculation as to the true origins of the photograph, the negative has vanished.
In fact, Lester can’t recall ever setting eyes upon the negative.
The crumbling remains of two other graves within a few metres of Joyce Elizabeth’s final resting place might shed some light on the identity of the ghostly infant. The tombstones remember two young girls, one the tender age of two and the other an equally tragic three years old.
Perhaps the ghostly infant toddled over from one of these adjacent graves?
CASE FILE 2 – MT MORGAN
UP THE range from Rockhampton lies a peaceful country town, the sort of place where the heads of hardened locals turn in surprise when a tourist treads the lonely main street.
Mount Morgan is a mining town with a remarkable history and although about 3000 people now call it home, in its heyday in the late 1800s, more than 15,000 people lived here.
However, if the number of reported ghostly encounters is any indication to go on, then a substantial number of the nineteenth-century population still live on … in spirit form at least.
Although the valuable gold and copper mines closed in 1981, today the streets and median strips are lined with relics from a bygone era when Mount Morgan stood proudly as one of the mining capitals of the world.
Reminders of the golden mining era are everywhere here.
The open cut mine, at over 2.5 kilometres long and 300 metres deep, is one of the biggest artificial holes on earth and takes pride of place in the centre of town, which is ringed by ubiquitous wooden cottages.
There are hundreds of these white cottages, some have been renovated, some are in original condition and others lie in derelict waiting for a developer to move in.
One amateur local historian with a penchant for things that go bump in the night is Narelle Housman, who says that many of these cottages are plagued by frequent poltergeist activity.
By far the most common paranormal activity in Mount Morgan’s aging cottages are extraordinary ghostly gatherings – ghost parties attended by dozens of shadowy figures and pesky poltergeists.
In 2003, the author met Mount Morgan local, the late Jean Hawke, who revealed that some of the ghosts in her town are, well, almost friendly company.
“I just wish everyone could see them as often as I do,” said the charismatic local who moved to the historic mining town back in 1952.
One of the most regular apparitions that Jean encountered was the ghostly vision of a man that stands on the veranda of what used to be the local theatre.
That theatre is now the Mount Morgan Historical Museum.
“He always dresses like a farmer and back in the 1950s would often wave to my friends and me on our way to see a show at the theatre,” recalled Jean.
“If he waved, it meant that the show was usually good and if he didn’t, then the show wasn’t worth watching.”
CASE FILE 3 – CROP CIRCLES
ONE foggy morning in January 1966, George Pedley, a banana farmer from Euramo near Tully in far north Queensland, was driving his tractor past Horseshoe Lagoon, when he heard “a loud ear-piercing hissing above the noise of his tractor”.
George thought he had a puncture, but just as he began to step down to check his tyres he saw ‘a flying saucer rise at great speed from near the lagoon.’
“My body was frigid with fright,” the rattled farmer told reporters soon after the event.
After the UFO vanished in a puff of blue vapour, George cautiously went to investigate. What he found would not only change the laid-back farmer’s life forever, but would go down in history as the start of one of the world’s most baffling worldwide contemporary phenomena.
Unlike most UFO reports, where there is little if any tangible evidence, this UFO left a 9.1-metre circular, nestlike mark in the lagoon’s floating reeds.
Furthermore, the floating reeds, sucked out by the roots from the lagoon bottom were fused together – presumably by the heat – and continued to “swirl for some time in a clockwise direction”.
At the time the RAAF suggested the ‘saucer nest’ could have been created by a rare whirlwind, but weather reports failed to back up this theory.
Almost instantly, Tully made world headlines and the ‘saucer nest’ soon became known as the world’s first modern-day crop circle.
Reports in following decades came from as far afield as the USA, Japan and Hungary, and most commonly in southern England where several hundred materialise each year.
In 1991, the world of cerealogy (study of crop circles) was turned on its head when Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, two elderly artists, came forward with proof that they had faked hundreds of the formations since the early 1980s.
One of the more spectacular post-1991 crop circles also occurred in Queensland, on the Sunshine Coast.
On the morning of September 11, 1973, cane farmers discovered vast tracts of their fields had been sculpted into strange formations including a coiling maze and pyramids.
Christine Walden of Woombye, who lived on a farm that had its crop decimated by the puzzling patterns recalls, “It was absolutely incredible. The formations were all over our property. I’m not sure if they were of alien origin or not, but our cattle dog broke out in a bizarre skin rash.”
◗ The ghostly image of a child on the grave of Joyce Elizabeth Andrews at a Gatton Cemetery.
◗ Cane fields on the Sunshine Coast mysteriously flattened overnight on September 11, 1973.
◗ The late Jean Hawke photographed in 2002 outside the building where she saw visions of a man on the veranda for more than 50 years.