‘I RUN HAUNTED PUB’
LANDLADY KAZUKO NELSON BRAVES RESTLESS SPIRITS AND SINISTER ACTIVITY DAILY
What if ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night weren’t only the stuff of storybooks or the latest big-screen horror flick? How about if spooks and spectres were not only real, but something you had to deal with on a daily basis?
Well, for Kazuko Nelson, it’s a reality. The Japaneseborn
landlady has owned and lived in what is regarded as Australia’s most-haunted pub for almost 30 years.
“When I first stepped into the pub, I could feel the history,” Kazuko tells New Idea. “The place has a definite atmosphere.”
Located in the heart of Sydney’s historic Rocks, the oldest area of the city, the Hero of Waterloo has been serving patrons for more than 170 years, making it one of the oldest drinking dens in the country. Its history is chequered, to say the least.
Built by convicts, the hotel became a haunt of rum smugglers who used a secret tunnel running from its cellars to the harbour to smuggle their goods. But the tunnel had another, altogether more sinister use. It’s rumoured the publicans had a side line in drugging unsuspecting sailors and dragging them down the tunnel to waiting whale ships where they would become forced labourers.
Various deaths took place at the hotel over the years, and if you believe the countless eyewitness accounts, the spirits present in this old Sydney drinking den aren’t only of the alcoholic variety. Here, strange apparitions, phantom footsteps and unearthly noises are just a few of the spooky experiences that occur daily.
Originally moving in with husband, Ivan, who sadly passed away in 2013, Kazuko found herself alone in the pub regularly during the first few years of her marriage.
“I was on my own a lot, but I always felt a presence around me,” she recalls. “One night I passed the door to the cellar and was stopped suddenly by a large male figure. I felt cold air rush across my face. And it really gave me the shivers.
“I often stay in the apartment above the pub and in the middle of the night I’ll hear the piano playing. When I went downstairs to see what was happening, the music
‘CUSTOMERS RUN SCREAMING AFTER SEEING A GHOST’
would stop. We had to move the piano down to the cellar because it was happening so often that I couldn’t sleep!”
The most famous crime committed in the hotel is the murder of convict landlady, Anne Kirkman.
It’s said that in 1849, publican Thomas Kirkman pushed his wife, Anne, down the stairs to her death. “She’s
our most felt presence,” says Kazuko. “We had a Buddhist monk visit once and he walked into the pub, went to the landing above the cellar and said: ‘She died under here.’ He knew nothing about the history of the pub, or Anne’s death!
“We also have many customers reporting seeing the ghost of a woman reflected in the bathroom mirrors, yet when they turn around, no-one is behind them. I’ve literally had customers run screaming after seeing her!”
The Duke Room, a function area upstairs, is another hotspot for hauntings. It’s been the scene of countless paranormal experiences over the years, with phantom footsteps and chairs mysteriously being moved overnight.
“It happens all the time,” says Kazuko. “Just last week we heard tables and chairs being moved in the empty room. The chairs are almost always moved towards the fireplace. This is a room our staff like the least. We have ever-changing staff and each time one of them has an incident here and I ask them what happened, the answer is always the same: they felt something blow onto the back of their neck.
The activity is so pronounced that staff often refuse to work in the room alone, with many reporting the feeling of someone – or something – touching or blowing on their necks, leaving them fleeing in terror.
Visiting psychics have claimed that a male presence dominates the room, and that he’s the culprit behind the nightly musical chairs.
Despite the otherworldly goings-on being enough to send most people packing, Kazuko says the supernatural residents don’t bother her and that, after three decades of living here, she’s come to terms with sharing her home and business with spooks.
“I feel quite comfortable,” she says. “My husband used to say that they’re ‘just like us’. And I can see why they’d want to stay. I love it here. When my time comes, I’d consider myself lucky to join the invisible residents here. I’d consider myself a very lucky ghost!”