Perhaps it wasn’t so much the history that I found odd at the Beenleigh Historical Village & Museum, it was the way it was presented. For on my wanders throughout the grounds, I encountered eerily garbed mannequins, a cardboard pastor, signs constantly telling me I was being watched and a silence that was palpable to its sole visitor – me.
A history of Brisbane (region), complete with mannequins
Beenleigh is a small town located roughly 25 minutes drive south-east of Brisbane and the Beenleigh Historical Village & Museum showcases the region’s history, dating from the 1860s onward. Intrigued by the re-creation of an entire village, I paid the entry fee and strolled past a wall garnished with sickles into a dusty museum.
After staring at some old clothes and aged trinkets, I continued towards the Coomera lock-up – a place where prisoners spent the night while being transferred. It was dark and cramped with a small bed under a manky mattress that was chained to the wall. In the corner lay a rudimentary toilet beneath a skeleton that was shackled to the window in white paint.
Next door I explored a classroom with pew-like seats and old clocks before I wandered into the old Beenleigh Post Office and discovered the first of many mannequins. On the wall was some dated yet reassuring news from Australia Post – “the communication services of the Australian Post Office are vast to serve the nation yet still personal to serve you.”
I turned to see the sign, “smile, you’re on camera”, sitting in front of an androgynous-looking mannequin frozen in service. Opening in the 1860s, the building saw some of the country’s first messengers – horseback posties. In the building behind were old computers and a history of the region’s rum trade.
Stepping outside, I made my way across the silent and altogether empty village (save for a few staff members), past a vintage Dodge that was once a fire engine and into the old Carroll family house, occupied by mannequins of course. One room contained a headless mannequin, gesticulating in the manner of a host, while another contained five more, one of these also headless.
Above this headless dummy I spied the reflection of a mannequin in a mirror and for a moment I imagined I’d somehow wedged myself in the twilight zone. I then visited an old tin bath at the rear before continuing towards the Radke cottage, built in the 1870s. Here I found rustic living quarters that looked alluring in the afternoon light.
Across the way, the old St Georges Church of England was a real highlight, primarily because of the cardboard pastor that stood at the end of the aisle. As I sat amongst the pews, it was hard for me to imagine what church was like here over 140 years ago, largely because I couldn’t keep my eyes off the life-sized cardboard figure, who looked a little like Michael Caine paralysed in mid-sermon.
Next door was the old general store dating to the 19th-century, which was guarded by an emo/zombie/vampire mannequin. Standing there, in front of a sign advertising the seemingly innocuous Bex – a household pain killer that was eventually discovered to cause kidney damage – I felt myself once again back in the twilight zone, which made my visit all worthwhile.
The atmosphere. While I found the history of Beenleigh and surrounds mildly interesting, the antiquated decor, strange inhabitants and empty village made for an intriguing visit.
Adults cost $6.00, concessions $4.00 and children are $2.50. It you want to take photos, like I did, you’ll need to pay $10. The Beenleigh Historical Village & Museum also takes bookings for group tours and school excursions.