Searching for a piece of fascinating history, perhaps mixed with a hint of malice, a haunting and some fine architecture, I was drawn to the city of Ipswich in south-east Queensland. Now I wasn’t familiar with Ipswich, however upon closer inspection, I found out it’s an old, gothic city (for Australian standards) that offers everything I sought and a bit more.
History – Gooloowan house
My first stop in town was high up on Denmark Hill at the stately house of Gooloowan – a 148-year-old imposing edifice with a dark past. In the year 1889, a maid working at the house by the name of Rose Dold became pregnant by another worker. She went to lengths to conceal her pregnancy, had the child, then decided it would be best to lob it down the household well.
In the years following this abominable act, residents and passers-by claimed they could hear the cries of a baby coming from the well. Visitors and occupants at Gooloowan also reported seeing a female apparition stroll about the grounds in old maid’s clothes, while in some rooms – which have remained virtually unchanged all these years – a palpably foreboding presence could be felt, as if someone was watching one’s every move.
Just last week, I approached the house unannounced and walked through the front gate (which I normally wouldn’t do), as it was left bolted open. After a stroll through the quaint garden, up the steps, to the front door and across the verandah – the boards of which look like they’re from the last century – I ran into Paul, the groundskeeper.
Now Paul was very reasonable about my intrusion and even showed me the well where the baby had taken the last breath of its exceedingly short life. I didn’t feel anything sinister on my visit, but many have reported otherwise.
The occupants of Gooloowan run tours through the house every so often, providing morning tea. I plan to return for a tour, as Paul tells me the interior is strikingly beautiful.
That evening, at around 10:30pm (last Monday), I decided to head roughly 30 minutes outside of Ipswich to Harrisville, to the Royal James Hotel, which is known as one of the top ten haunted sites in Australia.
As my GPS wasn’t working, I pulled over in the all but deserted town of Rosewood and asked two ladies closing a pub how to get to Harrisville, when a man about my height (6’1), although considerably wider, strode right up to me. He was wearing shorts, thongs, a singlet and was carrying a beer. He asked me where I was going, I told him and he then said – “get on your pushy (colloquial Australian for pushbike) and piss off” – before grabbing the neck of my T-shirt rather violently, calling me scum and yanking me halfway across the footpath.
Before I knew what was happening, the young, short, stout barmaid, who was giving me directions, shoulder-charged this guy, he hit the deck and she started yelling “Dave! How many times have I told you not to do that!” At this point I walked to my car rather quickly and hit the road.
I now began driving around in circles, lost, when I saw a ute waiting on the side of the road not far from the pub, which spooked me a little. It wasn’t until after another 40 minutes of searching deeper into the countryside, late at night, for one of the most haunted hotels in Australia that I had the thought – what the hell am I doing!? I then decided to return to Ipswich.
The Royal James Hotel, Harrisville
The following morning, armed with fresh GPS knowledge after a visit to McDonalds, I drove for roughly 40 minutes through the countryside before arriving at the charming town of Harrisville. I was a little disheartened I hadn’t spent the night here, nevertheless, there was the Royal Hotel, standing silently, albeit conspicuously, at the end of the street. This pub has a history of paranormal activity, which is as follows:
In 2007, the pub’s then proprietor, Chris Kallis, said “at first I thought it was a load of garbage – I was a sceptic. Nothing happened for about eight months. Then things started to move, shake, doors would open, footsteps up and down the hallway. I would be lying in my bed and I would hear people playing pool.”
A few years later, in 2012, a woman reported seeing a male apparition stare back at her while enjoying her meal. The description she gave – of a short, stocky man with broad shoulders – fits the description of a man who died in the hotel on the 30th of August 1934, a man named Sydney John Neaves.
Interestingly, Neaves is the only person known to have died inside the hotel. Could there be more to the story, a murder for instance? Waiting to be uncovered?
When I set eyes on the place it was about 12pm on a bright sunny day. The pub was now closed, as it wasn’t opening until 4pm and there was no one about. I walked around the back, then strolled along the front verandah and peered in the window, gazing at the small, lifeless bar for a few moments, then the doorways and dining area.
I didn’t sense anything particularly sinister, however I did have the feeling that someone was watching me. Perhaps my experience in Rosewood had been a sign to stay away.
Of course I chose not to listen.