Ghosts and Grunts

Extraorrrrrrrdinary tales of the undead

Many years ago, when I was in primary school, there was a book in the school library that caused a bit of a stir. It was a collection of (allegedly) true Australian ghost stories.

I can’t recall much about the contents. It probably included all the usual suspects such as Frederici at the Princess Theatre and Fisher’s ghost. But there was one chapter that started up a whole load of trouble – one about a bunch of quite terrifying events alleged to have occurred to a bunch of kids on a school camp at the Old York Hospital.

This caused quite a ruckuss. It was all anyone would talk about. In creative writing class, all anyone would write were stories about ghosts and (for some reason) ninjas and kung-fu on school camping trips to the Old York Hospital. The situation got so bad that the year seven school camp was cancelled out of fear that the students would run off to go ghost hunting (or possibly ninja hunting). The fact that it was a fairly conservative Catholic primary school with a dim view of all things “occult” probably didn’t help matters either – I think the book eventually vanished from the shelves never to be seen again before the whole thing eventually died down.

It did however leave me with a lifelong curiosity about the old hospital, and when a photographer on Flickr got in touch with me this week about the old Castle Fun Park in Mandurah, and I noticed some photos of the hospital in her photostream, I decided to do some research about the story I remembered as a kid. And I found the motherload!

First up I located a lengthy article about the events at the old hospital by one Miriam Howard-Wright. The article was published in a magazine, but I strongly suspect that the book that caused such a stir so many years ago was written by her, with the article reworked into the notorious York chapter.

I also found a fantastic old documentary about Australian hauntings up on YouTube. Broadcast in the 1980s it very likely sparked the Old-York-Hospital mania I remember so well. The video transfer is a bit off, and it’s heavily infused with a rather 1970s “the paranormal is now a serious subject of scientific enquiry” vibe, but it’s still a damn good watch. One of the most entertaining aspects of it is actually the accents – the narrator appears to be English (presumably on the basis that no one could possibly take a documentary narrated by an Australian seriously) and there are a couple of examples of the old “refined” Australian accent which is now nearing extinction (such as the woman at the info centre in the Rocks). The sheer preponderance of cigarettes also shows how much the country’s changed in the last 30 years.

Finally I stumbled over another documentary, this one from 2001, about Australia’s “Most Haunted Town” (apparently Kapunda). It’s hosted by Warrick Moss, who made his mark in the field by hosting 90s paranormal infotainment classic The Extraorrrrdinary (you have to say it like that – it’s the way he did it). It’s nothing particularly ground-breaking, but gets my vote for the second half, which consists almost wholly of shaky-cam, infra-red footage of Moss stumbling around in the dark, grunting (and swearing). Now that’s entertainment!

One of these days I’ll make it to York…


Not for the faint of heart

Recently all of us at the office put together a big, combined order from Amazon. Included in mine was some Warren Ellis, some Warhammer novels and a few bits and pieces including a book about weird things in American history by one Robert Damon Schneck named The President’s Vampire.

This proved to be a damn good read. I was familiar with several cases he covered (I mean who hasn’t heard about the phantom attackers of colonial Gloucester?) but there were several new to me. And the final case covered, well.

As the start of the last chapter says, people of a nervous disposition or those prone to obsessive thoughts would probably be better off not knowing about the case. So if you’re one of those, tune out here…

Still here? Good.

OK, the last chapter covers a very strange and downright creepy series of events encountered by a friend of the author who started playing around with a ouija board. Over the period of several months he and his friends made contact with some “entities” (a catch all term for whatever it is you contact via a ouija board, be they ghosts, demons, elementals, aliens, dolphins, the NSA or fragmented sections of the sitters’ subconciousnii) who eventually (quite reluctantly) supplied them with information about a malevolant being whose name I shall not repeat here, because (so the entities claimed) if you know his name he’ll come and hunt you down.

A series of very weird and eerie events followed, including one of the group having an inexplicable late night encounter with something that may or may not have been the creature in question.

After relating the events Schneck goes on to present a very well thought out (although – as in the best stories of this kind – ultimately inconclusive) analysis of the case. You can (and he does) come up with a perfectly rational explanation for it all, as long as you’re willing to accept the subconcious-action theory of the ouija board, but it’s still downright weird – and I speak as someone so well versed in the paranormal that I don’t count things as weird until crop circles start appearing in solid concrete.

Now, just out of idle curiosity I googled the name of the murderous being spoken about via the board. And to my surprise I discovered a simplified account of the case being circulated around the net as creepypasta!

(What’s creepypasta? Get with the program man! It’s the 2010’s for crying out loud! :))

This is strangely cool. Creepypasta is generally assumed to be complete grabage but here we have a case where it’s based in truth. I don’t know if Mr Schneck is aware of this, but I may drop him a line and tell him.

For the brave of heart, creepypasta accounts of the case may be found here and here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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