The Hobart

OFF SEASON: Harrowing Stories And Haunted Encounters

by Stephanie Williams
OFF SEASON: Harrowing Stories And Haunted Encounters

The nights grow darker and longer. The Bridgewater Jerry fog creeps down the Derwent River to envelop old convict streets. Grass is coated with crusty ice. Can you hear a whisper, or is that a tapping? Feel a presence? Tasmania is full of places rich with history and stories – many of which are tragic. Are you brave enough to visit some haunted locales? Whether you want to learn history or meet a Tassie Casper, here are six ways to embrace the spooky side of Tasmania.

Apparition in the Asylum: History comes alive after dark at Willow Court, New Norfolk. For almost 200 years it was one of the largest mental asylums in the southern hemisphere. If you’re brave enough, enter Ward C, the male ward for the criminally insane, which was active until the 1970s. Join a paranormal investigation with Tasmania’s Most Haunted (tasmaniasmosthaunted.com.au) to learn the fascinating history of this facility, then use ghost-hunting equipment to find what’s lurking in the corridors. Make sure you come out in one piece. During the winter school holidays, kids over 13 can join a ghost tour, while younger kids can learn the history of Willow Court through an all-ages history tour.

BOOtcamp Barracks: Walking the halls and cells of Hobart’s Anglesea Barracks under a night sky may shed a different light on this slice of Tasmania history. Explore the dark side of this 19th-century military gaol in the grounds of Australia’s oldest military barracks still in use. The gaol was built in 1847 to accommodate wayward soldiers, and houses 14 cells. You can’t usually visit after dark, but in winter you can join a paranormal investigation with Tasmania’s Most Haunted (tasmaniasmosthaunted.com.au/military-gaol-tours/) to uncover the secrets the building has to offer – a bootcamp experience that’ll make you sweat for a whole different reason.

Wraiths of Wynyard: In the 1850s, on the north west coast of Tasmania, three ex-convict brothers established a settlement called Alexandria. Shortly after, Wynyard town was established nearby, and eventually swallowed up Alexandria due to better wharfing for shipping. Uncover this local history at Old Wynyard Cemetery and memorise the names on the tombstones. Or visit the Old Wynyard Theatre, where people from a century ago would watch live shows. But don’t stay too long, for spirits are known to haunt both of these places. If you’re brave enough, though, embark on a thrilling paranormal tour with Permission to Trespass (northwesttasmania.com.au/permissiontotrespass) on Friday 14, 21 and 28 June to really get to know the wraiths of Wynyard.

Convict Chapters: Between 1804 and 1853, more than 70,000 convicts were forcibly transported to Tasmania, and their history is dotted all over the state. Start your ghost hunt at Port Arthur Historic Site (portarthur.org.au), the destination for those deemed the most hardened of convicts. Visit after dark to really dial up the heebie jeebies. More than 1000 people perished on these grounds during its time as a penal settlement, and some of those souls seemed to have remained. In Hobart, uncover unsettling secrets of the Hobart Penitentiary (nationaltrust.org.au/places/penitentiary). This was a processing centre for male convicts, where solitary confinement was a cruel experiment in attempting to reform them. 32 people were executed at the site. Tour this old building to learn about its uncomfortable history, and maybe even hear a whisper in the dark from a lost soul. But what about the women? South Hobart’s Cascades Female Factory (femalefactory.org.au) tells stories of convict women and girls who were displaced and mistreated. Far away from it all, the absolute worst place for a convict to be sent was Sarah Island on the west coast, near Strahan. Here, they laboured under harsh and isolated conditions, with almost no chance of escape. The ruins provide a chilling insight into life on the island. To explore the area, book a three night package at Strahan Village (strahanvillage.com.au), including $300 dining credit and premium upper deck seats on a Gordon River Cruise (gordonrivercruises.com.au).

Cinema Chills: For a different kind of spooky adventure, head to Easy Tiger Cinema (easytiger.au/now-showing) in St Helens. In May experience Film Noir, a spine-tingling film program for horror buffs. Embrace fear, buttery popcorn and craft drinks, there’s no better way to feed your inner horror cinephile.

 

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May 2024

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