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Port Arthur is a small town on the Tasman Peninsula of Australia. Named after George Arthur, the Lt. Governor of Van Diemen’s Land and started out as a timber station in 1830. However, it is best known for being a correctional facility.
*Housed the worse criminals from England along with petty convicts (usually young poor people who were caught stealing) and repeat offenders from other prisons around Australia. It, unbelievably, also housed the families of the convicts many of which were children.
*At its peak in the 1840’s it held over 1100 prisoners.
*Most of the buildings on site were built by the prisoners.
*The prison closed in 1877 due to most of the inmates being elderly or sick.
*Its history is rich and very dark.
*Prisoners were given hard labor and not allowed to just sit idle. Living conditions in the prison were generally punishing and brutal. The prison became notorious for the physical pain, suffering and emotional trauma suffered by those incarcerated there.
*Some were held in solitary confinement that had very thick concrete walls. They were kept there for 23 hours a day in an attempt to reform unruly inmates by sensory deprivation. The guards would even wear non-noise slippers and use sign language to communicate as to ensure there were no sounds that the inmates could hear. Most people went mad.
*When walking into the visitor’s center, you will see a framed collection of photographs with captured traces of paranormal activity. There are photographs of unexplained blurs, lights, orbs and streaks.
*Now the inmates are long gone and unfortunately due to a series of brush fires that swept through the area in 1897, Port Arthur is a series of ruins.
PORT ARTHUR PARANORMAL
Documentation of paranormal activity in Port Arthur is available from as far back as 1870 with thousands of written reports by people who have experienced something paranormal while on tour or in the facility. Many of the stories are eerily similar, and by 2014 there were over 2000 cases of ghost sightings.
Reports range from feeling watched to full-bodied apparitions. If you are sensitive to paranormal phenomena then you may feel nauseated in certain areas. People have reported feeling “strangled” by unseen hands only to later find multiple scratches on their necks. There are recordings or EVP’s (electronic voice phenomenon) of ghostly words spoken or whispered conversations taking place in empty locations.
On April 20, 1867, William Carter hung himself in his cell by using the straps of his hammock. Many visitors in his cell have been overcome with overwhelming feelings of sadness and despair.
One report of a Lady in Blue is believed to be the ghost of a woman who was married to a Port Arthur accountant. The couple lived at the penal colony in the 1800s and legend says she is seen wearing a crinoline dress and bonnet. Some say she and her baby died during childbirth and she keeps returning to the location to find her baby.
A visitor who had collapsed on the floor was treated in the hospital for severe shock. She regaled anyone who would listen with a tale that while on the ghost tour she saw a figure stagger towards her. It was a little behind the tour guide when it stepped into the light. By her accounts it appeared “half dead with bruises and blood all over him”.
Some reports tell of the disembodied laughter of children running up and down stairs and playing. Some nights it is reported that you can hear the children playing hopscotch and singing songs. Ghostly children’s faces have been seen peering out of the windows of one of the buildings on site. Other stories include a young boy who was waiting on his execution inside the prison. His chilling screams can be heard at night sometimes.
In the basement is the former senior surgeon’s room where he performed autopsies. In this room people have reportedly passed out on tours. Some people complain of experiencing severe pain. Cameras have a tendency to malfunction.
There was a report of one man who had been on a ghost tour that had observed an outline of a human face through his camera. He then supposedly witnessed the convict clad figure come out of a wall, look at everyone in the room then promptly disappear. Later he discovered that the footage had disappeared from the video.
THE PARSONAGE HOUSE
The Parsonage house is known to be in the top 5 haunted houses in Australia. The house belonged to the reverend, George Eastman. His death was not so traumatic, however his ghost has been reported by many as being seen in the house.
A few weeks after Reverend Eastman passed, a Reverend Hayward and family moved into the house. The family experienced moving chairs and footsteps. Everyone believed it to be haunted, everyone that is except for Mrs. Hayward who was determined to prove it false. She set up a trap of sorts one night after their 6 children had went to bed.
She tied threads across the staircase from the bottom to the top then waited for several hours but hearing nothing she went to bed. After lying down she started hearing movement downstairs. She woke the reverend up to help her check the house. When they reached the staircase, it was discovered that every string had snapped with the exception of the one at the top. Seeing nothing they then reportedly felt a breath of hot hair before hearing footsteps descending down the staircase. The Hayward family soon after left the house and left Port Arthur.
A figure of a man is supposedly seen outside the window of the house with his arm raised in a stabbing motion.
Reports exist of a builder involved in the restoration who awoke one evening to a heavy weight resting on his chest and the sensation of being strangled. When his 2 colleagues heard a commotion and walked in to see their friend seemingly pinned to the bed flailing about, holding his neck, they tried to move him but couldn’t. Once he finally seemed to have been let go of the ghost, he reported to them that he felt the heavy weight on his chest and when opening his eyes he found a man with a beard on him. The man told him to leave his house and never return; he then began “strangling” the worker.
THE COMMANDANT’S HOUSE
Then there is a spirit of a little girl who reportedly fell down the stairs at the Commandant’s house. She is seen lying in a pool of blood with her right arm badly broken, looking frightened.
An old woman has been seen sitting in the rocking chair that is in a hallway. A little girl spirit has been seen running from room to room. It is not uncommon to hear footsteps when no one is around but whomever is hearing this. Poltergeist activity is also reported, with lights violently shaking or swinging back and forth, again when no one is around other than the observer.
It is a convict built church, like many of the buildings on site. It has gothic-style architecture.
This is the site where inmate Joseph Shuttleworth was engaged in construction by digging a trench back in December 16, 1835 when fellow inmate, William Riley, struck him on the head multiple times with a pickaxe. Between the third and fourth blow, Riley was subdued. “I am satisfied,” he said and then threw down the axe. Shuttleworth did not die immediately but was taken to the infirmary where he later did pass away. Riley was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death by hanging.
This isn’t the end of the horror at Port Arthur as on April 28 (or 29), 1996 it was the scene of the Port Arthur Massacre. Martin Bryant went on a rampage murdering 35 people and wounding 23 others before being subdued and captured by the Special Operations Group. He is reported to have had a subnormal I.Q. and had intellectual disabilities.
There are nightly lantern ghost tours given. For information you can go to their web site at portarthur.org.au, free call: 1 800 659 101, phone: 61 (0) 36251 2310. Port Arthur is located at 6973 Arthur Highway, Port Arthur, Tasmania 7182 – Australia