Tasmania - Day One & Two (The Ghosty Ones)

Updated: Nov 4

The alarm sounds at 3am.

Now that was a rough night.

Cramped quarters.

Air con barley working and a faint smell of piss that got worse as the room got hotter.

Not an ideal start to our belated 20th anniversary trip that has been postponed due to Covid for the past two years.

A 6.45am flight out of Sydney Airport has always been a nightmare. But this was a Sunday morning. Surely we'd be fine.

Fuck was I wrong.

We arrived just before 5am to find the domestic terminal jam packed with people heading to all parts of Australia. The only bonus of being up so early and made to be kept waiting in a snaking queue of tired bodies is watching my beloved Manchester United take on the giants of West London in Chelsea.

We are down 1-0. 90th minute. Woke up with a room that smelt like piss and now we are about to lose to one of our main Top 4 rivals. What an awesome start to this getaway.

94th minute. Deep into stoppage time. Casemiro. Fucking legend.

Heads the ball in with vigor. 1-1.

Welcome to Utd.

My reaction to the result must have been louder than I had thought. As I took my Beats off my head, the amount of people looking in my direction was certainly not was I was expecting. "Sorry guys, just watching the game" I said sheepishly. A few grins and an approving nod of the head by some of the gentlemen nearby made my celebratory behavior justified.


Sydney Domestic Terminal - 4.45am

We get through airport security after what felt like an eternity, just in time to grab a quick hit of caffeine before "Flight JQ719 to Hobart departing from Gate 49 is now ready for boarding" is bellowed through the speakers. Now there is a whole rant I can go on now about the importance of boarding the aircraft as instructed by the flight crew, and not as you see fit, but I won't.

I won't tell you about the absolute fucking morons that were seated in row 32 that boarded from the front of the plane and literally forced their way to the rear of the plane, knocking over several passengers in the process.

I also won't tell you about me giving them a mouthful of what I thought of their actions, much to the humour and approval of all that heard my remarks. I'll just say that the rest of the flight was uneventful and that we landed safely in Tasmania at 8.30am ready to hit the open road.


We pick up our brand new hire car that looks flashier than I expected for the price we paid.

Looked flash. Drove like a tugboat. I'm glad doing more than 80km hr wasn't mandatory in 100km zones....this thing is a bust.


Our first "port of call' (see what I did there!) is Port Arthur, the historic and tragic location of some of the most hardened convicts and the darkest day in Australian history. The drive from Hobart is one of the most spectacular drives I have done. All that was missing was a giant T Rex wading through the massive trees that scattered the landscape on both sides of the road.

Port Arthur Historical Site - The Penitentiary


We arrive at Port Arthur Historical Site in just over an hour. At first sight, I had no idea just how large this site actually is. 100 acres of skeletal remains of some of the grandest sandstone structures this country has ever seen. This place would have been a sight to behold in it's day. Not for the convicts I suppose, but everyone else it would have been. There is definitely an energy here that can be felt the moment you hit the grounds.

Now before we go any further, let's take a minute to put the record straight.

I am a sceptic. I don't believe in something that I can not physically see, feel, touch, lick....you get the picture.

Yes, I visit some of the most insane abandoned places with my best mate, fellow urbex enthusiast, business partner, photographer and all round genius Mike Lee, but it's not for the paranormal adventures. It's to breath some life back into the places that have been long forgotten about by society. To give these derelict places a voice again, to give them relevance as they once had. And the pictures we take are pretty fucking awesome if I do say so myself. Yes, we have caught stuff on camera before (orbs, partial apparitions and a few other weird things) but it's not something we seek and it's only found after we go through our footage. I absolutely love binge watching paranormal shows like Portals To Hell and Ghost Adventures with Cherie every night in our chill time, I watch for the stories and photographic opportunities (I could sooooooo be a photographer on these shows!) and Cherie watches for all the ghosty stuff. And as I've said, unless something physically happens to me, or I see it with my own two eyes (as bad as they are) then it's just a story. Pics or it didn't happen right!?!?!

Well, we got pics.


We have booked a personal tour guide George for a small group private tour of the site, including some areas off limits to the general public and this ladies and gentlemen is how our day unfolded;


THE PENITENTIARY

The largest building on the site and the building that most people associate with Port Arthur. Before our tour starts, we head there just to check it out quickly. We probably didn't really have time to, but if I'm honest.....I'm like a kid in a fucking candy store holding a fist full of fifties when it comes to abandoned buildings. I just *have* to take a look as soon as we get there.

But maybe we shouldn't have rushed in.

Cherie's legs go funny as soon as we pass the threshold of the middle entrance of the grand structure. Strong electrical currents are felt in her feet for the first minute or so after stepping foot inside, and rapidly rise from her feet to her mid thighs in a matter of minutes. She touches the wall of the ground floor and instantly feels nauseous. Concerned, we leave the building and literally two steps later the feeling stops dead. Like turning off a tap that was running full force. We hurry over to the other side of the large oval that precedes the penitentiary to meet up with George for our tour.


And guess where our first stop is.


We enter via the same doorway that we had entered just moments ago and like fucking clockwork, it happens again the moment she walks in. Electrical currents all the way up to her thighs instantly. We head over to the eastern corner of the ground floor where the cells used to be, the place that George tells us was used to house the most hardened of criminals. As George is explaining some of the in's and out's of day-to-day operations of the lower levels of the prison to the wider group, Cherie tells me on the quiet that her neck just got really hot and is now burning. I take a look and right before my eyes was a large singular scratch along her jawline.

Before you debunk this as nothing, let me paint you a picture of my wife in temperatures sub 30C.

Close your eyes for a second.

Go on, do it.

I'll wait.

Picture an Inuit in the middle of winter.

Just more Goth.

On this day, she is rugged up in more layers than French wedding cake, puffer jacket over a thermal hooded jacket, which is covering a long sleeved skivvy type shirt, another shirt, a singlet, you get the picture. One would think it was cold outside. So there is no way on earth that this could be accidentally done by a finger nail or something brushing past. Her neck was under no less that 2 layers of clothing at all times so to hit her flesh from the outside would have been no easy task. And I was standing right next to her and she didn't move a muscle, certainly not any movement near her neck.

Freaked out, we leave the building and the electric currents stop dead again, but the scratch still burns but fades almost as quick as it came up.

That in itself is too bizarre for me to comprehend.


The Goth Inuit


THE HOSPITAL

Just above the grand penitentiary sits the hospital, overlooking the entire 100 acres on top of the largest hill of the site. Spooked by what has happened not once now, but twice, we head in with trepidation. In comparison to the last building, this one was a bit anti-climatic. Cherie had a slight headache that passed once we had left the footprint of the crumbling ruins.

A relief more than anything.


THE ASYLUM & SEPARATE/SILENT PRISON

100% honest, these buildings were the main reason why I booked this private tour as this granted us access into the places that I had only seen very select few images of, and of those select few images got my creative photography juices flowing harrrrrrrd. You all know how much I love a cold dark hallway that I can make my magic with....this structure had them for dayz!

We had been at the back of the tour group for the first few buildings as I wanted to hang back and get as many photos in as I could but as soon as we were headed to the Asylum, I was front and centre, first one to go through the door, keen as fuck to get in there and start weaving my magic.

Cherie however, was not.

After heading in and taking in the now empty halls of the asylum, I notice that Cherie had not made it in yet. I head back out and found her waiting out the front, hesitant to climb the 6 stairs leading up to the entrance. She tells me that she attempted to follow me in but it felt as though she was walking through a gel-like substance, almost as if the air that occupied this space was thicker than normal. We take a moment and head in together. It still feels like walking into a strong headwind for Cherie. I feel fine, just eager to get in and explore but also worried about how this place is affecting Cherie.

And the affects were just about to rear their head once again.

Waves of what she describes as sea sickness takes her down like a tonne of lead balloons, as well as an overwhelming sense of unhappiness. She does not last long in this space and we both quickly head to the nearest exit point. And again, once we were outside, the happenings stopped. There is definitely something going on that we can't explain. We proceed to the separate prison and the same gel-like feeling returns and Cherie has trouble walking up to the doorway. She decides to push through and enter and she gets hit with a similar unhappy feeling and has bouts of dizziness. At one stage she was so off-balanced she grabs my arm to stop herself from falling over. We arrive at the solitary confinement cells, deep into the western wing of the building and Cherie felt as if something was tightening around her throat. We are then told by George that just outside the rear walls of these cells is where the gallows once were. Coincidence....maybe not.


The cells of the Separate Prison


THE PARSONAGE

The story goes that this house is the most haunted house in Australia. I have now heard that 47 times. But after everything that Cherie has just gone through, this time they might be right. We listen to George tell us tales of the old Reverend who died in the upstairs area of the house back in the 1800's whose ghost is supposed to have haunted the house ever since, tales of gruesome horror that left even the hardest of stomachs churning.

Then he proceeded to let us inside.

Again, I felt absolutely nothing, well, apart from the disappointment of seeing jail cell like bars over the staircase that lead to the notorious second story. The photo opportunities that could be missed saddened me. And for the sixth building in a row that we had entered, Cherie instantly felt things again. Walking over the threshold she felt repulsed, almost as if something was repelling her from being inside. She couldn't wait to be outside again, and she did just that in less than a minute I'd guess. She told me after we had exited that she also found it very hard to breathe inside. THE CHURCH

The skeletal walls of the church is all that remains of what once used to house 3300 people each and every Sunday. This is where our tour concluded, and so did Cherie's feelings.

Well, for now anyway.


After 90 emotional minutes of exploring we both decide it is time to just stop and collect ourselves and try and decipher what the fuck actually just happened. Me, the sceptic was lightly considering that there might me something more to all this.....*lightly* considering.

But that was just about to become more than just lightly considering.



The Church


Not feeling any of the effects of anything Cherie had just gone through, I bravely volunteered us to head back to the place where she had been scratched in the Penitentiary, you know, just to see what happened. The look Cherie gave me was one of someone who was none too impressed with this decision, but like a trooper, she went in with gusto.

The phrase "Well it can't get any worse" arguably wasn't the best thing to say in trying to convince her to head back there.

Because they did.

We get back to the scene of the crime, standing on the very same floorboards where Cherie was standing when she got scratched not 90mins ago, she gets scratched again. This time though, it draws blood to the surface. Almost like it has burst some of the blood capillaries in an area the size of a fingernail. This time I have my camera ready and snap a photo of her neck. I could only get one push of the trigger away before she tells me to slowly move back because she can feel something around her. She then froze solid as she tells me that something has taken her hand. Her fingers go completely numb.

She describes it as though something or someone was holding her hand. I took a series of photos on film, nothing on digital. I also took a few instant Polaroid photos which showed up nothing.....but more on this a little later.

The Scratch


The last location that we visited on our day was the site of the Port Arthur massacre, the cafe where 35 people tragically died when a lone gunmen opened fire and took their lives in 1996, a day that changed Australia forever. The overwhelming sadness was something that we both felt as we paid our respects in what remains of the Broad Arrow cafe but I don't think this was a paranormal event, just a raw, human emotion for what had happened in such tragic circumstances.



We head out of the historical site looking for some dinner. We drove the countryside searching for some grub. Two pubs and an RSL club later we are still on the hunt. Sit down meals down this part of the world are more elusive than a wild sighting of a Tasmanian Devil. We settle for takeaway burgers and, I quote, "five bucks worth of hot chips" and retreat back to our stargazing tent. We met a handful of locals whilst eating dinner who seemed nice. They weren't very talkative which made our conversations a little one sided but they were friendly enough. They had a baby who was suuuuuuper cute. I did feel like they might have been angling to want to join us for dinner but we didn't really have enough to share, but more to the point, we were eating junk food as it was all we could find and feeding our guests junk food wasn't an option. Our guests were Pademelons.

Oh yeah, remember those Polaroids I took earlier? I told you there was more to come.

Right after dinner I was going through my camera bag, recharging my gear for tomorrow and I found the Polaroids. In all of the commotion of the day I had completely forgotten about them. We were eager to see if we had captured anything and as we were going over them with a fine tooth comb, Cherie picked one up and suddenly freaked out.

Not by something she saw.

By something she felt.

In the photos that I took in the place where she was affected by whatever it was, as soon as she touched the photo, that electricity feeling she had in her legs hit her like a bolt of lightning in her hand and arm, almost as if the energy that was captured at this location had somehow ingrained itself into the photo. We were 10km away from the penitentiary and the exact same feeling washed over her even though we were so far away from the location. I can't even begin to comprehend how something like this can happen, or if it is even possible. This sceptic might just be turning.

After being up since 3am we decide to have an early-ish night. We talk again on the events of what had transpired over the past 15 hours and one thing was abundantly clear. We needed to head back to the penitentiary tomorrow and see what we could capture on film. Call us crazy (most people do) but we just had to go back for more.


Us


DAY TWO.

THE SEQUEL.


3.43am. The Devil's Hour.

We both woke bolt upright in bed. Why did we both all of a sudden wake up in the manner that we did, at the exact same time? Did we bring someone, or something back with us yesterday?? This shit is getting me freaked out a bit now. Back to sleep, if we can.


A brisk morning greeted us as we rose from our slumber, still not sure if we had imagined everything that happened yesterday or if actually did happen.

Well there was only one way to find out. Camera bag was packed, go-pro was charged, we were ready to go.


Before we hit the historic site again we made a quick detour to Remarkable Cave. We didn't get to see it so I couldn't tell you how remarkable, or how unremarkable it really is. The lookout next to it overlooking Salmon Rock was breathtaking however. We stopped in at Safety Cove on our way back. White sand beach looking out towards the Three Capes and Antarctica. Looks fucking cold from here. The entire shoreline stretched kilometres and was completely deserted bar one lone moronic photographer who was idiotic enough to brave the harsh conditions. He got some epic shots though!


PORT ARTHUR HISTORIC SITE.

ROUND TWO.

Cherie is charged 100m out from the Penitentiary. In her words, "It's like yesterday, on steroids". We head in, using the same entry point as the day before. The electricity feel hits her straight away, but a tenth of what it was yesterday, but enough to notice that it is still there. We head back to the infamous scratching location and try to see if anything happens to Cherie but it doesn't.

It happens to me.

For the first time, I now feel the electricity sensation that Cherie was feeling in this very same building yesterday. Was a weird feeling. Felt warm and fuzzy in my lower legs, up to the top of my calves. I can only liken the feeling to that feeling you get when you smash a few too many beers in a short space of time and your head goes all fuzzy for a little bit. Same as that, just in your legs.


We move on to various other buildings that are scattered all over the hillside overlooking the harbour with no affects, good or bad.


The Hospital


THE COMMANDANTS QUARTERS

This grand old house is nestled on top of the hillside, overlooking the entire site. A large, two story house that once was turned into a hotel. That didn't last too long though so the tale goes. Cherie and I decide to go our separate ways and explore this one solo. It turns out that we shared the exact same experience anyway.

As I enter the Commandants study it hits me like a brick to the face. A splitting headache and a pressure on both sides of my skull that feel like it's in a vice. I wanted so badly to take photos inside this room as it was full of antique furniture and his personal library which includes his actual books but I just had to get out of the room. As soon as I was in the hallway, the pain left as quick as it came on. I needed to find Cherie to tell her what had just happened. We meet up in the room at the far end of the house and I tell her that I feel kinda off and she tells me that she feels the same, although only in one particular room. Without telling her where I had my experience, I give her the go-pro and tell her to follow me to where it happened. I went back into the study and she looks me dead in the eye and tells me that his was the same room that has affected her as well. The vice like feeling has not come back but the mad headache came straight back the moment we entered the room again. I managed to get off a few snaps in here this time to see what might or might not appear and then we leave the house. Literally 20 steps from the house entrance and we both feel fine, like nothing had happened.

This paranormal shit is fucking weird man.


The Asylum & Separate Prison as seen through the Hospital window


THE ASYLUM & SEPARATE PRISON

We head back towards the Asylum and Separate Prison and Cherie informs me that she will not be entering these buildings after the way she felt yesterday. She was too drained after that experience and didn't want to feel that unhappy feeling all over again.

So I braved it alone.

Literally alone.

There was nobody (alive anyway) in the entire prison. I had the place to myself. I first checked out the Asylum, and in the space where the old ward used to be, there is now a museum full of artifacts and belongings of the convicts that were once imprisoned here.

It felt hot in here.

Like 45C hot.

But only in spots.

Like the spot where prisoner number 13's copper name badge was on display. I think that dude is still hanging around because whenever I got closer to the dog tag, the singular spotlight that was illuminating the tag would flicker from bright to dim and back again.

And then it went off.

And then back on.

And then off.

And then back on.

Faulty wiring? Plausible. But with all the shit that this former sceptic has witnessed over the past 24hr, I guarantee that motherfucker is still here. And I'll testify to that.


Back in the Separate Prison, the solitude is awesome, although creepy as fuck. I head into the courtroom. It was hauntingly quiet. A few floorboards decided to creak. Probably just the building settling I told myself. I stood smack bang in the centre of the room, closed my eyes and tried to open myself up to the energy of the space.

Nothing.

Calm as.


As Cherie was still waiting patiently for me outside, I rushed around to take my final images of the wards and cells. Upon my exit it was pretty clear that we had both had our fill of this historical site and we called it a day. We made peace with the spirits of this magnificent place and let them roam free among the ruins, free to greet the next lucky person to have the experience that we had.

Port Arthur, you will always hold a very special place in our hearts.

Until our return.....




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