Drew Sinton owner of the Haunted Bookshop in Melbourne.
Next time you have a drink at the Mitre Tavern, tucked away in Bank Place, spare a thought for poor Connie Waugh. You might even catch a glimpse of her, flitting across the pub’s balcony and courtyard towards the Savage Club.
The ghost of Connie Waugh has been seen and her presence felt by a steady stream of visitors to the Mitre Tavern, says Drew Sinton, owner of the Haunted Bookshop and an expert on Melbourne’s ghostly history.
“The Mitre Tavern is very romantic – it’s like a Hansel and Gretel cottage surrounded by a forest of tall buildings,” says Sinton.
“It used to be a house and was built by Connie’s lover – the son of Sir William John Clarke, a wealthy landowner and Australia’s first baronet. Some people say Connie hanged herself there, and another story says she died at the Mitre during an influenza epidemic.
“Either way, her ghost appears over the balcony moving towards the Savage Club, where her lover, Sir Rupert Clarke, used to go. People have seen Connie as a black shadow, a cocoon of light and as a woman in a long white dress.”
Cobb & Co, Little Lonsdale Street
The site of the former Cobb & Co station in Little Lonsdale Street has a gruesome history.
“The first Cobb & Co coach in Australia ran from there, but during the 1950s the old brick building became the home of Edward Duckett & Son, an ironmongery,” says Sinton.
“During that time three men were involved in an altercation in an upstairs office. Two men apparently ganged up on another man, we don’t know why, and killed the victim with an axe. At various times, people reported seeing a man wearing a white shirt and holding an axe moving across a platform upstairs.”
The building has been demolished to make way for an apartment block.
Queen Victoria Market
Two Aborigines called Bob and Jack haunt the popular Queen Victoria Market. Market workers have also spotted the shadowy figures of three bushrangers towards Victoria Street. The market is built on the site of Melbourne’s first cemetery and there are believed to be about 9000 bodies buried beneath it.
“Three convicted bushrangers were hanged and buried there. One night a security guard spotted three strange figures at the market but as he got closer, they vanished,” says Sinton.
Bob and Jack, from Tasmania, were buried at the cemetery after killing a whaler in Port Fairy. Sinton says traditionally, Aborigines were supposed to be buried where they were born and the sightings of Bob and Jack may be because their final resting place is a long way from home.
The Golden Monkey, off Hardware Lane
This award-winning bar reportedly has a ghost cat. People have felt a cat brushing against their legs. The ghost of a middle-aged woman in a red dress has also been seen.
“On one tour I asked if anyone had allergies to animals. Four people had allergies to cats and at the Golden Monkey they had an allergic reaction, just as if a cat was present,” says Sinton.
“We don’t know who the woman is, but there was a small anteroom with shackles on the walls downstairs. The venue is close to the old red-light district, so perhaps that small room had been an S&M club and the woman in the red dress is a former brothel madam. The cat may be hers.”
National Trust Office, Tasma Terrace, East Melbourne
The National Trust is housed in Tasma Terrace, built in the 1870s and 1880s. Since the National Trust moved in to the terrace in 1979, senior historian Dr Celestina Sagazio says there have been a number of odd reports.
“One day I was in an end room in one of the properties looking through files and there was a member of the public in the room doing some research,” recalls Dr Sagazio.
“Suddenly she said to me, ‘I don’t want to alarm you but there is a ghostly figure standing behind you. She’s a buxom, middle-aged woman’. I saw and felt nothing, but on another occasion some accountants leased the end property in the terrace and they experienced strange events such as doors opening and closing on their own and one of them heard voices coming from the site where the end house in the terrace had once stood.”
State Library, Swanston Street
Security guards working at the State Library after hours have reported chandeliers swaying by themselves. A strange light and puffs of smoke have also been seen near the swaying lights.
Dr Sagazio says there have also been reports of a ghostly figure playing a piano in Queen's Hall, with local historians believing the figure may be that of former librarian, Robert Boys, who died in 1942.
Old Melbourne Gaol, Russell Street
Staff, volunteers and visitors have all reported feeling uneasy in Old Melbourne Gaol, where 135 people, including Ned Kelly, were hanged. The gaol was opened in 1842 and closed in 1929.
“A former manager remembers leaving the staff room, a former cell, one night. She was the last person to leave and bolted the door behind her,” says Dr Sagazio.
“When she returned the next morning and unlocked the staff room door, the sugar bowl had been moved and a neat circle of sugar had been poured on the table. None of the staff had done that.
“A couple of years ago a research group of paranormal investigators reportedly recorded a ghostly figure in a doorway of the jail with the most grotesque face they had ever seen.”
Another worker at the gaol reported watching a man walking towards the gallows on the ground floor. He initially thought the man was another member of staff but as he looked at the figure more closely he realised the man was dressed in an old-style prison uniform and was wearing a silence mask – a type of hood for prisoners. He walked into the last cell below the gallows and then disappeared.
Titles Office, Queen Street
The former Titles Office at 283 Queen Street was built in 1877 and workers often reported seeing the ghostly figure of a man on the premises. They also heard mysterious footsteps walking the corridors.
“The man is believed to be old John Aylward, who was a caretaker at the Titles Office during the late 1800s,” says Sinton.
“People working in the building late at night would hear footsteps when there was nobody there. Cleaners saw him there and told me they liked to get their work done before 7pm because that’s when John seemed to appear.”
The building is now part of Victoria University.
For more information
The Haunted Bookshop, 15 McKillop Street, Melbourne 3000. Or go to www.haunted.com.au
The National Trust is at www.nattrust.com.au. or call 9656 9800 for details of the National Trust’s night tours of Melbourne General Cemetery.