Friday, August 24, 2007

Home from Port Arthur

Just home from my night at Port Arthur.

Well what a crazy week. It was kicked off with my night in the Parsonage, a vacant building with nothing but a locked piano and steep staircase; two things I did not want to hear from in the middle of the night. As it was I remained awake listening to every little noise outside my door. It was a wet and windy night and the house certainly let me know it. But I managed to tough it out and am quite proud of the fact that I have endured the night in full at each of the ten sites.

If this spiel is sounding familiar it’s probably because I finished the week doing interviews with ABC radio all over the country. News of my adventures hit the right channels and I was inundated. Most of the interviews took place in my car on the side of the road, juggling my mobile phone as the trucks went by. Some of these interviews went smoother than others, but I am doing my best to sound sharp, articulate and just interesting I guess.

The Bush Telegraph, Radio National, is now producing a show on the project which is really exciting. Stay tune for details on that.

Other news is that one my ghost poems recently won the ‘open poetry’ category of the Bauhinia Literary Awards. So a big ‘yay’ on that one! It’s encouraging to know the work is being received well already.

Now if you would like to hear me read I am performing as part of National Poetry Week at the Bush Inn Hotel, Geelong, Sept 8, 2-5pm. Alongside Diane Fahey, Katherine Gallagher and Susan Russell.

I am in Port Fairy the following day (Sept 9) reading at the Ex Libris Book Fair: Victoria Hotel Dining Room, 12.30-2.30 with Paul Mitchell and James Griffin among others.

But keep in touch because I have a lot more to tell you, news on upcoming plays with Melb Writers theatre, Defector Art and Short and Sweet.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Port Arthur

Here it is people.
I don’t want to do it but I have to do it.

Nine months into it, nine haunted sites down, and with 72 poems written, it has all finally lead to this: a night at Australia’s no. 1 haunted location, Port Arthur.

It’s been one hell of a great adventure but let me share a few things I have discovered along the way.

1. It is possible to feel incredibly lucky/privileged and sick with nerves at the same time. (Something I learnt one night amid the moonlit ruins of Norfolk Island.)

2. You are allowed to pass through an airport metal detector while eating a chicken salad. (as long as your fork is plastic!)

3. A hearse can get pretty uncomfortable.

4. Good ideas/poems come from sheer hard work. Even when you are sure you are out of good ideas/poems.

But let’s talk about Port Arthur. Of course we all know it was a hell-on-earth convict settlement back in the 1800s, a place of unimaginable cruelty. Now it is a hive for tourists and ghost hunters, with ghost tours being conducted every night. Reports of paranormal activity are legion, and people are scared witless as they are taken through buildings such as the Commandant’s Cottage, Jetty Cottage and Tower Cottage.

I am staying the night in one of Port Arthur’s most ‘haunted’ : the Parsonage.

Weird activity associated with this building includes, moaning noises, bright lights, the smell of rotting flesh, knocking noises, footsteps, ghostly figures ie. a little girl and the ‘lady in blue’.

All right… starting to scare myself now! But read more about what I’m in for at the links below. And wish me luck!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Norfolk/Passionate Tongues

Just home from Norfolk Island where I got to spend the night in the pier store, its most ‘haunted’ building.

Built by convicts, it is said that a grey figure appeared one night, walked down the front stairs, out onto the pier and disappeared into the ocean. The witness of this was so alarmed that he went straight to the authorities and reported it. Since then there have been other accounts of strange noises and sightings.

Now converted into a museum, I was allowed to sleep upstairs among the relics of the Bounty. My buddy for the night was one of the original cannons salvaged from the ship that Fletcher Christian and the other mutineers burnt at Pitcairn Island.

Check out the gallery for pics of ruins, pines and the cemetery of this incredible place. Thanks to Brian Hubble, Maev Hitch and others who introduced me to the local history and Norfolk language (a cross between Tahitian and Old English.)

My final ghost-poetry stay is coming up at Australia’s most haunted location: Port Arthur. So keep in touch.

And why not come and see me perform at Passionate Tongues in Melb, 6th August, 8pm. $5. (Noise Bar, 291 Albert St, Brunswick) I am featuring with Kevin Brophy, Paul Mitchell and James Waller. Fine poetry by some of Melbourne’s best.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Norfolk Island (Ghost Poetry)

My ninth stay on the ghost poetry project is the picturesque Norfolk Island. With 1800 residents, a third of whom are direct descendants of Fletcher Christian from Pitcairn Island, it sits two and half hours from the Queensland Coast, a jewel in the Pacific, a living museum.

Yet Norfolk Island was once an isolated penal colony, perhaps the most brutal every established. Many place names on the island give a hint to its gruesome past: Bloody Bridge, Ghost Corner, Gallows Gate and Cemetery Bay. Some claim it has more ghosts per square kilometre than any other region of Australia.

It looks like I will be staying the night at the Kingston Pier Store. The pier and storehouse were built by convicts, and is said to be haunted by the ghost of one that drowned (presumable during its construction). Check out the links below for more info on the island. Aren’t I lucky to go to all of these cool places? The only downside is the terror!

Judith Rodriguez will be launching a new book of poems, Mr Wittgenstein’s Lion, written by that other sensei of mine, Kevin Brophy. Sunday 29th July, 5 for 5.30pm, Glenfern (417 Inkerman St, East St Kilda, Melbourne). So pop that into your diary. We are all looking forward to it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Voices of experience

Don’t know if you caught the A2 liftout of Melbourne’s Saturday Age but you would have seen Judith Rodriguez and myself splashed across the centre page. Larry Schwartz wrote an article on mentorships and tracked us down through the Australian Society of Authors. (which all writers should consider joining… I really must renew my membership!!) Jill Dymond you’re the best.

So check out the article (you'll have to copy and paste the address below.) Larry talked to other mentor/mentees including Lex Lasry, Renee Geyer and Liesel Jones. He even gives a mention to my current 'ghost poetry' project.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Q Station (survival)

Just home from my sleepover at the Quarantine Station, Sydney.

Situated on North Head, this stretch of land holds three unmarked graveyards and a host of ‘haunted’ buildings. Used for over a century to quarantine emigrants and convicts it has housed over 15,000 people and was used following World War I when servicemen returned home with Spanish influenza.

The history of this place is beyond belief. But let me tell you about my adventures the other night.
I rocked up at the Q Station and did an induction and day tour. Then I dumped my stuff in one of the vacant buildings on ‘healthy ground’, my accom for the night, and prepared for a cold and blustery ghost tour. It turns out that there were only two of us booked in, so we got to do things that others normally wouldn’t.

We sat in the dark in the third-class dining hall for approx 15 mins listening for footsteps on the verandah, anything out of place. We did the same at the Isolation building, the Hospital and the Shower Block. All of these buildings come with a long history of reported sightings, so it was nerve-wracking to say the least, especially with the wind battering upon the windows.

The most harrowing part of the night was when I led our small crew down one side of the shower block. (Check out the pic in the gallery, then imagine that in the dark). 60-70 cast iron cubicles, corners everywhere, and before we entered our guide said… “this is where I saw my first ghost”.
So after a cold and spooky night wandering around haunted buildings and unmarked graves, hearing about death, suicide and disease, I was sent off to my vacant house to go to sleep. The glorious views of Sydney and Manly were little comfort, but I survived and am back to post this blog for ya. (check out the other pic in the gallery, the hospital from the wharf).

I really must get busy writing about it now. Next month is Norfolk Island followed by the biggie, Port Arthur in August. Stay tune

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Quarantine Station

Following Elvira the Haunted Hearse last month comes a night for me at the Quarantine Station in Sydney. Operating as, you guessed it, a Quarantine Station for over a century, its buildings housed all the sickies of the colony… people with smallpox, cholera, bubonic plague etc. All those king-hitter diseases. So perhaps its not so strange to expect a few ghosts to be wandering around the grounds.

Ghost tours operate regularly but overnight stays have been unavailable for a few years now. Except for me that is!! I get to stay there next week all by myself.

Check out this link for info on ghosts commonly reported by visitors. Ghosts such as The Chinaman, The Matron, and the little girl with plaits who is still looking for her mother.

If you would like to read some personal accounts from those who have done the Q Station ghost tour, click here…
Now I have two more ghost-poetry stops to go. Stay tune for news on Norfolk Island and then the grand-finale/mother-of-them-all, a night in the Parsonage at Port Arthur.

that's right... your trusty ghost-poet going all the way, for you, for himself, for poetry or simply for death and glory. (god knows why i am doing this!!!)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Ghost Tape??

A postscript to my night in Elvira The Haunted Hearse.

Click on the link below. It will take you to the Destiny tours site where you can hear a strange sound I recorded. It is still freaking me out. It sounds like a forced, two-syllable whisper. It was such a quiet night and nothing happened for me at all. I was even reluctant to listen back to the tape, certain nothing would be on it. So when I heard this I nearly fell off my chair. (oh and please ignore the photos.)

Have a listen and let me know what you think… it is short and takes nothing to download.

BTW just heard that my poetry was recently commended in the Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize, and Cable Car of Death won the Crash Test Drama Final, which means you’ll see it at the Short and Sweet Play Festival this December. yay!!

To purchase my first book No Other Life But This ISBN 0734036337 you can order through Five Islands Press. Call Ron on 03 8344 8713 or try Readings or Collected Works.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My night in Elvira the Haunted Hearse

Hello ghost poetry fans…

Just home from my weekend in Sydney with Allan, the Hearse Whisperer. What a host this guy is!! I had a great time along with eight others cruising Kings Cross, watching every head turn as we drove past in Elvira, the haunted Cadillac. This tour is billed as a “Weird Sydney Ghost and History Tour”, and weird it is!! I’ve done a lot of ghost tours by now and I can safely say that I’ve never been on anything quite like this. Book yourself in by calling 02 9943 0167.

Now for the news you’ve been wanting to hear…. what happened!! Following the tour we took some photos of ourselves and Elvira. Note: the photo in the gallery. There is a shot of Allan and myself and a grey ball of light directly between our outstretched hands. Apparently two psychics have examined this photo and believe it to be the ghost of Tom Lance. But check it out. You judge for yourself.

Following this I bunked down in the back. I am only the second person to have braved the night in this vehicle, the first being a lady in 2005. I pressed record on my audio tape, revved up my handycam for a while and then waited. There really is very little to explore when you’re stuck in a hearse. You basically lie there and hang around, you might take a look over the front to the steering wheel then take a look out the the back, but that’s about it. After that you just lie back down and hang around again.

The night seemed to pass without much of a hitch. Allan had said that the energy might take a while to build up so at around 4am I did another spot of recording. It was very still/quiet outside, not even a breeze at that stage. And while nothing seemed to be happening, I gotta say, it really is a heavy trip being in the same place and lying in the same direction as thousands of dead bodies.
Now I am yet to listen to my audio or watch my video footage but will keep you posted as to what I find. I stumbled out onto the lawn in the morning hoping never to visit a hearse again… not for a while at least … and definitely not while I’m alive.

Check out a couple of pics of Elvira in the photo gallery. And thanks again Allan.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Elvira the Haunted Hearse

Seventh stop in my Ghost Poetry Project is a stay in Elvira, The Haunted Hearse.
Owned and operated by Allan, the hearse whisperer, this 1967 Cadillac was originally used by a funeral home in Pennsylvania and has transported thousands of people to their graves.

Now used as a tour vehicle in Sydney and Canberra it attracts all sorts of passengers from believers to skeptics, psychics and the odd adventurer who wants to sleep in it.

One of the resident ghosts that people are said to encounter is Tom Lance. He may or may not be the one responsible for locking the doors on occasion, for the hot & cold spots in the car, for the drafts of wind or the sudden nausea that sweeps over some passengers. Some people have also reported being poked, stroked and prodded.

So wish me luck as I bunk down in the back. Promises to be the ride of my life.
And check out the link if you’re interested in reading a report of the last person to sleep in it back in 2005

Monday, April 16, 2007


Just home from the so-called 'haunted' Richmond Bridge. It’s such a beautiful little town. It claims to have the oldest everything: Australia’s oldest prison, bridge, Catholic church… even the first recorded shark attack happened there apparently.

Feel totally exhausted today but I have put a couple of pics in the gallery for you to check out.
The reading at Castlemaine went really well. Just a small crowd but it was a good chance to try out a few of my new ghost-poems and nice to see my friends Francesca and Ross.

I also read the poem which picked up the 2007 Woorilla Poetry Prize. Feel really encouraged by that… it was exciting news. Still pinching myself.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Richmond Bridge/Castlemaine Reading

My sixth stop on the Ghost Poetry project is Richmond Bridge in Tasmania. Spanning the Coal river it is the oldest bridge in Australia, built by convicts who were worked hard by their cruel overseer, George Grover. In March 1832 two convicts surprised Grover from the fog, bashed him with manacled fists and dumped his body over the side. Now when a thick fog sets in they say Grover can be seen climbing back up the pylons.

The second ghost of Richmond Bridge is a friendly ghost-dog and the third is an elderly man who wears a straw boater and walks with a cane. I am staying in the Richmond Arms hotel this coming Friday the 13th in a room which is also said to be haunted. I plan to cross the bridge at midnight, 2 am and 4am. Wish me a foggy night.

Now if you want to hear some Ghost Poetry come to Castlemaine this Sunday 15th. The Castlemaine Readings are becoming legendary and I will be featuring with my friend Francesca Haig. This is my first chance to unleash Ghost Poetry on a live audience, so if you’re in town or need a day-trip up from Melbourne come and say hello. 3pm at The Albion Hotel (on the left as you drive into town from the Calder). There will be music, fine wine and good coffee.

Monday, March 19, 2007

at the old Lunatic Asylum

I am home from Fremantle Arts Centre. Big thanks to the staff there and Jim Cathcart who really went out of his way to support the Ghost Poetry project. Thanks mate. You’re a star.

Things were much as I expected. There were corridors, stairwells and creaky floorboards. I spent the night in the Painting Studio on the first floor where another sighting took place only two months ago. A life-model was posing for artists but started to become agitated. The teacher asked him if he was all right and he said there was a figure of a woman up the back, at the far window, looking at him. Her arms were folded and she apparently said : I know that you can see me.

There have been many reports of this woman, who was admitted to the lunatic asylum following the abduction of her child. She eventually committed suicide by throwing herself from the Painting Studio window. So with that little gem on my mind, I shut the door, snuggled down and waited for the morning to arrive. I did a couple of tours through the building over the course of the evening… and all proved extremely freaky.

Next month I am spending Friday the 13th in Richmond, Tasmania, apparently the most haunted town in Tassie. Special attention will be given to the three ghosts of Richmond Bridge. More details soon.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Fremantle Arts Centre

Stop number five (out of ten) on the Ghost Poetry project is Fremantle Arts Centre.
Built out of local limestone by convicts, Fremantle Arts Centre is a glorious example of gothic architecture and was originally a lunatic asylum. It is said that the building is home to three or ten ghosts… depending on what you read. Some say it is the most haunted place in the Southern Hemisphere and others say it is only the most haunted building in WA. (The Fremantle Prison must surely be a close second if that’s the case.)

Anyway… check out this link for a pic and some more history on the building.

I will be sleeping on the floor in some corridor at the bottom of some stairwell waiting to meet an apparition who is still searching for her baby. It is believed that when she gave birth her child was taken off her and she subsequently committed suicide by throwing herself from the first floor window.

Hope that’s scary enough for you. I’ll be back soon to tell you how I went.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Home from Monte Cristo

I am home from Monte Cristo after a short but intense stay with Reg and Olive and the ten ghosts that live with them in their splendid Junee mansion. If you're passing through Junee go and stop in. Reg and Olive are perfect hosts, and if you're there for a B&B they treat you like one of the family.
If you're there for a ghost tour you get the works. Reg, decked out all in black, candles flickering in the hallway behind him, opens up the front doors and invites you in. You fill each room, jammed together amongst glorious antiques and beneath the gaze of spooky portraits. (the candlelight makes for perfect atmosphere).

I found each room seemed to have its own personality, along with its own distinct temperature. It's said people often faint on tour, feel nauseous, see apparitions or feel a poking or prodding by an unseen force, among other things.

My night was no exception. The lady standing next to me, although i didn't know it at the time, was experiencing a lot of the above sensations. (She was terrified and called up the mansion the following morning to tell me all about it.)

As i was the only paying guest staying over for the evening i climbed the stairs, closed my guest room door and tried to get some sleep. It wasn't easy.

Now to write some poems about it for the new book. Ghost Poetry is proving to be one hell of a year. I will post some photos of Monte Cristo in the gallery soon.

I will also post some info on Fremantle Arts Centre where i am staying next month... it was once a lunatic asylum.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Australia's most haunted house

All right, my fourth stop out of ten on this whole Ghost Poetry adventure is Monte Cristo Homestead in Junee, just North of Wagga Wagga.

Reportedly Australia’s most haunted house, this is my classic ‘Scooby Doo’ scary mansion stay. Built by the Crawleys (that’s right! a spooky name in itself) the homestead was not a very happy place. There was the tragic death of an infant that fell (or was pushed) down the stairwell. There was the man kept chained to the wall like an animal for forty years, and in 1961 there was the terrible murder of the caretaker who was shot by a local teenager.

Check out the website below for more tragic stories and for all of the weird activity associated with this place. The current owners, Reg & Olive, run tours and B&Bs if you’re looking to pass through.

Also check out their link to the stuntman Lawrence Legend. This is their son who grew up in the house and now lives next door. Being a death-defying stuntman he once jumped over the Monte Cristo on his motorbike.

wish me luck now... I will be packing lots of Scooby Snacks. And stay tune.. I will have news on my next six haunted visits. there are good ones still on the cards.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Home from Picton

Home from spending a couple of days at Picton. Met up with Liz Vincent who was a terrific host. I did two of her tours, along with around 40 others each night. But the highlight of the tours was of course Picton Tunnel. A disused railway tunnel since 1919 this foreboding structure was used for weapons storage during WW2 and as a mushroom farm for 20 years. But in 1916 it trapped Emily Bollard who was walking through to visit her brother on the other side. Struck by the train from Thirlmere her body was carried all the way out to the road. Others claim her body had to be collected piece by piece.

Standing in the middle of the tunnel with 40 other strangers can be a pretty nervewracking experience. I’ve never felt so much nervous energy, just waiting in the dark for something to happen. At times it was like a slumber party: all excited about being together.

Each entrance was 300 feet away, we were smack bang in the middle of it. There was no escaping whatever was about to happen.

Then we all began to see flashes of light. Small pin-prick bursts, like raw electricity, as if a fuse was blowing. I saw a blue one, then red. It’s hard to say what they were… I’m finding the only way to explain these experiences is through inadequate similes. Ah, the challenge of poetry.

Some people by then were sitting down on the dirt floor. We were all gathered across the full width of the tunnel. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, four orange lights appeared to be moving towards us and everyone dove for the walls. It seemed a truck or a train was coming for us, about to mow us all down. Everybody screamed and hit their torches and I found a youg teenage girl virtually on my feet, cowering up against the wall. Of course whatever it was had disappeared as quickly as it had come.

I walked out of there totally amazed at what had occurred and was dying to visit again. As it happens the following night threw most of that into question and I came away from Picton more confused than ever.

What I am sure of though was that I saw two bursts of light… one blue, one red, which were very strange.
Oh, and a big thankyou to Ali Jane Smith for putting me up in Wollongong... check out her site in my links section. She has a book out titled Gala.
Will post pics of Picton Tunnel soon... and stay tune for details on my next ghost visit.

Monday, January 8, 2007


I am heading off to the town of Picton this week... next stop on my Ghost Poetry Project.
For those who came late, I have been funded by the Australia Council to stay at ten haunted sites around the country and write a new collection of poetry based on my experiences.

Picton is my third stop so far. It is one hour from Sydney and said to be the most haunted town in Australia. It boasts over 20 haunted sites. These include the picton tunnel, the cemetery and various hotels/cottages which I will be visiting. I am also staying in room 11 at a local inn which is said to have a glowing crucifix inexplicably appear upon the wall.

For more info on haunted Picton check out these links:

I will let you know how the visit goes, but if you've visited Picton in the past feel free to post comments on your impressions.