For fear of the Separate Prison


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If you were a convict at Port Arthur in the later years of the settlement’s history, chances are the words ‘Separate Prison’ would be very familiar, and enough to put a bit of fear into you.

It was a place of psychological punishment, based on silent solitary confinement, and not a very pleasant place to spend any length of time.  Men were confined to their cells 23 hours a day, let out only for exercise in a separate yard, and church services in the specially designed separate chapel.  This was a brand of punishment most convicts struggled to cope with, and there are even tales of suicide from the building at a time when the religious beliefs of most people prevented anyone from taking their own lives.

This makes it the ideal place to spend a whole lot of time as a Paranormal Investigator.  If the theory stands that paranormal activity is supposed to be more prevalent in a building that has seen suffering and high levels of emotion, then Port Arthur’s Separate Prison should be an absolute hot spot for things that go bump in the night, and so far it has not disappointed us.

The Separate Prison is fast taking over the reputation usually held by the Parsonage – of being the creepiest set of walls we have at Port Arthur.  It’s a place that most visitors and staff feel uncomfortable at the best of times, has a long history of creepy experiences, and in more recent times has produced three EVPs in the space of just over a year.

Oh, I forgot to mention – we picked up another creepy voice in that building.  To hear it, click here.

The EVP was recorded on audio equipment by visitors during their time investigating the Separate Prison.  From listening to the audio, the first thought as far as debunking was to find out whether the female voice was someone investigating alone, or with a partner.  It turns out she did have a male partner at the time of recording.  We suspected that this was perhaps the explanation, but as Meahd pointed out – if it was him being funny there would’ve been laughter, or at least some kind of reaction.  This leads us to believe it’s likely to be a noise that wasn’t audible at the time of recording.

So this makes three creepy voices recorded since April last year.  Fingers crossed we get more in the coming months!

We’re now just a few weeks out from the July Investigation, which will be heading out on Saturday the 27th.  If you’d like to try your hand at paranormal investigating head over to our booking page now to get tickets.

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Let’s mess with the Sceptic


A few weeks back we had a private Investigation for some visiting journalists.  It was a great night, sadly no spooks but everyone was edgy enough without anything dramatic happening.  The appearance of a wee ghostie may have tipped everyone over the edge!  It got us thinking about familiarity and the difference it makes to fear levels.  Sometimes it’s hard for those of us who’ve been around Port Arthur a while to remember that when you’re new to the place these ruins and buildings can be very much on the creepy side.  For us it’s the place we spend hours in every week.  It is familiar, and comfortable (some of the time), and it’s only when the anomalous events kick it up a notch that most of us experience fear.  For visitors, this is a very big, unfamiliar and rather terrifying ex-prison full of dark and somber ruins, and potentially spooky things that want to come and say hello (we hope!).

Earlier that same week we spent many hours freezing our behinds off at the photo shoot for our brand new promotional images.  Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for the glossy and glamorous pics of the P.I.E. A big thanks has to go to all of the volunteers who turned up to model for us, both the locals and our team of Volunteer Archaeologists who’ve been working on the Penitentiary project in the last few months.  Thanks for helping, you guys were troopers!

The April Investigation took place on Saturday the 27th, and a highly successful investigation it was too (To quote Caitlin it was “Ridiculously fun”).  About the strangest thing that happened was during the Separate Prison investigation.  Caitlin heard voices outside the prison towards the end of the investigation and thought that Jenni’s group had arrived to switch locations.  So Caitlin packed up her group and moved outside to let Jenni’s group in only to find that they were halfway across the site still, and only just starting to make their way towards the prison. No one was loitering near the prison at all.  Cait claims that the Site is now messing with her for her scepticism, and I really hope that’s the case, it could surely get pretty interesting in the next few months! The same noises were heard later in the night when one of Caitlin’s group decided to forgo the last Investigation and wait in the Lunatic Asylum alone.  She too heard the noises by the Separate Prison, though she was the only person in the area at the time.  I just love the fact that the person hanging out in a 19th Century Lunatic Asylum started hearing things, it’s a bit twisted really.

We also welcomed back the Enright group from Deloraine who have now been on the Investigations with us 3 times.  They had a great night with Jenni, and since finding a passion for the Paranormal have even gone out and bought themselves some gear which they brought along and let us have a look at.  This group can commonly be found checking out cemeteries and haunted hotels around Northern Tas.  Nice work guys!

The May Investigation is on Saturday the 25th, to join us please click here to head over to our bookings site.

If you have any questions you would like to ask any of the Paranormal Team, please leave us a comment below, or send us an email to paranormal@portarthur.org.au. And don’t forget to follow this blog by email to keep up to date with all of the latest anomalous events on site!

Scepticism in the face of something running really fast


We’ve always tried to remain as sceptical as possible on the Paranormal Investigations here at Port Arthur, or at least to approach everything logically and look for possible explanations before jumping to conclusions.  However, even a sceptic can get a bit of a shock when something bizarre happens.

It was the investigation for January 19th, and we had 8 people out there with 2 guides.  After a fairly quiet night without much going on, we had just finished up supper and moved on to the 3rd and final investigation of the evening, in the Commandants House.  For those of you who have never been to the Commandants House, let me explain the layout for you. 

The house has a large verandah, approached by a double-sided staircase from the driveway below.  The verandah stretches across the front three rooms of the house, and is capped by a much larger room on either end.  The front door in the centre leads to an entry hall, with rooms coming off either side, a hallway running across the back to the side rooms, and a short set of steps leading to the corridor that runs up the length of the house and has multiple small landings leading off to even more side rooms.  To put it more simply, this place is a total rabbit warren of rooms and corridors!  It is a house that not many guides enjoy spending time alone in, by night or by day, and my least favourite building at Port Arthur. 

We arrived at the house and my group of 4 split up and started moving through the building, whilst I waited in the entry hall for them, monitoring the CCTV. When 3 of the group had returned to the entry hall, I had heard a noise and turned to look up the back hallway to try to spot our 4th person.  Lo and behold, someone dashed across the first landing of the stairs, from the Study to the interpretation room opposite it.  I figured it was our missing investigator until 2 seconds later when he appeared from a side room in the front of the house.  With such a small group it is easy to keep track of who is where, and the question now is:  If that wasn’t one of us then who was it?

It would have been easy at this point to bolt for the front door in fear, as others in the group had witnessed the same thing and we were all a little concerned.  Instead, we bravely (and as a group) made our way to the room where the figure had gone.  There wasn’t a soul in sight, but as we turned to look across the landing to the study, it was pointed out that the hanging light fixture was now swinging around. 

As we turned to head out, the light in the entryway also started swinging around on its cord!

We stuck around a little longer then decided we had better get moving back to the Asylum to meet up with the other group and finish the night.

It was an event that has me totally stumped.  I am certain we saw a figure walk quickly across the landing, and the lamps were absolutely swinging around.  But I’m still trying to come up with the logic behind it all.  A good start will be to test the lamps on the next investigation, maybe there’s a loose floorboard that bumps a wall somewhere and triggers the swinging? Sounds like a bit of a stretch but i guess we wont know until we try it!

I know the Parsonage is meant to be the historically haunted house, and the one with the big scary reputation, but the Commandant’s House is really starting to give it a run for its money!

In other news, we have 2 whole days set aside in the first week of feb to sit down and catch up on all of the wayward data discs to get the backlog sorted out.  Thanks to everyone for your patience and understanding!

The next investigation will take place on Saturday 23rd February 2013, so head over to our bookings page now to save yourself a space (and possibly get wigged out in the Commandant’s House too!).

Lurking in the dark – behind you!


Saturday night was our November Investigation, and the first time since February that we didn’t experience rain, thunderstorms and generally nasty weather!  It was a fun night, with 14 participants taking up the challenge and a number of personal experiences, including 2 of our number who saw a face lurking behind the wooden barrier of B Wing in the separate prison.  (And ran away swiftly!)

Hopefully analysis of the footage may give us some evidence of this and the various other anomalous events experienced on the night.

We had a bit of a play with the ‘Human Pendulum’ theory (as taught to us by Mark Rablin of Bodmin Jail in Cornwall on our ghost tour of the world back in 2010) in the Senior Surgeon’s Basement, and got some quite interesting responses which should be fun to review on the video cameras.  We also test drove our now much louder (yet still slightly controversial) Frank’s Box in a few of the buildings and did seem to yield some kind of response.

Saturday night we also welcomed our newest member of the Paranormal Team, Andrew, who had a great time and is really excited to get out there again soon after such a successful night of investigating.

On reviewing some of the photos last night we came across one that made us stop and do a double take.  This photo is one that we’re pretty sure is a prime example of pareidolia – at least we hope so given the fact that otherwise it’s an impressively creepy figure lurking in the dark behind one of the participants!

The next Investigation is December 29th for anyone who wishes to come along and take part, and the great news is that this January we will be running investigations every Saturday Night!  So there are plenty of opportunities coming up to get involved and try your hand at investigating.  It doesn’t matter if you’re the most experienced Investigator in the world, or have no experience at all, everyone is welcome.

Please note – we encourage visitors to bring any gear with them that they might wish to use.  If you have a camera, a camcorder, a sound recorder or anything like this, feel free to bring it along.  The more devices recording the night, the better the data is at the end!

Here comes Halloween


It’s just 11 days until the October Investigation, and two weeks til Halloween!  Whilst here in Australia Halloween isn’t as great a tradition as it is elsewhere in the world, it’s still a brilliant excuse to come along and prove your bravery in the dark.

We’re finally making progress sending out our Paranormal Reports, though if you came along in April we do ask that you please get in touch with us, as we’re struggling with technical difficulties and we do need your contact details again.

Check out our gallery of some of our Paranormal Investigation groups so far this year on our new ‘Group Photos’ page.  The reason some of these groups look so pink? Because we appropriately used full spectrum cameras to take the photos of course!

With many of the reports now posted out to participants, it’s finally time to post up a couple of decent pictures we’ve found:

This first one is taken in the Separate Prison on our May Investigation.  At the time it was pouring with rain, and whilst no one actually saw a wet patch on the stairs at the time, our initial thought when we saw the photo was that it must be leaking water from the roof. Later we figured out that whilst the roof had been leaking, it was not in this spot nor anywhere nearby, so this is not a wet patch at all.  Which then leaves us wondering – if that’s not water, what is it? 

Coincidentally this next photo was also taken in the Separate Prison, though this time it was during the April Investigation.  The image on the left is a normal photo of C wing corridor.  The photo on the right is abnormal, as a shape can clearly be seen blocking the fireplace at the end of the corridor.  When we tried to recreate the image, the only way we could come up with a similar picture was to have someone standing about half way along the corridor, though at the time when the photo was taken there was nobody in C Wing.

This last picture is nothing spooky, it was taken on the September Investigation as the full moon came up over the Convict Church, and we just think it looks amazing!  For those of you who look at this picture and start jumping up and down about the ‘orb’ just above the church wall, I must point out that this particular night it was pouring with rain.  Take from that what you may!

We’re pretty happy to have these photos.  Back before we started investigating we weren’t entirely convinced we were going to get anything at all, so this is definitely progress.  If you’d like to come along and try your hand at capturing something like this on camera, head to our bookings page now, the investigation is filling up quickly with only 6 places left for next Saturday.

To wrap things up, the last post included a photo sent in to us from our July P.I.E. taken in the Commandant’s House.  Since posting that photo we’ve compared it to others and discovered that it’s a common phenomena caused by the light fitting in the hallway.  Sadly not paranormal, but you can imagine we found it spooky at the time!  This is the nature of investigating honestly.

Til next time, Mel.

Sceptics…


We’re counting down to the next Investigation, coming up on Saturday next week, and the big news is if you’re planning on joining us this month you’d better get in fast as there are only 2 spots left! But fret not, we still have plenty of spaces left for the June 30th Investigation, so book your tickets early.

Many things have been happening on the paranormal front, with a tour on April 28th tackling huge thunderstorms and creepy conditions, and coming up with a few odd EMF readings in the Separate Prison.  Cait will have more details soon hopefully.

Cait and I also recently took on the Separate Prison for a night with local sceptics Mark, Matt and Patrick.  They wanted to see if they could be proven wrong by spending an entire night in the Separate Prison.  As Mark told ABC radio (if you missed it, here’s a link to hear the boys chatting about their experience http://blogs.abc.net.au/files/ghost-boys.mp3) there were two odd events during the evening, but we’ve come up with pretty logical explanations for both situations. 

When the boys arrived we took them over to the separate prison and got the gear set up for the night.  Whilst we were doing this, odd noises started coming from the C wing end of the building.  When we went to check it out, we must have startled some pranksters in the act, because we found one car with the bonnet up and various bits and pieces disconnected or removed and sitting neatly nearby, and Cait’s car with the driver side door open.  We can quite happily say this was human in nature, and not remotely paranormal though it did seem to shake at least one of the sceptics. 

The second odd event was after our friendly scepics had retired to their sleeping bags on the floor in the central hall of the prison.  Mark reported hearing two distinct bangs, again from C Wing, but as neither Matt nor Patrick were still awake he decided to wait 15 minutes before going to check.  Had he gone straight away, he would have found Cait and I closing the doors to the Asylum quite loudly, having opted for the warmer and more comfortable couches over the solid stone floor of the prison itself.  (though being an asylum, this does not count as us not lasting the night – that building has it’s own creep-factor!)

So overall the sceptics remain sceptical, though they probably would’ve had a higher chance of something happening to them if they’d spent their time in the Punishment cell individually and in silence rather than chatting away as a group.  Just saying!

For those people who came on the March investigation, your results are on their way! Particularly look for the odd audio from the separate prison with the strange male voice.  No one can quite work out what the man is saying, but some suggestions so far include “Come here”, “Go to her” or even “Ghost Tour”.  See what you think!

In other news, the Paranormal Investigation Experience again featured in a Tasmania newspaper, this time in Launceston’s Examiner last Monday with a great piece from David Scott who came along for a visit in April. 

We’ll have more news after the analysis of the April data.

Mel.