Rob McFarland – Review

After a bit of insight into the Port Arthur Paranormal Investigation Experience?  Head on over and check out this great review by Rob McFarland.

Port Arthur Paranormal Investigation Experience Review


PIE participant review – Gary

After coming along for a PIE night, eager participant Gary wrote a lovely review of his evening.  We wanted to share his thoughts on the experience with you.

It’s also interesting to note that the lights in the Commandant’s study were noticeably swinging again.  This is not a first time occurrence, and we’ve worked out that the motion of someone coming into or out of the room triggers the light to swing.  I had thought this would help debunk the experience I had with a group in there in 2013, however Cait pointed out that if the light swings because of movement, someone had to have triggered it in the first place… the mind boggles!

Anyway, a big thanks to Gary for his great write-up, as follows:

“It is each individual’s prerogative to believe, or not to believe, in the supernatural; often a personal experience is required to change ones attitudes.”

And it was with this attitude that I decided to join up for the Port Arthur ‘Paranormal Investigation Experience’ (PIE) for what I hoped would be an enjoyable, interesting and possibly life changing experience.

According to the brochure the PIE “allows visitors to conduct their own paranormal investigations with the assistance of the latest ghost hunting equipment throughout some of the most haunted buildings at the Port Arthur Historic Site”.

How could anyone with an interest or even a mild curiosity in the paranormal pass up on a chance like that? I know I couldn’t.

I arrived at the Port Arthur visitors centre at a quarter to ten and met up with my fellow enthusiasts, six in number and two guides John and Mel. John is a confirmed believer and makes no secret of this; his beliefs are based on any number of personal experiences that have occurred whilst conducting Ghost Tours and PIE’s at the Port Arthur site. Mel is a bit more sceptical in outlook, although she has had several personal experiences she is yet to experience that one life changing event that will make her an ardent adherent to the cause. John’s enthusiasm was contagious and could have easily influenced ones mind, Mel’s guarded scepticism was just enough to keep the whole experience in perspective, together they made a damn fine team. So our team of seven investigators and two guides formed a very close knit bunch, they will do groups of up to twenty but I felt the smaller numbers were ideal.

After getting sorted and providing flashlights we got started, we walked with John whilst Mel went on ahead to the Asylum to set up a short audio/visual presentation (and a refreshment table that was most appreciated).

The night was warm and humid, a slight breeze blew in some light brief showers from the NW, just shy of the visitor centre we stopped under the shelter of an overhang where John gave us a quick brief on the night’s events that were to follow, I will be perfectly honest, I was hanging on every word.

We moved on a short distance before John once again halted us in the relative dryness of the old church where he regaled us with tales of the elusive ‘hat man’.

Leaving the church we moved down the road about twenty or thirty metres and stopped outside the Parsonage. I had prior knowledge of this building having previously read about incidents of paranormal activity (haunting) that had occurred in this building. John had his back to the Parsonage at one stage and I was standing in front of him a couple of metres to his right. As he spoke the building to the left of the parsonage was illuminated (it appeared from within) by a bright light, the light was akin to a camera flash and lasted about the same length of time, it was intense and lit up all three windows on the front of the building (the Accountants house). John did not see this as his back was to the building, as we were about to move off I just had to interject and ask “While John was talking did anyone notice anything about the house on the left”? One of the others looked at me and almost yelled “you saw it too, didn’t you?”
I replied “depends, what did you see”? And he went on to describe to a tee what I had seen and agreed the light came from within the building. John confirmed that no one was in the building. A good start to the evening.

We continued on to the Asylum for a very welcome coffee and Mel’s presentation on what we were looking for and the equipment available to us.

Suitably briefed and equipped we then took a walk to the Commandants residence where we were to conduct a group ‘EVP’ session before branching off on our own and conducting individual sessions. During the group EVP session I think I heard a distant muffled response to one of the inquiries but time will tell, when you’re sitting in a 175 yr old house (erected 1833) in the middle of the night seeking out the paranormal one’s imagination is running amok who knows what is real and what is imagined? In the Commandants study I noticed the large central light fitting was swinging when I entered, so I physically brought it to a halt. It was stationary when I walked out, when two of the group entered a short time later it was once again swinging, I put this down to the fact that there is nary a straight line in the house, you have the original building then the subsequent add ons that appear to have been achieved by rule of eye only.

At the rear of the house was a bedroom that once belonged to a Mrs Marie Brimmage who ran the house as a hotel in the 1920s. Above her room is a small loft where her daughter Dorothy used to sleep. I conducted an eight minute EVP session in this room and attempted to make some contact with Mrs Brimmage. I experienced a strange sound x 3 (almost like someone snapping their fingers somewhere in the room) that I couldn’t explain nor replicate. I was alone in the room in pitch darkness and sitting in the fireplace talking to someone/something that I do not know if they exist, a strange experience on its own.

I bade Mrs Brimmage and Dorothy farewell and we departed the Commandants house for the Separate Prison and I will have to be 100% honest here, NOT my favourite place on the site. I find the segregated chapel within the prison extremely eerie and an uncomfortable place to be, and that is in the day time, at half past bloody midnight the feeling was ten times worse. Once again we conducted a group EVP session before going our separate ways to conduct individual EVP’s. As I had previously voiced my feelings and opinions on the segregated chapel it was unanimously agreed that I should take that area. . . .Thanks Guys/Girls. Well I entered, once again pitch blackness, closed the door behind me, stomped my way to the pulpit, mounted it and attempted to provoke a response. I called upon any “Convict Scum” present to state their name and the “Crime for which they had been sentenced”, I told these “Low Lifes” that the Commandant had granted them permission to speak and that they are to do so NOW. I cut loose, did I get a response? I don’t know but hopefully the DVR I was carrying may have picked up something. Truth is I was glad to get out of that place. I Don’t Like It!

After visiting the Separate Prison we returned to the Asylum for a very well deserved and welcome supper, after a brief sojourn to recharge it was time to start again, this time we were off to the Senior Medical Officers Residence in particular a rather interesting subterranean chamber known simply as the “Dissecting Room”. John led us into this chamber and explained that although there was no documented evidence that was the purpose of the chamber we were to make up our own minds. This room was approx 5 x 3m maybe slightly larger with a low ceiling, the prominent feature was a stone table centrally placed, there were also some substantial metal spikes driven into the end wall although I don’t know if these are a feature of the original building or later additions. I have attended a couple of autopsies in the past and the similarity of this room to what I have seen previously was uncanny, I have no doubt what this purpose built room was used for, the only difference between it and a modern facility are the materials used and the lack of running water/electricity. In an adjacent cellar is a curious feature of a stone chute protruding from the wall, the other end of this chute is adjacent to a fireplace above, and once again anecdotal evidence suggest this may have been used to provide ashes to the basement based on their absorbent qualities and the quantities of blood and body fluids that may have accumulated down there.

Departing the “Dissecting Room” and it was on to the place I had been looking forward to all night, The Parsonage. Events and experiences that have occurred at the Parsonage have been well documented.

Just about everything that could happen in a paranormal fashion had been witnessed and documented from within these walls. In one room within the house EMF readings are “off the scale”, not paranormal but could easily be responsible for individuals to feel uneasy or nauseous in that area.

I would have liked to have explored the upstairs of the house as from all reports that I have read that is where the majority of experiences have occurred, alas this was not to be so, the upstairs area is locked due to Health and Safety reasons (the wooden staircase is at too great an angle (60 degrees) to permit access.

After exploring the house individuals scattered to conduct their own EVP and or full spectrum photographic sessions. I chose to go outside, I had heard stories of full body apparitions and shadow people being viewed external to the building. I turned on my DVR and started on the front veranda; I was talking to unseen entities and taking photographs front back and sides. At one point at the rear of the building I GOT SCARED. This was not the feeling of unease or nerves that I felt at the chapel in the “Separate Chapel”. This was fear, goose bumps, neck hair on end, shallow breaths the works my body was in the classic ‘fight or flight mode’; I chose the latter and beat a hasty retreat back around the side of the building where I immediately felt better. I saw nothing, I heard nothing there was nothing there to elicit this response, I know that now, I knew it then and indeed was telling myself out loud exactly that, but it was a real feeling of fear and dread, maybe brought about by the darkness, shadows and paranormal expectations, I don’t know. I did not mention this to anyone on the night but stood shaking on the veranda for a few moments letting my heart rate slow down a bit, I checked my DVR only to find that it was not switched on, I swear I started recording before I started exploring outside, maybe not.

Time was getting on by this stage and it was almost time to call it a night but the Parsonage had one more little trick up its sleeve for us before we left. As we had been explained to at the start of the investigation that manifestations take many forms and can impact on any of the five senses (sight, touch, hearing, taste (on rare occasions and smell) plus emotions. It was the last sense that we were assailed with on leaving the Parsonage noting that we had stood by or passed through the gate to the property twice on the night, and been greeted by the slightly sweet scent of the garden blooms. This time the scent that greeted us was totally different, it was the stench of decomposing or rotting flesh and it was at its strongest at the portal to the property, the smell was localised at the gate, it was being carried on the breeze but dissipated just a few metres from the gate. I looked around I could not locate any rotting carcass of any kind even checking under the vehicle, not that the decomposition process of a dead animal would reach that fetid a stage in the twenty minutes or so we were in the Parsonage. The smell was real, where it came from is not known, no one left the group to collect and/or dump rotten roadkill and if they did they hid it well, to me the smell was coming out of thin air at the gate.

So there you have it, my account of my ‘PIE’ and in the words of Oliver Twist. . .

“Please Sir, I Want Some More”


What happened last night?

Last night the December PIE headed out into the dark, and what a night they had for it!  Warm, windy and a generally unpredictable night saw a few bits and pieces turn up for our visitors.

Cait’s group reported fluctuating EMF readings in the Senior Surgeon’s basement in the room opposite where we generally take our ghost tours.  This is unusual because the basement has no wiring, and we very rarely get any kind of reading in the area at all.

Meahd’s group reported hearing footsteps in the Separate Prison which were apparently quite loud.  We’ll be looking into this with our data to see if anything turned up on any of the voice recorders or video cameras, as this is a quite common phenomena reported in the building.

Meahd’s group also had a little shock in the Commandant’s House with the unexpected noise of the alarms going off somewhere within the building.  These alarms monitor movement in our furnished rooms in the house (the Commandant’s Bedroom, Dining Room, Study, Drawing Room and Nanny’s Room), and at the time when they were triggered the entire group were sitting on the stairs in the hallway running an EVP session.  We will again look to our gear to see what was recorded here.  Incidentally, these alarms tend to play havoc with our KII meters in the front area of the house; the security system emits pulses of EMF which can often look like paranormal phenomena, but we’ve managed to match the pulses with the transmitting lights on the alarm panel.  This is also where our base station was continually recording high levels of EMF last year.

The next investigation will head out on January 11th with Andrew and James, and the following investigation will be January 25th with Caitlin and myself.  Tickets are still available for both of these PIE’s, head over to the bookings page to secure your places now.

In the meanwhile, the Paranormal team wishes everyone a safe and happy New Year, we’ll see you all in 2014!

Cheers, Mel and the Port Arthur PIE team




A summer of spooks

Well the November Investigation headed out into the dark a week or two ago, and whilst we had a lot of fun we didn’t have much in the way of activity at all.  Everyone was a little on the edgy side out there with a relatively small group, but a lot of laughs were had to take the edge off, with a few scaredy-cats jumping a mile every time a wallaby so much as twitched, and a few accidental scares when investigators stumbled upon each other in the dark.
We’re still picking up plenty of EMF action in the Commandant’s House, and have identified that the field around the security system reaches about 3 metres out from the alarm itself, which explains any readings in the front few rooms and even into the back hallway of the building.

As of last month we are changing our method of data sharing with participants.  Rather than burning a disc for you we now have some cute little Port Arthur USB sticks, so keep an eye out for those in the post if you came along for November.

We have a couple of new bits of gear in circulation for this month, with some new voice recorders and some fabulous EMF alarms ready to try out in December.
The December investigation is now fully booked, however we are pleased to offer an extra 3 investigations in 2014 to cater for the busy summer months.
Upcoming investigation dates for 2014 are:

January 11th
January 25th
February 8th
February 22nd
March 15th
March 29th
April 26th
May 31st
June 28th
July 26th
August 30th
September 27th
October 25th
November 29th
December 27th

In other news, this summer we welcome Andrew back to our team after a winter working out on the tracks for the Three Capes walk.  Andrew will be back out as a lead investigator in the coming months, and is very keen to get going again.

In the meantime, we of the Port Arthur Paranormal team wish everyone a very merry Christmas, and a safe and spooky New Year. 🙂

Til next time.

A busy spooky winter

We’ve been A.W.O.L for a while, it’s so mysteriously that it’s almost spooky…!

The reality is we’ve had a busy time of it lately, with not just our regularly scheduled Investigations, but also an evening spent with Nick and Woody from SEA FM Hobart, and their 4 lucky competition winners, and a private investigation for a group from New Zealand.  Cait’s currently working on an update from the last few investigations, we’ll get it posted up soon as we can. 

Things are going well for the Paranormal Team here at Port Arthur, and the Investigations are getting more and more popular, so if you’re planning on coming to join us any time in the next few months I recommend getting your booking in soon.  Last night’s PIE was booked out several weeks in advance!

Having talked to Cait about last night, she reports that whilst her group were at the Asylum she could hear loud dragging and banging noises inside the Separate Prison. She said it was as though heavy metal objects were being dragged along the corridor in the prison. She assumed it was John’s group still inside investigating, but when the noises became even louder and she went to see what was going on she found the building was locked up tight with no one inside.

We also need to give a huge shout out and thank you to Casie Lee, who has joined us here for two investigations, and has since been an absolute trooper helping out with the data analysis.  Thanks so much Casie, we sat down and had a good look through everything you sent us before the PIE last night and it looks like you’ve picked up on some brilliant anomalies, we particularly like the voice in the Commandant’s House that appears to say “Tell them to go away” and “Dont go in to the bad room”.  We’ll post some up as soon as we’ve had another look at them.

Any wayward data discs are soon to be on their way to their new homes, my project for today is to get through the backlog so keep an eye out for your incoming discs soon.

Cheers and Happy Halloween!

Mel and the PIE team

For fear of the Separate Prison


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.

Paranormal Phenomen-huh?

What is Paranormal Phenomena?

It’s a good question.  There are many and varied theories in the Paranormal Investigation field as to what exactly the paranormal is.  It’s hard to define any one leading theory, so here at Port Arthur we’re exploring four of them in our investigations.

THEORY #1 – “Ghosts are Dead People”

It is a belief held by many cultures right throughout the world – that the body and spirit are separate, and that when a person dies their spirit comes away from the body.  In some beliefs the spirit moves on to a different plane of existence, for others the spirit continues to walk the earth as a ghostly entity.
We tend to base our ghost tours on this theory, but a few nights ago I decided to find out what my ghost tour group thought about ghosts, so I asked them!  I had a school group of 13-14 year old kids from a remote region of Tasmania, who all came up with ideas of what they thought ghosts were:

“I think they’re dead people’s souls”

“When you die you might have unfinished things to do so you hang around”

“It’s dead people”

“When i was little my pop used to talk to me.  He died before i was born”

“It’s like, your spirit”

Inevitably, these kids’ theories all revolved around the idea of ghosts being dead people. 

THEORY #2 – “Parallel Universes”

The thought of parallel universes existing can be a thought that makes your brain hurt if you dwell on it for too long.  But it’s an interesting thought at the same time!
Imagine the world as a sheet hanging on a clothesline, alongside possibly one or more other sheets/worlds.  They exist side by side, but separate from one another.  Now picture what happens when the wind blows – the sheets connect every now and then for brief but significant moments.  (This is not to suggest that paranormal phenomena will happen only on windy days)

We have a ghost story from the 1870s at Port Arthur that makes you stop and wonder about the possible legitimacy of this theory.
In the Parsonage (Port Arthur’s historically haunted house) there lived a family by the name of Hayward.  They had experienced many odd things in the house, but one story talks of a servant walking into a front room of the house only to find a figure at the window in ‘strange garb’ holding a raised object like a dagger ‘as though to strike’.
This would be a terrifying experience, no doubt.  Reverend Hayward was said to have had to ‘box her ears’ to bring sense to the servant after the episode.  But here’s a thought: What if what that servant saw was a ghost tour guide in present time, holding a torch and peering in to the house?  (Brain explodes!)

THEORY #3 – “The Power of Suggestion” 

The human mind is incredible.  Scientists are only just beginning to understand the limitations and possibilities of the human brain.  There is still so much that is unknown about our capabilities!

I’ve seen (as I’m sure most of my fellow guides have too) just how strong the power of suggestion can be.  Without giving away too many tricks of the trade, in the job of tour guide where your tour group are expecting to be scared you soon learn to develop a few subtle skills in creating atmosphere.  Many’s the time I’ve had people ‘experience’ the paranormal on tour, though about 75% of the time when asked to describe exactly what’s happened to them they will regurgitate something they’ve already been told on tour.  In many cases this is a ploy for attention, however there are cases where visitors are completely convinced that they have experienced something, and will even have physiological reactions to the event.

THEORY #4 – “This is All a Pile of Poo”

A very valid theory that can’t be discounted.  There are studies being done in parts of the world on various external influences on the human experience.  Factors such as Electro Magnetic Fields and Infrasound are being tested for their potential to create a “haunted” atmosphere.  There are suggestions that various external factors can produce hallucinations, feelings of unease, and even that wonderful and comforting sensation of seeing movement out of the corner of your eye.

So these are the theories we’re working with at Port Arthur, and by concentrating on all of these different possibilities it’s helping us to remain open-minded about the various experiences reported on site.  It also helps bring us back to the importance of always asking questions.

Just because someone talks to their Pop as a kid, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are talking to a dead person’s spirit.  Maybe they are talking to their Pop from another world (after all, having never known their Pop, they would be unaware of how any behaviour might differ from their actual Pop).  Maybe, having never met their Pop, this kid wanted to talk to him and was convinced by their own mind that it was really happening.  Or maybe the location of the home combined with any number of external factors created the illusion that Pop was indeed present and chatty.  Oh the possibilities!

‘Til next time, the P.I.E. team.

The grand and controversial ‘Orb’

If you were to take every Paranormal Researcher and Investigator in the world, put them in a room, draw a line down the middle and ask them to choose a side based on their opinion of “Orbs” it would probably be a pretty even split. 

One side would be the group who believe that these mysterious glowing spheres of light are spirits breaking through from the ether, trying to manifest and impart their message from the world beyond. “(sigh!) look at the wee ghostie!  manifesting all over my pictures, isn’t it incredible?”

The rest of us would be looking at those people like they’re just a little bit odd, knowing that in 99% of cases “Orbs” are dust, pollen or even water droplets in the air also known as “rain”.  As Caitlin said just a week or so ago “If you were going to come back as a ghost, why bother coming back as a little speck of light?”  Yet there are groups of investigators who so passionately declare that these MUST be ghosts based on various different very weak reasons. See the link below for a lot of explanations.

For the official record:  Port Arthur Paranormal Investigation Experience look for the logical reasons first.  We will not automatically squeal with glee when we get an “orb” photo, nor will we encourage others to assume that these are anomalous photos.  While we respect that people have differing personal beliefs when it comes to this sort of phenomena, beliefs actually have no place in any kind of rational investigation.

Back in 2010, Caitlin and I were lucky enough to get a few hours on our own in the Villisca Axe Murder House in Iowa, which is meant to be one of the most disturbingly haunted buildings in the world.  Whilst we felt a little uncomfortable in the building and spent a great deal of time investigating in there, we unfortunately didn’t have anything at all happen to us.  We got to the point where we decided to try provoking a response, and still got nothing.  So we created our very own Villisca “Orb” photos.  How?  I picked up some dust and threw it in the air, Cait snapped a photo and voila! Ghosts!

We sometimes like to demonstrate this to groups on our ghost tours.  Walking along a gravel path, all it takes is a little shoe scuffing in the dirt and suddenly the orbs appear, as though by magic! 

So I guess the moral to this story is – it’s going to take a lot more than an “Orb” in a photo to convince us of ghosts.

And here is the link for the amusingly written page on the debunking of “orbs”:

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.