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!).

The importance of being logical

Having spent my fair share of time in dark and creepy places in the last 5 years, and more so than ever since we started the Paranormal Experience, I have first hand experience in how easy it is to jump when things go bump in the night.  Rest assured that most people, regardless of how sceptical they are, will jump a mile if they’re sitting in pitch black dark in a haunted location and something grabs them or crashes around nearby.  It’s very easy to jump to the wrong conclusions!

For example:

On the July Investigation this year, participants from my group may well remember we heard footsteps in the Commandants House the minute i flicked out the lights.  Straight away i can honestly admit that i jumped along with everyone else, in fact i jumped across the hallway to land safely in the middle of my group!  At the time it was adrenaline inducing and scary, but looking back with a logical viewpoint there is no way to rule out the possible logical causes of what went on.  The first thing that springs to mind for me is animal noise.  Wallabies notoriously cause some very convincingly bipedal noises when leaping around, and at the end of the hallway was a door leading out onto a wooden walkway.  I can’t rule out the possibility that a wallaby chose the exact moment that i turned out the lights to take a little walk (or jump) on the board walk right outside the house.  Or a possum on the roof, perhaps.  But it’s not the first thing to cross your mind when it’s dark and you’re investigating the paranormal!  And that’s just what we need to train our brains to do.

It certainly makes for an exciting evening when things are going bang/crash in the dark, but the challenge is to not let yourself leap about and shriek “Ghost!” at the top of your lungs, and instead to go take a closer look with all the right gear.  As such we are trying hard to push the message across to the groups that come out on the Investigation with us: Don’t take anything at face value out here.  This is an investigation, so when anomalous events occur – go investigate!  (And pretty please take a camera/sound recorder/EMF detector with you!)  Because anecdotal evidence is not evidence, it’s a personal account of things that happened with nothing to back up your tale.  It’s a bit like going fishing and coming back with nothing but being able to talk about the one that got away (That fish was THIS BIG!).

In conclusion for today’s rant – come along, have fun, be prepared to get a little creeped out in the dark, but do it all from a sceptical viewpoint!  After all if you’re going to get evidence of the paranormal you want it to be the real thing, not just a cruisy wallaby out for a midnight snack in the Commandant’s garden!

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”:



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.


A spooky voice…

It’s now just a few days until our next Paranormal Investigation Experience, so get your bookings in fast to come along and join Cait and Jenni this Saturday night 28th April.

To update, our March Investigation data analysis is almost complete, and whilst we can’t reveal exactly what was picked up, I can say we have a definite EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) from the Separate Prison.  I’ll let you know more in the next update; once the March Participants have received their Investigation Reports (it’s only fair that they get to hear it first!).  But to get an EVP after just a couple of investigations is something exciting and unexpected.  We’re some happy little campers right now!

April 12th saw Cait and I investigating with Sea FM’s Matt and LC, along with the four lucky winners of their Fright Night competition.  It was a fun night of frivolity, and the highlight was definitely locking our brave radio presenters into the punishment cell and their reaction of utter terror once they realised they couldn’t get back out.  It turns out that Matt had been planning on freaking LC out, he just hadn’t expected to be unable to escape once the panic set in.  I can honestly say that everyone else got a bit of a kick out of hearing the squeals of fear through the closed doors.

The challenge had been for Matt and LC to take on the punishment cell with no torches, communication devices or any other light sources, just the Full Spectrum digital camera.  The idea was that the only light they would see was through the flash when a photo was taken.  Needless to say they didn’t handle the challenge with any bravery at all (unless you count bashing on the door and screeching to be let out as brave!) so the challenge remains open to any future participants willing to be locked in under those circumstances.

An unexpected twist came the morning after the investigation, where we awoke to find photos and comments all over the Ghost Tour’s Facebook page regarding the physical attack of one participant during her sleep at the on-site staff hostel.  I have no doubt that to wake up and find yourself scratched up is a little terrifying, though at this stage I cannot say that it was paranormal in nature, as there are still possible logical explanations.

Coming up soon Cait and I will be spending a night locked in the separate prison with a group of sceptics.  We’ll keep you posted on how it all pans out.

And here’s a reminder that when venturing out in the dark, always take a torch. Fairly logical, it would seem. This one I found out the hard way after falling over 3 times in quick succession, though thankfully no injuries this time.

Want to take on the Punishment Cell challenge? Book here: https://mercury.intouch-usa.com/webpoint/wp.dll?Axis/PortArthur:/../Default/Pages/Bookings/AttributeIcon/AttributeIconGoto.ips?ID=0-6:1042321200619465

More updates soon. Mel.