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




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.

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!

Why sitting alone in an asylum in the wee hours of the morning is never a smart idea

Saturday 30th March was our most recent investigation, and an enjoyable evening to boot!

There was a fairly ominous start to the night as the ghost tour guides were cleaning up the lanterns from the tours.  A lantern glass propelled itself out of a lantern and on to the floor where it merrily shattered into tiny little pieces.  Needless to say, the three guides (including Cait, the biggest sceptic on site) who had been standing there discussing the merits of smart phone ghost-photo apps were a little shocked, and when they tried to re-create the phenomena were unable to trigger any more exploding lanterns (much to the relief of our manager, who was less than happy to hear about the attempt to shatter MORE glass).

So with this event in mind, there was a chill of promise in the air as we headed out the door to begin investigating.  If nothing else we were keen to snap a photo of one small and fabled bunny lugging copious amounts of chocolate eggs about the place (we jest!).

It was a fairly quiet night despite the perfectly creepy moon peeking out from behind threatening looking clouds, and in the interest of giving the group their discs as swiftly as possible I decided to forgo the third section of investigating and stick around in the Asylum alone to kick-start the data analysis process.  Not something I thought through very well!  After the group departed to check out the Basement and the Parsonage, and i settled in with a cup of tea to make fun line graphs out of some of the data, the wind picked up and started making the whole building sound alive.  Things were creaking and banging and more than once I though I’d heard the group return only to find nobody at the door!  It’s amazing how easy it is to freak yourself out in a dark and creaky ex-Lunatic Asylum in a 19th century Convict prison at 1am.  Really, what was I thinking?

In other news we were joined by James for the investigation, one of our Ghostie guides who was keen to have a look and see what we get up to so late at night.  He seemed to enjoy himself, so now we’re going to work on convincing him to become the latest addition to the P.I.E. Team!  We’ll keep you posted if we’re successful with recruitment.

Also, next week we’re having our brand new Promo photo shoot here on site, so keep an eye out for some glossy new pics depicting the glamour and glitz of late night Investigations very soon.  Here’s hoping something spooky will pop up in the background of some of the shots?

Finally, the April investigation will take place on Saturday the 27th, and there are only a few tickets left so head over to the Bookings site to get involved before we fill up!


Mel and the P.I.E. people

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!).

In the cold of winter

The July Investigation went very well, with 18 participants braving the cold conditions to take on Port Arthur after dark.    There seemed to be plenty of activity going on, with weird EMF responses in the basement of the Senior Surgeon’s house, and what sounded like footsteps and a small child in the Commandant’s House.  I was witness to the footstep noises personally and, as it happened whilst I was in the process of flipping out the lights ready to run an EVP session, ended up leaping across the hallway and huddling up with the visitors on the stairs.  As is the nature of Paranormal Investigation, we can’t jump up and down and definitively say “Ghost! ghost!”(much as we’d like to)

We’ll have to review the data before we can say anything at all, though we were sent this rather interesting photo taken by Daniel Crouch in the Commandant’s House. 

 By this stage, we’ve also had a very succesful August investigation in classic bad Tasmanian August weather.  Again there were a number of strange happenings, perhaps the most notable being the weird personal experiences of our resident clear thinker, tour guide Caitlin.  Caitlin reports having felt a strange hand poking her shoulder in the Punishment Cell, which she assumed at the time belonged to someone in the group standing behind her trying to get her attention.   She also accidentally crashed into someone leaving the Senior Surgeon’s basement and turned around to apologise, only to find she had crashed into thin air. Luckily there was a witness for this one!

We’re seeing a definite pattern with our abnormally high EMF readings in the Commandant’s House.  Throughout the year the pattern seems to be that the EMF levels drop whilst we are inside the building and elevate after we leave to sometimes 10 times the normal level.  This is very strange, and we are working on an explanation.

We’re working on a new method of data reviewing to get reports out to participants faster, so keep an eye on your letter boxes, those DVDs should be headed out soon!

The next investigation is on September 29, and there’s only 10 spots left so hurry over to our bookings page now to come along and brave the Port Arthur Paranormal Investigation Experience (try saying that one at 2am after a long investigation!)http://www.portarthur.org.au/index.aspx?id=15480

Lastly a big thankyou to everyone who’s come along so far this year, you’ve been great fun and you’ve all contributed to the experience, allowing us to gather more data over a longer period of time.  We couldn’t have done it without you!