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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Winter chills


Hi all

The May Investigation is long gone now, and the discs all on their merry way out to their new homes (please let us know if you didn’t get yours yet!).  In fact it’s not too long now ’til the June Investigation, anyone fancy a chilly winter’s night hunting the paranormal?  We still have spaces available (and our awesomely exclusive beanies to give away to keep your heads toasty warm!).

As part of the May investigation I was able to continue the experiment with our CCTV system in the Separate Prison, and with many wires and thingamabobs was able to get a functioning feed going throughout the night.  Sadly it didn’t pick anything up in the way of paranormal activity, but with more work we will achieve our dream of streaming the prison feed into the asylum on the big screen (now there’s a sentence you’ll probably never read anywhere else!).  Fingers crossed.

Thanks to everyone who came along for the May Investigation, and although it was a pretty quiet night all round, if anyone spots anything on those discs please drop us a line and let us know.  Sometimes we might miss things!

This coming investigation will also be part of the training experience for our two new guides, James and Meahd, who will be coming along to see how it all works, and to have a bit of a play with the equipment.  Both James and Meahd have been ghost tour guides at Port Arthur for years, and have plenty of experience to share!  They’ll both be Investigating with their own groups in the coming months.  We’re very happy to welcome some new faces, and they seem pretty keen to start investigating.  

In other news, we recently also played host to a Malaysian film crew, who dropped by to do a brief spot of filming with us as part of a broader tour of Tasmania.  They were more after a bit of a thrill, and perhaps less interested in the theory and equipment than we would’ve liked, but it was still a fun experience and a bit of a laugh for all involved.

Finally, don’t forget you can keep up to date with our thrilling blog by subscribing by email on our home page.  Go on, you know you want to!

Got a question for the paranormal team?  Send us an email at paranormal@portarthur,org.au or leave a comment here on the blog.

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!

Cheers,

Mel and the P.I.E. people

P.I.E’s first birthday


This month the Port Arthur Paranormal Investigation Experience is one year old, and we’re pretty pleased with the first year of its existence.

To mark 12 months of investigating we’re also going to change it up a bit by moving our CCTV system from the Commandant’s House to the Separate Prison, along with the ELF Trifield Meter.  We’ve not had great results with the CCTV in the Comms so far, and the most we’ve managed to pick up is a whole heap of dust floating down the hallway, and a mouse investigating Nanny’s rocking chair.

We spent this morning figuring out power sources for the cameras in the Separate Prison which is never an easy task in a 19th century prison building with minimal electricity.  I did manage to get stuck in a locked stall in the chapel trying to access a power point, and rather than helping to rescue me, Caitlin and Peter (the I.T. Guy) decided it would be much more productive to take photos of me trying to save myself.  Helpful souls that they are.

Today and tomorrow we’re introducing the rest of our Paranormal Team to Data Analysis, and attempting to get through as much data as we can.  Having had a look at the EMF data for the last 12 months in the Commandant’s House we’ve seen a real trend with the boosted levels of EMF.

This is a normal reading in a normal house with normal wiring (you would normally expect to find a reading of 0.5-2.0)

EMF normal

This is the kind of reading we’ve been getting in the Commandant’s House:

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The elevated levels are when the house is empty, the low levels are when our Investigation teams are inside.  We’ve had consistent readings like this since February last year, and are working on theories to explain it.  So far we’re leaning towards the alarm system, or high levels of water in the walls, but it will be interesting to see the kind of results we get when we move the whole system to the Prison this month.

If you’d like to be part of the February Investigation and help us celebrate a year of the Port Arthur Paranormal Investigation Experience, head over to our bookings page to reserve a space now, tickets are selling fast!

For regular updates on P.I.E. why not subscribe to our blog (look over on the left!) and you’ll get an email whenever we post about our latest exploits!

Till next time, the PIE team 🙂

After the fires


Hi everyone,

First up – we’re still all OK despite the recent fires affecting our area.  Some members of our Investigation team had some pretty close calls with their homes, but luckily we seem to be fine.  There were many sleepless nights and 10 days without electricity which, being a rural community, meant no running water either!  Whilst others from the team were out defending their homes or looking after their families, Caitlin and I were down on site helping the hundreds of stranded visitors deal with their enforced extended stay at Port Arthur, (I’m sure there would be very few visitors who come to Port Arthur expecting to end up camping out on the floor in the Visitors Centre for days on end) and helping out at the local shop.  During the 10 days we chatted to visitors, cooked fast food at the shop, learnt how to fill gas bottles, pumped petrol, hauled over a tonne of rotting food to the skip, carted supplies and resisted the urge to make the world’s largest mattress fort after the last of the visitors had been evacuated from Port Arthur.  The strangest part about the whole situation was wandering through the site with no one around, it was rather like a ghost town with hundreds of abandoned cars and not a person in sight.  We rather suspected for a while there that the Zombie Apocalypse had happened and no one had told us.

The buildings on site certainly took on a fairly spooky air as they stood there empty for over a week, and when we went in to grab spare torches the Separate Prison particularly was quite expectant and odd feeling.  This is the first time in many, many years that these buildings have been locked up for so many days on end.  It would have been the perfect opportunity to investigate, but given the circumstances I think if we’d sat down to run an EVP session we would’ve fallen asleep.

It’s still rather smoky around the place on and off as the Tas Fire Service are still doing back burns and containment lines, but we’re back open and gearing up for another investigation tonight!  There are still plenty of places available, so if you’re in the area and feel like a late night out, come and join us.  We are also going to run another investigation on Sat 26th January, and after that we’re back to our standard investigation on the last Saturday of every month.

To those who were scheduled to come along in the last few weeks we apologise profusely for not being able to run the investigations, but as you’ve just read things were a little crazy here!  We hope you can reschedule and come back sometime soon.  And for those who haven’t received data discs yet, now that things have settled down a little we’ll be getting back onto it for you.

Fingers crossed for some spooky happenings out there on site tonight, I’ll post an update in a few days to let you all know how it went.

The Christmas Spirit


Christmas Spirit!It’s that time of year again where we all stuff ourselves silly on turkey and ham and drink far too much in the spirit of the holidays!  We of the Paranormal team are not winding down for the holidays, though.  On the contrary, we’re hyping up for a big summer of investigating, with a Paranormal Experience happening every Saturday in January, plus the regular December Investigation on Dec 29th.  There are still a few tickets left for the December Experience, so if you’d like to get involved, head over to our bookings page and reserve your spaces now!

This month, the guides will be Caitlin and I (Mel).  We’re both pretty excited to lead a public investigation together for the first time since the Paranormal Investigation Experience started earlier this year, and we cant wait to get out there and see what we can find!  Since work first started on the Paranormal Investigations around 2 years ago, Caitlin and I have been keen to put into practice some of the many investigating techniques we’ve picked up through our world travels at places like Bodmin Jail in Cornwall (www.bodminjail.org), as well as through our experience as part of R.I.P. Australia (www.ripaustralia.com).  It should be a fabulous night, we’re hoping that the site gets into a party mood and brings on the anomalous events for the final Investigation of the year!

A big thanks to everyone who has participated in and supported the Paranormal Investigation so far in its first year of existence!  Thanks to you, we’ve amassed a huge body of data from all over the site, far more than we ever could have collected ourselves.  We couldn’t have done it without you!

Finally, we’d like to thank all of the guides who’ve come on board with the Paranormal Investigation Experience for their hard work in learning a whole new set of skills this year.  We’d also like to thank Jodes, our Heritage Programs Manager (did I get that right for a change?) for her help in nutting out the Experience in a way that would make it Historic Site friendly, and of course our Guiding Manager and boss, Jake, for all of his help and continuing support.  Cheers everyone!

Merry Christmas all, and we hope you have a happy, safe and spooky New Year.

(And please forgive my horrible attempt at using ‘Paint’ to insert a very fake looking festive ghost into the photo of the Commandant’s House!)