Monday, 21 November 2016

Chasing the Ghosts of The Old George and Dragon

The Old George and Dragon Restaurant at East Maitland will hold a special place in my heart not only because I have had a number of special paranormal experiences there, but, I also met two wonderful people Jenni, the owner and Chef Gavin, the chef of course!


The Restaurant occupies the former coaching inn named the George and Dragon (pictured) in Melbourne Street, East Maitland. Now called the Old George and Dragon, it is a boutique guesthouse with fine dining and a ye olde world signboard outside.

The brick pub was named after a legendary soldier saint, a crusading knight who became the patron saint of England after slaying a dragon, possibly in Libya of all places.

Or maybe, St George was just a convenient piece of propaganda, to raise morale during the bloody Crusades. Anyway, there's a tradition in this East Maitland pub that boxing legend Les Darcy (who once worked opposite as a blacksmith) trained in its former stables.

"Our former hotel dates from 1837, despite what some signs say," licensee Jennifer Nichols said.
"It gained the fourth liquor licence in NSW and later was extensively renovated in 1905. Then in 1977, the licence for George and Dragon pub was moved to a newly-built tavern at Green Hills, now called the George Tavern," she said.

"Our building's got a lot of history. People now even want to start ghost tours. I mean, things definitely go bump in the night here. There's more spirits around than spirits in bottles, if you know what I mean."

  (from Mike Scanlon - Drinking up Pub Folklore 22 Feb 2013)


We had Halloween, Gothmas ( my quirky take on Christmas in July) discussion evenings with people like Bill Chaulker (seen below with me)...


as well as numerous Psychic High Teas and Bridal High teas there. We had a brilliant time with the opportunity to eat amazing food and form new friendships who would turn up to many events over the past three years of our association with the restaurant.
We also investigated there.



We've conducted a number of small and private investigations since that very first phone call from Jenni, when she asked me to come out because 'strange things have been happening'.

From a phantom hand appearing from under neath a curtain when no one was on the other side to a tray of ramekins lifting off a kitchen bench and crashing to the floor to apparitions making their way down hallways and through rooms.

It hasnt been only us investigators encountering things but over the years I have also witnessed patrons talking about hearing the voices of children around them as their ate their meals and also of the sensing of spirits around them.


                                                              Above - The Furber Family
 
The George & Dragon was built by George Furber who was a son of Mary (Furber) Smith. 
Mary's second husband was Gentleman John Smith of Newcastle and Maitland.
George Furber married Mary Ann Muir on 29 February 1832 (40).  Mary Ann was a daughter of George and Elizabeth Muir of the Family Hotel.  

When Mary Ann died in April 1837 aged 26,  Furber married Hanorah Curtain. Later he moved to the Mary River district in Queensland to erect a store and it was here in 1855 that he was attacked by natives and died after receiving blows to the head with an axe and a waddy. His son-in-law Joseph Welmshurst was also murdered.

George Furber suffered financially in the depression of the 1840's and premises of the George & Dragon were offered for sale in April 1841. At that time they were leased to John Henderson at £ 140 per annum and were described as a brick built, nine room establishment. There was a cellar, 60 ft. stable, gig house and large shed. 

Coachbuilder William Benjamin Johnston Green was publican at the 'George & Dragon Inn in 1843 (10) and was undergoing insolvency proceedings that year. He remained publican until at least 1848. 

(from the amazing Jen Willets - Free Settler or Felon site)


 I mention George because we do feel that George may, on occasion, visit the Restaurant. A very dapper gentleman has been seen a number of times walking through the Restaurant, wearing a top hat and long coat.
                                                       The Black Horse Inn - East Maitland
 Gentleman John Smith was an interesting character with a rather colorful past.

He was a twice convicted felon who arrived for the second time on the General Hewitt in 1814.

He later married widow Mary Furber and together they opened an Inn in Newcastle in August 1823. The Inn was known as the Newcastle Hotel
Many convicts were assigned to John Smith by 1828. Although some were employed as stock keepers probably on this land near Maitland, others such as William Worlock (servant), Jane Cameron (Housemaid), Hugh McKenzie (gardener), Catherine Swift (servant), Thomas Jordan (Baker) and Richard Bannister, (Ostler) were probably employed at the 'brick verandah cottage' that was his Inn at Newcastle. 

Also living with John and Mary Smith and their seven children in 1828 was 18 year old George Furber, the son of Mary and her first husband.  John Smith also owned the hotel called the Black Horse Inn ( shown above) which was not far away from the Old George and Dragon.
(From the Jen Willett's site - Free Settler or Felon)
Maybe we were seeing Gentleman John Smith?
A self made man his character would have been  large and looming.
Also there were the children who other heard in the main dining room as well as a servant woman who would be seen walking through the middle room of the restaurant sometimes carrying food or clothing and other transient energies, maybe coming back to finish off a glass of rum or conduct a deal.

Our final visit last weekend had us connect with a man who apparently had been delivering alcoholic beverages to the Hotel in its early days.
he told us that he would collect the alcohol from the wharves at Morpeth and then would take them up the road the few miles by bullock and dray.
This was a common event that he repeated often and at times had quite a bit of trouble getting his money from the licensee.


 I know that a new chapter in the life of the Old George and Dragon will begin soon. I know that a new chapter has begun for Jenni and chef Gavin too and I wish them well.
I do hope that the spirits of the Old George find their new owners as dedicated and loving of the place as Jenni certainly has been.
But...I guess will they remain?
Jenni has said that ever since she has left the restaurant ( its now closed) when she has re entered she has felt nothing... it has lost its soul. She has also disconnected.
In doing so have the ghosts also disconnected?
I had one of my most intense experiences at the Old George - one I will remember for a very long time to come. I feel honored to have spent time within the walls of this very historic building.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Chasing the Ghosts of Prince Henry Hospital

Last weekend I was given an opportunity to assist in a ghostly event at the Nurse's Museum at Prince Henry Hospital in South Eastern Sydney, NSW together with Oz Para Tech.


First of all I have to express my amazement and delight at the total dedication of the volunteers to their custodianship of the site and to their spiritual residents.

I was made very aware of my need for total respect - I wasnt sure who would make their wrath known more...the ghosties or the volunteers!


The Little Bay area was first used as a makeshift camp during Sydney's smallpox outbreak in 1881-82, to isolate sufferers of the disease.
At first, a "tent city" was established, but further smallpox outbreaks and a typhoid epidemic convinced the government to build a permanent hospital here to treat infectious diseases.

Little Bay was an ideal location because it was isolated from settlements but still close enough to Sydney. The Coast Hospital was particularly valuable during the bubonic plague in Sydney of 1900 and then again when soldiers returning from Europe brought the influenza virus back in 1919. The Coast Hospital became Prince Henry Hospital in 1934. In 2001 services were transferred to Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney and the hospital site became available for residential use.

Two landmarks still remain from the hospital days. One is the Coast Cemetery, situated south of Little Bay. Two thousand people are thought to be buried there, with the oldest graves being located further south, towards Cape Banks.
The cemetery was taken over by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of New South Wales when the Botany Bay National Park was created.


Before long the volunteers shanghaied me and I heard many stories from them all - some having worked in the hospital over the years themselves, so it was all first hand information.

One thing was central in all of their stories - they loved the camaraderie and the feeling of 'family' there. 


You would expect there to be a ghost story or two about the site and of course there is!
The most common one spoken of is that of the ghost of Gracie.

Here is some information  taken from the Castle of Spirits web page.

The ghost of a matron called Gracie haunts the hospital, in life she was a neurotic woman who would immediately wash herself after being touched or bumping into someone. She is said to have died in B Block under mysterious circumstances, believed to have fallen down a disused liftwell. 
Her ghost is regularly seen in B Block, now called the Delaney Ward.

Patients report being tendered to by a mysterious nurse with an old fashioned white veil, she tops up glasses of water - adjusts blankets on cold nights and has placed bed pans under patients and removed them after use. 
Although the patients don't know she is a ghost, nurses do and are terrified of her, even though Gracie isn't considered an evil presence she projects an aura of authority which nurses instinctively respond to with subordinate fear.

On occasion nurses have felt her presence scrutinizing their work, seemingly disapproving of their coffee breaks. On one occasion two nurses working the night shift left milk boiling on a stove, stepping into the corridor a moment to check everything was alright. Returning to the tea room to find the stove turned off, the pot which seconds before had been boiling milk, emptied in the sink, rinsed and put away dripping wet. Along with cups, sugar and other food stuffs. No other members of staff were on that floor, no one could have entered the room without being seen, let alone been able to clean up in such a brief period of time.

Often when Gracie's ghost is seen the clocks in the area stop functioning, their hands pointing to 2 o'clock. The ghost of an aboriginal boy mischievously haunts the stairs of B Block, tripping nurses and others who use them. Sometimes seen sitting at the foot of the stairs giggling, his cheeky presence causes unease to many using them.

Other ghosts are reported in the hospital beside Gracie, they include an unidentified man who walks the corridors at night. Described a sinister presence, his apparition has never been seen but its shadow has, accompanied by heavy footsteps it drifts across the walls.

In years past intravenous drips and medical equipment have been mysteriously turned off in the hospital, attending nurses believe this spectre is responsible. 
Patient buzzers used to summon nurses are often pressed late at night in locked, unoccupied wards. Some nurses refuse to work at night, those who do always do rounds in pairs. 

The hospital has its own cemetery, abandoned and overgrown it contains well over 1000 people, many patients who died in the hospital in the early days are buried there.

Last century in separate swimming and boating accidents nurses drowned in a nearby lagoon, some nurses died during epidemics, while tending devotedly to the sick and dying.
(from castleofspirits.com)


After the volunteers introduced the history of the site, the purpose of the Museum and some of their treasured stories it was time for Anne and Roman (pictured above) from Oz Para Tech to talk about some of the new gadgets that they sell and also use during investigations.

The large group of almost 70 people were then broken up into two smaller groups with one group heading in to explore the spirits with technology and the other with me doing some old fashioned spiritualist- style table turning and glass dowsing.


After a very quick run down we had some willing people to try their skills at the tables to try and communicate with the spirits and off we went.

It was amazing in our room with lots of connections being felt and made.

At one stage we even had one of the tables move out of the room that we were in and down the hallway into the other room, with four of us hanging on to it, as there was certainly one very important message that just had to be delivered to someone in there!

It was so great that others saw this and it was also wonderful to see the communications being made with only the participants on the tables (and not me  - where the inference could be made that I was moving or shifting the table just so that something would look like it was happening)

Things were definitely REALLY happening..

In the other room Anne had certainly just as much going on with her groups and Roman was using the Ovilus and spirit box in another area with some degree of success too.


It was a privilege to be asked to join in on this night.

The stories did not stop but came coming during the evening as some of the participants approached Anne, Roman and myself with life at the old hospital.


Now if you missed the last ghost night at Prince Henry I am assured that there will be at least one or two in 2017 and in the mean time please go in and take an hour or two to support the Nurse's Museum and take a walk through history.

You and your children will be amazed at the items they have in the building to look at.
Even an iron lung - reminiscent of times that thankfully no longer exist.


Sunday, 21 August 2016

Chasing the Ghost of Grossman House - Maitland

Last weekend I held a ghost tour at Grossman and Brough Houses on Church Street Maitland.
Originally Maitland consisted of three separate towns which arose roughly all around the same time. West Maitland, now just Maitland, was a privately founded town which grew because of its proximity to the Hunter river and which today is the commercial centre of the city.

The other areas were East Maitland, which was established by the colonial New South Wales government, and Morpeth, another private town founded by Lieutenant Close, a Peninsular War veteran.
Each town functioned as if they were separate municipalities.


I was born in Maitland and lived there with my parents until 1976 when my father lost his job and was forced to look for part time work in Newcastle to make ends meet.
We moved to Wallsend, Newcastle and I have lived in that city ever since.

To be honest I really didnt like Maitland when I was growing up. In fact many of the areas scared me to death.
As I grew older things changed and what seemed scary to me when I was small now intrigued me.
By the time I was a teenager my head was constantly in books and  I used to do a lot of walking and exploring on the weekends.
I was pretty much a geek from early on - not into sports or social gatherings but I loved to look at the old buildings around Horseshoe Bend, Lorn and inner Maitland.
I used to go with my parents when they visited their friends.They would sit for hours on the weekends over coffees and cake and  I would go for walks and wonder what and who lived inside some of those grand old buildings.

                                                                                                                      

 But, back to the houses.

Isaac Beckett and Samuel Owen were born in Sheffield England in 1810 and 1811 respectively. They grew up together and were firm friends.
They came to Maitland in 1838 and set up their own general store in the commercial centre of Maitland. The store was proclaimed as ‘General Merchants, Tailors, and Wool Brokers, Wine Spirit and Tobacco Merchants’ and sold everything that settlers might need. The merchandise ranged from candlesticks to firearms. Over the years their business prospered.


                                                                                                 The Store in Maitland

Their harmonious relationship in business extended to their personal and family relationships and resulted in their building the two adjoining homes in Church Street in a flood free area and almost opposite the Church of St Mary the Virgin.
This was the most prestigious address in Maitland.

The homes were built in the early 1870s on an elevated block of land which had been part of the estate of the late George Yeomans. William White was employed as the architect to design and supervise the construction of their two family homes.

Entcliffe (now known as Grossman House) was built for Isaac Beckett and Brough House for Samuel Owen. They were designed as mirror images of each other which further reflected the close ties that existed between the two families. The principal entrance of each residence was located on the outer side wall. This afforded a degree of privacy. Both residences shared a common laundry.

Isaac Beckett died in 1888 and Samuel Owen in 1884. Their properties were left to their children. Entcliffe was sold to Mr James Downs Prentice in 1890. Samuel Owen Jr lived in Brough House until he died in 1904. Brough House was then sold to John Rigney who occupied it until his death in 1918.

In 1893 the Beckett’s home, Entcliffe, was resumed by the then Department of Public Instruction as the new home for Maitland Girls’ High School which had been flooded out from the Manse in Free Church Street by the disastrous 1893 flood. It was purchased for 4,709 pounds.
In total 50 pupils with their headmistress Janette Grossman moved into the new premises.

                                                                                                     Janette Grossman

Janette Grossman remained as headmistress until 1914 when she was transferred to North Sydney Girls’ High School. Her period as headmistress became part of the school legend. Under her strong leadership the school became one of the most respected institutions in the community.

Entcliffe became known as “Grossmann House” in 1935 when a name plaque was donated by the Sydney Branch of the Old Girls’ Union. The building served as Maitland Girls’ High School until 1964 when the school was relocated to larger premises at East Maitland.



In 1918 the Department of Education purchased Brough House to use as a hostel for the many country students attending Maitland Girls’ High School.

In 1964 the Department of Education granted permissive occupancy of the house to the Hunter Regional Trust to develop it into a house museum of the Victorian period. The building was opened to the public on the 4 June 1966. Today an extensive collection of nineteenth century costumes and textiles are held there, reflecting the lifestyle and industry of the region. Internally the house accurately reflects the lives and lifestyle of its inhabitants and generates a prosperous Victorian ambience.
( http://hfrc.une.edu.au)

Our tour started with everyone just taking time to explore the two houses with no information given to them.
Two houses to investigate, so very different as they are, is quite something to behold!
A dream situation for any ghost hunter to be in.
I could feel everybody's excitement.

People began to sense things in the buildings as they discovered the houses for themselves.
We then got back together for a chat about what everyone had experienced and their thoughts on the families that had lived there.
Then something amazing happened.
As we stood talking I could hear the distinct sound of footsteps above us.
To me, it sounded like a few people were walking around upstairs.
The floors are wooden and not carpeted. The footsteps were being made by heeled shoes connecting with timber flooring.


I looked at one of my volunteers for the night, Anne, and she at me.
She was also hearing what I was and without a word between us she immediately took off out the door.
After her, another volunteer bolted.

My concern was that someone was upstairs and may have entered the building without our knowledge.
Or maybe one of the participants was still upstairs?

Upon coming down to the room they both said that they looked everywhere and found no one.
So I decided then to ask if anyone else had heard anything while I had been talking.

About 10 from the group had also heard footsteps.
I assured them that no one was upstairs - we had just checked it thoroughly.

Could it have been paranormal?
I certainly think so!
It was very exciting - and primed us all to head back out to investigate some more.


The rest of the evening was made up of everyone doing their own thing and coming together for some experiments. A few of the groups did some EVP sessions in different areas of both houses.
We felt we had just begun and it was already time to leave.

Feedback from the evening has been very positive and we cannot wait to head back in October.
I think that the ghosts are just beginning to warm to us.
There is more to come for sure.





Thursday, 9 June 2016

Chasing Ghosts in New Zealand - Book review

'TALKING TO SHADOWS' by MARK WALLBANK

I received one of Mark's new books Talking to Shadows at Paracon 2016 a few weeks ago and have been busily reading it ever since.

                                                                                  Mark Wallbank - founder Haunted Auckland

Mark is the founder of New Zealand based paranormal and research group HAUNTED AUCKLAND
(find them here:http://hauntedauckland.com)

Mark and his team have been working within the realms of the paranormal in their country for many years and have investigated historic and significant sites as well as numerous private investigations that they have been called to helping those experiencing a haunting.

Mark is, amongst other things, a collector of haunted objects, a researcher,a public speaker, an author, also writing articles and reviews for print and online magazines.

He is passionate about proper research and going in with a clarity of mind when called out to investigate.
His team is a committed group of individuals that work together to seek the truth. They are also open to allowing interested people to join them at some of their investigations and endeavor to give them a real experience.

His webpage says, "From time to time the Haunted Auckland team will take members of the public on tours of haunted locations. We like to educate the public on what we do on investigations and help to raise awareness of the paranormal."





Talking to Shadows is Mark's most recent book - almost 400 pages of stories, in depth investigative procedures and photos from some of his cases.

It also contains viewpoints from some of his team members, and other investigators, on subjects including what happens when we die and whether science and the paranormal will ever be able to work hand in hand.

                                                                                   Waitomo Caves Hotel - photo: Haunted Auckland


Mark's in depth analysis of cases is an insight to how he and his team approach cases and how they work from beginning to end.
Some stories have a conclusion and some...well some cases cannot be proven as being paranormal and Mark isnt afraid to say so.
With the others....well he hopes he can return to to do more research.

                                                                               Hard to Find Bookshop - from Haunted Auckland

He includes investigation tips, tells how he investigates, what tech equipment his uses and the results he gets.
Its also interesting to hear about the history of some of the sites as often delving into the past can reveal a lot of important information about who or why a site many be haunted.

I thoroughly recommend Talking to Shadows as a great read of real investigative processes.
Talking to Shadows is not a book that is filled with horror stories made to creep you out or thrill you - they are real stories of experiences and proper investigations that sometimes get to the bottom of the truth and sometimes discover that not all things can be easily explained.

Talking to Shadows can be purchased here:
can be bought from amazon here...http://www.amazon.com/Talking-Shadows-Zealand-paranormal-research/dp/1530405424/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1465193106&sr=8-1&keywords=talking+to+shadows or by contacting mark@hauntedauckland.com


Sunday, 5 June 2016

PARACON 2016 - An amazing experience for anyone passionate about the paranormal in Australia

Now that Paracon 2016 is over, and I have recovered from all the excitement, I can give a little report on my experiences at this amazing event.


I think a recovery period is needed for it all to sink in! What an event!
Firstly, its the meeting up with people that you may only get to see once a year, then there is the meeting and listening to great overseas guests, also staying in the Blue Mountains and enjoying the company of like minded people who all have come together to have a great time. What's not to like?!


There was a slight chill in the air in the mountains but The Carrington Hotel is such an iconic place to have a conference that the cold didnt matter - we all just took in the brilliant scenery and atmosphere.

Alex Cayas the creator of PARACON and master and commander of his team of "Spirit Guides" whose dedication in looking after all of the guest speakers, including myself, was faultless, can be proud in knowing that all of the overseas guests spoke very highly of the whole event calling it the best organised conference they had ever attended.


Yes...there was plenty of shenanigans - it wasn't all serious!
We started with a speaker's dinner with a special guest at each table. We got to know each other quite well and it was a great start to what was going to be a fabulous weekend.



Friday was a free day with many of the overseas guests, and those that had arrived early, heading off on adventures around the Blue Mountains while the Paracon team prepared the rooms for workshops and meetups.
Friday night was a 'meet and greet' and just a fun night.
I got to meet up with all of my Newcastle peeps - we had loads of laughs and they ended up chasing us out at the end of the night.


Saturday we started at 9am with a few workshops and talks happening at once - the only problem was that I wanted to be AT THEM ALL! the only problem I had was that I could not split myself into three so I could see it all.
And so it went on... all day, both Saturday and Sunday, with a break for lunch and a chance to meet the boys from Ghost Stop, Shawn and Paul, and Brian from the Haunted Collector and Calvin Von Crush with his very weird collection of haunted objects and Karen Rontowski who kept it all light and funny with her down to earth humor and beautiful heart and comedy.
All different subjects were covered, including UFOs, big cats, the Tassie tiger, Bigfoot, Yowies, children and hauntings, paralosophy, protection when investigating with the wonderful Bill Tabone, the role a medium can play in paranormal investigations, haunted objects, technical talk with the Ghost Stop guys, Paul talked about his time on Ghost Hunters International.
We had screenings of "Desolate" by Moonlark Media and "Australien Skies" by Don Meers - two intensely riveting and brilliant features created, filmed, directed by talented Aussies.


We even had a very talented artist who did a few caricatures which were often a little to close to reality!! That's me and Anne Rzechowicz (my spirit guide for the duration of Paracon) on the bottom far left!

Saturday night there were 'after hour' events including an investigation at Woodford Academy with Paul, Shawn and Brian and a workshop on physical mediumship including ouija boards, table turning, dowsing rods, tarot cards and more with Karen and Calvin.

On Sunday afternoon a little sadness started to come over all of us as we knew that Paracon was coming to an end.
It was time to think about getting back to reality  - no one wanted to.
We would have been happy to stay another few days in the mountains and enjoy the vibe.

If you were thinking about coming but were not sure if you would have enjoyed it - let me tell you that you don't even need to consider that.
You WILL enjoy it.

I believe that there is always an opportunity to learn from everybody.
You can never know everything and this year's line up of overseas guests, just as last year's, were so very generous with their time. They posed for photo after photo and answered everyone's questions and made sure to spread themselves around.

Their comments were that they felt so welcomed and made to feel as though they were surrounded by friends.
Karen Rontowski wrote on her facebook page that she had Paracon withdrawals, and I think Brian fell in love with Newcastle (we hosted him here for two days) Paul loved Sydney Harbour and ventured to Adelaide for a few more tours with Haunted Horizon's and Shawn loved Sydney and his adventures at Q Station and Parramatta Gaol.

                                     Karen Rontowski and Brian Cano (photo by Darrin Langbien Photography)

I am sure that Alex Cayas is already organising next year's event. That's usually the way. An event like this takes a full year to get right.
It wouldn't happen without the team that helped him throughout - just for the love of it and to see it be a success. Certainly not for any financial gain.

And that is why everyone of us, who loves the paranormal and all things, should get behind this wonderful event and support it.


We have a thriving and growing paranormal community here in Australia and we are so lucky to have dedicated people in every state that work really hard to bring the best tours, investigations and events with the best guests visiting and sharing their knowledge - what a great time to be a GHOST HUNTER!



See you at PARACON in 2017 - I'll certainly be there.

- Renata Daniel