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Haunted holidays

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As Halloween draws closer, the feared, fearful and frightening is lurking around every corner – ghosts, ghouls, and the like – but for some businesses, the thrill of the paranormal exists all year round and is, in fact, what their business hinges upon. For these businesses, the thrill of the paranormal isn’t a seasonal affair.

Living in a country with such an eclectic, and at times violent, past, it seems every suburb is steeped in rich history and with it, the promise that the history isn’t dead and buried.

Q Station, a heritage site located in Manly on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, is one business that makes a killing from the paranormal and inexplicable, hosting regular ghost tours around the facility.

The site operated as a government-operated quarantine station from 1833 to 1984 and, during its 150 years in operation, 13,000 passengers moved through the station, isolated for contagious diseases such as smallpox, bubonic plague or Spanish influenza. Of those quarantined, roughly 572 people died and were buried onsite in one of the three burial grounds.  

Spectral interest

Kelly Giblin, ghost tour operator at Q Station and host of otherworldly website Paranormal Australia, says interest in the site’s history and beyond is wide-ranging.

“There’s so many different people from different backgrounds with different interests,” says Giblin. “You’ve got the paranormal enthusiasts who absolutely believe there are ghosts and that the paranormal exists and they have heard about the Quarantine Station and want to come and experience that.

“Then you’ve got the people who are extremely skeptical and they want to try and say that it doesn’t exist … you’ve got people who come and have a great time, have some fun, have a bit of a scare and freak themselves out” (an easy feat in the dark hallways).

“You’ve got the fun side of it, the people who believe and the people who want to believe,” she says.

And for those who don’t believe, Giblin says the tours can shift perceptions.

“I personally have had a lot of people on my tours, every now and again they’ll start the tour saying ‘look, I don’t believe in this, there are no ghosts here, nothing is going to happen, this is going to be fun but I don’t believe’ and then at the end of the tour, they’ll be singing a different tune.”

'I see dead people'

As for the experience, Giblin says guests have had genuinely creepy experiences.

“I love the types of stories where you’ve got someone who doesn’t know about a specific thing,” she says. “One child said to me, ‘who’s that woman standing there?’ and I look and I think, ‘well maybe they’ve got a vivid imagination’ then a couple of weeks later, another child will see the same thing in the same place.

“It has to be more than a coincidence.”

Having scoured Australia for the most haunted sites as part of her website Paranormal Australia, Giblin says no site has elicited so many experiences.

“That’s why I really wanted to work there because I call myself skeptically open-minded, I know that something exists but I know that a lot of things can’t be explained,” she says. “I’ve had more experiences at the Station than I have had anywhere else.”

What kind of experiences has Giblin experienced personally? She hesitates, choosing her words carefully. 

“As a worker, we are always aware of security because it’s a heritage site, there are buildings and things there that are invaluable, that can’t be replaced so we’re always making sure that people aren’t where they shouldn’t be.

“I’ve seen people walking through buildings and thought, ‘ok that person shouldn’t be there’, so have gone to investigate and couldn’t find anyone. It’s just been in buildings where they wouldn’t have been able to exit without going through where I was … The last few times I’ve kind of known that I wouldn’t actually find anyone.”

Top local haunts 

1. The Russell Hotel, Sydney

Formerly a sailor’s hostel in early colonial days, guests report regularly seeing ghostly seamen in their rooms.

2. Coogee Beach, Sydney

For a spectral sight of the Virgin Mary, head to Coogee Beach where the figure occasionally loiters on a fencepost at the northern beach cliff. Apparitions like the beach too.

3. Ballarat Gaol, Ballarat

Thirteen people were executed onsite and the remains of seven criminals are buried there. Visitors of the nightly ghost tours claim to have experienced numerous heebie jeebie-inducing sights.

Worth the flight

1. Washington Square Park, New York

The famous park in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village was once not a place of leisure, but a burying ground for approximately 15,000 bodies. In fact, during the American Revolution, the area was used as public hanging grounds, and of the trees allegedly used, known as Hangman’s Elm, still standing on the site.

Visitors claim to see apparitions walking in the park late at night. What do they expect? It’s the city that never sleeps.

2. Roosevelt Hotel, Hollywood

Marilyn Monroe allegedly haunts this Hollywood hotspot, many visitors having seen her in the mirror while staying there. Twist ahead; the mirror is in Monroe’s favourite room at the Hotel.

3. The Tower of London, UK

Reports of Anne Boleyn carrying her decapitated head throughout the chapel where she is buried onsite and other claims of  Lady Jane Grey haunting the premises make the Tower scarier than an English dental plan.

4. The Stanley Hotel, Colorado

Famous as the inspiration for Stephen King’s fictional Overlook Hotel in The Shining, The Stanley has reports of ghostly activity in its grand ballroom, such as sounds of parties while the hotel is empty and a haunting piano solo.

5. The White House, Washington DC

There have been numerous reports of former US president Abraham Lincoln haunting The White House and is often referred to as The White House Ghost.  

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Take a trip to turn-of-the-nineteenth-century Paris with the Absinthe Salon.

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