Whether you believe the stories or not, the tales about Hobart’s famous ghosts and haunted houses have trickled down through generations.
Hobart’s convict history and grand old buildings make for ripper spooky stories, so it is not surprising ghost tours have popped up around Hobart’s Battery Point, the Hobart penitentiary, Willow Court Asylum and nearby Port Arthur Historic Site.
An anonymous questioner asked Curious Hobart about the city’s most famous ghost stories and haunted houses.
The owner of Ghost Tours of Hobart and Battery Point, Jacques Imbriotis, is convinced Hobart is one of the most haunted places in Australia.
“We have a lot of old buildings that are almost as they were when that person moved on,” he said.
“They’re the boards that they walked when they were living and they continue to do that when they’re dead.”
So where are the sites of Hobart’s most famous ghost stories?
The ghost who saved the Theatre Royal
One of Hobart’s most famous ghost stories is that of Fred, the Theatre Royal’s resident ghost.
Legend has it Fred was an actor who died at the theatre in the 1800s.
A popular theory is that he was killed during a fight with another actor, while other stories suggest he died during a performance.
The theatre — which opened in 1837 and is currently closed and under construction — was nearly gutted by fire in 1984, and one legend even goes that Fred saved the historic building by dropping the fire curtain onto the blaze.
“It otherwise would have been an uncontrollable fire that would’ve brought the theatre to the ground,” Mr Imbriotis said.
“I know a few people have had run-ins with him.
“He tells people to leave the theatre late at night.”
Richard Causby, a theatrical technician and flyman at the Theatre Royal, said he was a sceptic when he began working at the theatre in the 1990s, but believes he has since met Fred.
“My last one was in 2002 … I got upstage to a ladder, and when I was halfway up the ladder the hackles went up on the back of my neck, and I heard a voice say something like: “Why show here?”
“Ever since then, if I’m the first one there I say g’day to Fred, and if I’m the last one out I’ll say goodbye, have a good weekend … and I’ve never had any issues since.”
Mr Causby said there are reports that actress Jacki Weaver once spoke to Fred at the theatre.
One story goes that she thought she was having a conversation with a technician on stage, who then disappeared, while other rumours suggest she saw Fred’s figure sitting in the dress circle.
The Premier who hasn’t crossed over
A spectre named Albert is said to roam the halls of Parliament House in Hobart, but there are a couple of theories about who his legend might be based on.
Community engagement officer Charles Casimaty has heard a number of stories about Albert while working at Parliament for the past 30 years.
“It’s thought he might be the ghost of a convict, because they did find a skeleton in one of the drainage tunnels that ran under Parliament House some years ago,” Mr Casimaty said.
“Another theory is that Albert might be the ghost of former Premier Albert Ogilvie who died in office in 1939, and he apparently is revisiting Parliament and strutting up and down the corridors like he owns the place.”
Albert Ogilvie was Premier from 1934 to 1939, and died at 49 after playing a game of golf in Victoria.
Between 1938 and 1940, Parliament House was renovated to construct a new chamber for the House of Assembly.
Mr Casimaty said the “presence” often hangs out around the speaker’s chair.
“A common story is that people experience a cold, icy presence in the House of Assembly Chamber,” he said.
“In the parliamentary library, people have said that late at night they’ve heard papers and books shuffling and they go to see who’s there and there’s nothing there.”
Current Speaker Sue Hickey said she is yet to meet Albert.
“I haven’t felt Albert’s presence in the house, but I’m very excited to hear that we have a resident ghost,” she said.
“Who knows, maybe one day I’ll come back and haunt the place myself.
“If Albert could give me a few hints on how to keep house ruly, I’d love to listen to him.”
Henry Jones and mischievous Millie
In 1869, George Peacock moved his jam-making business to a warehouse on Old Wharf.
A 12-year-old Henry Jones began working at the factory, which became H Jones and Co IXL Jams.
The building still stands on Hunter Street at Hobart’s wharf, where the Drunken Admiral restaurant operates.
There are numerous tales of paranormal activity around the area, with sightings of a young girl named Millie and even Henry Jones himself.
Drunken Admiral proprietor Craig Godfrey said many people have experienced strange things in the building, which is nearly 200 years old.
Millie is reported to be about nine years old, with red hair and a white bonnet.
“Millie gets up to all sorts of mischief,” he said.
“She turns the gas off and undoes the cook’s aprons when they’re not looking and moves things about.”
Mr Godfrey said that recently, a customer from Canada said she had a number of experiences while dining at the restaurant.
“She said there was a gentleman with a grey beard who was very upset about what was happening at the restaurant,” he said.
“I went home and did some research and she nailed it, quite clearly it was Henry Jones himself.”
Couples who haunt together, stay together
The Lenna of Hobart Hotel was built in 1873, and it was owned by ship builder and merchant Alexander McGregor.
Mr McGregor died in 1896 at his home, and some believe he still haunts the now-hotel with his wife Harriet.
Mr Imbriotis said the two give the hotel staff a run for their money.
“[Alex] still hangs around there and treats it like his castle on top the hill, despite the fact that he’s been dead for over a century now,” he said.
“Alex died of natural causes. He developed dementia later in life and it’s my understanding is that he died in his bed at home.”
Staff at the Lenna of Hobart Hotel declined to comment about Alex and his wife.
Battery Point’s oldest ghost
Narryna in Battery Point is an 1830s merchant’s house, but now operates as a museum.
It apparently has the area’s “longest-serving” ghost, who was a young convict girl named Polly.
Mr Imbriotis said it is not known exactly how Polly died.
“She was a young convict staff member who died when she was pregnant,” she said.
“She either was pushed or fell down the stairs.”
The nearby Princes Park is also a supposed hotspot for paranormal activity.
Mulgrave Battery was built in 1818 at the land that is now Princes Park.
Mr Imbriotis said the area which stored the gunpowder and cannonballs is closed to the public.
“That’s a fantastic site because it’s convict construction, it’s underground and it’s old,” he said.
He said a the area was still believed to be home to “Edward”, who “was known to hang out there when he was alive during the 60s and 70s, drinking and getting up to no good”.
“He hangs around treating it like his own,” he said.
The Hobart Convict Penitentiary had more than 40,000 convicts pass through it.
After convict transportation ceased, it became the Hobart Gaol for a century.
In the 1800s, it was the site of many executions, and the building still contains courtrooms, underground tunnels and gallows.
The tour guides are known to tell a number of stories, detailing the recurring smell of blood near the gallows area and sightings of shadow figures.
Where do ghost stories come from?
In an article in the University of Tasmania’s The Companion to Tasmanian History, Will Mooney wrote that authors often put Tasmania’s “hauntedness” down to the suffering experienced in the past.
“Ghost stories constitute a mythology which links Tasmanians to ‘their’ island and its past; a way of bridging the gap between place and history, time and space,” he wrote.
“Certainly, patterns of haunting seem to correspond with convict sites and the pastoral and mining frontiers.
“However, the cultural backgrounds of the colonists, convicts and miners also influenced the development of a Tasmanian ghost story tradition,” he wrote.
There are countless other buildings in Tasmania that have spooky tales, with Willow Court asylum and Port Arthur at the top of the list.
The Richmond Bridge and The Bush Inn in New Norfolk are also notable spots for apparent ghost sightings.
So whether you are a ghost sceptic, or a paranormal believer, there is no doubt Tasmania’s scary stories have become part of the state’s rich history.
Do you have a question about Hobart or elsewhere in Tasmania you’d like an ABC journalist to investigate? You can submit your Curious question by completing the form below.
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