Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Gaol Ghosts! :Stories from the Gladstone Gaol - part V

Gaol Ghosts!
Stories from the Gladstone Gaol - part V

If you've been following the blog weekly, you would know I've covered a little history on the Gaol, and a couple of deaths that happened inside her walls, this week I am going to delve into some of her paranormal mysteries, and my own personal experiences.
The Gladstone Gaol is a foreboding presence, perched slightly higher than the rest of the town, like a massive jutting crown of cold stone and brick.
Inside her walls, that imposing stone gives off a claustrophobic effect, cutting you off from the rest of the world. Standing in her cells, looking out the small windows, you can feel the sense of dread that prisoners would feel, waiting for their sentence to expire...of course, most people only spent a few months in this gaol, serious offenders were always transported to Adelaide, but still, you knew, being here, was being cut off from the world, from life.
I first ventured across the gaol many many years ago whilst in the area following up some genealogy leads, I walked through her cell blocks during the day, and knew...one day I would be back to investigate for spirits.

That day eventually came, and many more nights have followed since, but the gaol, like all allegedly haunted locations, doesn’t always reveal her spectres every time you visit. In fact, this is one place that is very much hit and miss with paranormal phenomena. Maybe the ghosts just aren’t in the mood, or maybe they are out doing other ghostly things, who knows? But I find this Gaol to be one that doesn’t always offer a haunting.

I am very much a researcher as well as an investigator, and like all locations my team enters, I always try and find out what has already been seen, felt, heard or captured, to see if I can put forward a reasonable explanation that is natural, but also to see if my team also gets similar effects (some people would say that going in cold is better, as you have no preconceived notions, but I say, if ghosts are real, and are indeed there, your notions preconceived or not, are irrelevant)
I had heard of the typical “cold spots” in C wing, an apparition sighting in the Main Hall, sounds likes doors opening and closing in A wing, and many other witness offerings that, to a sceptical mind, can be easily debunked as natural occurrences that seem paranormal, or, in technical terms, “Xenonormal”

My team has investigated a number of time with other teams in the gaol, and so far we have very little “evidence”, but a lot of personal experiences, some of which we tried every which way to debunk, and could not.
One involved an experiment where locked people in the cells, and myself and a team leader from another team acted as Warden and Gaol, telling the “prisoners” it was “lights out” . As we turned off the lights, in the complete silence of the pace, we heard foot steps shuffling behind us, we both turned and saw a tennis ball sized yellow, hovering light leave a cell and vanish into the air.
It happened in a blind spot of the DVR system we had set up, so we could not offer it as data or evidence, just personal experience – but it happened! We tried to debunk it, we told the other teams, and they tried to debunk it – and none of us could offer a simple explanation – what was it? No idea - but it was pretty exhilarating at the time.

A later investigation, I decided to aim a DVR camera at the door where we had seen the light previously – we were with different teams this time, and it was well into the night. Three of us were sitting on the cold slate floor watching the monitor, whilst another investigator was walking through the cell block. When the investigator came to the door that the camera was pointing at, three of us all saw a man walk out of the woman’s body and into the room, and then watched the investigator, a female do the same thing. All of us jumped up to see what the heck was going on. The investigator was startled by our reaction, as she had no clue what had just happened. I reviewed the DVR system, and you can clearly see the investigator walk in the room, and the reaction of the other three investigators looking at the screen (a camera further down the hall was pointing back at us) but you could not see the apparition leave her body and walk in to the room.
We tried everything we could think of to debunk the image, and we have no plausible explanation. What we do have is a ton of “what if”s" – What if the DVR was faulty? What if the DVR frames per minute were faster/slower? What if it was some weird trick of the light?
Of course, we cannot offer “truths” or validations to “what if's?” They remain exactly that, unexplored scenarios that did or did not happen in an instance of time. Sure, we can remove variables, try and debunk, try and re-enact, but the exact moment is gone and not re-creatable to the exact specifics of the initial incident, so lets just leave that as another “personal experience” for those involved.

I am yet to hear a convincing EVP, see a photo or video that truly defines the Gaol as haunted, of course, that doesn't mean it is not haunted, just that the spirits that reside there are a little cautious, or perhaps shy...but like many, I'll keep going back, as I love chatting to caretaker Tony Holland, and enjoy walking through the old Gladstone Gaols spooky corridors 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Gaol or Hospital? Stories From The Gladstone Gaol: Part IV

Gaol or Hospital?
Stories From The Gladstone Gaol: Part IV

Gladstone Gaol was built at massive expense to the colony in 1879, and many questioned why such a building was erected in such a remote location. In its many years of operation it never really saw any hardened criminals, other than those waiting to be transferred to Adelaide Gaol. There was no long term serious offenders within its walls. They would all be transported to Adelaide Gaol to see out their long prison terms, instead, Gladstone Gaol was used to house mainly drunks and people who couldn't pay their debts.
Looking down on the inside of the tower
© Allen Tiller

Mostly the gaol housed the sick and the disabled, and more often than not, it would see the sick and elderly be transferred from other Gaols in the South Australian colony.
It was common practice to remove the frail and ill from Adelaide Gaol and send them to Gladstone to see out their days, most were elderly women, who would pass away within her walls.
Here is one such example below found in a newspaper, I also talked about Eliza Evershed in part one of this series, who was also transferred from Adelaide Gaol, and passed in Gladstone – seems to be a common theme doesn't it?

The South Australian Advertiser Tuesday 1 December 1885 – page 5
Caroline F. C. Grahlow, an old woman, died in gaol yesterday. An inquest on the body was held at the gaol by Mr. Ingram J.P., Mr. Stewart being foreman of the jury.
The evidence of the doctor, matron, and keeper was taken, and a verdict was returned that death occurred from natural causes. The woman's age was 65. She was sentenced in  Adelaide to four years' hard labor for burning a dwelling-house, and had served nearly eighteen months of the term. She had been ailing ever since her arrival here, and a fort-night ago the doctor asked for a remission of the remainder of her sentence owing to her suffering, but the order for her release only came here this morning. Up to the time of her death she did not acknowledge the crime for which she was sentenced. Mrs. Rofran, sister of the deceased, arrived by train from Adelaide this afternoon with a coffin, and there mains were taken back again by this evening's train for interment in Adelaide. It seems that the Government will persist in weeding out all cripples and dying people from the Adelaide gaol to this one. Since its establishment the Gladstone gaol has been nothing better than a hospital, and many complaints have been made, but to no purpose. It is said most of the prisoners in the gaol here are invalids from Adelaide, the case of the poor woman who died yesterday is a most pitiable one, and should be enquired into
Between the walls of Gladstone Gaol
© Allen Tiller

By the end of the year of 1885, things had not improved at Gladstone Gaol as this newspaper story from the South Australian Weekly Chronicle attests
South Australian Weekly Chronicle Saturday 19 December 1885

Gladstone, December 16.
A prisoner has been released from the gaol in order to go into the Adelaide Hospital. The poor woman had to be carried into the train this morning. She is utterly helpless, and in a pitiable state. A male and a female warder from Adelaide came for her, and under their charge the prisoner was taken away. Dr. Hamilton ordered her removal. This is another instance of sending prisoners here in a frail condition, making this prison an asylum for sick criminals."

The Gaol, although built to house prisoners, seems to have spent more time being a hospital and way point/transfer station of inebriates and debtors more-so than an actual prison. Although it had a number of escapes over the years, only one man was never found. The Gaol did have a few deaths happen within her walls, but none from execution, riot, experimentation or firing squad !

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Experimental Gaol: Stories From The Gladstone Gaol - Part 3

Experimental Gaol:

 Stories From The Gladstone Gaol - Part 3

In late 1953 the Gladstone Gaol was re-opened for a period as a Medium Level corrective training facility for 18 – 25 year old offenders.
In 1955 Gladstone Gaol saw its first new extension, what is now known a “C” block, or the experimental wards. The complex increased to 125 cells.  In 1969 130 prisoners were housed with up to 20 transfers each day..
Looking at the central guard tower - Gladstone Gaol
© Karen Tiller

The term “experimental” is misleading, I have read many outrageous stories that have abounded because of misinterpretation of this word. The Gaol was never “experimental” with its prisoners, there were NEVER pre-frontal lobotomies, or other medical procedures done to prisoners, in fact, what the “experimental” refers to is the style of the cells themselves.
The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954),
 Wednesday 16 April 1952, page 5

At the time, no other prison in the world had cells like the new ones being built at Gladstone Gaol. These Cells had no windows at all, and contained a concrete ledge at the end of the cell, which was the prisoner bunk. It also had its own internal air circulation vents, which were made in such a manner they could not be escaped through. The cell block is also raised from the ground (as can be seen from the outside when one walks around the cell block), allowing air to circulate underneath the cells, therefore keeping them much cooler in the hot Gladstone summers, where the temperature can easily reach 46C in summer.

In all its years of operation as a gaol there were only 26 escapes in the gaol’s 100 year history and only one of them, an Italian man who had fashioned a “Master Key” from a piece of wire, was never caught and returned to the facility.
Looking over the Laundry area from the tower
© Karen Tiller

The Gaol eventually closed in December 1975 due to the Governments concern that its facilities were “outdated”. Recently a former prison worker who was there for the last five years of the Gaols service, has publicly pushed for the facility to be reinstated as a Gaol and used by lower level criminals.

In 1979 The gaol saw some new prisoners enter, but these were all just actors there to film the Bryan Brown movie “Stir”, a disturbing and graphic movie about life in an Australian Prison. Many of the props from the movie, including the “daily activities” lists on the back of cell doors still exist to this day, as a well as a tiny museum dedicated to the movie in the “C” Block. Many signs, including one saying “Maximum Security” within the gaol, are leftover props from the movie.
Movie Prop from the movie "Stir"
©Allen Tiller

Mr Rob Williams was quoted in the local regional newspaper “The Flinders News” as saying
“It was a very sad, depressing and unnecessary day when the prison closed, It was a ridiculous decision, one that was totally political.
Now, the whole criminal justice is soft. There is too much emphasis today on the comfort of the offender than there is on the welfare and safety of the victim.
Gladstone Gaol is unique in all ways possible, with its high tapered walls and self-sufficient arrangement, Instead of closing places such as Gladstone and Adelaide Gaol, both should have been kept operational.”

Currently the Gaol is a Bed and Breakfast and Museum under the care of Tony Holland, it features its own coffee and gift shop and allows for people to stay over night to experience prison life first hand.

The Flinders News


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Construction: Stories From The Gladstone Gaol - Part 2

Stories From The Gladstone Gaol -Part 2

In South Australia's Mid-north, approximately 221 km's from Adelaide, sits the town of Gladstone, and over on Ward Street, in the towns west, sits the imposing Gladstone Gaol.
The gaol was constructed between 1879 and 1881 with a total cost of £21,640. Its grey slate floors were made from slate mined at Mintaro and carried to Gladstone by Bullock Dray
B Wing - Gladstone Gaol
© Karen Tiller
Many people question the reasoning behind the construction of the gaol in such a remote part of South Australia, and somewhere so close to where three gauges of train line come together, offering an easy escape route if needed.

A newspaper story in The Mail, printed on the 8th of August 1881 refers to the building of the Gaol, but also the first Female prisoner to be imprisoned there:
8 August 1881 Gladstone Gaol
On 8 August 1881, two months to the day after it had been opened, Gladstone Gaol received its first female prisoners. Some time before 1879 Charles Mann, MP for the district, was asked by the residents what he could do for the town. He asked them if they would like a gaol and two years later Gladstone Gaol, said by one writer to have a gloomy solidity, was opened. Mr Pollett from the Redruth Gaol at Burra was appointed head keeper and the gaol had accommodation for 60 male and female prisoners. It appears that it rarely had a full complement and the only ‘lifer’ was a cat called Lady Jane Grey.
Sunset Through The Bars
© Allen Tiller

Rumours have long been whispered that its building was a “political stunt” orchestrated in the area because a former Government Minister who eventually became the Attorney General wanted to see some funding injected into Gladstone, which eventually led to the Gaol being built. The Gaol could house 60 prisoners easily at the time it was built, when Gladstone’s population was only 900 people.
Because of its distance to Adelaide, the gaol was never used for much more than Debtors and inebriates, in other words, people who couldn’t pay their bills and alcoholics. Much of the time the Gaol was completely empty, in fact, when alcoholics did elect to do their stay in Gladstone Gaol, they actually got paid for it, at £26 per year!

Probably the only time this Gaol saw anything near full capacity was when there was a viral outbreak of measles or some other virally contagious disease in Adelaide, then Gladstone Gaol would become a make-shift hospital and quarantine area.

During the World Wide conflict of World War II, Gladstone Gaol was used as a interment camp for people of Italian and German origin, prisoners of war who were regarded a security risk to the Nation. It was also used in this period to house soldiers who had gone AWOL (absent without leave) from their Military Posting.
From 1943 until 1953 the prison lay dormant and empty

NO-ONE WAS EVER HUNG IN THIS GAOL - sorry about the capitals, but I had to reiterate this point, despite all the conjecture, rumours, misinformation and legends, no-one was ever hung at Gladstone Gaol, formally, or informally.

Next week we take a look at the new extensions to the Gaol!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Death of Eliza Evershed: Stories from Gladstone Gaol – part I

The Death of Eliza Evershed
Stories from Gladstone Gaol – part I

On Saturday the 16th of September 1882, Eliza Evershed, a prisoner inside the walls of the Mid Norths Gladstone Gaol, passed away... her last words “Good Bye”...

By all accounts Eliza Evershed had lived a hard life. With her husband Alfred Batchelor Evershed, the couple had once been the owners of the Maid Of Auckland Hotel in Edwardstown, which eventually she ran by herself.
No-one was quite sure of her age, at the time of her death she was listed as 65 years old, but Doctors proclaimed, she had either lived a very hard life, or was at least 80 years old at the time of death.
Eliza was often in court, on both sides of the law, as sometimes her hotel would be robbed, other times she would rob people, and, in fact, she was incarcerated in Adelaide Gaol, on a seven year sentence for Larceny about 12 months previously, but had been moved to the lower security Gladstone Gaol as her health was failing rapidly.

Eliza's character was on show on 1872 when she fronted court with her friend Catherine Mott. Catherine had been charged with stealing a set of scales worth two pound by shop owner Robert Crocker.
Crocker had allowed Catherine into the shop on Grenfell street to work, but when he returned the next day the scales were long gone.
The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA 1858 - 1889),
Wednesday 20 September 1882, page 6
Catherine had required Eliza to be present, as Catherine was a tenant in Eliza's Maid of Auckland Hotel.
Eliza took the stand as a witness and said “ I am Eliza Evershed, the old woman of the Maid of Auckland. I am a widow, and I am perfectly willing to 'have' Inspector Bee”
The court room broke into laughter, and poor Inspector Bee blushed, embarrassed at the grotesque old woman’s actions.
The court ruled the old woman had “decided traces of real or assumed insanity” and that “no satisfactory evidence could be got from her”

Eliza spent her last few days alive in prison, but she was actually a free woman, having had her sentenced re-missed on the 11th of September, but being as she was so unwell, the Warden thought it unsafe to move her
Before her death, Eliza spoke of the kindness she had received from female warder Mrs. Pollit

 Honorah Dunn, a prisoner, said Eliza had been ailing for some time. Honorah had been with the old lady a good deal both day and night for the previous fortnight, assisting her with anything she needed. Eliza had everything she required, and never complained of her treatment, she passed away quietly within the walls of Gladstone Gaol

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Maria Massacre - 25 July 1840

Maria, an 136 ton sailing ship left Port Adelaide headed towards Hobart, Tasmania on the 20th of June 1840, when it was blown off course and foundered at Cape Jaffa on a reef. ( near Kingston SE, South Australia)
The Maria's passengers and crew, consisted of the following 25 people:
Captain William Smith and his Wife.
Samuel Denham and Mrs Denham and their five children (Thomas, Andrew, Walter, Fanny and Anna).
Mrs York (sister of Mr. Denham), who had recently been widowed and her infant.
James Strutt who had been hired as Mrs Denham's servant.
George Young Green and Mrs Green.
Thomas Daniel and Mrs Daniel.
Mr. Murray
The ship's mate and crew:
John Tegg
John Griffiths
John Deggan
James Biggins
John Cowley
Thomas Rea,
George Leigh
James Parsons.
When the Maria hit the reef, the passengers and crew made their way ashore with the goal of making their way, by foot, back to encounter bay to seek help aide for the now abandoned ship.
The party came across some local indigenous peoples and asked them to lead the party to safety. Along the way, a path heading inland was discovered, and it is believed the party split in two at this point, with the Captain making his way inland, and some of the crew and passengers choosing to follow the shoreline back to Encounter Bay.
Somewhere along the shoreline, some of the travelling party decided they would prefer to re-join the captain, and left the walking party to find the Captains inland party, now there were three groups of settlers trying to make their way back to Encounter Bay.
Not one of the passengers or crew members of the Maria, was ever seen alive again.
Eventually someone happened upon two bodies, both of which had weddings rings, used to identify whom they were.
Soon rumours began to emerge of an alleged massacre by Aboriginal peoples, who lived in the area, of the passengers of crew of the Maria.
It didn’t take long until more bodies were found, in different regions but still in close proximity to the Maria. Also, The Maria's logbook and some of the Passenger and Crews clothing were also found amongst local indigenous people.
As the rumours grew into a crescendo of upset settlers in the colony, Governor Gawler, South Australia's second Governor, ordered Major Thomas O'Halloran to head south and investigate the situation, and to uphold the law in the region.
O'Halloran left Goolwa with a mounted troop on the 22nd of August 1840, headed toward cape Jaffa, whilst a small boat set sail to search the coastline.
On 23 August the force ran into a number of Aborigines and rounded up 13 men, 2 boys and 50 women and children. He shackled the men and set the others free, though they voluntarily remained nearby their tribesmen.
Two of the Aboriginal men tried to escape their capture by swimming in the sea, but were shot and wounded by O'Halloran's men. A man named Roach, who had two years previously been arrested in the area by O'Halloran, led the mounted troop to a wurley where blood stained clothing, passengers belongs, and the Maria's logbook had been stored.
O'Halloran followed Governors Gawler's instructions to the letter, and at 3pm on the 25th of August, hung the two men who had tried to escape earlier.
Governor Gawler's instructions to O'Halloran were very clear:
"...when to your conviction you have identified any number, not exceeding three, of the actual murderers...you will there explain to the blacks the nature of your conduct ...and you will deliberately and formally cause sentence of death to be executed by shooting or hanging"

The hangings caused quite the stir in Adelaide, and in London. The press had a field day with accusations of murder, corruption and miscarriages of Justice. “The Aborigines Protection Society” argued that South Australian law could not be used in this case as the Aboriginal tribes of the area had not pledged allegiance to the Crown.

The case was brought but in to the public eye on the 10th of April 1841 when Mr Richard Penny was guided by members of the Tonkinya tribe to the grave of a white man who had died at sea. It was thought the body would be that of Captain Collet Barker, who was speared to death in the region in April 1831. However, Penny would find four of the five bodies still unaccounted for from the Maria wreck.
The bodies were in a bad state, and it was clear that they had been beaten to death. The Tribe then went on to tell Penny how the killings had happened.
Major O'Halloran's expedition to the
Coorong, August 1840
It seemed the Sailors and passengers had promised blankets and other goods for safe passage back to Encounter Bay, they had promised to return with the goods. The Aboriginal tribe was unhappy with this arrangement and wanted something now that they could use. The sailing party refused, and a fight broke out, of which the white men lost.
The Maria's hull was never found, it is thought she broke up on the reef. However her cannon was found and would later becoming a garden ornament at Victor Harbours “Adare Castle, fired every New Years Eve as a family tradition!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Rhynie Tragedy: Part two

The Rhynie Tragedy
 Part two

Last week we looked into some of the circumstances that led to the tragic deaths of the Lee family, after Father and husband Alexander Lee killed his Wife and Children. This week we take another look at the case, delving into how he perpetrated his crime, and his eventual hanging in Adelaide Gaol.
Thursday Morning, July 15th, 1920, Convicted murderer, Alexander Newland Lee was taken from his cell on the Eastern side of Adelaide Gaol. It was 6:30 in the morning, in less than two hours, Mr Lee, condemned for the murder of his wife and children, would himself be dead, hung from the gallows inside Adelaide Gaol.
Weeks earlier, Lee had hurt his hand shearing sheep in a freak accident, and had been receiving treatment at Nuriootpa hospital. Due to not being able to take on his usual employee, he accepted a job droving cattle. Whilst employed on the cattle run, it is believed Lee purchased a quantity of strychnine & in compliance with regulations, signed his name in the Poison Book.
Lee was said to have been seen skulking around the small town the night of his families death, having returned only a couple of days earlier from the cattle droving job he'd picked up.
In his testimony to the Police, Lee stated that he had returned home from the cattle run to find his family writhing in agony on their beds. He jumped onto his bicycle and rode 300 meters to awaken the mounted constable and a Doctor in the Rhynie Hotel.
Lee rode back to his home, and was just in time to see one his little boys drawing his last breath, He then witnessed the death of his daughter, writhing in total agony as the strychnine poison engulfed her body and stopped her heart.
On Easter Sunday Detectives Nation and Goldsworthy of Adelaide, arrived in Rhynie to conduct a full investigation of the deaths of the Lee family. They concluded that Alexander was the culprit and arrested him on suspicion of murder.
Alexander offered one of the weakest explanations for the death of his family, stating that he thought the family had died after drinking milk tainted with mouse poison. The mouse poison in his explanation, had fallen from a high shelf into the milk container, and the family, who were in the custom of having a glass of milk before sleep, all drank from the same bottle.
The inquest and trial did not take long and found Alexander Newland Lee guilty of the crime of murder, the evidence spoke for itself.
Lee was found guilty by murder by poisoning, a rare thing amongst male killers, as women are usually the ones to kill by using poison.

Lee, in his final hours that morning ate a hearty breakfast, and was comforted spiritually by Rev. W.H. Hanton. Before being led to the gallows. Even in his final hours he would not make a confession to the crimes, and the details of what happened died with him at 8 am that morning on the noose.
Murial and Alexander’s two surviving children, the twin girls were fostered by a local family in Rhynie, where they were raised lovingly. They took on their foster parents surnames and lived locally for many years.
Upon burial of Muriel and her children, Murial Lee's parents buried their daughter and grandchildren under her maiden name, in protest of their murder by Lee.