By Lana Guineay
South Australian history is full of mystery – and more than one ghost story.
Tour operators exploring the state’s spookier side have been booming, with Adelaide ghost tour operator Haunted Horizons among this year’s South Australian finalists in the Telstra Business of the Year Awards.
The two-time SA Tourism Awards winner runs sell-out tours of the state’s “most haunted” locations, from Glenside’s Z Ward to Old Tailem Town, tingling the spines of locals and tourists alike.
We’ve put together a list of five of the state’s most intriguing spooky sites to visit, exploring local history and legend along the way:
1. Adelaide CBD tunnels
Beneath the CBD’s hustle lies a clandestine network of tunnels, giving a unique insight into the city’s past. The old, creepy-feeling passages are mostly filled in these days, but in their heyday cellars and their connecting tunnels were common across the city.
The most famous lie under the old Treasury building, now the Adina hotel on Flinders Street, which today are used for tours, events, weddings, and the occasional Fringe show.
The Treasury building was the centre of South Australia’s governmental and administrative affairs for over 130 years, and houses the cabinet room where the landmark decision to give women the vote in 1894 was made.
Built in the 1800s, the tunnels were originally the home of printing in the production of maps and surveys. Today, the myths and romance around the tunnels linger – from resident ghosts to the unverified local legend that The Beatles used them to escape their screaming fans on tour in 1964.
2. Z Ward
History meets maximum eeriness at the site of the former Glenside Psychiatric Hospital’s Z Ward: home of the state’s “criminally insane” for over 90 years.
Built in 1885, and designed by prominent local architect behind other local icons St Peter’s Cathedral, the State Library’s Mortlock Wing, and Parliament House, Ward Z was in operation until 1973.
Sitting unused for years and faced with demolition, an outpouring from the local community and the National Trust of South Australia saw the building take on a new lease of life, and now hosts a range of tours showcasing the unique social and architectural history of the this remarkable – albeit creepy – piece of local history.
Reports of strange happenings abound. Most recently, an edition of the Adelaide Show podcast made in the ward had to be delayed after technical issues made half of the recordings unplayable- you can check out the results here.
3. Martindale Hall
Best known as the school featured in the iconic Aussie 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock, Martindale Hall is hidden in Clare Valley, set amongst some of the most picturesque wine regions in the state.
The Georgian mansion was built in 1879 for a flush 21-year-old pastoralist, Edmund Bowman Jnr, and has kept many period features – including, so it’s said, a ghost named Valentine. Sightings include a man in period costume, and the child-ghost of Mortlock’s 9 year old son Valentine, who died in 1906 and reportedly visited one of the Hall’s guests for a friendly play.
Visiting the grand 32-room property is like taking a trip back in time, and is currently open for private functions and tours. The perfect setting for a murder mystery night.
4. The Adelaide Gaol
Built in 1841, the Adelaide Gaol was home to around 300,000 prisoners over 147 years. As the longest continuously operating prison in Australia, and one of the two oldest remaining public buildings in South Australia, the gaol has its expected share of dark stories and rumoured ghosts, earning it the moniker “most haunted jail in Australia”.
Rumoured sightings include the only female prisoner executed at the jail, Elizabeth Lillian Woolcock, and a male guard wandering the grounds. Today, visitors get their thrills with tours of all kinds – from the historical to the paranormal, telling some of the gaol’s spookiest stories and exploring the underbelly of Adelaide history.
5. Adelaide Arcade
Perhaps the most famous, and most public, of all of Adelaide’s scary spots. By day, it’s a popular shopping hub, but at night it’s the rumoured home to the ghost the arcade’s former caretaker Francis Cluney, among others. Built in 1885, it was Australia’s first ever shopping arcade, and was one of the first buildings in the state to have electric light – still a novelty in the 1880s.
An example of the 1880s boom period in Adelaide, the arcade is testament to the time where Rundle Street was being transformed into a key retail area. Today, the arcade houses a museum on the balcony level of Gay’s Arcade, with a free exhibition of the site’s intriguing history – while nighttime tours explore its darker side.
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