You know what terrifies me? Ghosts.
And zombies. Zombies are our most real threat, what with the impending Zombie Apocalypse and all.
But ghosts, mainly. Especially in light of this recent Reddit thread…!
But because I’m an amazing wife, you know what I organised for date night recently?
A ghost tour.
Because I knew Den would love it.
Den loves history. His curiosity for everything around him is boundless. He likes to know how stuff works, what it’s there for and how it got there in the first place. We can’t go anywhere without him discovering something new and being utterly fascinated by it. He was the kind of kid that pulled apart remote control cars to see what was going on inside them. Now that he’s grown up, he still pulls apart his toys (phones, computers, cars, motorbikes)… difference now is, he puts them back together again!
Anyway, I knew this ghost tour would be right up Den’s alley because the Ghosts of Old Williamstown tour is not strictly about spectres and spooks… it’s also about the rich and somewhat shady history of Victoria’s oldest city.
I figured no matter how I felt about ghosts, I should be fairly safe in a group. Right? RIGHT?
Den had no idea what we were doing until we rolled right into the middle of the tour group, meeting at the beginning of the night at a haunted fountain in the main street, Williamstown.
Our guide, Anne, had donned black fingerless lace gloves and a long swishy black skirt for the night. She wove stories for us as she led us by lantern-light through King William’s town, painting a picture of a world very different to the one we inhabit now.
So many buildings in Williamstown have a story. Many also have ghosts.
At first, we were safely across the road from these buildings as we heard stories of corruption and death and love… the castle ‘Craigantina’ built for the wife of John Harker Craig (and still haunted by her to this day), makeshift morgues in the basements of old pubs and sailors dying as they tried, drunk, to swim the bay back to their ships.
These conceptual stories, I felt fine with and I began to relax thinking perhaps this tour wouldn’t be so spooky after all.
Anne pointed out a narrow alleyway across the road from us, recounting the history of the pub it backed onto and the nasty publican who still floats around the building making people feel unwelcome.
Then she told us we were going down it.
Single file, we all shuffled down to a walled space at the very end of the dark alleyway. There’s a light that isn’t connected to a sensor, and sometimes it flicks on for no reason. Right on cue, it flooded us with light as we squeezed past.
Down the very end of the laneway, we huddled into a tight space as Anne explained the history of the lane. I was taking photos all around, on the off chance we might see something later when we looked at them. Orbs of light and unexplainable shadows are sometimes visible in photos taken on Lantern ghost tours. Things that weren’t there when you were standing there, but mysteriously appear later when you look a little closer.
Den was standing next to me, itching his nose. He figured it was allergies, perhaps from being in close confines to someone that had been hugging their cat before they left home.
The itch wouldn’t let up, as we listened to Anne tell us how prostitutes would line this laneway waiting for customers, enticing them into the dark. Some of their spirits are still around. Women on the tours often report feeling unwelcome. Men, on the other hand, seem to love this laneway. They report flirting – a lot seem to get ticked around the face with feather boas.
Den looked at me in alarm. Animal hair, or flirty working girl from another century? The first of many questions for the night…
We moved on to the old Quarantine tunnels, where entire shiploads of people would be imprisoned if there was illness on their boat as they came into port. Thousands died there, contracting all manner of ancient fevers…
Den is still sceptical about this one, but from the minute we stood in front of the tunnels I started on a coughing fit I couldn’t control. Even before Anne had explained the tunnels and their history, I was coughing loudly and without respite… I continued coughing the entire time we stood there. It let up as soon as we moved away.
This is what I kind of loved about the ghost tour – our group didn’t see any full-bodied apparitions or anything like that (thank God, as it’s likely I would have run screaming and never set foot across the Westgate again) but all night freaky stuff happened that could well have been a ghost, but you could also have explained away as coincidence, should you be too freaked out to deal with it.
Anne had many keys to many doors in Williamstown. She took us into the old lighthouse, the very first morgue in Victoria, rebuilt stone-by-stone on the docks, into an old shipping shed and past many buildings with stories caught in their walls.
Den held divining rods in the morgue which crossed over as we called to the ghosts, he swears it wasn’t him and you could actually physically see the rod pull and vibrate before it swung around. I felt violently ill to the stomach for a few moments in the morgue.
A few suspicious noises and cool breezes (indoors on a still, 34-degree night) also factored into our night… Anne, our tour guide even got a little impressed upon by a ghost and had to tell him to back off in the shipping shed – it’s a new venue added recently to the tour so the spirits there are anxious to make contact. The venue itself was used to shoot some scenes recently for an Australian production and some of the crew walked off the job, too freaked out to return.
We had a great time on this date night! A few solid hours of spine-tingling, informative, entertaining fun. We’ve been telling everyone all about it, and we think you should go too!
Lantern Ghost Tours
The Ghosts of Old Williamstown tour is $30 per adult and The Old Melbourne Ghost Tour is $25 per adult but they are both well worth breaking your usual date night budget!
Would you do this on a date night?