By day, Ipswich is a thriving City. There is hustle and bustle, friends meeting for coffee, businesses making deals, students expanding their knowledge.
But the dead like to have all their fun at night time.
As the sun sinks behind the giant birds at Amberley, the old buildings of the heritage city start to creak under the enormous weight of our city’s history.
Throughout its long life, Ipswich has been a place of unexplained occurrences.
There have been ghost sightings, creepy statues, and mysterious bumps in the night. It was even reported to have rained fish at Bergin’s Hill in Bundamba during May 1930.
The perch came down during a shower of rain followed on the same day by a shower at Laidley, leaving a paddock covered in mud crabs.
We have put together a collection of well-known and not-so-well-known urban legends.
How Benjamin Cribb didn’t let death stand in the way of running his company
Historian Jack Sim’s favourite Ipswich Ghost story is that of old Benjamin Cribb.
Mr Sim copped a fair bit of criticism over the story early on. He felt vindicated after hearing the story from family members. He then found a photo of the statue in the Ipswich Library, standing tall at the back of the company boardroom.
Benjamin Cribb was the founding father of Ipswich’s famous Cribb and Foote department store. He started the store with his second wife’s brother John Clark Foote.
One of Ipswich’s great success stories, the department store grew to take up an entire block on the corner of Bell and Brisbane Streets.
Maybe he foreshadowed his own death by having a life-size bronze statue of himself made, just before he met his maker while attending church.
Folklore suggested his ashes were encased inside, but this is not likely, according to Jack Sim, as he was buried.
From the year of his death in 1874 until the 1960s, Benjamin Cribb’s statue stood in the company’s boardroom overseeing all of the important decisions made.
Directors sometimes ‘included’ him in their discussions.
By the late 1960s he was relocated to the staff lunch room but staff found it a little ‘unnerving’ having the old boss watching them eat.
The statue was eventually banished upstairs to the dummy room where it met its own messy end.
Hazing of new security officers would involve them being told to go and check out a noise in the dummy room where old Benjamin would be stood by other staff ready to scare the pants off the new guy.
Benjamin Cribb’s creepy statue was finally consumed by fire with the building (renamed Reids Department store) in 1985.
Firefighters found a molten puddle of bronze in the ashes.
The simply but stong boy who met a floury end
Jack Sim says one of the most commonly known Ipswich ghost stories is that of The Old Flour Mill. Despite closing in 1916, stories about the ghost there have been circulating since the 1940s.
The mill was built in 1902 on the railway line where wheat was transported from Toowoomba, processed into flour and loaded back onto trains heading to Brisbane.
In the 80s the mill was renovated to include a restaurant upstairs and small shops were made downstairs. Various restaurants have operated upstairs during since this time and all have reported ghostly vibes.
A clairvoyant downstairs was able to relay the ghost’s story. His name was Hubert. He was a ‘simple’ but strong boy who worked at the mill.
“One day he was not feeling well; fellow workers told him if he worked a bit harder and sweated a bit more, he would be alright; unfortunately he collapsed and died soon after. It was later discovered that Hubert had scarlet fever.”
“Bert” as he is affectionately known nowadays, likes to keep to himself but will often move things around when the staff are not there. If he doesn’t like the way the table is set up he will change things. He rearranges the cutlery. Also, he likes the kitchen access to remain clear.
On one rare sighting of Bert downstairs, a former owner saw a relatively solid, grey coated figure. He believes the ghost’s coat may have been covered in flour.
A small park with a big secret
A lesser known story Jack Sim shares is the one involving council workers at Ripley in 1986.
“When it was being developed, some council workers were digging the side of a road when they got a bit of a shock,” he said.
They uncovered some old WW2 coffins. They were quite badly damaged and seemed to be used as land fill. How they really ended up there no one knows but they were (empty) American soldiers’ caskets.
Jack believes the story behind it starts in 1947 on Cemetery Road at Raceview. This was the scene was one of the most macabre events in Ipswich History.
Over several months in 1947, the war dead were exhumed.
Four-metre-high canvas sheets were put around the area. It was named the US Armed Forces (USAF) Cemetery Ipswich and 190 people were employed to carry out the task.
In November 1947 a ship arrived from the US to take the dead home. The remains were taken to a mausoleum at Redbank where they were processed into their final-type caskets.
There was a special ceremony as 1406 souls were loaded into on board USAT Goucher Victory in the Brisbane River.
A coffin containing the body of an unknown American soldier was paraded ceremoniously on a gun carriage through Brisbane King George Square, as 30,000 local residents lined the streets.
A number of those original caskets ended up dumped in Clark Street, Ripley.
A story published on Wednesday, 5 November 1986 in the Queensland Times.
“The coffins, found by workers working on sewerage connections in Clark St, will remain in the ground untouched,” it said.
“Water and sewerage engineer Andrew Underwood said that after the find was made last week he did some quick research.
“The occupants of the coffins were flown home to the United States after the war and the coffins buried in places where it was thought there would never be residential development.
“It wasn’t a cemetery, it was just a dumping ground for the boxes.
“We only uncovered the edge of it and then just put them back in the same spot.”
Mr Sim said: “It’s one of those secrets Ipswich has forgotten, a lonely flagpole is all that stands there now.”
The area is now called Manson Park, named after Rose Manson, who looked after the graves during the war years and wrote letters to the families in the US.
“Some people say the swings have been seen swinging by themselves at night,” he said.
There has also been a report of a local who lived nearby, seeing a man in uniform wandering around the house when he was a child.
Historian Jack Sim (right) found so many Ipswich ghost stories, he wrote a book Haunted Ipswich: Ghosts of the Heritage City on sale from Angus Robertson and his website www.jacksim.com.au. Jack does the research to verify the history of a story. His stories are based on real people. He runs a lantern light ghost tour in the Ipswich Cemetery on the last Saturday of the month. If you are interested, you can see his website for more information.
The Rothwell Haig Coke Ovens at Tivoli c1900. Courtesy of the State Library of Queensland
A tale of terror at Tivoli
A report in The Western Champion and General Advertiser (a newspaper from Barcaldine) on Tuesday the 14th of January 1896, tells a tale of mineshaft terror in the Tivoli Mine.
Len Johns is a young man on holiday. He wrote home to his local paper from the Tivoli State School.
His brother was his partner in crime. They grabbed a couple of pit lamps on a moonless night and crawled through a small door into the tunnel.
They didn’t light their lamps for fear somebody might see the light.
“I can tell you I felt a bit queer stepping down into the dark hole. We managed to feel our way down to the bottom of the shaft,” Mr Johns said.
They made their way down to the junction where the old Eclipse pit was. The Eclipse is said to be haunted on account of seven men being entombed during a flood. There was a bag hanging to cover the route.
It was here they heard the sounds of someone dropping a hammer against a piece of hard coal.
Len told his brother it was only water dropping from the roof of the tunnel to the floor. The noise was as regular as clockwork.
He crept forward and raised his lamp and threw open the hanging bag.
Suddenly the sound stopped.
“Great beads of perspiration rolled off me and my legs commenced to shake and feel very weak, and my teeth commenced chattering like a box of ivory dominoes. I felt very glad when I saw that my brother, who was ahead of me, did not notice me in such a state,” he wrote
Len suggested they get going and it was only once they had climbed out of the tunnel into the foot of the shaft that he told his brother the story of the entombed miners and what he believed the sounds were.
“My lamp went out and we made a bolt for it. We managed to scramble in the darkness up the ladder and jump outside.
On the way a bat hit my leg and I let out a scream and nearly fainted with fright.” Mr Johns wrote
He said would not go down that place again, even for a new bike.
Water tower, zoo and art gallery forever in folklore
Lost Ipswich is a Facebook group with 13 742 members. It is dedicated to Ipswich and its history.
Mark Stephenson recently posted a thread: ‘Are there any decent ghost stories or folklore about Ipswich?’
Sheryn Williams writes: “When I was young we told a story
of a young boy who was playing with a ball on the top of the water tower. In the story he fell through a manhole in the tank and drowned. His ghost was supposed to haunt the tower. Of course we told it while sitting on top of the tower. Of course there is no evidence to back the story but it was pretty common.”
Brendan Conway remembers: “One morning I was working in the zoo at Queens Park.
“It was still very dark because I started at 6am and in winter the sun isn’t up yet.
“I was walking to Swamp Wallaby’s enclosure to let them out when I heard footsteps and a chair being dragged along the floor inside the zoo office, which is just a green demountable.
“The office was still locked and the alarm was still on.
“I asked the girls that arrived later on at around 715 if anyone else was in early.
“I was the only person in the zoo when I heard the noise.”
Marisa Seeley said: “I worked at Ipswich Art Gallery and it was said to be haunted. A few of my colleagues had weird experiences there, particularly in the lower levels and office area. Sometimes visitors would come in and say they saw something or felt something in the corridor near the loos.”
YouTube has a video posted by Johny Paranormal called ‘Urban Legend of Goodna Cemetry.’ It was published on February 18 and is a 15 minute video of him testing a popular Goodna legend. He leaves the camera rolling the whole time as he covers his car in talcum powder. The urban legend goes, that if you pull over at midnight, put flour (or baby powder) on your car and drive past the Goodna Cemetery, when you stop again and look at your car, it will be covered in tiny handprints. I won’t ruin the ending for you.
Dark City Productions has also posted a video called ‘Ghost Hunt Goodna Cemetery’ which is a bit more high tech. A ‘crew’ Ash, Ken, Thierry, Lachlan, Patricia and Chaise wander around the cemetery with various ghost hunting equipment such an EMF, cameras, temperature gauges and spotlights. They talk about stories they have heard of people visiting, then going home with bruises and scratches. Sometimes they feel warm and welcome, other times… they feel cold.
WARNING: The language in this video gets a bit sweary.
A tale of three ghosts
The original Rosewood Hotel was destroyed by fire despite the efforts of locals in 1914. Previous owners of the pub, Don and Georgie Taylor, have seen a sheet of water pouring over the front veranda. Guests would find their bedclothes soaked by water and a narrow stream of rain appear in the front bar, then suddenly disappear.
A Queensland clairvoyant says she can sense two spirits in the building. A water ghost called Rusty, a red haired Scotsman, who was probably one of those who fought the pub fire. Current co-owner Councillor David Pahlke, says he has gone off the boil lately.
The Courier-Mail visited the hotel back in February, and reporter Geoff Shearer had this experience:
“At one point, to steady myself, I put my right hand down flat on top of the room’s cream-painted chest of drawers, near its right-hand side. What happens next makes me pull it away again quickly and steals my breath. My hand feels as if I have placed it flat into a shallow tray of stale pond water. I can sense the wood under my hand but it feels like it is recoiling, and a cold, viscous film is squirming between my skin and it. I remark out loud that I’ve put my hand in “something wet”, but when I turn to face the chest of drawers fully and wipe a hand back over its surface, it feels solid again – admittedly colder than it probably should be on a warm day in an enclosed room, but solid.”
The other soul is reputedly an African-American who was based at a munitions camp at Calvert. He was shot in the back by MPs on the front steps.
“The psychic said he’s at peace but he thinks about his mother back in the US all the time,” Pahlke said.
Councillor Pahlke believes there is a third guest who has never checked out. A woman in period cloths has been seen from time to time.
* Information taken from Historic Rosewood Hotel Facebook page.
A flaming end
Only 100 metres down the road, the Royal George Hotel has its own tragic history.
The Daily Mail reported on Saturday, 29 May, 1926:
“The wife of the licensee of the Royal Hotel, Rosewood, was burned to death this morning.
“About 10.30am screams were heard, and Mrs Downey was seen to rush on the balcony in flames.
“Her husband rushed to her assistance, and other help was immediately given; and every effort was made to save the womans life.
“Dr Wallace, assisted by local chemists and nurses, did everything possible for the injured woman.
“Rev Father McKenna administered the last rites of the Church. How the accident occurred is a mystery as Mrs Downey was indisposed with dengue. Mrs Downey is survived by her husband and small son.
“The strange thing about incident was there was no trace of fire in the bedroom and the police were unable to discover how the fire started. Mrs Downey was burned from the waist up.”
Katie Harvey (left) is a Paranormal Historian based at Toowoomba.
She is holding a K2 meter which is used to detect fluctuations in the EMF (electromagnetic field of energy) which generally means a spirit is around at the time.
Katie runs regular ghost tours at Gatton and Dalby and occasionally Ipswich. You can find more information on her Facebook page – www.facebook.com/katieharveyparanormal/
Ipswich’s most haunted
“I’ve been active in the paranormal field for 23 years,” Katie said.
” Nothing I have seen so far has compared to Woodlands.
“It is the most haunted place in Ipswich.”
It’s not just night time that she has seen unexplained occurrences there.
“It’s very active there both during the day and night. We’ve been through the day. I heard running on the top floor, I’ve seen cupboards open and close and doors in doorways,” she said.
“A lot of us have seen a little boy. It was documented that he was drowned in the tank on the roof.”
Katie has run a lot of ghost tours there and says there is always a lot going on.
“People always get really interesting photos and a lot get touched physically. It’s a bit like a Railway Station, just snippets of audio or vision. There is a lot of residual energy, and it has engrained itself into the surrounds.”
After Katie has an experience, she tries to get evidence and look at the history to piece the jigsaw together.
“We held an overnight investigation. At 2.15am there was a hell of a bang in the stairwell. We were told a maid fell to her death there,” she said.
“Three of the priests died at the intersection there in a car accident. Lots of people witnessed seeing them and twice their names have come through.”
This photo was taken in the Woodlands of Marburg. It was taken with a full spectum, infrared light.
Katie believes it appears to be a nun walking through the dining tables and chairs.
This picture was taken upstairs in Mary Smith’s room. She was the original owner. I figure can be seen in the window behind a lady on the ghost tour.
What goes bump in the middle of the night?
By Jodie Richter
I spent a couple of days collecting these stories with a healthy sense of scepticism.
Then I had my own spooky moment. I was awoken at the stroke of midnight this week by the strangest of sounds.
My room was dark and still but it sounded like it was raining inside. It was a bursting, tinkling noise.
Upon investigation I discovered, out of the blue, that my shower door was shattering. I grabbed my phone, hit record and turned the light on. (See the video at the right)
Why did this happen, now? In the middle of a ghost investigation? Maybe something wanted to teach me a lesson.
Whether you read these stories and have a bit or a chuckle, or whether you are left shaking in your boots depends on you.
Hocus pocus? Or something else? You decide.