After my tour of the Penitentiary Chapel with Brian, I promised myself I would return for the Ghost Tour. And so it was on Friday 12th April my daughter Stephanie and I joined a small group at 8.30pm for a night tour of the buildings with our tour guides Tony and Mikki.
Hobart Ghost Tour: Only For The Brave
by Mike Fry
We congregated in the visitor’s room. Our ghost tour mates were from both Hobart, together with four young visitors from New York. Tony’s welcoming address had all of us just a little nervous as he urged us all to make use of the bathroom less the need arose to venture back to the visitor’s room during the two and a half hour tour, alone and in the dark. Well not me, I can tell you.
We started off towards Courtroom one and then stopped in the darkened passageway. Tony was aware that I had recently done the day tour with Brian so he directed the details to the others on the Penitentiary Chapel Ghost Tour with the occasional nod to me. My daughter Stephanie was close beside me in case something grabbed her. Tony had told us that visitors were sometimes touched, even inappropriately in some cases. I stayed away from the other females in the group lest I be blamed. Mikki is Tony’s daughter. A very brave girl who stayed at the end of the group in case someone lagged behind and was lost to the underworld.
Nudge in the Darkness
The rooms were in total darkness. Three visitors carried lanterns, Tony with a small torch for spotlighting. We took our seats in the courtroom as Tony told us of dirty deeds done cheap and of the consequences. Was that a nudge on my arm? No of course not.
We moved to another courtroom as one of the ceiling lights started to swing mysteriously. There were no drafts and no one could reach that high. Why did it move? Stephanie moved close to me and held my hand; we were definitely not alone.
We entered into the passageway behind the dock where Tony explained that a visitor had been pushed but as he fell down the stairs he felt a hand hold his head lest he be hurt. I did not want to be the last one in the queue. Was that another nudge on my arm?
Signature Scent of the Spirits
The tunnel was dark and musty. Tony stopped and explained that at times we may smell lavender or we may smell tobacco; both were signature experiences of the spirits. The group started sniffing the air. We needed to be on our guard. Tony told us there was one mannequin in the refractory cells so don’t be alarmed. Three of the girls obviously forgot that as they felt a presence in one of the cells and rushed out screaming. It was the effigy of Mark Jeffrey.
Did I smell a hint of tobacco back there? No of course not but no-one wanted to be left in that cell alone. Tony explained that it was the locked cell beside Mark Jeffrey that should not be entered. “There is a presence in there,” he said, “we all feel it”. Luckily there was some archaeology work going on hence the locked gate. No need to tempt fate.
We left the building by the side door and sat on the stone wall where the condemned cells once stood, preparing ourselves for what lay beyond the next door. We waited as Tony calmed us down with some horrendous stories, then the door opened… not by itself but Tony did say that sometimes doors do open without being touched.
We made our way to the place of execution; you could have heard a pin drop. The rope hung there in a noose. Suddenly Tony stamped his feet and the floor shook with a thump and the girls screamed. Timing is everything. We ventured into the small room under the trapdoor where the bodies would drop as their necks snapped. The rest I will leave for you to find out when you do the Penitentiary Chapel Ghost Tour. Did I tell you about the photographer who ran screaming from the chapel one evening? She should not have volunteered to stay there alone, should she?
For tours and bookings for the Penitentiary Chapel, visit the official National Trust website.
Mike Fry represents tourism group Discover Strahan and Carolyn Nissen is the chairperson of Tasmania’s West Coast tourism organisation. Together they are owners and hosts of Ormiston House Bed and Breakfast accommodation in Strahan. Article and photos supplied to Think Tasmania by Mike Fry.