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ghosts of port arthur

Updated on December 1, 2014

Good Ghost Stories and Violence

It appears that any good ghost story starts with a murder or inhumane treatment, That is definitely the case with the prisoners at Port Arthur, Tasmania. This was a penal colony jail where men were sent who were considered criminals under the then English laws.

Some 60 km south of Hobart and positioned on an island it was so isolated that escape was impossible.

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Port Arthur Location
Port Arthur Location

History of Port Arthur

Called Van Dieman's Land, after a dutch explorer, its lieutenant governor of the day was George Arthur after whom the Port was named. It was an outpost for the timber industry and became a penal colony in 1833 and remained as such a rather primitive gaol until 1855 when it was extended and finally ceased to be a prison in 1877.

Thirty or more years of sheer hell faced many a prisoner who may have arrived for some petty misdemeanor conducted in England and transported on a horrid six months or more journey in cramped, vomit, urine and faeces laden holes of sailing vessels. Prisoners who reoffended in NSW or elsewhere also found themselves sent to Port Arthur along with the rapists, murderers or hardened criminals incarcerated there.

Many did not make the journey alive and others became extremely sick, sore riddled and depressed. In that condition they were unloaded and sent to work. Some went to Sydney, some to Newcastle and Melbourne and the really so-called dangerous ones went on to Port Arthur

Its Location

Port Arthur:
Port Arthur

get directions

Could you have survived such a journey

What would you prefer?

Mental Torture

A new way of dealing with prisoners was conducted here in the mistaken belief that psychological punishment would see the men reflect on the evil of their ways and be reformed. Instead many went mad as silence, isolation and darkness were used as punishment, An asylum was then established adjacent to the gaol.

Combined with the loss of hope of any form of escape and the still physical punishment and torture exercised against them many committed murder therby choosing to face the executioner and escape by losing their lives. Wikipedia notes that "The Island of the Dead was the destination for all who died inside the prison camps. Of the 1646 graves recorded to exist there, only 180, those of prison staff and military personnel, are marked."

Nameless, shamed, robbed of any form of contact with family and in an environment where mateship, friends and companions were discouraged many no doubt sought other ways to take their lives. All this under the so-called civilised British government.

Are ghosts real?

Are paranormal sightings real or imagined?

Ghosts - real or imagined
Ghosts - real or imagined

A World Renowned Haunted Site

Port Arthur has visible Ghosts

A local television Current Affairs show, "Tonught", and presenter George Negus (Broadcast 6.30pm on 24/05/2004) aired this interview with Tour Guide Todd Darling, who takes groups through the prison at night. " I've worked here five years, I've done nearly 1,000 tours, and in that time I've seen three ghosts and actually had about a dozen strange occurrences. When I say, "strange occurrence", I mean something other than actually seeing a ghostly apparition - hearing noises, being followed down corridors, um...just experiencing weird things. I think people come out on ghost tours because of that slight chance they might see a ghost."

Taking into account the hysteria that surrounds ghost stories one must query whether people who take to this kind of exercise are looking for excitement or are genuinely searching for proof that ghosts do exist. My query would be that if they are spirit how and why can ghosts make doors bang and chains rattle and so on?

Without actual images to substantiate those type of noises should we disbelieve and simply dismiss them as wind or something else. It is a fact that I often hear such noises in my home. A door will suddenly bang or something will fall down although it was secured on a shelf or wall. This happened just recently when I heard a loud crash in the laundry. No one was near it, the doors were all closed and when I investigated something rather large had fallen from a shelf into the stainless steel sink. It had been on the shelf undisturbed for a long time.

There is also the phenomena that occurs quite regularly in my home. Something misplaced for ages will suddenly turn up lying on the floor in front of me or in some other obvious hard to miss place. Yet for days it had not been seen. This is something that escapes logic and yet I don't think of ghostly intervention. But maybe I am wrong.

Getting Something from the Tour

People are enthusiastic.

On Paranormal Australia an enthusiast wrote "Guys, I would have to say that this tour at the Historic site is one of the best tours that I have done. I went first into all the areas and was the last to leave( got me in trouble with the guide but that's just typical of me)but glad I did.. when the group left the areas I waited a while and just took photo after photo. It all paid off in the end as I reviewed them, we found some Orbs and and a face like object looking down at me."

Would You Go On Such a Tour

How keen are you to see a ghost or experience the paranormal?

Still images from Dreamstime - click here

What's Your Opinion On Ghosts?

As Halloween comes and goes for another year everyone is thinking of scary ghost stories, except where we don't have this festival. But even here they are well loved. So what is it about them that turns people on? Maybe we just love to devle into the unknown to solve puzzles such as 'are ghosts real' and 'is this what awaits us after death'?

Do You Like Ghost Stories?

See results

© 2010 norma-holt

Scribe your thoughts and ghostly deeds here before you leave.

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    • VspaBotanicals profile image


      6 years ago

      Oh My Goodness! I'm speechless. Great lens!

    • WhiteOak50 profile image


      6 years ago

      I have featured this page on my WhiteOak's SquidAngel Journey

    • WhiteOak50 profile image


      6 years ago

      I have featured this page on my Scariest Places on Earth lens. You did an excellent job on this page! ~Blessed~

    • RawBill1 profile image


      6 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      I have been to the old prisons on Norfolk Island which were equally as cruel and torturous as Port Arthur, but I have not yet been to Tassie. The massacre there in the 90's just added to it's macabre appeal.

    • beaworkathomemom profile image


      6 years ago

      Interesting lens and very informative as well. I never heard about this until now.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      I'm going to lensroll this to my Ghost Tours of Florida.

      About 20 years ago, I visited Port Arthur, but it was during the daytime so I was spared any ghost encounters.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Ghosts of Port Arthur is new to me...very fascinating story. I will have to come back to watch some videos when I have more time. Will lensroll to my orbs lens (thanks for featuring it), and will get this added there sometime soon. I'll be back, just tons of stuff to get done.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Very interesting lens - I had no idea about this before - just knew criminals were deported and conditions were not really mentioned. Lensrolled to Halloween Creepies and

      Halloween Poem: London Darkness - an excellent lens as usual


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