With its history of harshness, hardship and death, it is no wonder that the grounds and ruins of the Port Arthur convict penitentiary are believed — or at least rumored — to have their ghosts.
Whether or not you believe in ghosts, there is no gainsaying the fact that particularly at night Port Arthur, with its history of bloodshed and death and its environment of ruins and the overpowering darkness can arguably raise spectres real or imagined.
There are innumerable stories of ghosts and ghostly presences, but are they just that — stories?
Frame of reference
In an interview on George Negus Tonight on the Australian Broadcating Corporation network in 2004, a Port Arthur ghost tour guide, Todd Darling, said he believed "there are places in the world where the walls between our world and the spirit world are thinner, and Port Arthur's one of them."
In looking at this statement you should, of course, take into consideration the fact that Darling at the time of the interview was working for the organisation conducting ghost tours at Port Arthur, and had been working there for five years.
"I've done nearly 1000 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."
Darling went on to talk about mysterious forms appearing in photographs, glowing mists, footprints left behind closed doors, and stories of unexplained occurrences reported to the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority on its "unusual occurrence" form.
Noted Australian television journalist George Negus closed the inteview with: "As an honorary member of the Australian Skeptics Society, I don't think I'll say anything at all about that. Why spoil a lovely yarn?"
In an earlier interview about Port Arthur ghosts, also on the ABC but on the Stateline program in 2003, Todd Darling said: "Now, I'll be really honest and say — it's not my job to convince you that ghosts are real. It's my job to tell stories. Those stories are true."
The ghost tours
Port Arthur ghost tours are held nightly, whatever the weather, in groups of no more than 30 people. The only night ghost tours are not held is Christmas night, December 25.
The ghost tour is a walking tour and takes about 90 minutes.
Smoking and the drinking of alcohol are not permitted on ghost tours.
The tour may not be advisable for very young, very active or overly imaginative children. Persons with disabilities or on wheelchairs should inquire at the ticketing office before booking a tour if staff are able to assist at the time.
Because of the popularity of Port Arthur ghost tours, booking in advance should be essential. Phone 1800-659-101 or visit the Port Arthur website.
The ghost tour starts at the Port Arthur visitor centre.