Port Arthur, Tasmania
Port Arthur is one of the most important historic sites within Tasmania and the whole of Australia. Although it was a place that provided fundamental building blocks for modern-day Tasmania, it also incurred a dark history in the making. Many believe the site’s dark past to have resulted in an array of hauntings and ghosts.
Towards the end of the 1700s, Britain was unable to continue sending its convicts to the Americas and Australia became the next best option. Countless prisoners were to arrive on Australia’s shores with Tasmania, particularly Port Arthur, being a popular destination. Those sent to this new land endured a harsh life, with most never returning home. This seemed an unfair punishment for the petty crimes of minor theft necessarily for survival most convicts had committed.
By 1830 Port Arthur had been established as a penal settlement with its main usage being a timber station. As more and more convicts arrived in the area and the importance of the timber industry grew, convicts were put to work in the settlement and its population continued to grow. This resulted in a prison being built, which was to function with industrial purpose, where prisoners were put to work in surrounding industries including timber lumbering, shipbuilding and coal mining.
Port Arthur was soon to boom and growth spread in the settlement leading to new buildings and more and more people. During this time, plenty of dark history ensued with torturous conditions, death and a harsh way of life for those existing within Port Arthur. 1877 was to see the last convict shipped out from Port Arthur as the industry that once made the settlement boom, dwindled.
Since then, Port Arthur has been preserved and is run today as a tourist attraction displaying Tasmania’s past. This, unfortunately, did not mean the end of dark events occurring within the area. 1996 saw one of the darkest moments in recent Australian history unfold when a mass shooting occurred at Port Arthur. This sadly led to the deaths of 35 people and the injuries of even more.
Ghosts of Port Arthur
Port Arthur was a dreary place for many who passed through it, especially for the thousands of convicts that endured time there. Not only was life at Port Arthur hard, it proved to be a death sentence for many. Because of the lives ended at the settlement and the horrid living conditions, many hauntings have resulted. Port Arthur is also commonly cited as being the most haunted place in Australia.
Many paranormal experiences have been reported at Port Arthur. All over the settlement people have claimed to sight, feel, see and smell things that they are unable to explain. People have heard disembodied voices, witnessed poltergeist activity and some have even claimed to be attacked by the unseen.
Certain areas of Port Arthur are claimed to be more haunted, or at least more active for the paranormal, than others. The old asylum is said to be one of these places. The asylum was built in the mid-1860s and was focussed on treating the many convicts at Port Arthur who were suffering from depression. Treatment in this facility was actually ahead of its time and strived to provide a calming environment for those kept there. Never-the-less, the spirits of an elderly woman and a young girl have been sighting within the asylum. This is interesting as the building also functioned as a schoolhouse at one point in its existence. Disembodied footsteps have also been heard within the building and light fixtures have a tendency to move on their own.
One of the most intimidating buildings standing at Port Arthur is the Separate Prison. This prison was specifically built to instill mystery and fear into the hearts of inmates, in the hopes they would avoid bad behavior which would result in them spending time locked up in this area. The Separate Prison utilized the solitary system which was gaining popularity throughout the world during this period. This type of treatment, unfortunately, did more damage to the mental health of inmates rather than benefitting them. This is one reason why so many believe it to be one of the most haunted buildings at Port Arthur. People have claimed to be touched and scratched by something unseen within the Separate Prison, which seems a fitting behavior that the spirits of those supposedly driven mad within the building would engage in.
Plenty of other spirits are said to cover the grounds of Port Arthur. One of the most commonly sighted is that of a Bue Lady. She is believed to have lived within the settlement during the 1800s and lost her baby during childbirth. Since her death, she continues to exist at the settlement in search of her child. In addition to this lady, many have sighted the ghostly specters of children around Port Arthur, as well as a ghostly priest, distorted body-less faces and black figures.
Visiting the Haunted Port Arthur
Port Arthur is open daily as a museum. Tickets can be purchased online or at the tourist office at the entrance to Port Arthur. Specific tours that go into greater detail of certain aspects of Port Arthur, including nighttime ghost tours, can be purchased too. I highly recommend staying at the Port Arthur Motor Inn, which exists at the back of and as part of the actual grounds of Port Arthur. This inn is also said to be haunted and contains a restaurant where you can dine while overlooking a stunning view of Port Arthur.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about other haunted places in Tasmania, I highly recommend checking out the Hobart Convict Penitentiary.
Thanks for reading!