A closer look at Australia’s most haunted city…

Most Australians seem to think the spookiest things in Canberra happen up at Parliament House, but us locals know better. We know that while most of the country fixates on the mysteries of politics, our hometown has plenty of its own secrets. The Haunted and Mysterious Australia guidebook identified Canberra as the country’s most haunted city and this look at the city’s most notorious haunted hot spots proves it.

The National Film and Sound Archives’ Own Horror Movie

The national Film and Sound Archives, source: Wikicommons

The stunning building that houses the National Film and Sound Archive is one of Canberra’s most iconic art deco interwar venues, and with good reason. Construction began on the Acton site in the mid-1920s, before it was formally opened as the Australian Institute of Anatomy in 1930. It was here that so many of Australia’s most prized specimens were housed, including natural fauna from across the continent and the remains of hundreds of humans, with the institute acting as the country’s official natural history museum. The museum had a long run, eventually closing its doors in 1984. The following year, it was refurbished and reopened as the popular National Film and Sound Archives so many Canberrans love today. But many believe the original tenants didn’t take everything with them.

The most notable resident is Sir Colin MacKenzie, a philanthropist who developed the initial Institute project, whose ashes remain in the wall in the foyer, alongside the death masks of long-deceased men. Visitors and staff have reported seeing the ghost of MacKenzie hundreds of times over the years, alongside the spirit of a little girl who likes to visit school children in a theatrette used for excursions. Ghost hunters call the Archive one of the country’s most haunted locales and it’s often the site of paranormal investigations. Here’s hoping the Archive brings back the popular midnight ghost tours, so amateur hunters can get their ghostly fix.

Not-So-Homely Duntroon House

Canberra’s ‘Duntroon House’ looks like the archetypal haunted house. Built in 1833 for the Campbell family, the gorgeous Colonial-style homestead with sweeping verandahs is one of the first properties to be built in the area, which was still years away from becoming the Australian Capital Territory. The surrounding land was eventually commissioned for the Australian Military College, which was built in 1910, turning the pastoral outpost into a bustling centre. These days, the Inner North suburb of Duntroon looks almost as though it is stuck in a timewarp, with the leafy landscape and classical architecture changing little over the decades as Canberra modernises around it.

Duntroon has become synonymous in Canberra with the military, but also with the paranormal. And with such a sordid story, it’s no surprise. The legend goes that Sophia Campbell, born at the property into the Campbell family in 1857, died in a horrible accident at the age of just 27 after falling from a window at Duntroon House. She reportedly sustained head injuries and died a day later. In the 150 years since her death, questions still remain. Was Sophia the victim of a terrible accident, or was she pushed? The ghost of the young woman reportedly haunts the room from which she fell as well as the surrounding gardens, leading to decades of speculation that this was no accident, with theories ranging from murder at the hands of a former lover, or even an upset family member.

Burning Up At Blundell’s Cottage

Blundells Cottage, source: Visit Canberra

Blundell’s Cottage is a familiar site for any Canberran, with many a school excursion spent down by the banks of Lake Burley Griffin for a crash course in 1800s living. If only ghost hunting were part of the curriculum. The house was built by the Campbell family as a ploughman’s cottage before the Blundell family moved in in 1874, where they lived for decades, giving the property its iconic name. Blundell’s Cottage became a museum site in 1958. The small cottage was the site of tragedy in 1892 when Flora Blundell was set alight after a hot iron came into contact with her highly flammable dress. She died shortly after.

Staff and tour guides at the cottage are well-versed in reports of hauntings and other odd occurrences. Some incidents are fairly common for haunted buildings, including the strange, unexplained moving of objects or the sensation of being watched when noone else is in the room, but others are distinct. Frighteningly, reports of the smell of burning flesh have been made by visitors and staff alike throughout the years, with most suspecting this is the spirit of Flora. But what makes this haunted house case so compelling is the theory that women who enter the home wearing a necklace are far more likely to report an unexplained occurrence. This is believed to be because Flora had been wearing her favourite necklace as she was engulfed in flames, forging a bond between the tragic death and her jewellery in the minds of ghost hunters.

No Checking Out At Hotel Kurrajong

Ben Chifley, Australia’s 19th Prime Minister, holding the leadership from 1945 to 1949, is well known in national history for a number of things. Notably, for guiding the country back to stability and peace in the aftermath of the Second World War and introducing a string of reforms. Chifley was originally from Bathurst, but spent most of his political career in Canberra, where he lived at the Hotel Kurrajong, then known by the less spectacular moniker Hostel 2, in Barton. After becoming PM in 1945, Chifley was welcome to move to the Lodge, but said taxpayers shouldn’t be required to fund his accommodation and chose to stay at the hotel. Decades of guests and staff members suggest he never left.

It was in that hotel on June 13 1951 that he suffered a heart attack. While it’s not known where exactly he was when he passed—whether the hotel, the hospital or in transit—many believe his spirit remains at the Hotel Kurrajong. The shadowy outline of a man in a grey suit can be seen during the night pointing towards Old Parliament House, the reports claim. Those ghost hunters unlucky enough to miss the apparition of one of Australia’s most influential leaders can nurse the disappointment over a whiskey—the PM’s favourite drink—at the hotel’s bar, which has been named in his honour.

You might want to check under your bed tonight, Canberra.

Feature image credit: Chifley Research Centre



Subscribe to receive articles like this delivered to your inbox every fortnight