Adelaide Arcade is a popular part of the busy Rundle Mall shopping precinct, and one of the earliest shopping arcades in Australia. Built in 1885, a distinctive dome (or cupola) and colourful coat of arms adorn both entrances to the Adelaide Arcade shops. These are thought to be the only remaining 19th century cupolas in Adelaide.
The coat of arms below the dome was designed before federation, when Australia became a nation. The design was entered in a competition for the national coat of arms, and was adopted for use on Adelaide Arcade before the official design was chosen years later. Despite this, the design is quite similar to the design we use today.
Adelaide Arcade Shops 1886 (Image: State Library SA)
The Adelaide Arcade shops were among the first buildings in Adelaide to have electric light, although electricity only came to Rundle Mall later in 1895. The electricity supply was the downfall of arcade caretaker Francis Cluney, and the foundation of one Adelaide Arcade ghost story.
There have been other deaths in the arcade. A young woman was violently killed in cold blood by her husband in a jealous rage. It was not long before he joined her in the afterlife - the murderer was hanged at the old Adelaide Gaol soon after. His body, together with other condemned killers remains buried there, contributing to the gaol's reputation as one of the scariest places in Adelaide.
A young boy was also one of the Adelaide Arcade deaths in 1902. But was it murder or an accident? You decide based on the facts.
Adelaide Arcade Ghost Tours From Adelaide Haunted Horizons
In daytime the Adelaide Arcade shops look elegant and upmarket. Take one of the Adelaide Arcade Ghost Tours after dark and you will see a completely different picture. The ghost tours are operated by Adelaide Haunted Horizons, and tour guide Alison is an excellent raconteur of the entertaining stories of ghostly goings-on in Adelaide Arcade history.
I'm not a believer in ghosts, and it isn't necessary to be for the ghost tours. The stories you hear are as much about history as about haunted Adelaide. Adelaide Arcade Ghost Tours last for about 2 hours, and take you on a historical walk through Adelaide Arcade including behind the scenes into areas not accessible to the public.
Starting at the Adelaide Arcade Rundle Mall entrance, the tours wind around the historic arcade with plenty of opportunities for photos. The tone of the ghost stories are light hearted, and the large group on my tour had smiles on their faces most of the way. The tour pauses briefly at the Adelaide Arcade museum to listen for the strains of a polka playing on an old accordion.
For me the highlight of the Adelaide Arcade Ghost Tours was a visit to the original 1885 tea and coffee saloon in the basement near Gays Arcade. I wonder if they also sold pastries from Balfours' City Steam Biscuit Factory just a short distance down Twin Street?
When the basement coffee shop first opened you could descend to the basement from stairs in the main arcade, but now the only entrance is hidden. The original wrought iron stairs are still there though, with some original paint left on the walls adding to the eerie ambience of the place.
Original Glass Skylight in Adelaide Arcade Basement Coffee Shop
Once the lights went out in the basement tea and coffee saloon, the atmosphere was almost electric. It was a scary experience with no sound other than an occasional drip from a century old well. Luckily we were all issued with torches, so if you're at all nervous you can switch it on.
For me Haunted Horizon's Adelaide Arcade Ghost Tours was a really entertaining experience. I learned about the history of the arcade, and heard the ghost stories of the people who died here. It's a fun tour, and very popular with groups of friends who want to enjoy it together.
For more information about these ghost tours see the Adelaide Haunted Horizons web page or visit them on Facebook. The tours are entertaining, fun and well researched, but not suited for children under 15. Tour guide Alison is a wonderful storyteller who makes it a memorable experience.