I love the arts and creativity. My early career was in teaching, writing, producing and directing for film, theatre, comedy and improv shows. Now I'm a professional creative content producer, mostly on digital platforms.
Makeshift ropes and grappling hooks, exact replica guns made from soap, the 'Houdini' of Boggo Road Gaol and more thrilling tales are in store for lucky visitors to the Boggo Road Gaol Escape Tour. My partner and I were lucky enough to be invited to attend a tour on Sunday and we had a blast! It was a really fascinating trip back in time to the early days of the prison's history. Our tour guide was Brisbane's king of ghost tours, Jack Sim. He's a passionate local historian who actually makes the effort to go and interview the people involved in the stories he tells.
He walked us around what remains of the Boggo Road Gaol and regaled us with stories of some of the most brazen and daring escapes. The stories ranged from exciting and scary to outlandish and downright funny. The tour focussed on the times before the modern version of the facility was built in the 70s. As Jack explained, the modern prison was built with besser blocks which are easy to bust through, so people were breaking out of Boggo Road with ease and at an alarming rate in its later years.
Instead, the Escape Tour looked at the times when prisoners were held in by bricks and mortar buildings, with thick iron bars; the times when escape was actually a challenge that took wits, timing and scheming.
It's a good idea to arrive about fifteen minutes early so you can check in at the Gaol Shop. You can browse and buy the interesting and fun souvenirs and check out a few little historical displays including items from the prison's past.
When it's time for your tour to start, your guide will collect the group and bring you inside one of the only remaining sections of the Gaol. Most of it has been demolished to make way for modern gentrification. The remaining section was built right at the end of Queen Victoria's reign. If you just view it architecturally speaking, it's quite a handsome looking building.
You'll be taken around to places of interest within the facility. The guide tells stories and reveals some of the history of the Gaol and how it operated. You'll also be shown old photos of the buildings and mug shots of some of the escapees.
It's not a flat-out fast paced walking tour, so it's fine for people who aren't too quick on their feet. We didn't need hats or sunscreen, but we did attend the tour in winter. Still, there were plenty of places where you could stand in the shade.
The Escape Tour is conducted on the second Sunday of each month at 11:30am. It runs for a bit over an hour but you won't be bored for a second. There are other kinds of tours that run at the Gaol if hearing about daring escapes isn't your thing. Just visit this link to find out more about the other tours on offer.
Boggo Road Gaol is a street away from Park Road at Dutton Park. Unsurprisingly, the entrance can be found on Boggo Road. The Gaol is walking distance from the train and busses. You'll also find handy two-hour parking just across the road from the old prison. There is very clear signage to point you in the right direction for your tour.
We don't often think about Brisbane as having much of an interesting past or history. Having recently travelled to London it really struck me how few local attractions back at home reveal our own past. So it's great to see a tour that does focus on these historically significant aspects of the town in which we live.
The tour guide is excellent! Jack Sim is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the inmates, the history and the interesting tales surrounding the Gaol. His knowledge extends well beyond the tour guide script. Jack gave us plenty of time to take photos and explore and was excellent at setting the mood. He also adjusted the tour on the fly to suit the audience and was very generous with his time, answering plenty of off-the-cuff questions.
Jack was especially great at engaging the kids on the tour, asking them what they would like to know along the way. A favourite of mine was when a little girl asked what the inmates ate for breakfast. Jack told us about 'Boo Goo' aka 'The Grey Death' which was cracked roasted corn and grey milk with the fat solids removed. Apparently it was a horrible gluey meal that could only be made palatable by adding copious salt or golden syrup.
Jack also asked the children on the tour how they would have behaved in certain scenarios. He was also very quick to point out that these were 'bad eggs' not heroes, but that it sure is interesting to hear the clever ways they found to break out of the Gaol. I'm not a parent, but I bet the parents on the tour were glad he did make that point!
The Cell Block that (Sometimes) Held the Houdini of Boggo Road