The Old Government House in Parramatta is the oldest public building in Australia and is one of the 11 penal sites forming part of the Australian Convict Sites, which was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2010.
It is now a museum containing a large collection of early Australian colonial furniture. The Friends of Old Government House and Experiment Farm Cottage are the fund-raising body and care taker of the properties.
The friends conduct ghost night tours, social occasions, informative lectures and exhibitions with all proceeds going towards the maintenance of the properties.
This was my first ghost tour experience and I was very impressed with the tour guides. They were passionate, informative and exceptional in creating an eerie and ghostly aura. Through story telling, they were able to connect you with ghosts of Parramatta's colonial past.
Our tour was booked for the third Friday of July. It was the middle of winter and already dark by 7pm as we drove through the Macquarie Street Gatehouse entrance into Parramatta Park. We parked our car at the first parking bays located at bottom of the knoll adjacent to the dimly lit pathway, which leads up to Old Government House and Lachlan's Old Government House Restaurant.
Pathway up the Knoll to Old Government House
Fortunately the storm had passed, but the air was still thick, wet and cold, conveniently adding to the theme of the night's event. I felt nervous the moment we drove into the park, it was too dark and eerie for my liking. I had no idea what to expect and I certainly did not wish to encounter any surprises.
My girlfriend on the other hand was very nonchalant – let's just say, I clung onto her for dear life through-out the night!
The meeting area was in the courtyard between Lachlan's Old Government House Restaurant and Old Government House. There was a surprisingly good turn-out, we were split into two groups of about 6-8 people. Each group was given a few torches to carry and one Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) reader – the most important gadget for the night.
There were a few occasion where the EMF reader went crazy, flashing orange and red in different parts of the tour, causing a stir of excitement, only to be subdued by the reality of a potential real encounter with the unknown at any moment…
As the tour guide walked us up to the entrance door of the Old Government House, she explained that in some instances, some people may be repelled from going through this door or certain rooms of the house. This could be by means suddenly feeling ill or a sign preventing you from entering the premises, such as a voice telling you that you are not allowed to enter or being pushed away from the door, but no one will notice – only the person affected will know. I take a deep breath and cringe, can I go home now?
One by one we pass cautiously through the door and huddled together in the dark foyer by the grand stair case, allowing a few seconds for our eyes to adjust to the dimness of the candle light. Then out of the darkness 'it' appeared and my heart jumped!
You will have to do the tour to find out for yourself.
The guide takes us through the magnificent 212 year old Georgian Mansion, room by room detailing the architecture and interior décor as it was in the 1820s. An intimate account of the lives of the Governors and their households are told in form or stories, drawing our attention to scenes of tragic accidents and locations where psychics, guides and visitors have experienced ghostly encounters.
It was fortunate that the rain had stopped because the second part of the tour takes you outside to the main grand Tudor-Style George Street Gatehouse entrance, the scene where Lady Fitzroy was killed in 1847 when her carriage was overturned and hit a tree.
The Lady Fitzroy Memorial was erected to commemorate Lady Fitzroy, who was much loved by the colony (Lady Diana of the day) and her death marked a beginning of a decline of Parramatta as a Government Domain.
The George Street Gatehouse was well lit and its grandeur was striking against the darkness of the parklands. Built in 1885, the Gatehouse is the start of George Street, Parramatta - Australia's first street with Old Government House perfectly aligned on the top of the knoll.
This location was strategically selected as part of the original early urban planning, in building a vibrant future for Parramatta.
The tour wrapped up at about 10pm and both groups gathered once again in the courtyard between Old Parliament House and Lachlan's Restaurant for supper. A generous spread of Tea, coffee, wine, juice, scones, cupcakes, cakes and slices is provided.
Everyone chatted excitedly of their unique individual experiences and encounters. In our group, there was only me and another girl who heard the wail of a baby's cry in one of the upstairs bedroom, no one else had heard it. There was another instance when the dimly lit hallway suddenly darkened like someone had blown out one of the candles, which my girlfriend and I witnessed and we asked the guide and she said she didn't notice - although, I'm sure it wasn't my imagination!
My girlfriend and I also experienced different sensations in different parts of the house, in one of the room downstairs I felt extremely faint, but she was fine. Some people felt like they needed to sit down – I didn't want to believe what I was feeling and forced myself to remain upright. My girlfriend however, upstairs felt like she was going to throw up out of the blue.
I am neither a cynic nor a believer of the paranormal, but the tour has got me questioning whether they are really amongst us or if our 6th senses are all set at different frequencies.
If you are interested in doing one of the ghost tours, the tours are conducted on every third Friday of each month and Halloween on 31st of October or click here for available dates