Melbourne as we know it has only been around since 1835, with the oldest surviving buildings dating from the 1840s. We could never compete with the haunted reputations of cities which have been around for thousands of years. Yet in less than two hundred years of European settlement, rumour has it that Melbourne has garnered a few ghosts of its own. Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, it is thrilling to visit places known for their spookiness.
Those interested in exploring Melbourne's creepiest sights may also want to check out The Haunted Bookshop. While it does not have any resident ghosts of its own, it is a haven for those hooked on the paranormal with a huge range of books and paraphernalia.
Old Melbourne Gaol
At the top of the list is Old Melbourne Gaol, of course. Now a museum, Old Melbourne Gaol used to house some of Melbourne's most dangerous criminals. Outlaw Ned Kelly was famously executed at the Gaol in 1880, although ghost-hunters will be disappointed to know that he is not believed to haunt the grounds. Spooky happenings including a cry for help have been reported at the Gaol. For a kid-friendly, historical take on the Gaol, visit during their regular daytime hours. Or, join one of their night tours such as the 'Ghosts? What Ghosts!' tour for a much creepier experience.
Surely some of the 133 executed at Old Melbourne Gaol are still haunting visitors. Image: Old Melbourne Gaol.
Lantern Ghost Tours Rather than venture to creepy places alone, join a walking tour for extra atmosphere, spooky stories, and safety in numbers. Lantern Ghost Tours run regular tours of some of Victoria's most notorious haunted places, such as Pentridge Prison, Altona Homestead, and Old Castlemaine Gaol.
Hosier Lane is one of the stops on the Old Melbourne Ghost Tour. Image: Lantern Ghost Tours.
Earlier this year, I went to the Old Melbourne Ghost Tour, a walking tour of the city and its laneways by night. At one point we stopped in a laneway to attempt to communicate with its resident ghost through a diving rod. One tour participant held the rod and asked yes or no questions, which the rod moved in response to. Everyone seemed to conveniently forget when some of the answers were contradictory, giving the ghost the benefit of the doubt. Another aspect of the tour involved using an electromagnetic field detector, with the reading supposedly going up in the presence of a ghost. As a sceptic, I found the tour more funny than freaky. The historical aspects of the tour were more interesting. Each haunted place was given context with the story behind it, with murder a common feature of the stories. While those who could suspend their disbelief enjoyed the tour more, it was still a fantastic and fun experience even for a sceptic. The Old Melbourne tour is $29 per person.
Melbourne General Cemetery
In picturesque Parkville is the fascinating Melbourne General Cemetery. Each gravestone inscription gives you a snippet of the life of the person whose bones rest underneath. Some sections of the sprawling cemetery are in a state of disrepair, adding to the eerie atmosphere of the necropolis. You will see the final resting places of prominent Australians as well as laypeople.
The Melbourne General Cemetery; one of the nicest places in Melbourne is occupied by the dead. Image: D Wolfe (via Wikimedia Commons).
Join one of their night tours, or potter around the cemetery alone. Aside from the tours, you may only enter during the daytime.
Opened in 1853, the Melbourne General Cemetery succeeded the Old Melbourne Cemetery, which was located in the space now occupied by the Queen Victoria Market. The bodies were supposed to be exhumed and re-interred at other cemeteries in Melbourne; chillingly, some bodies remain under the market.
Ghosts rumours plague Labassa, a historic house in Caulfield. The French Renaissance mansion dating back to the 1870s is said to have a resident spirit. Out of the historic houses in the area, Labassa is regarded as particularly creepy. The house is open to the public on the third Sunday of every month. Admission is $10 for adults or $8 concession, and $4 for kids.
The stunning Labassa historic house is rumoured to be haunted. Image: National Trust.