Exploring Sydney’s Haunted History with The Rocks Ghost Tours
They say that Halloween is the time of year in which the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. A city with as much history as Sydney is undoubtedly home to a ghost or two, and when better to investigate than the week leading up to Halloween? This past weekend, we headed to a historical Sydney neighborhood for a spooky experience with The Rocks Ghost Tours.
The Rocks is a neighborhood of Sydney adjacent to the harbor and central business district that has been a core part of the city almost since the founding of the Australian colony in 1788. Historically one of the city’s slums, The Rocks was once replete with gangs, drunken sailors, and prostitutes. To add to its seedy past, the bubonic plague broke out in Sydney at the turn of the 20th century, and The Rocks was especially devastated, with thousands of the neighborhood’s buildings having to be demolished.
Today, the area sees better times, having been converted into a tourist destination, easy to access from central Sydney and brimming with historic sandstone buildings, many of which are open to the public for exploration. It’s an area that undoubtedly stands out from the rest of Sydney, so I was eager to spend an evening learning about the neighborhood’s history and hauntings.
The Rocks Ghost Tours were started over twenty years ago by a husband and wife. The husband’s family had run boarding houses in The Rocks for generations, and he decided to share this wealth of stories with the public. Thus, the tours were born.
We began the tour at an early nineteenth century heritage house, Cadmans Cottage, where we were greeted by our host for the evening, Gary. Decked out in a a spooky black gown and hat, he set the scene from the start. Over the next two hours, he led us through the narrow streets of The Rocks and into some of its creepiest buildings and ruins. He shared tale after tale of residents of years past and the horrors and atrocities that have occurred there – everything from murders to gang violence to self-dismemberment – and the spirits that make regular appearances as a result.
Our guide’s theatrical nature and obvious passion for the stories he shared made the two hours fly by. I’m a sucker for all things historical and have always wanted to learn more about the history of the city I currently call home. How better to do this than with a spooky twist? I found myself more intrigued than scared, but other members of our group did have a fright or two. The silly, the scary, and the spellbinding were perfectly mixed as we sauntered through The Rocks.
But the real question: did we have any encounters with the afterlife on our tour? During our stop at the 1848 Merchant’s House, which is said to be haunted by various restless spirits, the majority of the group had headed down to the basement when another group member stopped me. Pointing up the stairwell, he whispered that he was certain he had just seen a figure peering out from the fifth floor…and we can guarantee that the house was empty aside from our group. Trick of the light or a visit from the beyond? You tell me.
You may remember that earlier in the year, I tried another one of Sydney’s famed ghost tours at the Quarantine Station. How do the two compare? If the paranormal is your calling and you’re looking for something actually very scary (I had nightmares for days!), head to the Quarantine Station. If you’re curious to learn about Sydney’s history in a fun and unique way, The Rocks Ghost Tours is your best bet. Really, though, whether you believe in the beyond or not, I’d really recommend trying both!
Listening to spooky legends while seeing new parts of Sydney was my idea of a perfect night, particularly with Halloween just a few days away. I never expected to become hooked on ghost tours, but I’m now dying (ha) to do more. Where to next?