The history of this small town 80 km (50 mi.) southwest of Sydney reaches back into the late 1700s. Europeans settled this area near the coast, but it remained outside the legal settlement boundaries until 1821. Right around that time, the governor of New South Wales authorized the building of the Great South Road which opened the door to the region and settlement quickly followed. The first land grant was given to Henry Colden Anthill who established a 2,000-acre property.
Though the town is young, it’s claimed to be the most haunted town in the whole of Australia.
First on any paranormal enthusiast’s list of places to visit is the Picton or Mushroom Tunnel. This tunnel bores through the Razorback Range of mountains and was used at one time by NSW Railways. It is said that in 1916 a young woman, Emily Bollard, was struck by a train and died. Her ghost is often seen near the tunnel along with strange glowing lights as well as a gust of wind, the kind often felt when a train passes. Apparently two other female ghosts visit occasionally: that of a young woman who was raped and murdered near the tunnel and one of a young woman who hung herself at one entrance.
In another area of town sits the historic Imperial Hotel. There is little history of this hotel to be found online, there is a snippet to share. It started out life as the Terminus Hotel, serving the train travelers passing through town. In 1877, the building was taken over by Colonel John Hay Goodlet who turned it into a home for tuberculosis patients. When the building became too small to accommodate the growing number of patients, a hospital was built nearby. The hauntings related to this site seem unconnected to the history: staff often feel followed and the jukebox would often turn on even while unplugged.
While the date on the front of the Wollondilly Shire Hall shows 1915, parts of the building date back farther when it was Lower Picton School. Today, the hall is used by the local theatre group for productions and members of the group have often reported seeing a black figure wearing a cloak at the back of the stage. The apparition of a small boy has also been reported appearing on stage or, more often, heard crying in various places, including under the stage. There are no records of children dying at the school, so the child’s presence cannot be explained.
And of course what haunted town claim would be complete without the typical claim of a haunted cemetery? St Mark’s Cemetery is the haunt of two children, allegedly identified as David Shaw and Blanche Moon, born 60 years apart. David died of polio in 1946 while Blanche was crushed to death, in 1886, when a pile of sleepers she and friends were playing on slipped. The children are often seen roaming around the cemetery and have even been allegedly caught on film as recently as 2010. A ghostly apparition of a dog has also been reported and is believed to be the spirit of a former minister’s faithful St Bernard dog.
In the old maternity hospital, the cries of infants can be heard and the apparition of an unpleasant matron has been witnessed. Visitors to this now residence have reported being woken in the middle of the night feeling hands around their necks to choke them.
The old Stonequarry Viaduct is the oldest railway viaduct still in use in Australia. It was built between 1863 and 1867 and part of it runs across a creek which was a popular spot for swimming and general cooling off in the summer. Unfortunately, many people drowned in the creek and the sound of people playing and splashing about are often heard today when no one else is around.
Whether the number of different haunted spots is what causes a place to be called ‘most haunted’ or if it’s the frequency with which people experience otherworldly phenomena, Picton, New South Wales has definitely earned the title of Most Haunted Town in Australia. The accolade was given via a book titled Haunted and Mysterious Australia, yet it is not one that many residence wish to embrace. A news story at the end of 2010 tells of how residents want the license tour company that offers ghost tours revoked. They claim it’s leading to a lot of vandalism late at night.
Like it or not, though, the title of Most Haunted Town in Australia brings in much needed tourist money.