Nestled in the southwestern area of the state of South Australia, lies the town of Kapunda. The town was founded after two men who ran sheep in the area discovered copper ore in 1842. The two bought 80 acres of land around the discovery and set to work mining the copper. Fine marble was also quarried from nearby areas adding to the town’s wealth. The marble quarried from Kapunda was used to face the Parliament House in Adelaide. With the copper veins tapped out, Kapunda’s main industry are cereal grains and the area also contributes to the wine-growing industry.
But of course Kapunda has its darker side too. Like Picton, people have claimed that Kapunda is the most haunted town in Australia, with one individual going so far as to say it’s the most haunted town in the world.
First on the list of haunted places in this town is a place that no longer exists. In 2001, Kapunda was thrust onto the world stage after the airing of a television programme called “The Most Haunted Town in Australia”. Would-be ghost hunters flocked to the town after the show aired; many visiting the ruins of the vacant St John’s Reformatory (also known as the Old Girls Reformatory). People more bent on having a paranormal experience than paying attention to their own safety led to the demolition of what remained of the reformatory a year later.
The reformatory began life as St John the Evangelist Church in 1849 when the Catholic Church had been granted glebe land three miles southeast of Kapunda by the government. It was here that Father John Fallon established the church that would come to be known as St Johns. The church was not completed until 1854 because so many of the available workforce left for the mines.
Decades later it was used briefly as a girls reformatory. It was then that the history of the place takes a turn for the worst. Girls often tried to escape, forcing the Sisters of St Josephs to convert a few rooms into cells to house the truant girls.
According to Mary Mackillop, the woman sent to Kapunda to set up and run the reformatory, St Johns had a reputation for being haunted long before the reformatory came into being. There is no evidence of any kind to indicate who may have haunted the reformatory prior to its existence and the only ghost associated with it today – that of Ruby Bland – has a story that’s become so convoluted that it bears little resemblance to the truth. Unfortunately, most people are willing to settle for the sensational story.
The Kapunda courthouse and adjacent prison are both said to be the site of weird happenings as a result of four aboriginal men who were held there for trial after being accused of murdering a woman and her children. The trial was subsequently relocated to Adelaide where the men were found guilty and hung. The courthouse is now privately owned by a man who refuses to enter the building at night. Another former owner was tripped by an unseen pair of legs while wandering through the courthouse and also felt a malevolent presence one night after being woken.
The site which believers of the paranormal claim to be the most haunted in the town is the North Kapunda Hotel. The building began its existence in 1849 as the North Kapunda Arms. In 1853, the name was changed to Garland Ox and again in 1856 to North Kapunda Hotel.
Mysterious baby cries have been heard often throughout the hotel. Doors open and close on their own. Items belonging to guests or to the hotel itself often go missing or just get moved. Apparently, though, it is the cellar of the hotel which has the most sinister activity. The area is divided into two rooms, one of which was the servants’ quarters. The current owner of the hotel doesn’t like entering the room because it makes her feel uncomfortable. Perhaps a previous employee isn’t quite ready to give up working?
One house, on the old Adelaide Road, will never be rented to women of childbearing years. Allegedly, any young women who have lived there and become pregnant have experienced all manner of unpleasant poltergeist activity. Bleeding has also been experienced, with no source for the bleeding when examined by physicians.
There are various other places around town, private citizens experiencing the unexplained on a daily basis, but none can point to the answer of why Kapunda is so haunted. One theory put forward is that there’s some sort of magnetic force that provides the attraction. Others believe it’s simply a strange force that encircles the town. Whatever the reason for the hauntings, few residents have been chased completely out of town due to hauntings. Everyone is comfortable with their otherworldly neighbours.
St Johns Reformatory Research Project
YouTube video series from the tv programme ‘Kapunda: Australia’s Most Haunted Town’