Sydney is peppered with places that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end, from mass graves in mental asylums to the haunted hallways of historic convict prisons. Prepare to be scared: here are Sydney’s seven most spooky sites.
Sitting on the appropriately named Bedlam Point, Sydney’s first ever psychiatric hospital opened its doors in 1838, and racked up ghost story after ghost story until it eventually closed in 1997. The facility was unkindly known as the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum when it began doling out its infamous brand of sadistic mistreatment – the hospital, today abandoned and caked in a thick layer of graffiti, even contains a mass grave of more than 1,000 anonymous corpses who died there.
Perched on Manly’s North Head, the Q Station was used to isolate people suspected of carrying infectious diseases into Australia between 1832 and 1984. Over that century and a half, more than 500 unfortunate souls met their untimely end at the site, and their spirits are said to roam the halls of the historic building to this day. These days, the Q Station is one of Sydney’s most coveted wedding venues thanks to its scenic restaurant and hotel accommodation, but it also offers ghost tours of the historic buildings and eerie burial grounds.
This imposing sandstone prison was transformed into the National Art School in 1995, but the ghosts of the 76 people who were executed at its gallows never left. Hangings were conducted until 1908 and were even public affairs before 1852, then when you add dozens more murders and suicides to the tally, Darlinghurst Gaol produced hundreds of restless phantoms that are still believed to spook the site. Visitors can now go on tours of the historic colonial gaol, stepping through the dark stories of a place dubbed ‘Starvinghurst’ for its paltry rations and grisly conditions.
Picton, a small town in the Macarthur region just south-west of Sydney, is one of Australia’s most haunted areas, reporting paranormal activity in its old hospitals, pubs and council chambers. But the town’s most spooky site is the Redbank Range railway tunnel, which was used to store mustard gas tanks during World War Two, as well as the scene of far too many suicides from people throwing themselves in front of trains over the years. Emily Bollard is the tunnel’s most notorious poltergeist, appearing since her mysterious death way back in 1916.
Not far away in nearby Camden, this Victorian mansion is one of Macarthur’s most grandiose country estates… but it carries a dark history. The legend goes that 14-year-old Ray Blackstone died swimming in a dam on the property before 13-year-old Noel William Gregory succumbed to appendicitis in the school house three decades later. The ghostly spirits of the two boys reputedly still play together at the mansion now owned by the local golf club, reminding visitors of the opulent home’s haunted past.
One of Sydney’s most iconic colonial sites is also one of its most haunted, riddled with apparitions and mystifying disappearances. Cockatoo Island – a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its association with convict transportation in the 18th and 19th centuries – served as a colonial prison, a dockyard and a reformatory school for misbehaving girls, leading to decades of appalling mistreatment and plenty of botched escapes. The island now hosts haunted history night tours, revealing the secrets, scandals and skeletons that haunt the harbour’s largest island.
When the sun sets, this stretch of road on Sydney’s Northern Beaches becomes spookily dark… and that’s not the only reason it gives some locals goosebumps. The Wakehurst Parkway is infamous for the supernatural occurrences it inflicts on terrified drivers en route from Seaforth to Narrabeen, particularly around historic body dumping site Deep Creek Reserve – reportedly cars lock themselves, windscreen wipers go berserk, and ghostly apparitions of white women and green men spring up in rear-view mirrors. Skeptics can hop behind the wheel at midnight to test it out for themselves.