Tasmania was once called Van Dieman's Land. It housed troublesome convicts in the 19th century coming from Europe, mainly Britain. It was a way of getting rid of the unwanted characters because going to Australia was usually a one way ticket.
For a couple of days we decided to go stay in Port Arthur. Port Arthur used to be a very famous prison in the 1800's. It opened in 1836 and finally closed in 1876. It was famous for containing the most dismal of convicts. It is also famous for ghost hauntings.
When we arrived at the caravan park where we were staying, the lady at the front desk informed us that we needed to walk through the bush and along a beach, to go across a bridge and not up the stairs to the historic area where our ghost tour would commence. This would have been alright, except that it was pitch dark outside and there was a full moon peering out of a misty night sky. It was a very scary thought to be walking through this area at night by ourselves. But we did it. It was supposed to take 45 minutes but it only took us 25 minutes. Impressive.
On our ghost tour we stopped at the famous church. It had never been blessed because so many religions were using it. Our awesome guide told us a couple of dreary stories to get our adrenaline running. Apparently, as the church was being built by the convicts, one man building one wall of the church was spotted falling off the side of the wall. As he fell he smashed his head against the side and landed at the bottom dead. It is uncertain as to whether it was an accident or intentional. Twenty years ago the ground staff used to let ivy grow all over the church and the ivy would not grow where any of the mans blood had spilled. In the other corner of the church a man had been bludgened to death by another convict with the head of an axe. It is unknown why this man had killed the other but several accounts of him saying 'I am satisfied now' were heard.
The next stop was the parson's house right next door. His name was George Eastman and he lived in the house with his wife, children and servents. This place is known as the most haunted area of the historic grounds. Many ghost sightings have been observed over the years. We all went into the building and stood in a circle in one of the rooms. I immediately felt uncomfortable and felt as though someone was standing behind me. I also felt a tight sensation in my chest. I thought it was just claustrophobia because of the twenty people in the small space. But as I exited the building the sensation disappeared and other people on the tour described the same feeling.
The house was considered haunted even in Eastman's day. His wife thought that strange things were happening because the servents were playing tricks on one another. One day she was very angry so she set a trap. She placed string back and forth up the stairs and shut off the light and waited at the top of the stairs with her husband (of course!). At the first sound of footsteps coming up the stairs she lit her lantern only to discover that the string was being snapped but no one was to be seen coming up the stairs. Her and her husband were very calm to have just witnessed a ghost. A few days later a servent had walked into one of the rooms downstairs and everyone heard her fall to the ground as she fainted. When she awoke she said that as she opened the door she saw a dark sinister figure in the corner. But nobody was found.
Other mysterious happenings also occurred in the house. It was witnessed in the upstairs rooms a brilliant white light whenever the doors were closed. Each time someone would open the door, the white light would disappear and no one was to be found inside. They could not figure out what was inside. Soon after all of these occurrances, the Eastman family moved.
After we had our 'fun' in that house we set off to the house next door. Our guide told us the story of a woman in a blue dress, originally named the Lady in Blue, who could be seen walking along the fence crying. She is known as the accountants wife. She gave birth to a still-born baby and died a few days later herself. It was known back then that a still-born baby had no soul and therefore wasn't baptised. It is believed that this woman is searching the grounds for her baby.
We then headed over to the Senior Medical Officers house, more specifically to his basement. There he had a dissection table for his inquisitive mind. There was a hole in the wall that was used to clean the fireplace upstairs and he used the ashes from this hole to sprinkle on the floor to soak up the blood for an easier cleaning. When we looked down on the floor, the ashes from the fire, possibly still mixed with blood, could still be seen.
Our last and final stop was the Separate Prison. This was separate from the original barracks and was used to house convicts who had misbehaved in the barracks or who were just plain crazy. It was also a scary place. Each convict had his own room and was not allowed to speak. He was not even allowed to be seen outside of his room either. When we went outside for only an hour a day for exercise he had to wear a mask. If he misbehaved even further in this area he was sent to the punishment cell. In here, the meter thick walls prevented any sound or light from coming in. I stepped inside here and did not know how you could stay sane within its walls for more than a moment. It would have been pretty scary.
The next day was filled with wandering the historic site in the day light! The grounds were very beautiful. We also went on a Isle of the Dead cruise and tour. The Isle of the Dead is an island they used as the cemetary. It is 2 acres and contains at least 1100 bodies. Most of the bodies were not marked with proper gravestones because they were convicts, so most of the old gravestones were from the soldiers or other important figures in the village. We passed a peninsula called Point Puer which housed troublesome boys between the ages of 14 and 17. Here they were treated a little less harsh and were taught skills and trades to help them in life if and when they were released. There was one boy in the prison who was 8 years old. He was apparently brought there for stealing toys in Britain. It sounds very harsh but this was not the only reason for being brought to Port Arthur. He had the longest record of crime than anyone at the prison. He had a hard time getting out of the penal system and stayed at the prison for over 40 years.
Even though the story behind this place is very dark it was a starting point for the current penal systems. Instead of using cat-whips and brute force, this penal colony used a new method of punishment which included education.