Ghosts of the Barossa: The North Kapunda Hotel

North Kapunda Hotel

The North Kapunda Hotel was built in 1848 by the North Kapunda Mining Company. ‘The Northern Arms Hotel’ as it was then called, was a small single-story hotel situated on Franklin Street Kapunda, the first publican was a man named John Bickford.


James Crase: 1879 – Photo SLSA: B76601

In the early 1850’s the hotel was sold to a local butcher, James Crase. Mr Crase was a wealthy local man with big dreams for the town of Kapunda. He also had big plans for his newly purchased hotel. His first step in changing the hotel was a rebranding from the Northern Arms Hotel to The Garland Ox Hotel.

 In 1865, Crase invested heavily in his hotel, expanding the basement area, and building the second story of the hotel, which also linked the previously built miners quarters at the rear (now referred to as the “Hallway From Hell”, but once known as the Bachelors Hall).
  The new hotel featured the most expensive kitchen in Australia at the time, located in the basement, which now also had living quarters and a rainwater tank. Upstairs now contained a living area for the Crase family, a new meeting room known as The Commercial Room, and hotel and display rooms for travelling salesmen. Crase also built a new two-story building at the rear of the hotel that could house banquet dinners and roller skating, as well as a small bowling alley.
 Mr Crase sold the hotel in the early 1880’s, but not after dealing with much controversy, with members of his staff caught selling alcohol outside of hours, prostitution, and gambling in his establishment.
 Later owners were also caught doing similar things, and in 1923, under the ownership of Mr Pearce, the hotel lost its liquor licence for a year. To survive, the downstairs and rear accommodation served as a brothel.
Basement North Kapunda Hotel 2009:
Photo by WISPA  Paranormal

 The Hotel has seen numerous deaths in its 165 plus years of service, including scissor grinder Martin Jansen who choked to death in the ground floor Parlour.
 Henry Binney Hawke, a very well respected man in Kapunda, who died in the billiard room of the hotel after suffering a heart attack.
 Joseph Caddy, a local music teacher and a politician who died of natural causes in an upstairs bedroom.
 In 1912 Mr Henry Fairclough, publican of the hotel for 14 years became very ill, and by November of that year had been confined to his bed as his condition worsened. On Monday 17 November 1912, Henry Fairclough lost his battle with illness and passed away in the upstairs bedroom he shared with his wife.
 Dennis Horgan, was publican of the hotel from 1913 until 1919, then again in 1925. Horgan died from a heart attack in the hotel in December 1925 in an upstairs room he shared with his wife.
 Other deaths reported include that of servants, at least two young prostitutes, a travelling salesman, and at least 3 young children.

 The North Kapunda Hotel was featured in the 2000 Documentary “Kapunda: Most Haunted Town in the Western World”, in episode 7 of Haunting: Australia, and in 2015 gained international attention when tourism website Travel MSN listed it as the 8th most haunted bar or pub in the world!
The hotel has numerous ghost stories, too many to cover here – so here are a few of my own personal experiences from investigating and visiting the hotel from 2009 until now.
Ghostly fingers across a guests face in 2015
(date in photo is incorrect)

I had many ghostly experiences in the hotel after tours and on private investigations, but the most memorable for me happened one night after a tour. As the last guests were leaving. Karen and I were doing our “after-tour” walkthrough, to lock up the hotel and make sure no-one had been locked inside. As I went to close the tour room door, I turned and saw a young girl, I would estimate around 7 years old, standing in the hallway looking at me.

 She didn’t appear “ghostly”, she looked like a real little girl, except her clothing was very old, much like a pinafore, similar in style to the clothing actress Shirley Temple would’ve worn near the beginning of her movie career. My first instinct was that someone’s child from downstairs had somehow gotten upstairs.
 The girl suddenly turned and ran towards room 1, a room we have now dubbed “The Nursery Room”. I quickly followed, knowing she was trapped as I had just locked from the outside the only other exit door to the rooms she was running toward. I made my way down the hallway, into the Nursery Room, the Dressing room and back into the Drawing room, to find no-one in there at all. I checked the windows, locked from the inside, I checked under the bed, nothing.
  This ghostly young girl did not glow, she was not misty, nor did she have any of the other attributes we associate with spirits or ghosts. She looked as real as my wife who was waiting for me at the top of the stairs in case the girl came back that way – it was an unusual encounter, but not the last time I would encounter this little girl.
 The Nursery Room proved to have other spirits. One spirit manifested and was witnessed by a young man, who during the evening, had thought it would be funny to jump out and scare other tour guests,

An apparition of a boy in the basement. Some claim pariedolia,
but later photos show the boy in a different position.

little did he know, the spirits were about to do the same to him.

 As he came into the Nursery Room the back way through the Drawing Room, he stepped through the threshold of the Nursery Room door and witnessed a partially manifested spirit of a woman standing behind the door. This young man had been sceptical all night, but this incident changed his whole perspective.
 It was also in this room a man was groped by a ghost on the backside, which also happened to another gentleman in the Hallway to Hell, one of the flirtatious prostitute spirits perhaps?
The Commercial Room on the first floor also proved to have several spirits, although these ones are passive, and at least one seems to be a residual haunting and not an intelligent haunting. It was in this room the tours originally started, and on one tour, a guest pulled me aside to let me know a man had been standing next to me the whole time I had been speaking. She described him as wearing a suit, about the same height as me, very thin, and amused and puzzled as to why I was standing in the hotel talking about ghosts.
 It was in this same room on another night, a young woman witnessed the spirit of a man, standing in the far corner facing the wall, looking rather morose and staring at an old tapestry that has hung on the wall for over a century.
 Another spirit was that of a man who has been witnessed standing in front of a window looking out into the Main Street below, transfixed by what he was looking at. In his right hand, he was continuously opening and closing a pocket watch chained to his inner pocket.
 On a tour, a young lady who went into the Commercial Room and witnessed this apparition, but it wasn’t until she entered the front bar and saw the mural of Sir Sidney Kidman it dawned on her who she had just seen!
(Video by Paranormal Spectrum – used with permission)

During the filming of Haunting: Australia, paranormal guru Gaurav Tiwari and I set up several ghost hunting devices given to us by Jason Dickson of Apparition Technologies. We placed REM Pods (a device that emits an electromagnetic field from an aerial, that if a spirit comes close to, will set off a warning alarm and coloured lights) as well as voice recorders, EM Pumps (a device that emits a very strong electromagnetic field thought to attract spirits) and Vibration Detectors in the downstairs hallway basement, a large side room that was once bedrooms, originally for the cooks, but eventually used by prostitutes.

 Whilst standing in the basement, a room once used to store dead bodies, kegs of rum and kegs of beer, we began to ask if there was anyone present who wished to communicate with us. It didn’t take long to get an answer. I was standing where I could see into the downstairs hallway to watch if the lights on any of the devices were turning on, all of the sudden, I saw a young girl, no more than 7 years old, walk into the dimly lit hallway, and into the doorway of the room Gaurav and I were standing in!
  Without hesitating (or thinking) I chased after her to find out who she was. She ran into the hallway and turned left into the arched hallway that led to the former basement bedrooms, an old decrepit room with damaged floors and no ventilation. Gaurav was following quickly behind. There was nowhere for the girl to escape too, but she was not to be found in the room.
 Whilst standing in the room, we noticed a small window that looks into a smaller room, which in turn has a doorway back into the hallway. Gaurav noticed some movement, so we ventured back into the hallway. At this point, the cameraman’s batteries failed so he radioed back to central control to get a go-fer to bring down a fresh battery for him.
As he did this, Gaurav who had turned to look back into the bedrooms noticed a large shadow jump across a doorway, which startled him enough to drop a few swear words! We re-entered the room, whilst Mick, our cameraman waited in the hallway, just as we entered the bedroom, Mick heard our REM pods going off and thinking it was the runner with the battery turned to say thanks, only to notice no-one there!

In the next few minutes, things really picked up. Gaurav and I raced into the hallway to see all our REM Pods and Vibration meters lit to full, every light in the basement, including our torches and camera lights suddenly drained completely and we were left in total pitch black. At the same time, Mick got a call over his headset to get the hell upstairs as the producers thought Ray may have had a heart attack in the Hallway to Hell.

 The three of us, in pitch black, found our way out of the basement hallway, and onto the stairs that lead back up to the ground floor hallway, only to find the metal bar doors locked. Just as we got to the top we saw Field Producer Lucy Connors and a camera crew walking backwards. Ian and Rayleen passed us supporting Ray and were heading into the beer garden. I tried the metal-bar door again, and suddenly it unblocked, and we were free of the basement!
 We followed them outside not knowing exactly what had happened.
 Ray was very pale and did not look good, he was crying and slouched over. Ian performed an exorcism on him. Ray was vomiting and pale and looked very unwell, but not long after Ian started his exorcism, Ray suddenly looked a lot better, got up, and left the beer garden to go back into the break area and away from the hotel.
 As Ray left, Rayleen was very suddenly and very vocally saying the Lord’s Prayer at break need speed, as she was overcome with whatever had just left Ray. Gaurav performed a cleansing ritual on her, and soon she too left to go into the break room and recover, with Ian following closely behind to make sure they were both OK.
 This left Gaurav, Robb and me standing in the beer garden wondering what had just happened. Without hesitation, Robb told Gaurav and I to go upstairs and find out what was going on.
Considering neither of us are psychics, it probably wasn’t the smartest move, but we’re paranormal investigators, right? Fearless to the end and go where Angels fear to tread. To lighten the very heavy feeling the hotel now had upstairs, Gaurav and I began to crack jokes about just how tough and manly we are. We then entered The Hallway to Hell, which felt very different from how it did earlier in the night, much more foreboding, but much more “alive”.
 It took only a few seconds for things to start to happen, within minutes of being in the hallway I witnessed a full-bodied apparition of a woman dressed in a period dress that I could only describe as from the “Victorian” era. The Dress was black and lacy, the woman was very white in the face, red full lips, but had a very sad look to her demeanour. She walked backwards into room 11, and I released a number of swear words in disbelief of what I was seeing with my own eyes!! (the edit on television was a few seconds, in reality, my swearing probably went for a few minutes).
In the next half-an-hour, Gaurav and I experienced 3 gunshot sounds, they were clear and very, very loud. The first, in room 11, was right after seeing the mysterious woman disappear into the room, it

came from the air in the centre of the room and echoed throughout the room. I suggested later during our reveal filming at the Old Kapunda Courthouse, that the noise may not have been a gunshot at all but could have been the sound of what psychics and mediums call a “portal” snapping closed as the spirit returned to her own realm.

 We heard the next shot only a few minutes later in room 12, which is the room in which Ray was partially possessed and fell to the floor. At the time we didn’t realise his voice recorder was still in the room recording. Later we would find out Ray had captured an EVP of someone saying, “hates blue eyes”, it also contained the gunshot sound we heard in the room.
 As we re-entered the hallway, I heard footsteps, so we turned to look in the direction they came from, as we did so, a stone was thrown at us. Next, we entered room 13, where we thought the footsteps had gone, only to hear another, and the loudest of the gunshot noises for the evening.
 This is also around the time Gaurav took a photo that he claimed later, looked like a shadow person standing on the stairs leading out of the hallway. In the reveal, I declare that I cannot see what he was talking about, and I honestly could not at the time see anything resembling a person in his photo, but a few months later, after filming, I would see for myself a shadow person in the Hallway to Hell right where Gaurav had claimed to capture his photo.
 As a side note, the Haunting Australia episode featuring The North Kapunda Hotel rated first place on Foxtel as the most viewed show the night it was broadcast, beating “The Walking Dead” and other popular shows – so on behalf of all of the cast – thank you to each and every person who watched the episode and supported the show.
Another very important thing that happened whilst filming Haunting: Australia which was never aired, occurred to my wife Karen and to “psychic bad-boy” Ian Lawman. Ian was in the basement under the front bar when psychically he picked up on a poker game being played.
  He described the gentleman running the game and even got his name and a few attributes associated with him. My wife worked in the hotel in 2009, and knew the name of the person as a former publican, but didn’t know anything about him. So, Karen made a phone call to her former boss who ran the hotel in 2009 and asked her if she knew anything about this man, who was named “Charlie”. As it happened, she did know him, and confirmed everything Ian said, even down to his description, his dog and the poker games!
Karen was subsequently interviewed as a witness for the show, in a portion that would have confirmed Ian’s psychic abilities, that was for reasons unknown to the cast, entirely cut from the episode, which was a great loss for the viewers as it would have proved that Ian does actually have psychic ability (even if he is a scaredy cat and runs from some of the ghosts!)
I may at some point reveal more about ghostly goings on in the North Kapunda Hotel, perhaps in a book.

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019

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