Monthly Archives: October 2019

J.P. McGowan: “The Railroad Man”

J.P. McGowan: “The Railroad Man”

John Paterson McGowan was a South Australian born pioneer in Hollywood. Born in Terowie, South Australia, John was known professionally as J.P McGowan and acted in over 235 movies. He also directed 257 movies, wrote 31 movies and produced with his company, ‘Signal Film’ 22 movies.
 McGowan is the only Australian life member of the Screen Directors Guild.
 McGowan was born on  February 24, 1880, in the mid-north town of Terowie. His father worked on the trains there, but the family soon moved south to Islington to the railyards where his father worked as a locomotive fire-stoker and labourer.
 McGowan fought in South Africa during the Boer War, and from here was plucked to work in films in America. His first film appearance was in a 1910 silent movie called ‘A Lad From Old Ireland’. McGowan worked for Kalem Studios at this time and went on to star in and direct 33 episodes of the serial adventure movies series ‘The Hazards of Helen’.
 McGowan married Helen Holmes, and together they started their own production company ‘Signal

Films’. They had one child together before their relationship fizzled out. They divorced in 1925.

 In his later career, McGowan directed John Wayne in The Hurricane Express, a 12-movie series produced by Mascot Pictures.
McGowan served as the executive secretary to the Screen Directors Guild from 1938 until 1951 (known later as the Directors Guild of America).
McGowan suffered from heart disease in his later years. He died on 26 March 1952, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States. His ashes were interred in a niche at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, California.
J.P. McGowan impressive resume on IMDB;
Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019


Donaldson, D., ‘The First Australian in Hollywood’, NFSA (2019),

Jaunay, G., JP (John Paterson) McGowan, (2019),

Worden, L., ‘J.P. McGowan, SCV Film Pioneer’(2013),

The Haunts of Adelaide is 7 Years Old Today!

The Haunts of Adelaide is 7 Years Old Today!

Today, the 22nd of October 2019, marks 7 years since I began writing this blog. So to mark the occasion today, I am going to link back to the seven most popular blog posts
1. Muzyk Murder – Unfortunately the most read blog post on The Haunts of Adelaide is the story of the horrific murder of Tracy Muzyk in 1996. 
2. Para Para House – the second most popular blog post is a story of a mansion in Gawler West:
3. Woodhouse Activity Centre is the third most read blog post on The Haunts of Adelaide. While the story is brief in this post, a future post or possible book story will go into greater detail about the alleged ghosts
4. A former convalescent home for children at Grange is the 4th most popular Blog. Estcourt House was built in 1883 and used as a hospital, today it is a private home.
5. The Adelaide Central Markets make it into 5th spot with a ghost story about a security guard who claimed to witness strange goings-on in the Adelaide icon.
6. In the 6th spot, we have a hometown haunt: Dead Man’s Pass at Gawler. I grew up playing in this reserve as a child and know its stories, its nooks and crannies, and still to this day enjoy exploring this location.
7. The seventh most read blog post is “Sinister by Design: Part 2: Carclew House”. Since writing this post way back in 2012, I have visited Carclew many times and learned a great deal more about its history and alleged hauntings! look for new stories in future publications
A big thank you to each and every one of you that has taken the time to read, share or interact with this blog. I enjoy researching history, I enjoy telling stories, and I started writing this blog purely for my own interest, so its a blessing for me that so many people have come to read this blog.
Allen Tiller

A Ghost at Nairne

A Ghost at Nairne


Nairne 1910 – SLSA: [B 394]
In March 1878, the Adelaide Hills town of Nairne was beset with an unruly and persistent ghost who over several nights was terrifying local ladies. The ghost would appear in the evenings at various locations around the town surprising locals, before vanishing into the night.
One evening a group of young men set about capturing the ghost. They waited patiently for it to appear. When it did appear, the ghost seemed to be very much aware of the plans for its capture, evading the various traps put in place. The ghost was also very fast, outpacing the living. It vanished once more into the night.
 A warning was put around the town that if the ghost was captured, a harsh and severe punishment would be dealt to it. The ghost was not seen around Nairne again after the warning.
Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019
‘COUNTRY LETTERS.’, Adelaide Observer, (16 March 1878), p. 6.
‘COUNTRY CORRESPONDENCE.’, South Australian Register, (14 March 1878), p. 6.
‘NAIRNE, MARCH 13.’, South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail, (16 March 1878), p. 4

7 Minutes to 3: The Tragic Deaths of Roy Ayling and Eugenie Armstrong

7 Minutes to 3: 

The Tragic Deaths of Roy Ayling and Eugenie Armstrong.

 June 19th, 1919 was just another ordinary day for engine driver and fireman, John James O’Shea and Harold Sutherland. They went to work at the Islington Train Yards. They fired up Engine 88 to pull Goods Train 72 and set off on route from Mile End out to Hamley Bridge, north of Gawler.
 The train passed through Gawler and out onto the Roseworthy line to Hamley Bridge, then back through Roseworthy heading toward Gawler.
 As the train approached the crossing on what is now Redbanks Road between Roseworthy and Gawler, the engine driver sounded his whistle. As the whistle was sounded, he noticed a motorcycle with sidecar speeding along the road.  The train whistle was sounded again as a warning. The motorcycle appeared to slow down, then suddenly as if racing the train to the crossing, sped up.
 O’Shea sounded the train’s whistle again and Sutherland applied the tender brake.
  Due to the incline of the rail line, the airbrakes and tender brakes had already been partially applied, so when the train approached the crossing it was already decelerating.
 The train entered the crossing at 20 miles per hour pulling a 300-ton load. It struck the centre of the motorcycle, dragging it under the cowcatcher and under the train.
 Fireman, Harold Sutherland stated of the incident; “I saw the motorcycle, about a chain away, on the driver’s side of the engine. Saw nothing further until the bodies flew out from the under wheels of the engine onto the right side of the line.”

 There were many witnesses to the accident. Farmers on properties around the train line had been out in the fields working had seen the whole event as it occurred. Farmer Hugo Twartz, Martin Twartz, Theodore Bartsch, all gave testimony that confirmed the train driver and train fireman’s testimony.
 Roy Ayling was a quiet young man described as quiet and thoughtful, with a gift for motor mechanics. The 20-year-old was well known and liked around Willaston. He was a successful poultry breeder who made his own incubators and breeders. He had been riding a motorcycle for over a year, and many local people knew the sound of his bike as it came and went from Willaston.

 Eugenie Armstrong was a student at the Gawler Technical School. At only 18 and half she had made her mark assisting at various businesses in Gawler’s main street. She was a valued member of the Gawler’s Congregational Church. Her father, Mr A.P, Armstrong was a well-known Labor Party Member in South Australia. Miss Armstrong was described by friends as; “A sterling and reliable companion, who was very popular among her peers.”

 On June 19th, Roy picked up Eugenie in his sidecar. He had only had the bike for two months and enjoyed showing it off. They headed out toward Roseworthy to catch a late afternoon football match between the Willaston Football Club and the Roseworthy College students’ team.
 It’s not known exactly what happened on that fateful day. The par sped along Redbank’s road toward the crossing, the train blew its whistle, and Roy slowed down but didn’t stop. He sped up, the train blew a second, longer warning whistle, but Roy didn’t stop, he pushed ahead to the crossing, where the bike was hit, and two young adults were flung from the bike under the train.
 Was Roy overconfident his new bike could beat the train? Was he showing off to Eugenie, or perhaps trying to scare her? Or was he distracted by the young woman in the sidecar, not noticing the noise of the trains whistle over the blare of his bike?
 We will never truly know the exact circumstances of the accident that claimed their lives…
 The police attended the scene after the accident. The young adults’ bodies were badly mutilated, so much so that they were buried before their funerals were held.
At the scene, Miss Armstrong’s watch was picked up by Sergeant Adamson. It read 7 minutes to 3, about the time of the accident.
Roy and Eugenie are buried at the historic Willaston Cemetery near Gawler.
Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019.


‘AWFUL RAILWAY ACCIDENT.’, Bunyip, (27 June 1919), p. 3.
‘THE INQUEST.’, Bunyip, (27 June 1919), p. 3.
‘DETAILS OF THE TRAGEDY.’, Chronicle, (28 June 1919), p. 13.
‘RUN DOWN BY A TRAIN.’, Chronicle, (28 June 1919), p. 13.

Buried Alive at Mount Gambier

Buried Alive at Mount Gambier

 Richard Unwin was a sexton and gravedigger at Mount Gambier cemetery. On 26 October 1893, Unwin set about digging a grave, there was no machinery to dig the graves, so it was all done by pick and shovel.
 Unwin on this day was digging a particularly deep grave between two burial enclosures had nearly completed his work, having reached a depth of 8 feet, when the sides of the grave collapsed, burying him up to his neck.
 Unwin was trapped, and unable to move. He tried in vain to move his body, but the weight of the dirt was too much. His head was exposed, but he was below the ground line by a good two feet, so could not be seen by people passing by, unless they actually looked inside the grave.
 Unwin called out, but the weight of the dirt on his chest made it hard to do so, but he persevered in the hope someone might hear him.
 In another part of the cemetery, Mr Kelly and Mr Topham were also at work. Mr Kelly thought he heard some odd noises travelling on the wind and went to investigate them. He followed the moans and groans and soon discovered Unwin buried to the neck in someone else’s grave.
 Kelly called Topham over and the two men worked with great urgency to free Unwin. An adjoining monument was threatening to collapse into the hole onto Unwin after the dirt had shifted trapping Unwin.
Two men passing by, Mr Lewis and Mr Driscoll noticed the commotion and ran into the cemetery to offer his assistance. Mr Topham was sent into town to retrieve some brandy for Unwin to relieve his exhaustion.
 Another passer-by Mr Eustace also offered to help.
While the men were digging to free Unwin, the ground caved in a few times, further destabilising the already precarious position of the nearby monument.
 Unwin indicated to the men that one of his legs was seriously injured as it had begun to burn. A local doctor was sent for.
 After an hour and a half of digging, Unwin was finally freed from the grave, he was exhausted and had suffered a broken right leg.
It was many weeks before Unwin returned to work.
Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019

‘A MAN BURIED ALIVE.’, South Australian Chronicle, (28 October 1893), p. 21.

‘A GRAVEDIGGER BURIED.’, South Australian Register, (27 October 1893), p. 5.

‘A GRAVEDIGGER BURIED.’, Evening Journal, (27 October 1893), p. 3

‘The Border Watch,’, Border Watch, (28 October 1893), p. 2.