Monthly Archives: December 2019

“A Ghost Named Tom” – Edmund Wright House

“A Ghost Named Tom”

Edmund Wright House


 Edmund Wright House – SLSA B 43000

  Built between 1875 and 1878, the building now known as The Edmund Wright Building was designed by architects Edmund Wright and Lloyd Taylor for the Bank of South Australia, which was an independent branch of the South Australia Company, formed in 1835, in London.
The building opened on the 2nd of June 1878 and cost 63,000 pounds to construct.

  For most of its life, the building has been used as a bank, changing hands from the Bank of South Australia, to the Union Bank in 1893. Later becoming the ANZ Bank from 1951 until 1971 after which it was sold to Mainline Investments.
Mainline Investments proposed a 19-story office block to be built on the site in 1971. A public campaign saved the ornate building from demolition. The Minister for Public Works purchased the property for $750,000 and renamed it Edmund Wright House. It has since been used by The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and as a migrant resource centre. Its lower bank vaults are used on occasion for music recitals and meetings.

  The design of the building is in the style “Corinthian” and features carved friezes, carved spandrels, carved keystones, and a carved tympanum featuring the banks shield.

  The former vaults of the bank in the basement, and the upper levels of this building, are thought to be haunted by a man named “Tom” who is said to have been stabbed to death in the building, although no record of such an incident can be verified.

 Debbie, who visited the Adelaide City Library during my residency for the Haunted Buildings in Adelaide project, once worked inside the building and described how the lift would often operate by itself, she would look up expecting someone to leave the lift, but it would be empty…
  Lights also had a habit of being turned on or off within the building when no-one was visibly near the light switches, but perhaps the eeriest of experiences for Debbie was the calling of her name (and of other staff members) by a disembodied voice in the building, one that none of the staff recognised, or could locate the source from which it emanated!

© Allen Tiller 2019

Phineas Philip Davies (31 March 1865 – 28 Dec 1885)

Phineas Philip Davies (31 March 1865 – 28 Dec 1885)

Commemoration Day, December 28th, 1885. The South Australian Colony’s only warship, the HMS Protector was sitting off the coast at Glenelg, awaiting to fire its guns in salute to the forty-ninth year of the settlement of the colony.

 It was the first time the HMS Protector had been allowed to fire its guns in salute.
 The canons fired five times, then suddenly, the ship’s flags were lowered and it steamed of towards Port Adelaide.
 Onboard, the crews were in full medical mode. The canons had fired, but something had gone wrong, and two crew members were seriously injured.
 Daniel Cann, in charge of canon number 5 was severely maimed by an explosion of the canon and was sent to Semaphore Hospital. He survived the explosion but lost an eye and was disfigured.

 Phineas Philip Davies, on the other hand, had received the full force of the blast from the cannon breech and died on board the ship.
An inquest was held on Tuesday the 29th of December 1884 at the Largs Pier Hotel by the city coroner Mr T. Ward.  The Coroner and Jury were taken to the warship to inspect the gun. Sitting alongside the gun was the coffin and body of Davies.
 Master Gunner Haisom explained to the audience how the gun works, and then what they believed went wrong.

Haisom explained that Davies was positioned at gun 5, position two. Haisom had himself gone around to every gun and supplied each with a bucket of water to sponge out the excess gunpowder after each firing. He then informed the gunners they had 50 seconds to reload after each firing.

 At 12 o’clock they began to fire the guns.
The number 5 gun fired two rounds, with its crew, including Davies, preparing for shot three. Davies entered the charge, which exploded on contact. Davies had neglected to sponge the gun after the last firing, leaving lit residue in the canon, which exploded the new 10 Lb powder charge.
 Davies gun commander, Daniel Canns, was subsequently accused of not delivering the order to sponge the canon between shots, something that was standard procedure.
 The jury deliberated on the evidence for quite some time, but in the end, delivered a verdict of accidental death.

The remains of Protector at Heron Island in 2008 at low tide

A memorial was erected to Davies at Cheltenham Cemetery and was claimed by the Royal Australian Navy in December 1986. The Memorial to Davies was installed as the headpiece of the South Australian Naval Memorial Garden at H.M.A.S. Encounter until the memorial was relocated to its current position in April 1995.

Front Inscription

Sacred to the Memory
Killed By Premature Explosion
Of A Cartridge When Firing Salute
At Glenelg Commemoration Day 
28th DECEMBER 1885. 
Aged 20.
Erected By His Shipmates
And Naval Reserve


This tombstone marked the site of the
grave of Phineas Davies in Cheltenham
Cemetery for 100 years and was claimed
by the Royal Australian Navy in December
1986. It was installed as the headpiece of
the South Australian Naval Memorial
Garden at HMAS ENCOUNTER until the
Garden was relocated to its present site
in April 1995.

(Note: Phineas Philip Davies was born on the 31st of March 1865 in Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand)

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2018

1885 ‘CORONERS’ INQUESTS’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA: 1839 – 1900), 30 December, p. 7. , viewed 02 Aug 2018,

1885 ‘The Fatal Accident on the Protector.’, The Express and Telegraph (Adelaide, SA: 1867 – 1922), 30 December, p. 5. (Afternoon Edition.), viewed 02 Aug 2018,

1885 ‘THE-FATAL ACCIDENT ON THE PROTECTOR.’, The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA: 1858 – 1889), 30 December, p. 6. , viewed 02 Aug 2018,

Adelaide (S.A.). Corporation 2003, Historical walking trails, Adelaide, South Australia, City of Adelaide, Adelaide Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

Madeleine Ryan, History SA, ‘Naval Memorial’, SA History Hub, History Trust of South Australia,, accessed 2 March 2018.

Scott, Jenny, 2012, Davies, Phineas Phillip, The State Library of South Australia, 2 March 2018,

Sunshine Café Murders

Sunshine Café Murders

139 Gouger Street

  In 1944, at the age of 20, John Balaban was sitting in his bedroom in Romania. He had just finished reading another of many philosophical books, a hobby he took up after his abusive and habitually drunk father had suicided by hanging himself.
 On this morning, John concluded, after all that he had read and been through, that there was no God. At that very point, Johns bedroom ceiling opened as if lifted from above, and a bright cloudy light lit the room.
  God, in the image of a man with long white hair and a grey beard smiled down on John and said unto him;
“John, it is alright if you don’t believe in me anymore. You do anything your conscience dictates and you will be happy.”

   After Gods visit, which Balaban stated ‘was not a dream’, Balaban thought he could do anything, as he was no longer afraid of the law.
John Balaban:
Source: ‘BALABAN TO HANG’, The News, (29 July 1953)

In 1946, only two years later, Balaban who was prone to violent rages, was admitted to a mental health facility in Romania. 
 In 1947 Balaban committed murder in Paris when he strangled to death Hungarian national, Reva Kwas.
Balaban moved to Australia in 1951. 
In 1952, he killed prostitute Zora Dusic in her Torrensville shack by first strangling her, then cutting her throat with a knife he found on the dressing table.
 In 1952, Balaban married Thelma Cadd, and went to live with her, Thelma’s young son, Philip from a previous relationship and Thelma’s mother, Mrs Ackland, at the family business, The Sunshine Café on the corner of Gouger and Morphett Streets in Adelaide.
 John and Thelma got along for a while, but the relationship soon became unstable, and John claimed he was tired of Thelma’s constant complaints, about, in his words “everything!”
 On that fateful day, April 11th, Balaban began drinking and found himself near the River Torrens parklands. At some point, he had a fight with a woman in the female toilets of the parklands, and when stumbling around outside, found a large iron bar. He made his way along the Torrens and sat down with a man and woman and had a few drinks with them, before assaulting them both with the iron bar, and walking away.
  Later, he was chased near the Torrens Tennis Courts by an unknown man, then turned upon his assailant with the iron bar, and beat him senseless.
  After his rampage, Balaban returned to the Sunshine Café. He believed everyone was against him and decided he would kill his wife as she, in his mind, was the reason he had become angry and gone out fighting and assaulting people.
  Balaban began his murderous spree by hitting his wife on the head with a claw hammer, beating her to death. He then thought he might kill Mrs Ackland in the same manner, and afterwards Phillip. In his deposition to the courts he stated; “Phillip sat up and cried, and I hit him, I thought it better that he dies too than live under a shadow.”
 In his cold-blooded killing spree, Balaban then went out to the sleepout where Verna Manie (a café employee) slept, and killed her too.
In a chilling statement, Balaban, during his court trial, went on to say; “I only killed those at the Sunshine Cafe because they deserved to be killed.”
John Balaban was hung in the Old Adelaide Gaol on the 26th of August 1953.
  The ghost of the notorious homicidal maniac, John Balaban, is alleged to have been seen in the old Adelaide Gaols “Hanging Tower’, and was identified by a witness after seeing a photo of Balaban in the front foyer, and identifying the man she had seen sitting on a bench inside the tower.

A Ghost at the Jens Hotel Mount Gambier

A Ghost at the Jens Hotel Mount Gambier

In a recent blog post (found here: I described the alleged haunting of the Jens Hotel at Mount Gambier.

Among the many spirits said to haunt the hotel is the spirit of female child. She is believed to be around 4 years old and is alleged to haunt the ground floor. It is believed she is waiting for her mother to return.

This photo was sent to me by a former worker at the Jens Hotel who claims that the image in the picture closely resembles that of a 3-year-old child, the daughter of a former publican, who died in the hotel.

What do you believe, ghost or not?

Allen Tiller’s Top 5 Most Haunted Hotels in South Australia

Allen Tiller’s Top 5 Most Haunted Hotels in South Australia

 I have never done one of these on the blog before, but thought it time. The following hotels, in my opinion, are the (allegedly) most haunted in South Australia. You are welcome to disagree with me, or submit your own opinion on which South Australian hotels you would put in your top five, in the comments here or over on facebook at:

1. North Kapunda Hotel

 Licensed as “The North Kapunda Arms” in 1849, this pub grew from the growth of the copper mines in Kapunda and would later be the home of Sir Sidney Kidman’s horse sale, the largest ever held in the world.
 Long considered the most haunted pub in the most haunted town in Australia, The North Kapunda Hotel is home to a plethora of phantoms thought to be ex-residents, publicans, ladies of the night, and miners – the activity in the hotel was recently documented on Haunting: Australia, including a “possession” of one cast member!
Previously it had featured on the documentary “Kapunda: Most Haunted Town in the Western World”.

2. Overland Corner Hotel

 The Overland Corner Hotel is situated on the bend of the Murray River between Renmark and Barmera. It is an isolated pub that has seen two of Australia’s most iconic Bushrangers drink at its bar.
  Many active spirits have been reported as haunting the pub for the past 160+ years of its existence. Some of the ghosts are thought to be the Brand brothers, the original family builders of the hotel, who lived, laughed played and died within the Iconic Hotels walls.
Other spirits include that of a local aboriginal girl, and even Queen Adelaide!
Devlin’s Ghost:
EVPs captured at the Overland Corner Hotel by Eidolon Paranormal:

3. Grand Millicent Hotel

 A recent TV advertisement has listed The Grand Hotel at Millicent as the 2nd most haunted pub in South Australia, but as you can see, in my opinion, it comes third.
 It is thought the hotel is haunted by up to 10 different ghosts which includes the spirit of a little boy who is seen playing near a pool table. The ghost of an elderly man who is seen ascending the staircase, and a spirit who leaves wet handprints on the walls!

4. Copper Coast Hotel

 I have investigated the hotel on several occasions, both privately and with the public, and have encountered some very strange phenome within its walls.
 The upstairs section of the hotel houses the guest’s suites and shared shower facilities. This seems to be the epicentre of the haunting, particularly in the one wing containing bedrooms 11 through to 13.
 On one occasion, about the middle of the day, I was standing in the junction of the hallways, which wind and turn through the upper levels. In one spot I could smell very distinctly the smell of the ocean and old tobacco, but take a step in any direction and the smell would be completely gone. Now, not being one to jump to the “ghost” conclusion in an instant, I put it down to being so close to the ocean, and the smell of tobacco being embedded in the walls and carpets, and didn’t think any more of it, until I went downstairs to the dining room and a psychic told me that right above us was a spirit of an old Swedish sailor who had died elsewhere, but returned here as he felt this was home – (this still did not convince me the place is haunted by a Swedish sailor!).
EVP captured at the Copper Coast Hotel (formerly The Cornucopia Hotel):
Cornucopia Hotel – MEGAscene:

5. Golden Fleece Hotel – Gawler

Gawler’s oldest hotel, The Golden Fleece Hotel first opened its doors on April 1st 1840. The hotel is famous for its hauntings, with one exceptional ghost photo being taken by photographer Scott Pearson in the mid-1990s
 The hotel is reputed to be haunted by a little boy who sometimes seen sitting on the front bar. Other ghosts include an old gentleman and teenage girl. The rear of the hotel was once the town’s morgue, until a proper morgue was built by local funeral firm Taylor and Forgie’s.