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Haunted Highercombe Hotel Museum

Haunted Highercombe Hotel Museum


Every year I have the pleasure of visiting locations haunted locations around Australia. 2015 was no different, with investigations at the Boggo Road Gaol in Queensland, Geelong Gaol, Beechworth Lunatic Asylum in Victoria and a return to Woodford Academy in New South Wales. In South Australia, the journey has taken in Old Adelaide Gaol, The Cornucopia Hotel in Wallaroo, investigations in Willunga, Kapunda, Gladstone and Edinburgh, but one of the more interesting locations for me, this year has been a small scale investigation in a historic location, the Highercombe Hotel Museum in Tea Tree Gully.

In 1853 when the Highercombe Hotel was built in the town of “Steventon”, now known as Tea Tree Gully. The population was of a reasonable size, but not one big enough to support the Highercombe Hotel and the Tea Tree Gully Inn which stood across the road. The Highercombe Hotel had a short-lived existence as a local pub, closing its doors as a hotel only 24 years after opening.

 The Tea Tree Gully Hotel became a major stopping point for stagecoaches and horse riders after the main road in the area was diverted right past its front door.

 The northern side of the Highercombe Hotel building served as the local post office and post-masters residence from 1879 until 1963. From 1875 until 1934 the southern side of the building was lived in by the headteacher of the Tea Tree Gully Public School. After this, for 20 years from 1930, the southern side was rented to the Hughes family as a private residence.

 For a small period in the 1960s the building served as the library and office for the Tea Tre Gully Council, until it was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1967 when it’s life as a museum was imagined.

In 2015 the site has been renamed “The Tea Tree Gully Heritage Museum” and is run entirely by volunteers

Whilst I have found no deaths in my current research on the building that could lend credence to a possible haunting, the building contains a number of personal effects that could promote the theory of “attachment”. “Attachment” is the theory that some paranormal investigators subscribe too, that some objects are so loved and adored by their owners or had such importance in their lives, that, in death, they still cannot bear to part with the object. This, in turn, leads to sightings of the spirit near its beloved object – as would appear to be the case here in this building.

 One sighting has been of a young girl sitting in front of the fireplace in the large downstairs sitting-room at the entrance side of the Hotel. This teenage girl has been seen briefly by volunteers, sitting quietly, as if enjoying, or warming herself in front of the fire.

 Whilst investigating with my team, Eidolon Paranormal, and friend Karina Eames, we had our own brief unexplained experience in an upstairs room when reading poetry that was bequeathed to the museum in an estate. Whilst Karina and Karen were reading the poetry aloud, another investigator witnessed a small white light pass between two investigators and then vanish – at the same time goosebumps and coldness was felt by the investigators.

 At this stage we are still reviewing our investigation data, and looking towards further investigations in the former hotel to uncover who could possibly be haunting the building.


The museum can be visited by the public on open days or through group bookings by visiting the volunteer society’s website at –

  Allen Tiller is the Australian star of the international hit television show “Haunting: Australia” and author of “The Haunts of Adelaide – History, Mystery and the Paranormal” as well as being a historian, lecturer, poet, musician, Tour Guide, blogger and podcaster. Allen is also a volunteer for many different associations and groups.

You can find Allen online at:

First published in MEGAscene issue 5 2016

© Allen Tiller

The Haunting of Martindale Hall

The Haunting of Martindale Hall


 A visit to the Clare valley with our good friends John & Deb from Drifter Paranormal (who are travelling the country investigating haunting phenomena) led us to Mintaro’s exceptional Georgian styled manor “Martindale Hall”.


 The mansion was constructed in 1879 and took two years to finish. It is built out of sandstone and has 32 rooms, including a large basement which contains seven rooms.
 The house was used as Mr Bowmans own recreation home, and featured a boating lake, racecourse, cricket pitch (which saw the English 11 play on its pitch on one occasion), a polo ground, and was also used for fox hunting and other hunting exhibitions.
 Its roof was designed to allow for the lady visitors of the house to sit upon and view the goings-on of the sporting achievements of the menfolk.


 It is said that Mr Bowman’s wealth was extraordinary and that he spared no expense in building the house, which cost somewhere around 72 thousand pounds. The extravagance is quite evident when visiting the mansion and its extraordinary coach house (which is larger than a lot of people’s entire homes). There are long-held local legends that back in Bowman’s day when only he and his two brothers lived in the home, and later just Edmund and his wife Annie, that Bowman had 14 servant’s, 4 of which lived on site. Much like TV shows like “downtown Abbey” or “Upstairs Downstairs” the home had areas purely for the use and movement of servant’s.
 This was a man so wealthy, he installed fully flushing toilets for his servant’s use, but insisted on using commodes for himself and his guests, which the servants would have to empty after each use.
The White Carra Marble Fire Place in the Drawing room at Martindale Hall was entered into a competition in France, where it took first prize at a Paris exhibition in 1873 and was purchased by Mr Bowman for 75 pounds.

 The house is now a museum owned by the people of South Australia, and within its walls, you can find all its original fittings and grandeur. In the billiard room stands a full-sized English Billiard table (12 ft x 6 ft). It is said the 1.5-tonne pool table was placed in position, then the north-facing wall of the building was finished.


 In 1885, drought overtook Australia, and Edmund Bowman’s finances suffered, this was compounded further in following years with a depression lowering the price of wool, causing Mr Bowmans finances further losses. These losses eventually led to the sale of Martindale Estate to another notable South Australian, Mr William Mortlock in 1891.


 The Mortlock’s brought their own touch to the home and the majority of the fittings and furniture that we see today were theirs. In the smoking-room, one can see some of the treasures that John Mortlock returned with from his expeditions across Australia, New Guinea and Africa including a majestic 16th-century Samurai suit, Sri Lankan devil masks and carved elephant tusks. Other pieces of Mr Mortlocks collection can be found in the Adelaide Museum and Mortlock Library on North Terrace Adelaide.

 John Mortlock, who inherited the house from his parents, died in 1950, only 15 months after marrying his wife, Dorothy. After John’s death, Dorothy walked out of the house, leaving everything the way it sat, other than a few personal possessions. She locked the door and then donated the entire building and contents to the University of Adelaide, which in turn gave the entire site to the people of South Australia.
 Unfortunately, the State Government is currently trying to usurp the public and sell the site to a private consortium to start a “wellness clinic”, taking away the public’s right to visit a site that was bequeathed to them.

  Away from the politics, beauty and history, Martindale has long been deemed a significant haunted historic location in the Clare Valley region.

 Many of the staff, and some of the visitors and overnight staying guests have reported strange goings-on, and sightings of mysterious people in the grounds, and inside the home itself.
 A man has been seen, in period clothing, possibly early 1900’s, sitting on the back stairs of the home. The clothing worn, and the site where he has been seen would indicate the possibility of a servant, perhaps one who loved his masters, and the house far too much to move on after his death.
 Overnight staying guests have reported waking up and finding a child lying in bed with them, when no children have been reported to be in the home. Other people have reported seeing children, in “olden-times” clothing playing on the front steps of the mansion, running around, not noticing the adults staring at them in bewilderment, before the children fade into the surroundings…

 The most often seen spirit in the Home though is thought to be the spirit of Valentine Mortlock. Valentine was born on Valentine’s Day, thus his name. He was born with “cretinism” which is described on Wikipedia as “is a condition of severely stunted physical and mental growth due to untreated congenital deficiency of thyroid hormones”.
 Valentine lived much of his life confined to his room, perhaps this was because of his disability, but more likely it is because his well to do family saw his disability as a blight upon their name.
 Valentine had long blonde hair, which was common for young boys of the period, and very often, when he was seen, he would be mistaken for a little girl, this could explain the sightings of a long haired blonde spirit girl inside the hall, mistaken identity!

 The most notable recent sighting of Valentine was recorded by the caretakers of Martindale Hall and is displayed in his room for all to read.
 It tells of a 3-year-old boy, visiting the house with his family. The boy’s mother went to take the boy out of the room, but he did not want to leave his new friend, who he described as having long golden hair, and “looking like an angel”.

Or – visit the Martindale Hall website to plan your visit: –


 Allen Tiller is the Australian star of the international hit television show “Haunting: Australia” and author of “The Haunts of Adelaide – History, Mystery and the Paranormal” as well as being a historian, lecturer, poet, musician, Tour Guide, blogger and podcaster. Allen is also a volunteer for many different associations and groups.

You can find Allen online at:

First published in MEGAscene issue 4 Jan 2016

©Allen Tiller

The Old Adelaide Gaol

The Old Adelaide Gaol

A siren mourned woefully at 8am in the north-west end of Adelaide city, marking the moment of the final throes of life of executed man, Glen Sabre Valance at Her Majesty’s Adelaide Gaol.

 The 45th execution within the gaol walls and the last hanging undertook inside the gaol. 44 men and one woman, Elizabeth Woolcock lost their lives by hanging in the gaol for various crimes since the establishment of the gaol in 1841.

 From 1841 until 1988, The Adelaide Gaol held over 300,000 prisoners and was Australia’s longest-serving continuous gaol. It housed men, women and children, and sometimes lunatics.

 The first Governor was William Baker Ashton, who was actually appointed 2 years before the gaol opened. William and his wife Charlotte (who acted as the Gaol Matron until 1850) had 6 children, with three of them being born during their time at the gaol
 In 1854, William, a very large man, died unexpectedly in the upstairs office of the gaol, the narrow staircase could not accommodate the size of his dead body, so he had to be lowered down through a window to the ground below.

 Another infamous character of the Old Adelaide Gaol is the resident hangman, Mr Benjamin Ellis. Ellis acted as the executioner for 10 years at the gaol, and lived on-site at the time to help protect his identity.

 His lodgings were directly underneath the female dormitories, where he is said to haunt until this day.
 Not much is known about the man, expect he was very good at his job and undertook it in a precise and serious manner.
 Ellis would eventually leave his profession after two hangings that haunted him. The first was the only hanging of a female in the Adelaide Gaol, Elizabeth Woolcock.
 Mrs Woolcock had been found guilty of poisoning her husband with mercury and sentenced to death. There are to this day, many who claim she was not guilty of the crime, but that did not stop her execution on December 30th 1873.

 The second hanging, and possibly Ellis last, was that of Charles Strietman in 1877. Ellis went about his work in a serious manner he always conducted his business, but for some reason, on this occasion, he forgot to secure the man’s ankles and feet. When Strietman fell through the trap door, his feet hit the trap, and he was able to pull himself back up onto the platform.
 One of the 13 witnesses present then pushed Strietmens legs off the trap until he fell and hung. It was reported in the newspapers the following day that it then took Strietman over 23 minutes before he died from hanging.
 Ellis, who is described as an ugly man with a large bulbous nose is often seen within the gaol walls, wandering aimlessly – perhaps for his part in so many executions, his afterlife is to be spent within the gaol walls, or perhaps he is looking for his next execution.
 Elizabeth Woolcock is also said to haunt the gaol walls, dressed in a long white gown, she is seen in the women’s yards and cells from time to time during the day.

 John Balaban was a notorious and sadistic murderer in South Australia. He came to Adelaide from Romania where he worked as an industrial chemist.
In 1953, Balaban committed a triple murder when he killed his wife Thelma, her six-year-old son from a previous marriage, Philip and Thelma’s 66-year-old Mother, Susan the rooms above the sunshine café where the family lived.
 He then turned his attention on Verna Maine, a 24-year-old waitress in the café.  Vera, to escape Balaban, jumped out through an upstairs window. She lay on the footpath critically injured from the fall, but was lucky to escape, with witnesses able to call the police and thus, save her life.
 Balaban was swiftly arrested and quickly confessed to another murder, that of 29-year-old Zora Kusic.

It was eventually the murder of Zora that got Balaban executed at the Adelaide Gaol on the 27th of August 1953, but it would seem he still lingers within the walls where his body, and that of 45 other executed prisoners remain.
 Balaban has been seen on occasion near the hanging tower, looking remorsefully at his feet – perhaps contemplating his eternal fate within the foreboding walls of The Adelaide Gaol.

 Many of you will be happy to know that the ghost tours, that were run by the Adelaide Gaol Preservation Society for almost 25 years are returning this November for their famous tours…

Adelaide Gaol Preservation Society are professional and offer unique experiences in ghost tours, workshops and other paranormal related outings.

You can find out more information through the Adelaide Gaol Preservation Website at :

Or via facebook:

First published in MEGAscene Issue 3, Novemeber 2015.

Written and Researched by Allen Tiller.

©2015 Allen Tiller.

Allen Tiller is the Australian star of the international hit television show “Haunting: Australia” and author of
“The Haunts of Adelaide – History, Mystery and the Paranormal” as well as being a historian, lecturer,
poet, musician, Tour Guide, blogger and podcaster. Allen is also a volunteer for many different associations and groups.
You can find Allen online at: