Haunted Old Mount Gambier Gaol
South Australia is such a vast and interesting State with so many haunted locations it’s hard to choose just one place for every issue, but for this month’s issue of MEGAscene, I thought we might look at the south of the state, and visit the Old Mount Gambier Gaol.
The Mount Gambier Gaol operated from 1866 until 1995. In that time 3 men, Carl Jung (1871), William Page (1875) and William Nugent (1881). There were five suicides in the gaol and at least 4 people lost their lives inside the prison through natural causes.
The first execution in Mount Gambier Gaol happened on November 10th, 1871. Carl Jung, a shoemaker and wine merchant of had gone into debt because of poor sales. In June that year, bailiff, Thomas Garroway was sent to seize Jung’s property.
The two men came to an agreement, and Jung was to follow the Bailiff in to Mount Gambier the following day. When morning broke and Jung joined Galloway to leave, the bailiff seized Jung’s horse and cart, and some farm animals to help settle his outstanding debts.
Garroway then set off for Mount Gambier, expecting Jung to follow. Jung was outraged that the Bailiff had seized his property, but set off after him as agreed.
Jung’s rage burned hot inside him, he rode up alongside the bailiff with his shotgun raised, and gave him both barrels at close range, killing him.
Jung then turned the gun on himself, but was unsuccessful with his suicide attempt, and instead, fled into the wild scrublands. Eventually, hunger got the better of him, and he made his way back to his home, only to be arrested by police, who were patiently waiting for him to return.
Jung was tried and found guilty, but not before a petition by local business people had been presented to earn him a stay of execution. Unfortunately for Jung, the law had spoken, and on November 10, 1871, Jung was hung inside the Gaol. He held a bouquet of flowers, that he asked to be given to his wife upon his death.
19-year-old Mary Buchan was dating William Walker. Walker, keen on marrying the young lady, proposed marriage, which Mary accepted.
Over the coming months, Walker would delay the marriage many times, angering Mary’s parents, who began to demand the wedding be called off.
July 11th, 1875, May Buchan did not turn up to Church as per unusual. Her worried mother contacted police and reported her missing. Walker was questioned about her whereabouts, and told police he had saddled up her horse himself, and seen her off as she rode out to Casterton in Victoria to find her Father
A telegram sent from a small town along the way confirmed that Mary had been seen riding through their region the day before.
May’s mother never felt comfortable with the explanations for her leaving the town. In coming days Mary’s father began to have dreams of her. In his dream, Mary would come to him and lay a hand on his shoulder. She would command him to find her body and showed him in the dream a ploughed field with three trees planted in a triangle.
At the same time, a bed-ridden policeman’s wife, who had recently given birth, began to dream of Mary also. Her dreams were uncannily like Mary’s Father’s dreams, in which, Mary led her to a field.
Through these dreams, Mary’s body was discovered at Hedley Park. She was covered in a shawl with strangulation marks on her neck. She had been severely beaten with a blunt object around the head.
Evidence mounted, and soon it was revealed that William Walker was her killer. It also came to light that Walker, was also known to be a married man by the name of William Page and that he had proposed with a stolen ring!
It was revealed during the trial that Page has pestered Buchan for sex outside the church, which she refused. An argument broke out, and Page hit her with his stockwhip, he then strangled her to quieten her screams.
Page was sentenced to be hung for his crimes and was executed at the old Mount Gambier Gaol on 27 October 1875.
The last execution at the gaol was that of William Nugent on the 18th of November 1881. Nugent, also known as Robert Johnson, was arrested for supplying liquor to aboriginals in Wellington.
A Trooper named Pearce, who knew Nugent’s identity stopped him, and asked him to follow him back to Kingston. Nugent agreed, and followed the trooper, with three horses in tow.
Nugent knew the horses were stolen and knew he was in big trouble, so he devised a plan. He asked the trooper if they could stop and rest for a while. Trooper Pearce agreed they could. After a short rest, the trooper insisted they mount their horses and get on with their journey.
As Trooper Pearce began to mount his horse, Nugent pulled a knife from his boot and frenziedly stabbed the trooper, before riding off, leaving him to die.
A passer-by found the trooper on the side of the road and sent for help. A search party was sent out for Nugent, and swiftly caught the criminal as he tried to escape towards Victoria.
24-year-old Trooper Pearce died three days later, with his mother and father at his bedside.
Nugent was sentenced to death and spent his last few days in solitary confinement, he reported to one of his guards, that he had encountered a ghost! Nugent said, during the day, he felt as if someone was sitting in the room alongside him. He then heard the voice of Trooper Pearce state “I came to tell you I hold no grudge against you Will Nugent, no doubt others will, but I do not”.
Nugent’s only request, which happened as he walked towards the gallows, was not for forgiveness, it was that his body was to be buried in consecrated ground.
Like all three executed prisoners, Nugent’s body was buried inside the gaol, as was the law at the time. It is not known where in the gaol grounds all three men are buried.
Trooper Pearce is not the only ghost to make itself known in the Old Mount Gambier Gaol. Cell 4 in men’s wing is known as a hot spot for paranormal activity, with witnesses reporting being touched by unseen hands, scratching and biting by an unseen spirit, and weird sounds, noises and voices!
A lady in white is seen to walk through a courtyard between the dining room and the cellblock. This ghostly apparition is thought to be of a woman who may have died whilst giving birth inside the gaol.
Other ghostly goings-on happen in the condemned man cells near the area where the three men were executed, and where another corporal punishment was dealt out, including the whipping of 12-year-old boy john Macmaster’s who received 20 lashes in his last week of an 18-month stay in the men’s prison for forgery~!
The Old Mount Gambier Gaol is now a unique accommodation facility and music venue, and states on its website that it is not haunted, may be, if you are down that way, visit the gaol, and decided for yourself if it is haunted or not.
Allen Tiller is Australia’s most recognised paranormal investigator, eminent paranormal historian, and star of the international smash hit television show “Haunting: Australia”.
Allen is also the founder of Eidolon Paranormal, South Australian Paranormal and the author of book and blog, “The Haunts of Adelaide: History, Mystery and the Paranormal”.
Allen is the winner of the 2017 “Emerging South Australian Historian of The Year Award” as presented by The History Council of South Australia.
Allen has also been employed as “Historian in Residence” in 2016/2017 with the Adelaide City Council Libraries and employed by the City of Port Adelaide Enfield Council to write the popular, “Ghosts of the Port Self-Guided Walking Tour”
First published in MEGAscene issue 10 2017
© Allen Tiller