Tag Archives: murder

A Haunting at the Railway Hotel Peterborough


A Haunting at the Railway Hotel Peterborough

The Railway Hotel is located at 221 Main Street Peterborough, South Australia. It is the third hotel built in the town, opening on 24 December 1891.[1]The first publican was W. Britten.[2]


Railway Hotel 2017 – Source: Bahnfrend CC:

   Sister Beth Ashley was a much-respected nurse. She had worked at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and at St Margaret’s Rehabilitation Hospital at Semaphore. It was while at St. Margaret’s that Ashely met an orderly named William Hyson. Hyson had come to South Australia from Tamworth, New South Wales. Ashley and Hyson had started dating, but after a short while, Ashley called off their relationship.[3]

 Ashley had become a nursing sister at the Peterborough Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital in South Australia’s mid-north. On March 21, 1949, Ashely received a phone call from Hyson telling her he was coming to Peterborough to see her. Ashley became upset and told him not to come or she would tell the police he was harassing her.

 The following day, March 22, at about 11:25am, Violet Revell, a housemaid at the Railway Hotel, heard two gunshots about 30 seconds apart. Revell reported to her boss, publican Sydney Coombe at about 11:50pm that a woman in an upstairs room was calling out for help. Coombe investigated room 5, and called out to the woman to open the door. She said, “I can’t open the door. I am shot.’ Coombe asked if anyone was with her, to which the woman replied, “Bill.”
Coombe called out for Bill to open the door, which the woman replied, “He can’t”.
Coombe phoned the police.

Mounted Constable E.H. Thom was first on the scene. He opened the door expecting to see evidence of a struggle, but there was none. Sister Ashley, lying on the bed, opened her eyes, and said to Thom, “I was here only two or three minutes when Bill shot me!”.

 Dr A.M. Myers was called. He found Hyson and Ashley both alive and had them rushed to the hospital. Hyson had taken a .22 pistol and shot Ashley, then turned the gun on himself. Hyson died of the self-inflicted wound at 2:15pm that day.[4]
 Ashley was still conscious when the doctor found her. She had a small wound in front of her right ear. Dr Myers decided to operate when condition improved, however, her bleeding was not under control, and she died at 5:40pm.[5]

The coroner, Mr J.S. Bennett ruled at an inquest into the deaths, that it was a murder-suicide by shooting.


   It is alleged, ever since this terrible tragedy, that the Railway Hotel is haunted. Witness’ claim that sometimes a ghostly silhouette of a person is seen in the upper windows of the hotel. Some people claim that they can feel a person sitting on them. Oddly, this happens in room 3, not room 5 where nurse Ashley was shot.[6]

Another ghost reported haunting this hotel is a child who plays in the kitchen.

It is said of the ghost in room 3, that some truckies have rented the room, and have left to sleep in the truck rather than wake up to the ghostly figure sharing the bed with them!

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2020

[1] ‘About the Railway’, Railway Hotel Motel Peterborough, (2020), https://railwayhotelpeterborough.com.au/.

[2] Hoad, J. L., Hotels and publicans in South Australia 1836-1984, (Adelaide, 1984), p. 490.

[3] \’COUPLE DIE IN HOTEL\’, The West Australian, (23 March 1949), p. 6., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47652985.

[4] Nurse Died After Call For Aid, Brisbane Telegraph, (April 9, 1949), p. 8, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article216575186.

[5] \’Murder And Suicide Finding At Peterborough Inquest\’, Chronicle, (14 April 1949), p. 8. , http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article93334089.

[6] Marshall, Gordon de L & Shar, Richard, Ghosts and hauntings of South Australia, (Jannali, N.S.W., 2012), p. 251.

Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Railway_Hotel,_Peterborough,_2017_(01).jpg

The Stepney Tragedy.


The Stepney Tragedy.

Dr Ewbank SLSA: [B 11286/6/1]

 Last week I wrote about Police Inspector Charles Le Lievre who was a member of the South Australian Mounted Police Force between 1877 and 1929. I published a transcript of his encounter with some ruffian sailors at Nairne. At the end of his story, LeLeivre recounts that one of those men would later murder his wife at Stepney, South Australia. This is that story.[1]

 Louisa Jane Fisher was a newly married 22-year-old living on Henry Street, Stepney, with her new husband, Frederick Fisher. Louisa was a daughter of John Lampey, a builder in Balaklava. The couple had met when Fisher had taken a job with her father. Unbeknownst to her, Fisher had recently been released from gaol for threatening to kill a police officer in Nairne. 

 The Fishers had moved to Glenelg, and camped on the sand dunes, before finding their humble cottage in Stepney.[2]

The Express and Telegraph newspaper described the house:

The interior of the bouse wore an extremely forlorn aspect, and was suggestive of the direst poverty. In the front room, there was absolutely nothing in the shape of furniture or effects. The kitchen was almost as barren, and with the exception of a little firewood, and an axe, was also empty. There is also a middle room, which had evidently been used as the bedroom… which was likewise unfurnished. On the floor were spread a number of blankets, which had apparently been used as a bed. Several articles of clothing were lying near, a silver watch was hanging on one of the walls, and on another wall was a neat American clock. [3]

 Frederick Fisher was 28 years old, an ex-sailor, and a recent gaol inmate.

On 18 January 1900, at about 7pm, a gunshot was heard fired within the Henry street cottage. Within minutes, Fisher had run to his neighbour, Mrs Emma Richards house next door, and told her his wife had accidentally shot herself. He asked her if she would go to the police station, which she refused. Fisher then ran to the St. Peters police station and reported the event to Constable Richmond, who told Fisher to go directly to Dr Ewbank.

 Dr Ewbank, Fisher, and a police constable all arrived on the scene at the same time. Meanwhile, a phone call about the shooting had placed at the Norwood police station. Sergeant Burchell of Norwood informed the coroner, then made his way to the house.

On the arrival of the coroner, an examination of the body was made, and it was discovered that the bullet had penetrated the left breast, and was lodged in the lungs. The ambulance van was sent for, and the body removed to the morgue.[4]

 An inquest was held a week later at the Elephant and Castle Hotel. Dr Ramsey Smith, the city Coroner, presided over the inquest, with Dr A. Mackie, a member of the hospital board present.

Dr Ewbank delivered his evidence: He stated he had found the woman’s body lying on its back on the floor. Her left arm was across her chest and her right arm by her side. Her clothing had been drawn back across her chest. Ewbank watched a police constable find the revolver 10 feet away among the ragged bedding on the floor.

 Ewbank also conducted the post mortem examination, in which he deduced that the bullet entered her body near her sternum under her third rib, it had travelled through her heart, and into her spine. He found no black scorch marks on her skin or clothing.

 Ewbank stated further:

That from the direction of the wound it might have been self-inflicted, but not accidentally.  As a rule, in cases of suicide by shooting there were evidence of burning or scorching, but in this case, the traces might have been obscured by the blood on the clothing. The skin would not have been visibly blistered through the clothing. If the deceased had been standing up the shot would have been fired from above, but if lying down by someone behind her head, or someone stooping over her. Taking all the circumstances into consideration he would not feel justified in saying whether the death was accidental, suicidal, or murderous. Deceased might have emitted a spasmodic shriek as she fell.[5]

 Charles Richards was questioned as a witness, he stated that non the night in question, he had seen Frederick Fisher in the backyard. He claimed Fisher entered the house, and a few moments later the gunshot rang out. He then heard Fisher out the front shouting for someone to call the police. When he (Richards) got out the front, Fisher was running along Henry Street toward the police station.[6]

After a short retirement, the Jury delivered the following verdict: “We are of opinion that the deceased, Eliza Louisa Jane Fisher, came to her death from a bullet wound, but that there is not sufficient evidence to show by whom the shot was fired.”[7]

Many people had assumed that Frederick Fisher had shot his wife, even though he had stated in court it was an accident. Immediately after the jury delivered their verdict, Frederick Fisher was arrested. As it turned out, when police were investigating the death of Eliza, they had stumbled upon some loose floorboards in the home. On pulling them up they found a large cache of stolen goods, which they had taken and identified as stolen from the Glenelg area.

 Fisher was charged committing a burglary in Glenelg.

In court, Fisher’s only excuse for stealing from the Glenelg homes of Phillip Simmons, Robert Hood, George Blyth, and Agnes Storrie was, “I was destitute at the time.” [8]

 Fisher pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and larceny, of which he pleaded guilty to all accounts.[9]

Frederick Fisher, an old offender, was sentenced to two terms of three years, and one term of two years for breaking and entering and larceny, respectively.[10]

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2020.

[1] \’MEMORIES OF AN OLD POLICE OFFICER.\’, The Register, (6 October 1925), p. 12. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64246910.

[2]\’SHOOTING FATALITY.\’, The Express and Telegraph, (19 January 1900), p. 3. (ONE O\’CLOCK EDITION), http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article208842536.


[4] Ibid.

[5]\’FATALITY AT STEPNEY.\’, Chronicle, (27 January 1900), p. 22., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article87790969.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8]\’AT THE POLICE COURT.\’, The Express and Telegraph, (22 January 1900), p. 2. (ONE O\’CLOCK EDITION), http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article208842668.


[10] \’THE CRIMINAL SITTINGS.\’, The Advertiser, (20 February 1900), p. 4., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article29530797.

The Adelaide Ghosts and Ghouls and Walking Tour

The Adelaide Ghosts and Ghouls and Walking Tour

Back in 2016, I was invited by the Adelaide City Libraries to undertake a world fist
history study into ghosts and hauntings in the council area of the City of Adelaide. Titled “Haunted Buildings in Adelaide”, the project encompassed inviting members of the public to come into the City Library and North Adelaide Library to express their own personal encounters with ghosts in the City of Adelaide.
I then took those stories and investigated them, as well as a number of already well known Adelaide ghost stories, and investigated their history. In the first year, we had over 90 people attend, and at least 40 of those stories ended up being added to the libraries catalogue under the heading “The Allen Tiller Collection: Haunted Buildings in Adelaide”.
In 2017 I returned to the library to turn those stories, and some new ones into 5 self-guided walking tours through the City of Adelaide.
At the end of history month this year, we launched one of those tours, titled the “Ghosts and Ghouls and Self-Guided Walking Tour”. The difference between this tour, and other tours, is the City Library invited a professional sound recordist, Mr Anthony Frith, to record me speaking the tour stories.
The tour is a downloadable, free self-guided walking tour which you can find via this link:


The tour starts at the City Library, so I thought I’d share with you all the starting story of the tour: A Ghost in the Library Harris Scarfe’s city store sat on this site previous to the current Rundle Place building.
The Harris Scarfe’s building was constructed in 1917 and, in an unfortunate accident, a concrete worker fell into the foundations as they were poured. He was sucked down into the mix, suffocating, and crushing him at the same time. It was deemed too difficult and risky to save the worker, and after the concrete had set, too expensive and labour intensive to remove his body – so he was left in the foundations.

In 2012, McMahon Services was engaged to demolish the previous building and construct the new one you see today. As part of their plan, they decided to recycle as much of the original building materials as possible.
The old steel, glass and concrete were stored, crushed or melted, and reused in the construction of the present building. Including the concrete in which the worker had died.
So the remains of that worker, that was previously in the foundations, can possibly be found across the entire building today, and perhaps, that explains one of the hauntings associated with the building … but perhaps, more interesting, and relative to the city library is another more modern death.

In the 1970s, Harris Scarfe’s had a sports section on level three, and within that section was a department selling guns. In 1975, a man entered the store, went to the gun counter and asked to look at a gun. He loaded it with his own bullets, then in front of staff and customers, put the barrel
against his head, and shot himself dead.
The store was on level three, the same level that the City Library now sits on. Is it a coincidence that a black shadowy figure is sometimes reported whisking along the hallways towards the elevators today, in the general vicinity that a black shadowy figure was seen whisking along aisles when Harris Scarfe’s stood here previously?

Lifts are also said to be haunted in Rundle Place, just as they were reported haunted in the old Harris Scarfe’s building. Are the ghosts that haunted the former building, lingering in the new building?

In an interview in the Advertiser in 2011, a former employee of Harris Scarfe’s named Rod stated the following:
“I’ve been here at two o’clock in the morning, by myself, and the goods lift would start-up and just go by themselves,” “You’d see them drop to the second flor, you’d hear the door open, you’d hear footsteps and then the lift comes back down to the basement and you’re thinking ‘well, I know I’m the only one here’.”

You can find the City Library at Level 3, Rundle Place, Rundle Mall (Enter via Francis
St – off Rundle Mall or via Da Costa Arcade) The Adelaide Ghosts and Ghouls Walking
Tour, a different way of seeing Adelaide!


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 was awarded 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”

You can find Allen online at:

First published in MEGAscene issue 13 2018

© Allen Tiller

The Haunted Jens Hotel – Mount Gambier

The Haunted Jens Hotel – Mount Gambier


Jens Hotel – 1893 – SLSA: B21810
Jens Hotel in Mount Gambier which was established in 1847.  The hotel we see today is the completion of construction in 1884 for Johannes Jens. 
 It is alleged the ghost of a very large man named ‘Maurice’ haunts the Jens Hotel. It is believed Maurice died inside the hotel in 1905.
 Maurice likes to play with electrical items in the hotel, and to protect women who are vulnerable to men trying to take advantage of them, by suddenly appearing to men and threatening them with his intense energy.
 It is not known who Maurice actually is, but many people have died in the Jens Hotel.
In 1933, well-known local grazier Edgar Learmonth was found dead in an outhouse at the Jens Hotel. He had taken his own life by shooting himself in the temple with a small calibre revolver. An inquest later found him to be of unsound mind.
 Another unfortunate death at the Jens Hotel was that of Mr H. Smith. Smith had been fishing when a hook had become stuck in his hand. The wound became infected, and gangrene set in. His blood became septic killing him suddenly while staying in the hotel.
Another alleged spirit in this hotel is a little girl. 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. The basement of this hotel is also alleged to be haunted by a man who committed suicide by hanging in this hotel.
Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019
‘Death of a Well-known Mount Gambier Grazier.’, The Naracoorte Herald, (11 July 1933), p. 3.
‘OBITUARY.’, Border Watch, (13 July 1933), p. 4.
‘The Tragic Death of Mr. E. T. Learmonth.’, The Naracoorte Herald, (14 July 1933), p. 3.
‘A PAINFUL CASE.’, South Australian Weekly Chronicle, (7 March 1885), p. 21.

Infanticide at North Adelaide

Infanticide at North Adelaide

North Adelaide 1910- SLSA: [B 3466]

History is not always kind, nor nice…

 The Town Clerks Avenue isn’t well-known terminology for many Adelaidean’s, even many that probably walk the avenue daily. It’s a walkway through the parklands leading from Sir Edwin Smith Avenue at Angas Gardens, along the Torrens River to Frome Road. It was established in 1917.

 On December 20, 1885, Adelaide Corporation Ganger (labourer) John Collins was walking along the Town Clerks Avenue just after 7am, heading into work from his home in North Adelaide.  As he was wandering along the path, he noticed a package lying in a drain. He retrieved the package and look inside to find the corpse of a baby boy, wrapped in newspaper and a large sheet of brown paper.
 The blood on the paper was fresh and still damp.

 Collins rushed to the North Adelaide police station and reported the find to the local constable Bea. Police-constable Bea attended the location and found three men standing around the package discussing its contents. Bea retrieved the package and returned with it to the police station.

 That evening Doctor Melville Jay attended the police station and conducted a post-mortem examination on the child’s body. He found that the child weighed just over six pounds, was 12 inches long, and from the appearance of the babies’ head, had been through a long labour. The child’s head had been almost severed from its body. There were large incisions across the neck that cut through to the spine.

 Most horrific, Doctor Jay discovered the organs of the baby and discovered that it had been born alive, the right lung was full of air, but he concluded that its life must have been cut short very quickly as the left lung had failed to be inflated.
  Also submitted to the post-mortem were a knife and men’s jacket that had been discovered in a yard on Poole Street in North Adelaide.
  During an inquest held at the Destitute Asylum on Kermode Street, witnesses came forward with descriptions of the mother of the child. The first was Ada Chickwidden.
  On 19 December, prior to the finding of the babies’ body on the Town Clerks Avenue. Ada Chickwidden saw, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, a young woman of around 2 to 30 years of age, enter Hosking’s Shop in North Adelaide. The woman seemed unwell.
 She noted that she wore a black dress with a square plaid in front. The woman had entered the shop to inquire about the time.
 Prior to her entering the shop, Chickwidden had noticed the woman looking over the fence into the backyard. The woman left, and Chickwidden went back to her duties, leaving a bag with some paper in it, and a coat at the rear door outside the shop to be disposed of.
 On December 20, Chickwidden saw blood on the bricks at the rear of the shop, near the bag and coat she was taken outside the day prior.
 The night before, when laying in bed, she had heard someone telling a dog to quiet down but hadn’t paid much attention.
 During the inquest, Chickwidden identified the papers the child had been wrapped in as being the same ones she had put outside in a bag, she had meant to dispose of at a later date.
Chickwidden also stated she had seen the woman lying in the sand on New Years Day at Largs Bay, she went to speak to her, but the women would not look at her, so she left her there.

 The next witness in the inquest was Catherine Hollak of Finnis Street. Hollak stated she had heard noises coming from an empty “china man’s hut” next door to her own house. She went to inspect what was going on and found a young woman there. Hollak identified the young woman as one her and her husband had allowed to stay in their house a month prior. Hollak said to her; “This is a rather peculiar place for you to come.”; but the woman didn’t reply.
 Hollak asked her if she had a home, the woman replied; “No, I wish my throat was cut or that I was in the Torrens.”
 Hollak then offered the woman to come to stay at her house again and told the woman she would be back shortly, as she was first going to ask her husband if it was ok. Hollak left and when she returned the woman was gone.
 Hollak looked for, and chased her down in a street nearby, she asked the woman why she had left, but received an indistinct reply. The woman walked off and left Hollak standing there confused.
 Hollak described the woman as wearing a black dress and a black hat with a feather in it. She had seen the woman about the place for many years but had never known her name. Hollak knew the woman worked as a servant somewhere near Park Street but knew no more about her.
 A few days later the inquest reached its conclusion of: “wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.” It is not known whether the baby received a proper burial, or if the woman ever came forward
Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019


‘INFANTICIDE AT NORTH ADELAIDE.’, South Australian Register, (15 January 1885), p. 7.
‘THE NORTH ADELAIDE INFANTICIDE.’, Evening Journal, (6 January 1885), p. 2.

An Alleged Haunting at the Cross Keys Tavern – Gepps Cross

An Alleged Haunting at the Cross Keys Tavern – Gepps Cross


SLSA: 1936 – B 31821
The Cross Keys Tavern was established in 1849 on the corner of Diagonal and Port Wakefield Roads. It was built to serve a large local Irish community that had built a community close by; the remnants of which are barely visible today.
Daniel Brady was the original builder. Brady was the seventh son of Daniel Brady of County Cavan, Ireland, who arrived in Australia in 1840, and took up farmlands near Snowtown.
 Daniel Brady Junior was educated at Seven Hills St Aloysius College, and was one of the very first settlers in Cavan, South Australia.
In 1873, Joseph Broadstock, who was once the owner of 1857 built, The Governor MacDonnell Hotel in Salisbury, at the end of John Street, bought the Cross Keys Tavern but didn’t last a year at the site before he sold it.
 The Cross Keys has been marred with controversy over the years. In 1850, Catherine Conarty was drinking wine at the bar when another local, Rose Reid entered swearing and accusing Conarty’s son of stealing a pole-yoke (a wooden or metal beam used to allow two animals to pull the same load).
 Conarty’s reply to Reid was that it was men’s business, and to let them sort it out.
Reid didn’t let up with her verbal assault, so Conarty threw her drink in Reid’s face, grabbed a metal quart pot, and started smashing Reid around the head with it, eventually taking her to the floor and knocking her out.
Catherine Conarty was fined £3, in the local courts with the Judge stating: “The fine is a lenient one. The quart pot might have caused death.”

 Another scandal erupted at the Cross Keys Hotel in 1923 when publican John Mulcahy was shot in the forehead.
  Mrs Mulcahy explained in her witness statement to police, that she had been in her room cleaning on the second floor when she heard a gunshot. She ran to her husbands’ room where she found him lying on the bed, covered in blood, and a revolver on the floor.
  Further depositions revealed the shot had been fired at 2 o’clock. A woman’s scream was heard almost immediately, then Mrs Mulcahy had run downstairs to get the help of the barman.
  While Mrs. Mulcahy bathed her husband’s wound, Mr Dadliffe, accompanied by Mr Klein, a commercial traveller, who happened to be on the premises, went in the latter’s car to the Gepp’s Cross Police Station, and told Constable Sessle what had occurred. He notified police headquarters, who sent Detective Dayman and Constable Bristowe to investigate.
 Dr Swift was summoned, and the wounded man, after receiving attention, was taken to the Adelaide Hospital.
  Mr Mulcahy had been shot in the forehead, the bullet passed just above the bridge of his nose, and penetrated down under his right eye, lodging near his ear. The bullet was later removed successfully in the Adelaide Hospital.
 Mrs Violet Jane Mulcahy was later found not guilty by a jury of her peers.

On the 12th of August 1915, Mary Rowe was found her dead in her bedroom, upstairs in the Cross Keys Tavern.

A woman is alleged to have killed herself in the front room above the bar but as of yet, this information remains unsubstantiated.

 A former manager of the hotel has told me they would often see the spirit of a woman, “dressed in white”, breeze down a hallway through the hotel towards the lounge room where she would swing the doors open, then vanish from sight.
Another ghost is thought to be a man who was shot in the head, he is seen upstairs from time to time. Could this man be Mr Mulcahy, returned in the afterlife to one of the most emotional times in his life? A point in time where he almost died?
Have you had a paranormal experience at the Cross Keys Tavern in Gepps Cross? Let us know via our facebook page

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019

1923 ‘ATTEMPT TO MURDER.’, Recorder (Port Pirie, SA : 1919 – 1954), 19 July, p. 1. , viewed 05 Mar 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article96039094

1923 ‘CROSS KEYS HOTEL SENSATION.’, The Express (Adelaide, SA: 1922 – 1923), 30 May, p. 1. (5 O’C EDITION), viewed 05 Mar 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article210979006

1923 ‘SHOOTING MYSTERY’, Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA : 1910 – 1924), 26 May, p. 4. , viewed 05 Mar 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article106695521

Ghosts of the Barossa: The Ghost of Travus Klinkwort

The Ghost of Travus Klinkwort

 Just 6kms from the western Barossa Valley town of Greenock sits an old ruined homestead in a field. The house was lived in by the Klinkworts who had to Australia from Hanover Germany and settled in the region, establishing their farm. The couple had two daughters, Josia and Esther.
  Travus was a hardworking man, who was known locally as a hard worker but with a mean streak, and often, people would state he was a cold and heartless man. Sadly, Travus’ wife passed away, and he was left to run the farm and raise his daughters.
Travus was a harsh man. He worked his daughters hard and allowed them no pleasures in life. Their only social interactions away from the farm occurred at church. They came to resent and fear their father.
 The girls soon reached maturity, and curiosity about the other sex soon overcame their raging hormones. One night, Josia invited a young local boy named Randall out to the farm. The girls had lied to their father and said they were going for a walk around their farm. Instead, Esther stood watch between the house and the field, while Josia and Randall explored each other in the field.
 Travus sat in the house. He grew suspicious of the girl’s claims and grabbed a double-barrelled shotgun. He left the house, and under the moonlight, spotted Esther. He headed toward her quietly, then rushed forward as he drew clearer. Esther cried out to her sister. Josia and Randall jumped up and tried to get their clothes back on. Two almighty booms rang out across the field as Travus fired both shots from his gun.
 Josia and Randall were never seen in town again.
 The following season, Travus had the biggest and best potato crop in the region. Rumours began to spread throughout the town, but nothing could be proven.
 Esther, forced by her father to keep the family secret, became a deranged and crazy old spinster, who eventually lived, and died by herself at the farm.
 In recent years, many people have been to the old homestead to take photographs. Most don’t know the history of the house, but many have reported the image of a man appearing in their photographs of the home.
 One witness, a real estate agent, reported that he had visited the property when he been driving past. He saw it as a potential saleable property and decided to go have a look inside the building. He casually walked through, and all was quiet. He suddenly heard a low growl sound, much like a dog ready to attacks make, and became scared.
 He was relieved though, to turn and see a man standing in the room too, with the sound coming from him. He looked at the man, an older gentleman wearing a torn great coat, baggy trousers and a battered old hat. The man continued to growl. The growl suddenly filled the room, as if it was coming from everywhere, and with it, a smell of rotting potatoes assaulted the agent’s nostrils. Then, suddenly, the man raised an ancient shotgun at the real estate agents head, and with a small click, and a mighty bang fired it at him.
 As the flash of the blast filled the room with light, the estate agent thought he was done for, but in another instant, the room was empty and silent. The estate agent ran back to his car never to return.

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019

This story first surfaced in Valerie Laughtons’True Barossa Ghost’s book, in which she stated that she changed the names of the people involved.

Davis, Richard & Davis, Richard Michael, (editor.) 2014, Great Australian ghost stories, ABC books, HarperCollins Publishers, Sydney, N.S.W

Laughton, Valerie Joy & Falkenberg, Darren, (photographer.) 1991, Valerie J. Laughton’s true Barossa ghosts (gathered together with good spirits), Laughton, Nurioopta, S. Aust

Sandilands Murder Part III: “If I Had a Gun, I’d Shoot You, Then Myself!”

Sandilands Murder Part III: 

“If I Had a Gun, I’d Shoot You, Then Myself!”

Herbert Cyril Curnow, known to friends as Cyril, had previously made threats to Eleanor Bockmann. He had said to her, “If I had a knife, I would cut your throat, then my own.” On another occasion, he had said to the girl, “If I had a gun, I would shoot you, then myself!”.

On Thursday the 7th of September, Curnow waited on the Ardrossan road about three miles down from Sandilands. He knew Bockmann had to come this way to go to her sewing lessons. Curnow set up a barbed wire across the road, hoping to catch Bockmann in it. He went up onto a nearby hill, and waited for her, hoping to shoot her when she rode into the barbed wire.
He waited until nightfall, but Bockmann never rose through, so he returned to the Bockmann family home in Sandilands.

On Friday the 8th of September, Curnow, after kicking a football with Lawrence Bockmann, waited for Lawrence and his dad to go out into the paddocks and spread manure. He watched the two men go out and knowing Mrs Bockmann was not home, took advantage of the fact, and went and got the families gun. He cleaned the gun, loaded it, and put it near the kitchen door.
He went back into the bedroom and read. He went outside for a drink and noticed the gun was gone. He told Eleanor Bockmann that her father said he could have the gun, and asked her to get it. She got the gun, he returned to the bedroom, gathered his belongings, then returned to the dining room where the girls were mending socks.

He checked the gun was loaded, raised the rifle, and aimed for Eleanor’s temple, fired the gun. The girls screamed, with Eleanor falling to the floor, and the other two girls running way in fear.

Curnow ran outside. He ran for two miles into the scrub, with the intention of giving himself up to Mr Rowe a nearby farmer. As he was running, a motor car came along, so Curnow threw the gun into a paddock and hitched a lift to Maitland.

When in Maitland, Curnow went to the local police station and handed himself in.

Sandilands Murder Part IV: Conviction and Release

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019

References in the final post.

Sandilands Murder Part II: Wilful Murder

Sandilands Murder Part II: Wilful Murder

Thirteen-year-old Gladys Bockmann was the first witness in the trial against Herbert Cyril Curnow for the murder of Eleanor Louise Bockmann. Gladys stated to the court, that on Friday the 8th of September the family sat down to lunch together, with Curnow present as he had been staying with the family during the local football finals, as he was on the same team as her brother Lawrence.
 After lunch, Curnow and Lawrence had gone outside to kick a football. He came back inside around twenty minutes later, and laid on the bed in her brother’s room and read a book. At about 2:30pm, Curnow went outside to get a drink of water. He had come back inside with a gun.

Gladys claimed that Eleanor said to them “let’s go up into the bedroom, he might shoot us!”. Gladys and Eleanor got up and went into their bedroom.
 Curnow went outside again, and as he did Alvera called out to her cousins that he had left the house. Eleanor went out to the veranda taking the gun, coming back inside and hiding the gun in the house.
Curnow returned not long after and asked where the gun had gone. Gladys told Curnow she didn’t know where the gun was and called out to Eleanor to get it. Eleanor took the gun outside once again.
 The girls gathered once again in the dining room, thinking that Curnow had gone down to the horse stables.

Gladys then stated that she was sitting in the dining room with her sister Eleanor, and cousin Alvera darning socks.

Shortly after, Curnow returned, went into the boy’s room for a few minutes, then came into the dining room. He had his hat and coat on and the gun in his hand. The girls, sitting around the sewing machine, watched in shock as, without a word, Curnow levelled the gun at them.
Alvera called out “Auntie!” and Curnow turned the gun toward Gladys, next he turned it toward Eleanor.
 Eleanor said “Don’t shoot me, Cyril!”, without saying a word, he pulled the trigger, then ran outside.
Eleanor fell to the ground, she had been shot through the left side of her neck. Her head fell forward, then her hands came up and grabbed her neck. She ran outside.
Gladys ran outside to find her father and brother in a nearby paddock and screamed at them that Lorna (Eleanor) had been shot. They all jumped on their horse and cart and rushed back to the house.
 Eleanor, now laying near the water tank of the house, died in her father’s arms…
The back view of a house at Sandilands near Maitland, Yorke Peninsula, where 17-year-old Eleanor Louise Bockmann was murdered on 8 September 1922 by Herbert Cyril Curnow. The Observer newspaper reported “The home of the Bockmann’s. The girl ran from the house and fell close to the galvanised-iron tank where she died in the arms of her father.” SLSA: [PRG 280/1/32/167]
Next Week: Sandilands Murder Part III: “If I Had a Gun, I’d Shoot You, Then Myself!”

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019

References in the final post.

Sandilands Murder: Part I: Herbert Curnow and Eleanor Bockmann

Sandilands Murder: Part I:

 Herbert Curnow and Eleanor Bockmann

At 18 years old Herbert Cyril Curnow was a troubled young man from Moonta, South Australia. His father had been prone to explosive outbursts of anger that led to physical violence in the home. At the age of fourteen, Herbert had gone out on his own and found a job. He also played football in a local team. His other interest was reading about bushrangers and robberies, he studied these stories, and often imagined himself as a bushranger.

He had met the Bockmann’s only a few months previously through playing football and had started visiting the house to practice with the Bockmann brothers. While practising, he met 17-year-old Eleanor Bockmann. Within the coming weeks, the two became friendly, with Curnow accompanying Bockmann to Sunday School, Church and local dances.
Curnow fell hard for Bockmann, but she didn’t feel the same for him. Two months into their relationship they had begun to argue after Curnow saw Bockmann becoming friendly with other

Artists impression of 18 year old
Herbert Cyril Curnow

young men.
Curnow saw Bockmann walking along a local street with a drunk young man. The young man had his arm around Bockmann, which enraged Curnow. He confronted Bockmann, she replied, “If you don’t like it, you can lump it!”
The family went to church on September 3rd, with Curnow joining them. After church, Curnow and Bockmann had another argument. Bockmann broke of their relationship then and there, leaving Curnow devastated.
Bockmann then began to ignore Curnow at every opportunity. Curnow, on the other hand, could not stop thinking about her and found himself unable to sleep.

In the first week of September 1922, during local football finals, Curnow arranged to stay with the Bockmann family at Sandilands, near Maitland on the Yorke Peninsula. He shared the bedroom of the Bockmann brothers for the week and ate dinner with the family, including Eleanor.

His love for Eleanor had not subsided, and only intensified sharing the same house as her. On Friday the 8th of September, he ate lunch with the family and waited for Eleanor’s father to head back out to work, then he took his opportunity.
He took her fathers shotgun, entered the room, and shot her in the neck. Curnow then ran into the scrub, but eventually gave himself up to police.

Next Week: Sandilands Murder Part II: Wilful Murder

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019

References in the final post.