PARRAMATTA GAOL INVESTIGATION - Saturday 3 October 2015
Call me a tad crazy, but for some weird reason I have always had a fascination with historic buildings, and gaols in particular, and never miss an opportunity to explore old gaols when I get a chance. Gaols that I have toured include Port Arthur in Tasmania, Pentridge Gaol in Melbourne, Old Melbourne Gaol (where Ned Kelly was hanged), Fremantle Gaol in Western Australia, Maitland Gaol near Newcastle and numerous old gaols in country NSW. Working gaols that I have visited only from the outside (thankfully) include Long Bay Gaol in Sydney, Boggo Road Gaol in Brisbane and Bathurst Gaol (where my youngest son Martin and I got chased away by a warder from the front gate when looking around). I have also read the book “Australia’s Hardest Prison – Inside the Walls of Long Bay Gaol” (which Martin is currently reading) and my ultimate bucket list thing to do is to visit Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. I also never miss documentaries on gaols and their famous inmates when they are shown on the History channel.
Add to the above is the fact that I use to work for Australian construction giant Lend Lease Corporation, who built a gaol in the ACT and refurbished a gaol in Brisbane, both of which I got to visit (before they were occupied). So people would probably have a valid reason to call me a tad crazy, but it as much my love of history as much as anything else.
However I have always wondered about the old Parramatta Gaol, which I knew had been closed for some time and was sitting there unused. I often speculated on what it could be used for, and hoped the historic buildings would not become yet another victim to greedy developers. Then when surfing the net one day simply by chance I came across the Australian Paranormal Phenomenon Investigators (“APPI”) website, which to my excitement and amazement just happened to be conducting a combined tour and paranormal investigation in a few weeks’ time – Saturday 3 October 2015!
Now, to this point I have not mentioned that I also had a keen interest in the paranormal, probably as much and maybe more so than my interest in gaols and old historic buildings. In fact, to me, the paranormal and historic buildings go hand in hand. And here, by sheer fluke, I had stumbled across exactly what I was looking for – a tour of the off limits Parramatta Gaol combined with a paranormal investigation! “How good is this?” I thought – “and where do I sign up?” I immediately asked my wife and three sons if they would like to go with me, but only my youngest son Martin was keen (I am starting to worry about that boy).
So, now to secure tickets – onto the APPI website to order and pay – but wait, I could not load anything into my shopping cart. “Damn you APPI website” I snorted under my breath “you will not defeat me on this!”
Then I saw the message that the tour had been sold out – DOH! That’s when I really started cursing myself for not finding this website sooner. “Damn you to hell” I grunted at my PC, then I started to hunt around for when the next tour would be. Anyhow, for the time being it seemed Martin and I would just have to wait.
So I basically stalked the APPI website and Facebook page for details of the next tour over the following days, when on Friday 2 October Peet (APPI supremo) messaged on FB that two tickets were available because two people couldn’t go at the last minute. So I swooped, got their contact details, and two hours later had secured two tickets for the tour that very next night! Some things are just meant to be - you beauty!
Anyhow, Martin and I arrived early the next night and had dinner at Parramatta Leagues Club. We then went to the gaol and waited outside for the tour to begin. Martin was a bit sceptical about the paranormal side of things, and I suspect he thought it might be a bit of a hoot to watch his old man trying to make contact the spirit world so he could rib me about it later.
Anyhow, it was a very warm night, and we were quickly marked off the attendance list and then lead inside to what was the visitor’s centre, where Peet explained how the night would work and how the investigations would be conducted. We were then split into three groups, and Martin and I were assigned to group one. We then watched a video similar to that which was shown to new prisoners, and then the three groups were taken by our assigned APPI guides to different areas of the gaol to begin proceedings.
Now gaols, by their very nature, are gloomy places at the best of times, and their walls and grounds are soaked in both history and misery. But at night they take on an even more oppressive and sinister nature. We began in cell block one, where Peet gave us a bit of the history of that cell block, then we were free to explore before moving on to our next destination – cell block three.
Now while waiting outside, we heard a definite crash come from inside and upstairs somewhere. I looked at the guide, and then said to Martin “did you hear that?” Martin nodded and said “sure did Dad”. Thing was we had not entered the cell block and no one was inside (at least no mortal person).
We then entered the cell block and group one split into two groups, each going to one end of the ground floor. While there, this is what happened:
We then went to another cell block where the weird happenings continued – this is what happened there:
We then returned to the visitors centre for some refreshments before free explore time, where:
So that was our tour and investigation of Parramatta gaol – absolutely worth it and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and would do it again. Another gaol coupled with a fantastic experience ticked off my bucket list.
Then it was time to finish up. As we were leaving the gaol, the security guard at the front gate asked me how was it? Did anything “strange” happen on the tour? To which I replied “mate, you are going to call me a tad crazy, but……………”
Ross (tad crazy) Downie
7 November 2015.